Tree Swallow

March 31 2018 Hendrie Valley, RBG, Burlington, ONThank you March, you can leave now. Stuck like a weary gate between February’s winter and April’s spring, you allowed a few birds through but you’re losing your grip and it’s time to go.

On these last two days of March we start our Longwatch transects. If Longwatch means little to you, take a look at this site (It’s not huge but it will explain a lot.) Essentially we are conducting a study of bird populations during the four best birding months of the year: April, May, September and October, we do it by walking defined routes and recording all bird seen and heard. It’s rewarding work (but unpaid).

My two-kilometer route took me around this forested valley; it’s always rich in birds and rarely is it repetitive. It’s very sheltered and several species find enough food and comfort there to keep them going through the winter months. Over-winterers includes a few Winter Wrens and today I was buoyed to hear one singing a hundred meters or so away, a thin, thread-like song but powerful enough to stake a claim in the dense and gloomy woodlands they favour. Hearing it tipped the balance from a nice early spring day to a good one.

Winter Wren

Mallards and Wood Ducks have returned, so far more males than females it seems. Canada Geese have staked out their territories and I watched a pair of them, heads and necks low, half fly half gallop to chase off two would-be settlers. With the interlopers conclusively gone, the defenders bobbed and bowed in mutual admiration and confirmation of having done the right thing.

Male Wood Duck

Bird of the Day was a single Tree Swallow flying roller-coaster swoops over the waters of one of the large ponds. Tree Swallows are well established on this pond and many more will follow but early arrivals like this one run the risk of a cold spell that would put an end to the supply of insects. A couple of years ago we had an extraordinarily vicious late cold snap that must have been fatal to many insectivorous birds. This photo of a group of hungry and cold Tree Swallows was taken on May 5th; plenty of time yet for a change of fortunes.

My day’s total species count was thirty three and also included five Ringnecked Ducks, a couple of Buffleheads, a young Bald Eagle and handsome pairs of Trumpeter Swans and Northern Shovelers.