Easter Sunday Birding

Bufflehead

Bufflehead

The sun finally came out on Easter Sunday. I started my day with a visit to the Richmond Lagoons, intending to take the new trail all the way around the lagoons and into the woods. There is a flooded spot in the woods where the Jock River passes quite close to the trail; I thought I might find some interesting birds tucked away in there.

The first birds I heard when I got out of the car were a Song Sparrow, the resident phoebe, a Brown-headed Cowbird and the gobbling of a Wild Turkey. When I reached the lagoons, I counted about 300-400 Canada Geese in the water with more flying overhead, as well as two Ring-necked Ducks, a male Wood Duck, and a female Bufflehead.

Swamp Sparrows were back in good numbers, and I managed to get a shot of one before he realized I was watching him and dove into the cattails.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

I didn’t see as much as I had hoped in the woods. In fact, other than a single White-breasted Nuthatch, I didn’t see or hear any songbirds whatsoever. At the river, I startled a pair of Wood Ducks into flight and saw two male mallards attempting to mate with a female. When I emerged from the woods at the back of the northern-most cell I saw a Northern Harrier flying over the marsh – my first of the year. Two Northern Flickers flew by in the opposite direction. More Swamp Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds were singing; it will be a few weeks before the Common Yellowthroats arrive and add their songs to the marshes in our area. One Red-winged Blackbird was showing off his red epaulets nicely as he sang:

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Two Tree Swallows had claimed a room in the Purple Martin box and were perching in the trees nearby. I love how the trees appear ready to burst into leaf in this photo:

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

In this photo you can see the blossoms beginning to open:

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

I noticed a duck with a white body swimming in the middle cell and was surprised when I identified it as a male Common Goldeneye…this is the first time I had ever seen one there. Three female Hooded Mergansers also flew in and landed on the water as I watched. A Red-winged Blackbird was sitting out in the open as I passed by, so of course I had to take his picture, too. After the winter we just had, it’s still too early for me to get tired of them.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

From there I went to Monaghan Forest at the corner of Fallowfield and Moodie. It’s not one of my favourite spots for birding, as the traffic noise makes it hard to hear the birds at times, but I have had some good luck there in the past. It’s also a good place to see Trilliums and other spring ephemerals in May. My visit didn’t produce as much variety as I had hoped, but a singing Purple Finch and a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker made the stop worthwhile. I saw the sapsucker on a wooden pole just outside the parking lot; he was tapping on a piece of metal and making quite a racket!

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Since Monaghan Forest left me longing for migrants, I decided to head over to Mud Lake next. The snow in the woods had all melted, but the pond was still mostly frozen. A walk around the lake produced 25 species, with a single Purple Martin, my first Pine Warbler (heard only), and an Eastern Phoebe being the highlights. Three Northern Flickers were vocalizing and chasing each other in the same tree; this made for some entertaining bird watching.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

The Scilla was starting to bloom on the west side of the conservation area.

Scilla siberica

Scilla siberica

By the time I completed my walk around Mud Lake it was starting to warm up. I wasn’t ready to go home yet, so I stopped by the Nortel woods to look for butterflies and chorus frogs. I saw a single Mourning Cloak floating through the woods, and my ears led me to a large swampy area full of Western Chorus Frogs. This time I managed to spot one calling at the water’s surface, visible only by the small, round bubble its throat made each time it called. When I tried to get close, however, he slipped under the water’s surface and swam away. Despite my best efforts I wasn’t able to spot another.

In the woods I heard a Purple Finch singing – they seem to be everywhere right now – and startled a Hermit Thrush into flight. I saw where he landed on the ground and managed to take one photo before he flew off:

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

There were still some juncos and American Tree Sparrows feeding on the seeds below a home-made feeder. They ignored me when I sat down on the bench and watched them for a while.

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

I ended up with three year birds on Easter Sunday (Northern Harrier, Purple Martin and Pine Warbler), plus a Mourning Cloak and a vernal pond full of Western Chorus Frogs. Although it started out cold, it turned out to be a beautiful spring day. If only the nice weather would last for more than a day or two!

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