April 21st – “A Nice Day….For January”

White-throated Sparrow                         -R. Mueller

White-throated Sparrow -R. Mueller

Carol summed it up perfectly: “It’s a nice day….for January”. Minus 5 degrees and a heavy frost coating the ground and, more importantly, the nets and poles making them almost impossible to open. So, we set out and baited the traps and waited….and waited…until well after 8:30 and it got warm enough to melt the frost from the nets and we could open. Despite the very cold night, birdlife seemed to be flourishing, especially after the sun cleared the horizon. Nest boxers – the Purple Martins and Tree Swallows – sat on their boxes with their backs to the sun, soaking up the heat from its rays. Finally the midges began to fly and so did the insectivores. But early on, White-throated Sparrows were singing from the margins and Chipping Sparrows were at the traps as soon as they were baited. Despite the cold, life goes on for them. There isn’t much of an alternative.
(Banded) male Eastern Bluebird                         -R. Mueller

(Banded) male Eastern Bluebird -R. Mueller

Yellow-rumped Warbler               -R. Mueller

Yellow-rumped Warbler -R. Mueller

While waiting for the nets to thaw we did a census and turned up 34 species, including the first Spotted Sandpiper of the year. (It was only about 2 weeks ago that I had seen them in Trinidad.) Once the nets and traps were on the go we got a good number of birds – 40 new ones and 40 retraps. The large number of retraps consisted mostly of birds that will likely be breeding locally – they know where the food is in tough conditions. However, some of the retraps are birds that will be heading north. Some of them just aren’t ready to go yet (like American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos with low “fat scores”) but some were carrying significant fat loads and are most likely just waiting for their window of opportunity. Interestingly, one of the retraps was a Black-capped Chickadee with a fat score of “4” – I’ve never seen anything like that in a chickadee before. This bird will not be staying locally but will be heading north. (We tend to think of these birds as sedentary but there is a percentage of the population that probably migrates.)

Later in the morning I saw the first Western Palm Warbler of the year – a tantalizing suggestion of the neotropical migrants to come.

Brilliant plumage detail of an ASY male Red-winged Blackbird.

Brilliant plumage detail of an ASY male Red-winged Blackbird.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                    -R. Mueller

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher -R. Mueller

Banded 40:
1 Mourning Dove
1 Northern Cardinal
1 American Tree Sparrow
6 Chipping Sparrows
1 Swamp Sparrow
3 White-throated Sparrows
4 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Red-winged Blackbird
8 Brown-headed Cowbirds
14 American Goldfinches
West coast visitor Jason Currier with a Tufted Titmouse.

West coast visitor Jason Currier with a Tufted Titmouse.

Retrapped 40:
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Tufted Titmouse
2 Black-capped Chickadees
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
1 American Robin
2 American Tree Sparrows
8 Chipping Sparrows
2 Field Sparrows
4 Song Sparrows
5 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Red-winged Blackbirds
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
9 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 51 spp.

For the past several days we have been treated to the sighting of 100+ Bonaparte’s Gulls. These small agile gulls (their flight is almost tern-like) often winter in the Great Lakes, especially Lake Erie, and head north to their breeding ground on the Canadian Shield and Hudson Bay Lowlands in mid-May. The recent flooding of the Grand River has left many ponds. These are a good source of food for many birds. The gulls have been flying inland to take advantage of this bonanza and we have been able to get good looks at them. Following are some pictures by Rob and Angie Mueller who made the trip down from Toronto just to see them:

Bonaparte's Gulls      -R. Mueller

Bonaparte’s Gulls -R. Mueller

Bonaparte's Gulls                       - R. Mueller

Bonaparte’s Gulls – R. Mueller

Bonaparte's Gulls            -R. Mueller

Bonaparte’s Gulls -R. Mueller

Bonaparte's Gulls               -R. Mueller

Bonaparte’s Gulls -R. Mueller

Ring-billed Gull amidst Bonaparte's Gulls.            -R. Mueller

Ring-billed Gull amidst Bonaparte’s Gulls. -R. Mueller

Bonaparte's Gulls                         -R. Mueller

Bonaparte’s Gulls -R. Mueller


2 thoughts on “April 21st – “A Nice Day….For January”

  1. Hi Rick….I just saw postings from Kuujjuaq and Inukjuaq reporting large numbers of SNBU arriving with the milder (for there) temperatures. Just thought the SNBU crew would like to know.

  2. Thanks Carl.
    There was a bunch of them in Moosonee at the beginning of April. It would be interesting to know their route around (over?) Hudson Bay and where they end up breeding.

Leave a Reply