October 14th. 2017. RBG Hendrie Valley, Burlington, ON. I scrapped the first couple of attempts at writing this because I was struggling to frame the idea that some migrant species arrive in waves, or pulses. But that’s it, that’s what I wanted to say. It’s mid October, probably the majority of south-bound species have cleared out by now and birding these days features the arrival and passage of the hardier species passing through as if on a schedule.
What we’re seeing at this rather late date is the passage of migrants most of whom are quite winter-hardy. For them almost anywhere with the right habitat south of the Great Lakes is safe enough through the winter months and we are at the northern limit of that winter range. Some will stay with us especially in sheltered places like valleys with open water or around houses and thick hedges.
For a week or two we have been witness to hordes of White-throated Sparrows working through our woodlands, everywhere you focus your attention there would be a white-throat or two bouncing around. With them came Golden–crowned Kinglets, always on the move, picking, fluttering and searching especially around leaf stalks for insects, they’ve been followed closely by Ruby–crowned Kinglets who I think are now in the majority.
Barely a week ago the first Hermit Thrushes of the fall showed up, now they are almost common; although common may not be the best choice of word because you don’t see many, they’re so secretive. Today I happened upon two, but they are evasive and stay low, I’m certain there are many more around. While other members of the thrush family make their way into Central and South America, the Hermit Thrush manages to get though winter in the southern half of the United States and into Mexico; a few even linger as far north as this part of Ontario but I think they’re really pushing their luck.
In the last couple of days Winter Wrens have shown up, a very few will stay the winter but most will keep going. It’s often just a flicker of dark movement somewhere low and impossibly tangled that gives them away. But if you’re patient they usually re-emerge just a few feet away and jump around, flying low and fast, to get your measure.
Four Winter Wrens were my Birds of the Day but were among many interesting sightings. They were in a transect count that included a late Common Yellowthroat, nearly sixty White-throated Sparrows (it’s reasonable to assume that for every one I counted another ten were not far away.): Two Hermit Thrushes, Two Swamp Sparrows and, heard but not seen, an Eastern Towhee. I’ll be listening and watching for more signs of the Towhee, it just might stay in this sheltered valley.