After arriving in Ontario from the States, I’ve experienced a broad range of weather conditions but a great deal of uncommonly, unexpectedly sunny days. This has made early morning bird watching even more enjoyable. The icing on the cake has been finding shrikes, and more shrikes than I anticipated. In singles and pairs the birds are here and it has been incredible to watch them as they prepare for the breeding season defending territories, exhibiting courtship behavior, and even nest building.
In addition to shrikes, I have seen the most incredible amount of turkeys. I’ve seen more turkeys in the last week than I’ve seen in my entire life. The best part of seeing turkeys is observing them out in groups, tails fanned, gobbling in the distance. Every morning I’m greeted with a symphony of bird calls while I scan the area for shrikes, and not just birds that want to be seen. While peering through my scope I’ve seen coyotes, deer, squirrels, chipmunks, short-tailed weasels, and a short glimpse of some small mammal as it run underneath the tall grass.
I’ve begun my adventure in the frozen north and am looking forward to seeing the flowers in bloom as the days get warmer and longer.
Drew White, Carden Biologist
Spring Has Sprung, Or Has It?
Before the cold Carden wind returned to us this week, we experienced a pleasant, deceptively summer-like warm spell that brought birds, buds, and insects back early this year. While near freezing temperatures have been plaguing the Carden plain, some wildlife has decided to stick around until Spring temperatures return. One such bird is the Great Blue Heron. While scanning a patch of habitat for eastern loggerhead shrike, I discovered a 20+ Great Blue Heron rookery among a swath of large snags in a nearby wetland. It was amazing! It is quite a sight seeing large, ungainly birds building large stick nests 15 meters up in dead trees. They are so frequently observed hunting on the ground, it seems so unlikely that they would raise young so high up. Regardless, the pairs were busy at work preparing their nests and readying themselves for laying, incubation, and beyond. Spring is always an exciting time of year, regardless of how many you have seen come and go.
Spring also means getting glimpses of uncommon birds passing through on their way to breeding grounds. While eastern loggerhead shrike are a rare, but delightful sight to see on the alvar plain, black vultures are even more uncommon, and there have been multiple sightings around Southern Ontario. While most black vultures are year-round residents south of Ohio, individuals in the restricted northeastern part of their range, i.e. New Hampshire, Maryland, Connecticut, have been known to migrate south during cold months. Could these vagrants have gotten off course while migrating North? However and why they arrived aside, they most likely won’t be around for long, so take a closer look at those vultures soaring overhead, and see if you can spot white wing tips.
Laura Fleissner, Carden Field Assistant