Early Spring Migrants Highlight The Family Day Long Weekend

Many Northern Cardinals could be heard over the Family Day weekend as they try to attract mates and defend territories.

Birding so far this Family Day Weekend has been quite productive. Northern Cardinals can be heard actively singing throughout our area.

Last week when I saw the forecast for the Family Day long weekend I knew it was going to be a great weekend for birding. Above seasonal temperatures and sunshine would be a nice change from the what seems like never ending cloud cover we have experienced so far this winter. What really peaked my attention about the forecast was the predicted winds, which were to be out of the south. I was optimistic that the combination of warmer temperatures and south winds would bring a few migrants back to our area ahead of schedule.  

Red-breasted Nuthatches have been seen and heard in good numbers so far this Family Day weekend.

Red-breasted Nuthatches have been seen and heard in good numbers so far this long weekend.

One of my first observations of the weekend was that several birds were beginning to vocalize much more with Northern Cardinals and Carolina Wrens heard signing loudly throughout many of my favourite areas. While the wrens were a challenge to see and photograph due to their propensity to remain in heavy cover, many of the cardinals were observed singing out in the open. Blue Jays are regularly observed all winter long in our area, but I noticed increased numbers as several large flocks moved through a local park. I couldn’t help but wonder if these flocks may have been birds that overwintered to our south and were making their way north. Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches were also seen in good numbers and much more vocal than in previous weeks.  

Red-winged Blackbirds returned to Southwestern Ontario over the Family Day long weekend.

The above seasonal temperatures and south winds brought several birds back to our area ahead of schedule.

On Sunday I drove down to Port Stanley, Ontario to see what species may be present on or along the lake. As soon as I stepped out of my truck I could hear the calls of Red-winged Blackbirds, my first of the year, echoing from a patch of phragmites near Little Beach. Song Sparrows could also be seen and heard calling from the shrubs adjacent to the rocky shoreline. As I walked out further towards the lake, a lone male Redhead swam close to shore. A pair of Common Mergansers passed by overhead while a few Canada Geese landed on the east breakwall. As I glanced out at the hundreds of gulls, mostly Ring-billed and Herring, that stood on the remaining ice, I heard the call of an Eastern Meadowlark, another first of the year for me. I turned and located the bird singing from one of the few remaining tall trees on the far side of the meadow. As I raised my camera to take a very distant shot, the bird dropped down into the thick tangles of grasses and brush below before I could press the shutter.   

The unseasonably warm weather this Family Day weekend has make for some great birding.

This male Redhead was observed in Port Stanley, Ontario near Little Beach.

While driving back into London, I observed a few Turkey Vultures soaring over the open fields. Turkey Vultures are known to overwinter in Port Stanley and I have observed them there in previous trips this winter, but these were the first birds I have noticed inland, leading me to believe that maybe these birds too were ones that have recently returned to Southwestern Ontario. 

This Song Sparrow was photographed over the Family Day weekend in Port Stanley, Ontario

Song Sparrows are among the many birds that have become more vocal with the warmer weather.

Seeing the first wave of migrants arrive back in our area ahead of schedule has made for an exciting start to the long weekend. With more beautiful weather in the forecast for holiday Monday, it looks like yet another great day to get out birding. In fact, most of the week looks nice with continuing warm temperatures and more south winds. If the forecast holds true, we should see even more early migrants arrive back in our area. If you get the chance this week, I highly recommend getting out and enjoying the sights and sounds this beautiful spring-like weather has brought with it. 

Good birding,
Paul

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