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Big April, early May goes south

May 8, 2013
Goldfinch photo Cris Navarro

Goldfinch photo Cris Navarro

After a slow start to the year, and only 30 species at April 15, the winds changed and the birds came.  I finished April with 53 species, 7 more than last year, and a record 28 for the month!   It seemed like I couldn’t go wrong – almost every time I looked out the window or went out onto the balcony there were new birds.  The warm front that arrived on the 20th of April brought more species including Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-throated and Fox Sparrows.  April was raptor month also for me with a few new species for the balcony and apartment including Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk, along with Cooper’s hawk, Merlin and Turkey Vultures.  Another unusual species, a Cackling goose, a pint-sized version of the Canada Goose, stood out in a “V” of passing Canada’s.

Of course the flood of birds left me with a false sense of hope that I would demolish last year’s total of 84.  After all, I was up by 7 species on April 30, and the year was only 4 months old.   Then the weather changed.  A dome of high pressure settled over eastern North America and the jet stream brought warm southerly winds into eastern Canada to dispense quickly with remnants of winter and accelerate the delayed spring.  With clear skies and south winds, bird had no reason to stop and pushed past us at 1000 metres above the ground.  The parade of warblers from last year has not happened (yet hopefully). So far, 7 days into May, I’ve added only 2 species – Chimney Swifts which turned up in numbers on May 1, and a Nashville warbler today.

April 29th was the last day for our Redpolls, which had brought us so much enjoyment this winter.  Their numbers dwindled quickly after April 20th, and by the last week of April only a couple stragglers remained.

Red-winged scoundrel photo by Cris Navarro

Red-winged scoundrel photo by Cris Navarro

A Red-winged Blackbird has provided Cris with entertainment – loudly announcing its arrival before struggling for a few seconds on the sunflower feeder.  She calls it her “boyfriend.”   His confident arrival, striking black feathers and stunning red epaulets that he proudly displays, combined with that “tough guy” attitude has me a bit worried.  Chicks fall for this type of guy, so I’ll have to keep my eye on him.  Then are the “Goldies,” as she calls them.  I’m not sure I like that attention she is giving them either. . .

Turning to my good and patient friend Al.  He has provided me with two updates that I share below.  His lead is not as significant as it was last year at this time, so I believe that I can still catch him.  Here is what he had to say on April 23:

“Good to hear from you, Ted.  I actually read your blog the day you posted it – you have been doing VERY well. I have been meaning to send you an update from this end of town, but had not done so until now.  Brown Creeper is a good bird for your balcony list!  Sean had Fox Sparrow, but I think I missed it again this year.  I am at 60 species, even.  After a fair January, I only had Great Blue Heron and Horned Lark in Feb, both on the 7th.  I had 8 species in March, including Common Raven, for the 3rd year in a row.  So far this April I have detected 22 new species, including an early Broad-winged Hawk.  The rest of the species are expected.  In 2012, my 60th species was Chipping Sparrow on April 16th.  This year my 60th was also Chipping Sparrow, but on April 17th.  So I am at least on pace with last year.  I have missed Common Grackle so far this year…  not sure what that means, but I hope to get it at some point.  Come to think of it, I have also missed Ruffed Grouse…

I hope to have close to 70 species by the end of the month.  Got my 70th on May 1st last year and on May 7th in 2011. . . .”

Al sent me his next post on May 3rd:

“I am now at 78 species, with 11 new ones in the last 2 days. (editorial note . . .”shit!”)  My arrivals last year and this year correspond with only a day or two of variance.  I am hopeful that I will be able to use warblers to help me springboard past the 111 mark of the last 2 years.  I finally got Common Grackle!  But I don’t think Ruffed Grouse is in the cards…  and I have not gotten Great Horned, nor Eastern Screech Owls yet…  hmmm…  Got Myrtle Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Blackburnian, Northern Waterthrush, Black-throated Blue, Pine Warbler, and Black and White Warbler…  all the expected…  Should have Eastern Kingbird tomorrow.  Got Purple Finch today, also.”

So, we can see that Al has been doing well.  I think that luck will turn my way now after a slow start to May, I can sense things picking up.   Rain tomorrow night, the torrid temperatures of 29 degrees today will get doused and the jack brake will be pulled on the bird migration as temperatures plummet to highs of 13 by Sunday (unfortunately the day on which we celebrate International Migratory Bird Day here in Gatineau/Ottawa at Nature Canada’s first Bird Fair).

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One Comment
  1. It’s Thursday night, the 9th, and the temperatures have not plummeted – no rain, and no new birds, but . . .tomorrow that will all change.

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