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End of April update

April 28, 2014

I’ve added 21 species to the year list from my residence this April, giving me 43 species as of April 27.   As good as that might sound, it is far behind last year’s April effort that resulted in 30 new species.   Oh the joys of eBird where one can compare data sets and do marvelous things with them at the click of a key.  Perhaps it is better not to know.

This spring has been an odd one.  Today, we went walking in the south end of Gatineau Park, and encountered patches of snow on the north facing slopes.  Thankfully, there were also clumps of nearly glowing white, freshly opened Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba) flowers dotting the otherwise mottled greys, browns and green dappled forest floor, making my heart swoon.  The last vestiges of the long winter are rapidly fading, and the Hepatica flowers announce the spring season – at last!  Even as a hard-core winter enthusiast, I must admit that I am tired of winter and wanting for the sensual pleasure that spring warmth brings.

Snowy Owl stretches its neck

Snowy Owl stretches its neck

When I look at that list of birds from last year, I realize that I’ve missed some, including the pulse of Sapsuckers that passed through about a week ago.   My April list of 21 has been rather pedestrian, with only one really unexpected species . . . a Trumpeter Swan.   This was an odd one for me, as I heard it from the east window.   I frantically looked around, but, at the best of times, I can only see a relatively small fraction of the sky, and this bird I did not see.  But I did hear it, which, as you can imagine, is a defining moment with this particular species.   As odd as a Trumpeter Swam might seem, these birds do move around, and its call is truly unmistakable.   I was also happy to observe a Hermit Thrush, skulking along the brushy edge of vegetation across the street where the strip of Gatineau Park begins.   Ruby-crowned Kinglets, also one of my favourite species, have been bursting with song for nearly 10 days, making regular stops in the Japanese Elm.  A few Golden-crowned Kinglets have been amongst the more common Rubies in our neighbourhood.  Many of these species were observed on April 19, which so far, has been my big day of this bird year with ten new species.

Away from the house, my family and I did join a gaggle of observers, families, photographers and curious onlookers at the Experimental Farm in Ottawa today to finally get a look at one of the Snowy Owls that is clearly mesmerizing many onlookers.   The one we saw appeared to be alone today, no sign of its four or five friends, spotted there as recently as a day or two ago.

Up early tomorrow to try to add to my list before having to turn the calendar to May, the month that will determine my big year.


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