Along our favourite stretch of rural road, Jean and I searched for grassland species in west St. Catharines. We soon spotted a Savannah Sparrow after hearing its distinctive call.
No. Jean is not checking on the progress of the new regional hospital. We found 2 Eastern Meadowlark in the field north of the road.
No Bobolink yet and unfortunately no Upland Sandpiper either. The Bobolink should return to the area in another couple of weeks.
We then went to the Merritt Trail to look for the Red-headed Woodpecker. The bird remained out of our sight but we added Wood Duck and Yellow-rumped Warbler to the year list. Yes, warbler migration has started.
What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with a morning of birding. At the eco park near Lake Ontario we searched for early migrants. Yellow-rumped Warblers (they usually are the first observed) were flitting in the trees. A Caspian Tern flying above the Welland Canal was the only first of the year this fine morning.
In the evening we visited the Green Ribbon Trail with hopes of ticking Fox Sparrow. Earlier attempts in the month of April came up empty. For the last three years we have found this spring migrant on the paved trail that crosses Martindale Pond. No spring sightings of the "Red" Fox Sparrow this year. We'll have to wait for the sparrow's return in the fall.
We returned to 5th Avenue with Jean's dad and his partner Ruth. They were eager to view the meadowlarks. Horned Lark and Savannah Sparrow were observed but the meadowlarks could not be found. On to Mud Bridge for a possible early, first of the year Cliff Swallow. Jean and I observed our lifer Cliff Swallow at this location in early June last year. Though none were seen this day we will return at a later date for a first of the year tick.
Chimney Swifts have returned to our neighbourhood. I observed one lone swift as it chattered and flew above our yard. Last year Jean and I counted the swifts for the Bird Studies Canada Chimney Swift monitoring program as they entered the chimneys of the Lake Street Armoury. As of June 2 the numbers of swifts sighted from the yard has increased to six. If there is another watch this year, count us in.
Jean and I travelled south to the Port Colborne area to add Woodcock to the year list. In April of 2009 we observed 1 Woodcock while exploring property owned by a friend.
We visited Mud Lake Conservation Area first and added Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal to the year list.
While walking along the trail above the man-made lake we observed a Yellow Warbler.
No Woodcock this year while visiting our friend's property but we added Spotted Sandpiper and Common Yellowthroat to the 2010 list.
A casual observation on the way to work added Baltimore Oriole to the list.
While birding in the eco park during spring migration you are guaranteed to run into fellow birders. This was our first visit during the month of May and our birding friend Katherine arrived as we were scanning the trees for warblers. Katherine has a great ear for birds and with the three of us working together we were able to get on some good birds. Warblers spotted included, Black and White, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian and Cape May. This was the first time Jean and I observed a Cape May Warbler in the spring. It is a beautiful bird! There are several trails in the park and Katherine went one way while Jean and I headed over to the west side of the park where we found 5 Rose-breasted Grosbeak (3 males and 2 females) feeding on the blossoms of an apple tree. Running into Katherine again I returned the favour and told her where she could observe the flock of grosbeaks.
After visiting the lilac gardens on the Niagara Parkway we had great views of an American Redstart during a Mother's Day walk with my parents at Dufferin Islands.
Over the 2.5 week period Jean and I observed 18 first of the years but we are behind last year's pace by 11 species. We have some birding to do. Our next big day of birding was a great asset in adding birds to the year list. On May 16 we assisted with the Buffalo Ornithological Society May count and before Jean and I started counting in our assigned area, we had great views of LIFER #292. You'll have to wait for the next post for that one. It's an epic one!