With winter winding down many birders, myself included, are anxiously awaiting the arrival of some spring migrants to the area. Spring is a wonderful time to get out and enjoy birding. With so many species returning to the area and the many flowers and trees starting to bloom it is a favourite season of many. So what birds can we expect as the weather begins to warm?
Species that arrive earliest in the spring or even a little before, are the ones that have the shortest distance to migrate north. Many of the blackbird species are first to arrive such as Red-winged and Common Grackles. The Killdeer is the first of the shorebirds to arrive and can usually be seen be seen by mid March. As temperatures rise higher and we get into late April and early May we can expect to be seeing Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Swallows and the beautiful Indigo Bunting.
The spring Warbler migration is what birders look forward to the most and best numbers are recorded in early May. The Point Pelee Festival of Birds is a destination of many birders, due to the incredible number of migrating birds that stop there after crossing Lake Erie. This year the festival runs May 1st-19th. More information on the festival can be found here. The Yellow-rumped Warbler is most often the first of the Warblers observed with April being the month when good numbers start to appear followed next by Yellow Warblers.Although Southwestern Ontario falls within the northern most part of many of these species winter range, these birds typically migrate in the fall to the northern United States and further south, especially during harsher winters like the one we have just experienced. Some sightings, including Killdeer have already been reported in our area.
Keeping your feeders full will help attract migrating birds looking to replenish their energy as they journey north. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Red-winged Blackbirds are particularly fond of safflower seed so make sure you are offering it. Other foods to attract spring migrants are nyjer and thistle seed. Not only will your resident Goldfinches love it, it is also a great food for attracting the Indigo Bunting. Slices of fresh orange placed around your yard are great for bringing in Baltimore Orioles.
Several days in a row of warmer temperatures and increased daylight hours help trigger migration. The addition of a south wind helps push these birds north. Migration varies from year to year depending on conditions. Some years the earliest of migrants start showing up by the end of March, while other years it may not be until April. The long range forecast for our area predicts daily high temperatures to be below freezing for most of the next 14 days, so it looks like we will have to be patient yet. Birding this time of year is especially exciting because it is only a matter of time before a species not seen for several months reappears.