It’s April 21st, and the weather still hasn’t returned to seasonal. Although it was about 22°C on Friday, gray clouds, high winds, and the odd shower made it an unpleasant day to be outdoors. Yesterday a cold front moved in, with more gray skies, intermittent snow/rain showers, ice pellets, and a high of only 6°C. I was cooped up indoors both days with an injured foot; walking had become so painful that I took Friday off so I could rest it. After spending two days on the couch with an ice pack and lots of Advil, the pain was only a shadow of itself when I got up this morning, so I decided to go out and do some “lite” birding.
Although the snow has been melting rapidly over the past couple of weeks, the temperature has still been below seasonal and it seems as though we’ve been poised on the threshold of spring for some time now. Winter has been slow to leave, migration has been slow to get under way, and I’ve still needed my winter coat and hat for the mornings when it has only been 0°C.
Despite the winter storm today that has coated everything with a new layer of ice and snow, the past week has given me hope that we have finally turned the corner. American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles have been back in large numbers for a couple of weeks now, and I see many of each species on my 1.2 km walk to the bus stop each morning. Since April 4th I’ve managed to add five new species to my year list: Song Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Wood Duck, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Fox Sparrow.
A few weeks ago Deb and I met at Billings Bridge to look for spring migrants. Even though it was a few days past the spring equinox, the weather was still quite cold; hardly any of the snow had melted, and was still too thick for any groundhogs to have emerged. While a pair of Common Mergansers and a dozen Canada Geese had joined the usual mallards, black ducks, and Common Goldeneyes on the river, we didn’t see any Wood Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, or Hooded Mergansers. The Ring-billed Gulls had also returned, and one was giving a strange, incessant call that I’ve never heard before. I stopped to make sure that the call was in fact being made by a Ring-billed Gull, and then I heard the raspy call of a displeased crow. I turned around in time to see the crow dive-bombing a large bird perching in a tree next to the river, and I told Deb, “We just walked right by a hawk!” It was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, my first of the year. I wondered if the hawk was the reason why the gull was calling continuously from its place on the ice.