With record breaking temperatures and plenty of sunshine, it was a great week to get out birding. In my last post Early Spring Migrants Highlight The Family Day Long Weekend, I reported observing several first of year species including Red-winged Blackbirds and an Eastern Meadowlark. As expected, this week’s continued warm temperatures and south winds brought even more first of year species back to our area.
Each spring, Tundra Swans can be observed throughout our area as they make their way north to their breeding grounds across the arctic. This past week, I observed my first flock after hearing their calls from high overhead. Learning and recognizing the call of the Tundra Swan is one of the best ways to locate them. Surprisingly, these large birds can pass by overhead often going unnoticed if not for hearing their call. Two of the best places in our area to observe large flocks of Tundra Swans as they migrate north are the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area and the Thedford Bog. Information on these two areas including how to get there and dally swan counts, can be found in the provided links.
Another first of year species I observed this past week was a Killdeer. Like most of the birds I observe, this bird was first located by ear. After hearing its call, I observed this bird foraging in the wet grass at a local park. Killdeer are the first of the shorebirds to return each year, and like the Red-winged Blackbirds and Tundra Swans have arrived early.
Having seen both Northern Pintails and American Wigeons on the Thames River earlier this month, I was optimistic more dabbling ducks may now be present. Unfortunately, after multiple visits to the river this week, only Mallards and Canada Geese were observed. I did locate a lone female Ring-necked Duck while birding at Greenway Park. These divers are frequently observed in our area each spring during their migration north. As area lakes and ponds become free of ice, we can expect to see an increase in migrating waterfowl in our area.
Other early migrants seen in good numbers this past week were Common Grackles. These birds like the others mentioned are ahead of schedule. Despite their early arrival, this was not my first grackle sighting of the year. Back on February 5, I had one in my backyard feeding on peanuts.
Resident birds were also seen in good numbers this week with woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees being the most prevalent. Many of these cavity nesters were observed either exploring or excavating tree cavities.
Many of the early migrants that are typically observed in our area in mid to late March have arrived in our area ahead of schedule. Despite cooler weather in the forecast for next week, above seasonal temperatures and more south winds are predicted. These are ideal conditions to bring even more migratory birds back to Southwestern Ontario. If you get the chance, spend some time outdoors enjoying this beautiful unexpected weather and the birds that have accompanied it. If you are interested in seeing large flocks of swans as they migrate through our area, follow the daily reports from Aylmer or Thedford and plan a trip accordingly. Visiting either of these locations and seeing such a large concentration of birds is well worth the short drive from London.