Every spring I look forward to the return of ‘our’ breeding birds. I say ‘our’ since the birds born here are really Canadian, eh! The truth is that the migrating species spend only enough time here to find a mate, that is if they don’t already have one, raise a family and head back south. Migration starts as early as February in the case of a Horned Lark and continues until May. Specific migration patterns for each species is based on the amount of daylight hours which is in turn coincides with the availability of food enroute and at the breeding territory. There are many resources on the web which can assist naturalists and birdwatchers plan their activities. The Boreal Songbird initiative shows specific migration pathways while there are maps for specific species such as the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Purple Martins. Annenberg Learner is a tool for teacher professional development and classroom resources and has a variety of up-to-date migration maps at this link
Like most everyone else, I have obligations and planning for a birdwatching & photography trip to one of the Ontario migration traps such as Long Point, Rondeau or Pelee is done many months in advance and therefore it is difficult to predict the optimum time to see the most species in a short period of time. Last year we arrived the first weekend of May as per normal and since spring came early, leaf out occurred much sooner than normal. As a result, the migrants all remained high in the canopy feeding on the small caterpillars and insects that feed on the new growth. This year spring seemed to be on schedule and leaf out had not quite started so we had high hopes for seeing plenty of migrants. Rondeau Provincial Park is our favourite migrant trap since we can camp onsite and there seems to be less visitors and doesn’t have all the frenzy of Pelee. The problem this year it seems is that the weather conditions were not quite right to ‘push’ the birds across Lake Erie. Quite often the birds will arrive after a storm or high winds give the travelers that extra nudge or help across the large body of water. In the end, we saw a few species but not in the variety or numbers we had hoped. After we have returned home, I have been monitoring the ONTbirds listserv and of course plenty of birds arrived a few days later. Well there is always next year! These are a few of my favourite images from last weekend.