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Finally, Spring arrives!

April 18, 2013

Winter has clung to the Outaouais region tenaciously – I am reminded each day as I bus rather than bike to work – the bike paths on my route still have patches of snow and ice.  I am reminded by our lovely flock of Redpolls, that can empty both our sunflower seed and nyjer feeder in a day when they put their beaks and bellies to it.

Cris with novel way of hand-feeding our Redpoll friends

Cris with novel way of hand-feeding our Redpoll friends

However, crocuses are finally out in full bloom (a month later than last year), and a colleague returned from some field work with a mild sun burn.  The biggest sign of spring for me happened this evening, about 6 pm.  A flock of 15 Tree Swallows and a couple Barn Swallows drifted over our apartment, moving gradually north towards the Gatineau River.   Yesterday morning, after the first southerly wind of the year on Monday, the back of winter was finally broken.  Though spring may have come to many other parts of southern Canada, particularly southern Ontario a week or three ago, a mass of cold air was blocking the birds and keeping the harbingers of spring from returning home.  The first numbers of Robins arrived back in my neighbourhood really only a few days ago, though I spotted my first on the 2nd of April – a very late date at that.  But this past Monday night the winds were right out of the south, the sky was clear, and in flowed the birds.   I was up at 6:00 am, on Tuesday morning, before sunrise, squinting out the opened east window with a view onto the strip of forest along the edge of Gatineau Park on the other side of the street.  I had observed 30 species up to Monday, over the first three and one half months of the year, far behind my pace of last year.   Most of the usual winter suspects were on my list, though there are significant gaps.  But “spring birds” were limited to some Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Song Sparrows, which showed up the past weekend, a couple Cormorants, etc.

Robin at my brother's on Easter Weekend near Toronto

Robin at my brother’s on Easter Weekend near Toronto

My spirits were high in anticipation of some new birds at last, and I was not disappointed.

Ten minutes into my vigil, still too dark to see colour, I picked up my first new species – a high, thin call note of a Brown Creeper.  It was followed moments later by the inflected ‘jeeeep’ of a Hermit Thrush.  “How good is that” I said to myself – both species I missed in 2012.   The parade continued with a pair of Wood Ducks, whizzing past towards Lac des fees before ducking behind the trees, a Northern Flicker, flying  along the edge of the forest, then landing somewhere in the distance, and announcing its arrival in fine flicker fashion, an Eastern Phoebe, clearly overjoyed to shout out its name to the Val Tétreau neighbourhood, and a Rusty Blackbird, revealed by its squeaky door-like call.  My vigil ended with a flock of six small birds dropping out of the sky into the tree directly across the road from me.  A quick check with my binoculars revealed the central breast spot and the distinctive facial pattern of American Tree Sparrows.   I heard only one fly over last year, so this was also a treat!

A beautiful  reddish male Redpoll

A beautiful reddish male Redpoll

Now I am awaiting Friday, another day where south winds are promised.  What will they bring?   One thing is for certain that I’ll be up early to witness another early morning migration unfold before me.

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  1. Finally, Spring arrives! | birdingfromthebalcony

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