Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spring Migration in Ontario

I was delighted to finally see many tree swallows today. One of the river trails has a dozen or more bird houses placed to attract nesting swallows. The last time we walked here on April 14th, they were vacant, but all of them are now busily occupied. I could have watched for hours as the birds went in and out of the boxes and stood guard over their little broods.

Grandma kept a birding scrapbook in the 1940's which has many clippings from the Toronto newspapers abour her hobby. It seems that birding was immensely popular at that time. One of the articles listed all 321 birds found within a thirty mile radius of Toronto, and the average date they returned to the area in the spring. At that time there were only 19 birds listed as permanent residents. I know the environment has changed significantly in the past sixty years and there have been shifts in migration and breeding ranges. The house finch is one example of a bird that was rare and now is very common.

Here are some of the dates that were given for seasonal migration to this area.

March: song sparrow, robin, redwing blackbird, grackle, kildeer, meadowlark, bluebird (now rare here)

April: cowbird, sparrow hawk, phoebe, golden-crowned kinglet, kingfisher, red tailed hawk, winter wren, Canada goose (ha! now they never leave), a number of sparrows, towhee, loon, osprey, woodcock, barn swallow, pine warbler, brown thrasher, tree swallow (April 21st on average)
May: bank swallow, purple martin, various warblers, vireos, American bittern, Baltimore oriole, red-headed woodpecker, rose-breasted grosbeak, hummingbird, kingbird, to name a few. Many birds do not arrive until the middle of May.

June: meadowlark, cuckoo, grasshopper sparrow, chat

Crowds of people will be travelling to Point Pelee, Ontario this month to see returning migrants. The Festival of the Birds runs from May 1st to 21st. This point of land on the north shore of Lake Erie is the southernmost part of Canada, equivalent in latitude to northern California. Warblers will be the big attraction, but many other birds will also pass through this area.

On another note, the area around the swallow boxes was covered with white trout lilies. These flowers are considered to be rare in Ontario. I have photographed many of the abundant yellow trout lilies this week and decided I had enough pictures for this year. But I had to take one (or four) more of these lovely white flowers.

Every day this month is sure to bring a new discovery!


  1. I love Point Pelee! We went up there for Geoff to research a travel story about Detroit and surrounding over the border places.

    Festival of the Birds sounds nice. But remember: Us Americans see the warblers first!

  2. Do you think that maybe it was because back then, things were simpler and we weren't so "plugged in" and "on" 24/7 that people noticed nature more? Beautiful description and photos of the swallows and a very beautiful lilies!

  3. I love your picture of the two birds with the birdhouse. Are they swallows? And I've never seen white trout lilies before, either. Interesting post!

  4. Lovely photos. Don't you wish you could go birding with your grandma? I often think of the joy a pair of binoculars would have provided my grandfather who was an avid birder.

    I was at Pelee one year with my mother and experienced a 'fallout'. I can still see the drifts of Warblers in the fields and remember the stories of birders who had scooped exhausted Scarlet Tanagers out of the water.

  5. Susan- I have never been to Point Pelee, but hope to change that soon! You can see the warblers first as long as you tell me about them so I know what to look for. Good luck birding this week!

    Jayne- People were more tuned in to nature for sure. 1942 was in the middle of WW2 and I think there was an appreciation for the simpler pleasures of life. Thanks for the comment on the pictures. I haven't come close to the quality you post, but I was pleased to get them with my camera.

    Africakid- Thanks! The birds are tree swallows. They are so beautiful! We hiked a section of the Bruce Trail today...lots of trout lilies, but none of the white.

  6. Cathy- What an experience, seeing a fall out! The birds must be exhausted after crossing the lake. It is so difficult to determine exactly which day in May will be the best one for seeing the most birds.

  7. The fallout was caused by a good southwest wind that started the birds across and then changed precipitously and blew strongly from the north so that they had to battle an incredible headwind over the lake.

    These next few days will be good here as its been cool with easterly winds. The winds will be more southerly now and hopes are high that finally we'll start getting the good numbers. Fingers crossed as I'm off to bed for an early morning on the lake :0)

  8. Very interesting, Cathy. I hope the winds are favourable for you tomorrow. Looking forward to reading about your trip to the lake!

  9. How did I miss this post? We saw tree swallows on the same day. Sorry..

  10. Dear Mary, I don't know how you keep up with all the blogs you comment on! No apology required. I was happy to see a new bird for the season.


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