Monday, June 27, 2011

May Birding:After the Storm

Summer has arrived and firsts of the year have not been observed for over two weeks but it won't be long before I'm out looking for shorebirds, especially a lifer Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Until then, it seems a suitable time to reflect on the May ticks as I never did get around to posting last month.

On May 1, Jean and I searched for spring migrants at a St. Catharines 'hot spot'. It was mid-day and it soon became apparent that Malcomson Eco-Park was not spared from the recent storm that passed through the region. On Thursday April 28, very strong winds toppled down trees in our neighbourhood, some falling on power lines and leaving us without hydro for a couple of days. This pales in comparison to the extreme weather and tragic events that occurred in the southern United States.

At the eco-park, tall trees that once sustained migrating warblers in their boughs were now stretched across walking-trails in the park.

The tree that we spotted a male Cape May Warbler in last year was now reduced to logs.

If not for hearing a Gray Catbird (#111), we would not have had any firsts of the year.

We returned to the eco-park the following weekend and added a few more species to the year list. Earlier in the week, Chimney Swifts (#113) were observed flying above our backyard. The swifts are a daily sight during the summer and Jean and I plan on participating in the annual swift count this year.

A light rain was falling the morning of May 7. We spent a couple of hours walking through the park, at times using fallen tree trunks as bridges when searching for migratory birds. Despite the rain, we observed 36 species and added Baltimore Oriole, Green Heron, Blue-headed Vireo, House Wren, Nashville Warbler and Palm Warbler to the year list. Where were the other warbler species? At this time last year we ticked, Cape May, Black and White, Blackburnian and Black-throated Green.

The next day we birded on the west bank of 12 Mile Creek. The Merritt Trail has been productive in the past and it was possible that there would be some warblers spotted, may be even a waterthrush creeping in the brush. Only the ubiquitous Yellow Warbler (ticked earlier in the week) singing its sweet sweet sweet I'm so sweet song was seen in a number of locations along the creek. Though we added Warbling Vireo and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher to the year list, it seemed that warbler species were not in St. Catharines.

Mid-may was only a week away and warbler migration would be at its peak. The ticks had been slow over the past week and I was eagerly looking for a change of pace. A change of scenery might help as well because the rain certainly was not helping.

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