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Climate Ying Yang – cold April cancels that warm March

May 1, 2012

Surprise snow storm in late April

April started cold, and stayed cold with few reprises.  The birds reacted, or not.   Most of the month, with a few nice exceptions, was characterized by cold northerly winds, against which few birds dared migrate.  Since my last post, after Sapsucker day, there has been little movement.  A Chipping Sparrow here, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet there (which are singing so enthusiastically from the neighbour’s tall Spruce trees), a Pine Siskin, and a Merlin – one siting, perched on one of those very same Spruce trees beside Jacque’s house.  Fortunately we are not in the Merlin’s territory.  They have a way of making the song birds disappear, and this year is not the year for that kind of nonsense!

Pine Siskin at water

This past Sunday morning I was stuck at 42 species after a week with no birds. I really thought that 50 species for May 1 was within reach 2 weeks ago, but my hopes were dashed by that biting north wind.  Hell, I could not even open the east window over Gatineau Park to listen and watch without risking hypothermia for an entire week!  Anyway, this past Sunday I noticed the sun felt stronger, the wind had less bite, and I was determined to put in some solid time on the balcony.  Within about 90 minutes of watching the river, I spotted many swallows – really nothing more than tiny specks, but a few of the specks appeared to be flying away from the river towards me!  Shortly after, 4 Barn Swallows flew directly over the house!  About 15 minutes later I added  that pesky Brown-headed Cowbird that was eluding me.   Around 8 pm, as the sun was setting, I came in and phoned my friend Rod, who has also decided to join the big year fun from his dream home on the tip of the Bruce Peninsula – on one of the major migration flightways in Ontario.   I was listening to his story about a crazy encounter the night before with an alpha Great Horned Owl, surely tanked up on steroids, that chased him into his house, and sat outside the picture window staring him down, daring him to come out. . . . when just over our roof, in the fading light, a Great Blue Heron glided by.    A couple minutes later a second sailed past.  If I hadn’t been there at the window, I would have missed them.  Hours and hours I had spent looking toward the mighty Ottawa River without seeing a singly heron, and two fly within about 5 metres of the room over my head the moment I least expected!   That pretty much sums up birding, and the joy of the unexpected.  So, this morning, April 30, the chip note of a Yellow-rumped Warbler rounded out my Big Year from the Balcony to May 1 with 46 species.   Rod says that he is up to 61.   As for Al . . . he has kept the pace up and is finishing the month at that lovely but overrated number, of 69.

Here is his story:“It is the last day of April and I thought I would send you an update.  According to eBird, I have detected 69 total for 2012, and although many were ‘firsts’ in the previous months, 56 of the total were detected this month.  There was one additional bird that is 95% Merlin, but it was distant, backlit, and I was using compact 10x ‘bins and was a little iffy to make the call (although I am pretty sure it was a Merlin).  So 69 is where I stand.  I had hoped for 65, but a single singing Savannah Sparrow, 10 fly-over Common Loons, 2 Common Ravens, an early Solitary Sandpiper today, and I am one away from 70.  Although Sean has had boat loads of White-throated Sparrows, I have not yet had a single individual singing or foraging that has caught my eye.  With the Solitary Sandpiper today I also had Nashville Warbler.  I hope to get a Western Palm Warbler this year, as it eluded me last year…
I hope the birding has been fun for you so far, and tomorrow might turn out to be a big day of movement… 


Cris photographs an elusive Blue Jay (which I have still not actually seen)

My Prediction?  I think that Al will be around 100 by May 30, and I predict that I will have topped 80 species.   Rod I believe will have forged ahead of everybody, and probably be pushing 120 or 130 by then.

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