Finally it seems that winter's grasp is at an end and we can welcome spring and, with that, spring migrants!
This is a very exciting time of the year as we all know! Spring in Pelee is not only a celebration of spring and its warblers, tanagers, orioles and shorebirds, but also a reunion of migrating birders that flock to pelee to welcome birds and birders alike.
The calm before the storm is the month of April. Only the regular local birders are out in full force and already there has been in influx of migrants.
Last week Tree Swallows, Field Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Vesper and Savannah Sparrows have started to arrive. Cormorants are back, the odd Common Loon is seen flying over the tip and grebes, and ducks dot the lake. Great Egrets are starting to slowly return to Muddy Creek in Wheatley. A Golden Plover was also spotted in the onion fields by Alan Wormington. On Monday, April 7th, I ventured out and saw these species (minus the plover) plus a Forster's Tern at Hillman Marsh, and 3 Pectoral Sandpipers at a mudflat along concession D.
At the Tip of Point Pelee there was an excellent reverse migration. I counted over 30 Flickers, 5 Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, along with Juncos, Black-capped Chickadees, Robins, House Finches, Chipping Sparrows, Creepers, Crows, Blackbirds, Grackles, you name it, it was heading south. Also saw a single White-breasted Nuthatch at the tip as well. Very large numbers of Golden-crowned Kinglets were evidence of a migration the night before, as there were well over 100 birds from the tip transit stop to the end of the tip trail. Juncos also had a great migration with well over 200 birds seen that morning.
Tuesday the 8th, I returned and met Alan Wormington who was looking at 2 female King Eiders in his scope almong the other Scaups, Goldeneyes, and Surf and White-winged Scoters at the west beach. No Black Scoter that day. Birding with the Worminator, we went down to the tip via the west beach trail and around the tip area. Winter Wrens, seemed to have moved in as well, and we saw an Eastern Meadowlark, along with the other migrants that have already arrived. One of the highlights of that morning was a Mourning Cloak. My first butterfly of spring! When I got home that day I later saw my first Cabbage White. The mudflat at concession D had 13 Dunlin and a few Pectoral Sandpiper.
Last night we had rain showers so I ventured to the tip quickly this morning to see what the storm brought in. Southwest winds were quite strong so I decided to walk along the east beach where any migrants that came in would be protected. A few sparrows, including Vesper, Savannah, Field, Chipping, and Song Sparrow I spotted along the beach south of sparrow field. I also spotted 3 Yellow-rumped Warblers. One male was almost in full breeding plumage, a definate migrant. Unfortunetly, no other warbler species. Also saw a Brown Thrasher in the Sparrow Field.
Spring is definetly well under way here!
Also of interest is a pheasant I encountered. I beleived at first to be a Golden Pheasant female, now after looking in a few bird books, I think it may be a female Lady Amherst's Pheasant. Feel free to let me know if it is indeed another species. Alan said that Henrietta saw a pheasant last fall near the tip area. Very surprising it has spent all winter down there.
Lady's Amherst's Pheasant? - photos taken by Marianne Balkwill at the tip of Point Pelee on April 7th, 2008. Anybody missing a pheasant from their farm?
Lady's Amherst's Pheasant