It was another fantastic week birding in the Forest City with a steady increase in migrants, including many more first of year species observed. The week started out with firsts of Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, as well as Warbling Vireos, and a single Magnolia Warbler observed at Greenway Park. While warbler numbers have been increasing steadily to this point, I still wasn’t observing a tremendous variety with Yellow, Palm, and Yellow-rumped being the most abundant. I knew it was only a matter of time before the migration flood gates opened.
When I woke up Wednesday morning and looked out into my backyard, I was happy to see seven Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at my feeder gorging themselves on safflower seed. I knew a significant number of birds must have been on the move the previous night, and was excited to get out birding. Hoping to see the variety of warblers I have been so patiently waiting for, I decided to check out the Westminster Ponds ESA.
Located in the city’s south end, this 200 hectare parcel of land is great for birding year round, but is especially good for observing warblers during spring migration. The morning sunrise quickly gave way to overcast skies and a strong east wind. Fortunately, there are many protected areas within the ESA that I expected would be holding good numbers of warblers and other recent migrants.
After arriving at the ponds I followed a line of shrubs at the edge of a field protected from the east wind. Immediately I heard the call of an Indigo Bunting. I scanned the area and could see the bird calling from a tall perch. Unfortunately the bird flew before I could get into a position for a photograph. Making my way along the field edge, I entered the forest to see what else was present. Along a row of tall Spruce Trees an American Redstart, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Red-eyed Vireo were all observed foraging high within the branches, three first of year species for me.
As I made my way around the ESA, Hermit Thrushes could be observed sifting through the leaves on the forest floor as they searched for food. Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers were seen, as the calls of both Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpeckers echoed throughout the forest. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers flitted through the tree tops while orioles and grosbeaks could be seen and heard.
Arriving on the south side of Saunders Pond, more warblers came into view. Chestnut-sided, Nashville, and Blackburnian were all observed in this area. Again, all first of year species for me. Rounding out my list of warblers for the day was one for my life list, the Northern Parula, with four of these birds being observed. These birds were very high in the canopy and I was unable to capture any photos. However, the sight of these birds was an incredible experience.
Three more first of year birds were observed before I wrapped up my day, as a Gray Catbird, Great-crested Flycatcher, and two vibrant male Scarlet Tanagers came into view in the northeast portion of the ESA. In total, 51 bird species were observed on this day, including nine warbler species. A return trip to Westminster Ponds ESA on Friday yielded many of the same birds, plus a male Eastern Bluebird.
According to area reports, excellent birding took place this week from various locations within the city and Southwestern Ontario. Komoka Provincial Park had great numbers of birds, and the report from the 2016 Festival of Birds at Point Pelee National Park read, “The warblers were dripping from the trees.”
My recommendations for areas to bird this weekend would be any of London’s ESAs including Westminster Ponds. Kilally Meadows and Meadowlilly Woods are also favourites of mine. Their mixed habitat and close proximity to the Thames River make them great birding locations. City parks along the Thames River are also prime locations to find migratory birds, as many birds follow the river valley during migration. Gibbons, Greenway, and Springbank are three that I regularly visit and have success at.
If you are contemplating heading out birding this weekend, I highly recommend it. We are in for some cooler temperatures, but there will still be an abundance of birds present. Things definitely picked up mid-week and great opportunities exist for those heading out. Regardless of where you decide to visit, there will certainly be plenty to see.