Birding From the Balcony – Spring Migration is On!

On Wednesday morning last week I was up at 6 am, peering into the obscurity of the thin band of forest in front of our apartment, watching the night gradually cede to a rainy spring morning, first southerly winds in our region in over a month. The fact is that a weather pattern was keeping cool air over western Quebec, allowing winter to persist deep into April, and blocking the mass migration of birds, the harbingers of spring.  On Monday last week, the change started, and by late afternoon, the wind was noticeably south and the temperature had risen to around 10.  As night fell on Monday, the sky was clear, the crescent moon spectacular, and for those birds to the south of us, blocked from migrating due to the lack of favourable winds, it was “migration on.”  Back to Tuesday morning, and by 6:20 I was already detecting new species.

Northern Flciker photographed by Eugene Beckes

Northern Flciker photographed by Eugene Beckes

The window was open onto a small stretch of Gatineau Park, my head sticking out, listening and watching attentively.  First I heard the high, thin call note of a Brown Creeper follow by the highly inflected jeeeep call of a Hermit Thrush.  Too dark to see them but their voices gave them away.   As the sky brightened, two blackbirds flew towards the house and directly over my head, one making that squeaky door call of the Rusty Blackbird.   Bingo!   They were followed by the first Northern Flicker of the year, moving up from the river over the forest  Two Wood Ducks whizzed past, ducking behind the trees on their way to the open waters of Lac des fees.   Finally, a flock of six small sparrows alighted in the tree on the opposite side of the road from my window, at eye level.  A quick look with my binoculars revealed 6 American Tree Sparrows.  This is a bird that simply does not come to our neighbourhood, and are the first ones I have seen this year.  They were off within two minutes.  By 6:40 I had added 6 new species to my house list while sipping on a coffee. (36 for the year now) Migration on!

More south winds this week bring migrants, and the rain expected tomorrow should stall their journey, making prefect birding conditions. I can hardly wait to see and listen for new species.

– Ted