Migration Update: May 4-6, 2009

Golden-winged Warbler- May 4, 2009

Spring migration along Canoe Lake Road continues to impress as new species arrive from the south with each passing day. Highlights of the census on May 4th include a Sora calling from one of the small wetlands along the roadside and the remarkably late first appearance of Hermit Thrush for the survey route this spring. Hermit Thrushes are now on territory and can be heard regularly, particularly along conifer-bearing shorelines of lakes in the area. There are few sounds in nature more haunting than the ethereal song of a Hermit Thrush on a calm spring or summer evening. Their vocalizations are uniquely complex amongst the songbirds as they, and other thrush species, possess the equivalent of two sets of vocal chords, which enables them to intertwine two songs at the same time. Donald Kroodsma, the heavily recognized authority on avian vocalization, has done some fascinating work on thrushes, a sample of which you can listen to in this clip from NPR’s Fresh Air program. The male Golden-winged Warbler pictured above has been recorded actively singing from the same “spot” since May 2 and appears to be setting up a territory for the summer. This species was recently listed by COSEWIC as threatened. The Frontenac Axis is a core breeding zone for this species in Ontario.

On May 6 a total of 36 species were tallied, which included season firsts of Wood Thrush, Savannah Sparrow and a pair of lingering Ring-necked Ducks. White-throated Sparrows and kinglets continue to elude our eyes and ears during the surveys, although a couple of White-throats and Ruby-crowns were observed on the 6th. There are roughly four weeks remaining in this year’s spring migration and the majority of local breeding species have yet to arrive. The Spring Migration Census program will continue on a semi-daily basis until May 31st when our core program, Frontenac Breeding Birds, will kick off.

Spring Species Total: 77
Average # individuals/census: 149
Average # species/census: 32

Migration Update- April 28. 2009

Pine Warbler, Canoe Lake Road

Migrants arrived in high numbers over the weekend! The recent warm front was brief but a “cooker” nonetheless, bringing an excellent variety of insectivorous migrants to southern Ontario. This mornings survey along Canoe Lake Road featured overcast skies, warm temperatures and a sharp increase in budding foliage. Emerging ground cover species including Dutchman’s Breeches, Bloodroot and Large-flowered Trillium have brightened up the forest floor and American Toads are suddenly the most vocal of amphibians in the area.  I also spent the 60 minutes of the survey entertaining an attendant mob of excited Black Flies, which was a less welcome change from recent days!

Large-flowered Trillium (red morph)

Semi-daily surveys of migrant birds along Canoe Lake Road have been very interesting to say the least and some patterns of habitat relation and orientation are beginning to emerge. Other than the usual icterid species (Red-winged Blackbird and Common Grackle), there were no particular species in great supply this morning. A total of fifteen new arrivals were tallied, which included eight newly arrived warbler species. Also new to the scene were singles of Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Eastern Towhee, both common breeders in the region. The next update on spring migration along Canoe Lake Road will be posted on April 30, 2009.

Results (“first of season” species in bold)

Canada Goose    5
Mallard    2
Ruffed Grouse    1
Common Loon    1
Red-shouldered Hawk    1
Mourning Dove    2
Belted Kingfisher    1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker    4
Downy Woodpecker    1
Northern Flicker    4
Eastern Phoebe    3
Great Crested Flycatcher    2
Warbling Vireo    1

Blue Jay    4
American Crow    7
Black-capped Chickadee    8
Red-breasted Nuthatch    1
House Wren    3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet    3
American Robin    5
Brown Thrasher    2
European Starling    4
Orange-crowned Warbler    1
Yellow Warbler    3
Yellow-rumped Warbler    11
Black-throated Green Warbler    1
Pine Warbler    5
Black-and-white Warbler    2
Common Yellowthroat    1
Eastern Towhee    1
Chipping Sparrow    4
Song Sparrow    3
Dark-eyed Junco    1
White-throated Sparrow    5
Rose-breasted Grosbeak    1
Red-winged Blackbird    26
Eastern Meadowlark    2
Rusty Blackbird    2
Common Grackle    14
Purple Finch    1
Pine Siskin    6
American Goldfinch    3

Spring Species Total=63
Average # Individuals per Census=144.6
Average # Species per Census=30