October is one of my favourite months to get out birding. By now migration is well underway and although many species that move through the area such as Raptors, Warblers and Shorebirds have peaked when it comes to numbers, there are still plenty of birds to see. Several species that spend the winter months in London have started to appear, making fall migration a case of out with the old and in with the new.
Early in the week saw large flocks of migrating blackbirds congregating throughout the city. Red-winged Blackbirds were observed along the Thames River and on the edges of the ponds at Westminster Ponds ESA. Common Grackles were also observed in these same areas and at my feeder. I have read several articles suggesting that safflower seed is less desirable than other seed to Grackles. I can tell you first hand that I watched 35 Grackles in my yard make short work of a feeder full of safflower seed. For many, this would lead to great frustration, but for me I saw it as the fuel they needed to propel them out of the area. After two days my yard was Grackle free.
Of the species that breed to the north, but overwinter in our area, several showed up this past week. Increased numbers of White-throated Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers were observed. The first Dark-eyed Junco I’ve seen this fall paid a visit to my feeder. October is also a the perfect month to see Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets throughout the city. Searching open meadows that contain Goldenrod is a great place to look for these species. The seeds from these and other native wildflowers are a great source of food for these and other songbirds. A highlight for me was seeing both tan and white striped variations of White-throated Sparrows beneath my feeder simultaneously, providing excellent comparison views.
Resident birds never disappoint at this time of year either. While walking along the river this week, I had multiple encounters with juvenile Bald Eagles. Their completely dark plumage indicated these large raptors were born this year, likely from one of the nests along the river. Cool mornings made for great birding as this is a prime time to find feeding birds. With so many natural foods available this time of year, locating birds can be easy. Finding a natural food source out of the wind and in the warm morning sun is a great place to find a variety of birds. Again, open meadows with seed producing flowers are a great spot. Another great food source, although an invasive species, is the Common Buckthorn. Birds of all kinds are drawn to the ripe fruit found on this tree. On warm days, insects are also drawn to the fruit, attracting even more birds. Cedar Waxwings and American Robins are two species readily found feeding on Buckthorn Berries.
This past week presented some great looks at waterfowl. Male Mallards and male Wood Ducks were observed both on the Thames River and at Westminster Ponds ESA. Back in their breeding plumage after spending several weeks in the summer in eclipse plumage, these ducks are displaying beautiful colours. Catch them in the right light and the colours are simply amazing. Other birds found in the water at these two locations were Great Blue Herons and Double-crested Cormorants. If you like Woodpeckers than I highly recommend visiting Westminster Ponds ESA, as six species: Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Pileated, Northern Flickers and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers can all be found there, although the Sapsuckers will soon be heading south.
Several butterfly species were also found this past week with Painted Lady, Cabbage White, Orange and Clouded Sulphurs being the most prevalent. I also observed both a single Mourning Cloak and Monarch. Asters were the flower of choice for these butterflies, as they were all seen feeding on the nectar of these native wildflowers.
If taking in the beautiful fall leaves while birding is something you are wishing to do, then I would recommend a few places. Along the Thames River across from Springbank Park is currently displaying some brilliant red, yellow and orange leaves. Birding in the park is always good as Blue Jays, Woodpeckers, Eagles and other Raptors, plus Waterfowl are all abundant within its boundaries. The trees surrounding Spettigue Pond in the Westminster Ponds ESA are also showing great colour. Although I have not been yet this fall, Fanshawe Conservation Area and Dorchester Mill Pond are also great places to find outstanding colours and the birding is excellent.
As the month of October presses on, good birding opportunities will continue to present themselves. Leafless trees make for better views and new species will arrive daily. Remember to keep your feeders full, as fall is a great time to add new species to your yard list.