With fall migration now underway, great opportunities exist across the city for observing a variety of migrants. Warbler activity increased this past week with several species being observed. One of the best locations I found for warbler sightings was my own backyard. I observed five species in total from my deck while enjoying my morning coffee, including: Yellow, Pine, Black and White, Blackburnian, and Magnolia. These birds could be seen high in the tree tops, quickly moving from branch to branch as they fed on insects. Other warbler species recorded from areas other than my yard were Nashville and Common Yellowthroat. Warblers can be extremely difficult to identify, especially in fall, so having a pair of binoculars handy along with a field guide is recommended.
Late summer is one of the best times to observe Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. My backyard feeder was busy this week with birds looking to fuel up before heading south. Many people take their feeders down too early in September and miss out on all of the activity. Make sure your nectar is fresh, especially with the high temperatures we have been experiencing. Homemade hummingbird nectar is cheap and easy to make by boiling 4 parts water to one part white sugar. Be certain to let the mixture cool completely before refilling your feeder. If the mixture in your feeder looks cloudy, clean out your feeder and replace with fresh nectar. Hummingbirds can also be observed at the various parks and ESAs throughout the city. Look for these tiny birds hovering around blooming wildflowers, particularly Jewelweed. These small, orange, trumpet shaped, native flowers are a favourite of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
Great Egrets typically stopover at The Coves each August during migration, and this year is no different. Excellent views from Springbank Drive have been achieved daily for several weeks now. It has been my experience that this egret is best viewed on the north side of the road in the morning, and on the south side during the afternoon. Other birds observed at this location include Great Blue Herons, Lesser Yellowlegs and Wood Ducks. Most of the Wood Ducks present are either females, juveniles or males in eclipse plumage, so don’t expect to see any vibrant males displaying breeding plumage just yet.
Along the Thames River several raptor species were observed, including Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and Osprey. Shorebird species were also recorded with Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, and Killdeer all viewed in Greenway Park.
Early September is the perfect time of year to observe large flocks of Chimney Swifts entering communal roosts at sunset. In London, we are fortunate to have several such roosts that had impressive numbers of swifts entering each night. Chimneys located at King’s College, Labatt’s Brewery, and Smith Fruit had counts of 525, 473, and 527 swifts respectively this past week. Don’t let these numbers fool you; the counts are down from previous years and Chimney Swifts are listed as threatened on Ontario’s Species at Risk List. If you wish to experience this incredible sight, I recommend getting to one of these locations about half an hour before sunset. Watch as a large flock of Chimney Swifts forms and begins circling the chimney. As darkness falls, swifts will begin diving into the chimney where they will roost for the night.
Birds are not the only species beginning to migrate in London. Despite their recent drop in numbers, Monarch Butterflies are beginning to make their way south. This past week I noticed an increase in the number and concentration of Monarchs. While observing the warblers in the backyard, two Monarchs also made their way through. Yesterday at Greenway Park six of these at risk butterflies could be observed nectaring on teasels and thistles in an open meadow in the east end of the park. This area has been supporting Monarchs for several weeks now and the numbers here have recently increased, albeit slightly.
If you get the chance this long weekend, head out to your favourite park or ESA and take in some of these migrants. Before you know it they will be gone, not reappearing until next spring. I personally am going to try to get as many shots of Monarch Butterflies as I can while they are still around. Many of the late blooming native wildflowers are flourishing right now, providing the perfect backdrop for these beautiful butterflies.