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Eightieth species right on time

July 30, 2013

Every day around dinner time over this past week, I have kept my ears pealed for the beautiful call note of Purple Martins.  For each of the past few years, their movements are like clockwork.  The nearby Martin colony is exactly 1.4 kilometres from our balcony, yet we never see or hear these birds before the very end of July.  They are busy with nesting, brooding, raising family, helping raise family, all of those things that Martins do so well.  IMG_3719Any feeding flights are over the river, and out of my sight and earshot.  Then, just before they begin their migration, their world expands, perhaps at the encouragement of their parents, and they spend a few days exploring their Val Tetreau neighbourhood.  For a few days we are graced by their presence, seeing them occasionally flying overhead in what appears to be playful flight, sampling the fish flies, damselflies and midges on the ‘other side of the tracks’ and in the process becoming familiar with their neighbours.  Then suddenly they are gone . . . .

Well today was the day – about 8 pm, I heard the Martin’s talking to each other through the closed living room window, and I rushed out to see them flying buoyantly above the maples down the street.  Species number 80 for the year!

I love the Andorinha  azul – that we share with Brazil.  Researchers in Canada have determined that those in the north-eastern USA migrate to Amazonia, whereas British Columbia Martins fly to Sao Paulo state where Cristina is from.  Their journey south is not without risks, one of which is being struck by wind turbine blades at the wind farms on the eastern end of Lake Ontario – in particular Wolfe Island which annually kills large numbers of Martins.  Purple Martins gather in large communal regional roosts subsequent to breeding.  It is possible that some roosts exist in the Kingston area, and that these birds are at a particularly high risk to collision with turbine blades where they would hunt for the abundant insects that hatch from the nearshore waters of Lake Ontario.  A large build-out of Wind projects in this area (e.g. Amherst Island) would sadly likely have a significant impact on this species.

Last week during dinner on the balcony, three Caspian Terns flew over the house, along the flight path of the Ring-billed Gulls between the Gatineau River and the Ottawa River.  That was species number 79.  I have seen thousands of gulls fly over, and never thought that Terns could follow the same path, but why not?

Then there are those endearing Chickadees.  The kids of at least one, and possibly two nearby resident pairs of Chickadees spend most of their time between the large Japanese Elm and our diverse balcony.  One particular bird is special.  It still talks like a baby, though the others appear to have stopped.  It IMG_3679doesn’t fly with he same agility that one associates with a Chickadee, and spends much of its time foraging underneath the feeder like a Junco.  It particularly likes finding bits of sunflower seed in the planters, then hopping onto the edge of the planter, or a branch, or the close line to carefully pick at the morsel of seed.  It seems more fearless than other Chickadees.  It sat on the perch beneath the water container the other day while I filled it with water, about 20 cm from my hand.   We commented that one day it will not be there and we will wonder . . . has it migrated, became an ‘adult,’ or died?

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One Comment
  1. You may be interested in our downtown Picton Swift watch:

    We were able to cover several chimneys for the Provincial Blitz date Sunday July 28!

    Armoury 21, Legion 3, Ross/King corner 4, Yellow chimney 5, Book Store 1! Total 34 + Lake on the Mountain 3 = 37.

    What a change from last year.

    Myrna Wood

    Prince Edward County Field Naturalists


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