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A rockin’ May so far

May 15, 2014

OK, from a birding persective (restricted to observing birds from inside our apartment or on the balcony), March sucked, and April was not much better.  Well, it has been the coldest, and one of the snowiest winters in southern Canada in history.  Hell, there were still patches of snow in Gatineau Park in early May.   There is still 10% ice cover in parts of Georgian Bay!   In fact, there is the pile of snow about knee high, on the bike path behind parliament.  It was really a pile of compressed snow, ice and dirt from a snow plough, but the fact that it is still around on May 13 says it all.

Our 5 month old Christmas tree is like home for the White-crowned Sparrow, headed to the high boreal forest

Our 5 month old Christmas tree is like home for the White-crowned Sparrow, headed to the high boreal forest

So, how has May been for birds in the National Capital Region, as us Gatineau people, or Gatinois sometimes call our town?   Well, it has still been below normal cool, but there was a spurt of heat this past Friday that lasted a couple days, faded, and is back today.  The heat seeped in last Wednesday night and gradually over Thursday and Friday.  It brought rain, lots of it on Friday.  It also brought birds.   Brought them here and brought them down.  Migration stopped due to the low pressure, unstable air and rain.  Stopped right over us it seems.   Thursday I heard my first White-crowned Sparrow in a couple years (from our place).   And flitting around in Jacques’ tall spruce trees was a small group of Nashville Warblers.   Six days later the same birds are still here.   Unstable weather is holding them back.   But Saturday, overcast but warm, the birds burst through the invisible wall that was holding them back, and we were flooded with migrants of all colours and shapes.  How superbly appropriate could that be on the “official” International Migratory Bird Day, World Migratory Bird Day, Grand Defi QuebecOiseaux.   No one could have planned this better.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak takes refuels after tough migration

Rose-breasted Grosbeak takes refuels after tough migration

I had decided some time ago that I would spend Saturday sequestered in our apartment, only permitted to go onto the balcony, but doing what I love . . . birding!    I woke around 5:30 to an amazing White-crowned Sparrow chorus.   5 1/2 hours later (11 am) I was at 40 species, and finished the day with 46.   Eleven species of warbler – Ovenbird, Black and White, Nashvilles (who keep busy eating something in the Japanese Elms just off our balcony), Redstarts, Cape Mays (who love the neighbour’s Spruce Trees!), Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Palm, Pine, Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Green.   Three orioles made a quick visit to the Elms.   A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak spent over an hour a the base of Pierre’s feeder, directly below our East window.  It was a most amazing day, without putting a foot on the actual ground!   Cris was wonderful, and let me do my thing.

The good tidings continued on Sunday with a Cliff Swallow (new for the balcony).  Monday morning was not a deary return to work day because it started with 3 raucous Gray Catbirds landing in the Elms at 6 am, followed by a brief visit from a male Indigo Bunting.   Across the street in Gatineau Park, a Northern Parula sang its buzzy song.  Tuesday, was an off day, but this morning, I noticed small birds flitting in Jacques’ spruces again.  My binoculars revealed two gorgeous Cape May Warblers, but there was more.  A flash of orange . . . male Blackburnian.  The two similarly drab warblers, but one with a yellow bum (undertail coverts) and the other without – Orange-crowned Warbler and Tennessee Warbler.     This lands me at 74 species on May 14, far beyond where I was at this time last year.   I hope that by the time I leave for the Bruce and birdathon, I will be at 80.    I started the month with 47 species and I have already observed 57 species in the first 14 days!   This is looking like a great year for birding from the balcony!

The other thing that makes me happy is the Montreal Canadians!  Courageous series against the tough Bruins, and our Habs won in 7 tough games.   Go Habs Go!

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