Saturday, May 6, 2017

It's Gonna Be May

Before we got too far into May, I wanted to make sure that I got at least one blog in for April! With a thesis handed in and marking over, I've been trying to take at least a little bit of time to myself to get out and do some of the things I love (like birding and photography) and for once without feeling guilty about it!

Our backyard has been incredibly busy the last little while.  Pine Siskins and Purple Finches have come back in numbers, American Goldfinches have molted becoming brighter, and a few other species have slowly started to trickle back!  Last week, we saw our first of the year (FOY) Fox Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, and White-crowned Sparrow!

Fox Sparrow
Molting American Finch.  Dull colours out, bright yellow and black in!
While in my driveway one day, I spotted a Pileated Woodpecker bounding through the backyard.  I sat in my car watching it for a few moments before noticing it actually enter a cavity. So you know what that means....I COULD have young woodpeckers to report on at some point this summer!!  The cavity is a perfect view from my driveway, so it'll be easy to keep tabs on with my binoculars.  If there are any young, I'll be able to use my scope to get a photo later in the summer.  Also visiting still....are Evening Grosbeaks! 
Male Evening Grosbeak
Female Evening Grosbeak
Pileated Woodpecker
Driving around the last week I was able to get up close and person to an adorable Ruffed Grouse! I sat down on some grass to snap a few photos of her and to my surprise, she continued to walk closer and closer to me!  It was an amazing experience to be able to see her up close, listen to soft little clucks she made, and eventually she wandered off continuing to forage.

All around the Parry Sound county I've begun seeing Hooded Mergansers, many of them even taking up nests. Other waterfowl that have been common lately have been Wood Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, 
Hooded Merganser female (left) and male (right)
Wood Duck females (outer two) and males (inner two)

There are two pastures close to our house in Carling and they almost always have something exciting on them. During April, one of these pastures had a flock of 25 Snow Geese (pretty rare to actually find in Parry Sound!) and also my first Red-shouldered Hawk! The second pasture is closer to Killbear Provincial Park.  During April I would often see Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese, but two visits found some awesome birds!  During one visit, I saw my FOY (first-of-year) Eastern Meadowlark and Northern Harrier, while another visit I found my first Great Egret for the year and county!  

Eastern Meadowlark in tree

Great Egret

During the last weekend of April, we finally had a day that was sunny, warm, AND not raining (it's been a very soggy spring!). My partner and I took off to hike a few of the local trails and see what migrants have been trickling in.  Our first trail was absolutely beautiful. We got our FOY Brown Creeper, Swamp Sparrow, and every shrub was fluttering with Butter Butts (or Yellow-rumped Warblers).

Yellow-rumped Warbler showing its "butter butt"

Whatcha lookin' at?

We then drove towards a local heronry to see if any herons had claimed nests for this upcoming breeding season. To my surprise we only saw three herons!  The sight, however, was absolutely beautiful.  I've always seen heronries from the roadside, so it was amazing to see one that was a hike in.

Great-Blue Heron on a nest from last year
The heronry also provided me with my first painted turtle of the year and some beautiful spring flowers, including a Red Trillium.

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)
Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana)
Our final stop was a beautiful wetland.  With all the rain we have been getting water levels were incredibly high, in fact, much of the path was underwater.  
View of the pond

View of the pond from outlook
Birds here were relatively the same as our other sites that day, minus a high number of Ruby-crowned Kinglets singing around us!  These little guys are always so difficult to photograph as they are always bouncing from one branch to the next. I was so excited to have finally captured a photo of one and it, so say the least, is a little awkward! 

April has been an incredibly busy month and May will only be busier as I prepare for my defence. Here's hoping that I get out at least a few time birding....that is if it ever stops raining!

Mike waving hi while near Simms Lake
Classic wispy pines of Georgian Bay