Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fox Sparrow Hunting

Though slightly early for Fox Sparrows, Jean and I stopped at a trail where we have observed the migrating bird the last two years. The weather was sunny with the temperature in the double digits Saturday afternoon, ideal for observing the sparrow as it stops in our region before moving on to its breeding range, the Boreal Forest. On April 15, 2007 we observed 3 Fox Sparrows on the trail where Richardson's Creek empties into the west end of Martindale Pond. Last year on April 7, we observed 2 of this species in the same area of the trail they were observed the previous year.

Walking along the trail we observed two Song Sparrows and an American Tree Sparrow but no Fox Sparrows were found during our time here Saturday. Too early! It was worth a try on such a beautiful day. Before leaving the trail, we observed a very vocal Belted Kingfisher flying high above the area. The most interesting find on the Green Ribbon Trail was our first butterfly of the year, a Mourning Cloak, flying along and eventually landing in front of us on the paved trail.

Mourning Cloaks, Louth Conservation Area, Spring 2001

Inspired by a recent posting on the Nature Blog Network by the author of The Drinking Bird, I thought Jean and I should explore Louth Conservation Area for signs of spring wild flowers. En route to the conservation area we would observe an Eastern Bluebird, #74 for the year, before turning onto one of the many rural roads that ascend the Niagara Escarpment. Mental note, "Dust off the bike and start riding Bob!". Louth Conservation Area has not been very productive for birds but wild flowers abound during April and May. There were no signs of the Trilliums that will soon reveal themselves, resembling a stream of white on the forest floor.

Louth Conservation Area, Spring of 1994
Hepatica and Trout Lily are the first to appear and we found one flowering Hepatica while hiking a section of the Bruce Trail.

As with many of the conservation areas along the Niagara Escarpment, not one but two waterfalls are located on the creek that passes through Louth. We did not descend the trail that takes you to this view of Louth Falls.

We encountered two species of butterfly while hiking the trail. A Mourning Cloak and then a Comma. While browsing the web for information on the butterflies I came across this excellent Government of Canada site, Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility. I also flipped through photo albums when we got home and found images of both species of butterfly from a spring visit to Louth Conservation Area in 2001.

Eastern Comma, Louth Conservation Area, Spring 2001

We will return to the conservation area during the months of April and May so we can observe Trout Lily, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Trilliums, Dutchman's Breeches, and more Hepatica. Quite the variety along the Bruce Trail.

Returning home, we travelled along 5th Avenue to see what avian species could be found. As mentioned in previous posts, we have had some great finds on this stretch of rural road. Killdeer and Horned Lark were observed and with the car windows down I heard a song different from the Horned Lark's as we approached the vineyard. The bird responsible for the drzzt call flew across the road and Jean was first to identify it as an Eastern Meadowlark (#75). A second Eastern Meadowlark was found in the corn field just passed the vineyard. We had great views of the bird as it rested on a corn stalk, alternating between its see-you, see-yeer song and the buzzy drzzt call. Happy that I had ticked two species for the year list, we continued on our way home.

Based on our previous observations along the Green Ribbon Trail, there is still plenty of time to add Fox Sparrow to the year list and I'm confident that we'll find them on the same path. I'll keep you posted on our progress.

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