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Migratory Bird Day Weekend

May 16, 2016

Despite a very busy work week of organizing Nature Canada’s Bird Day event in Ottawa, this second week of May lived up to its reputation as rich in bird species, and a key one for building the yard list.   Thursday, the weather sweetened – it has been a colder than normal spring with much wind, that likely has slowed the migration, so a couple of days pushing the high teens and low 20s were very welcome to us and the birds.  As they always do, they took advantage of favourable winds and moved in (while others moved out).  It was a blue Thursday for me.  The dark, small bird that moved with a flock of Goldfinches turned out to be an Indigo Bunting, a first for the yard list!   A short while later, still before going to work in the morning, another bluish-bird turned up in the same tree, a gorgeous male Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Friday was crazy busy at work, but an hour of birding in the morning was enough to add a number of new species that sailed in on the southerlies – Baltimore Oriole, Least Flycatcher, American Redstart and Chestnut-sided Warbler.   At the same time, some of the wonderfully vocal White-crowned Sparrows and two White-throated Sparrows were ever-present at Pierre’s feeder below.

Saturday was the craziest day, leaving the house at 6:15 to head over to Brewer Park.   That meant about 10 minutes to bird before leaving – and it paid off in a strangely poetic way.  On the west side of the house, a Tennessee Warbler belted out its song for all the neighbourhood to hear.  On the east side of the house, at the same time, a Nashville Warbler sang repeatedly, perhaps with even more of a country twang.     Apparently, both  the Nashville Warbler and the Tennessee Warbler were named from specimens collected by American Ornithologist Alexander Wilson on the banks of the Cumberland River near Nashville Tennessee, while the birds were on migration in 1811.  Ironically, neither species breeds, nor winters anywhere near Nashville Tennessee, but migrates through the area in spring and fall.  I could imagine a situation in another dimension of space time in which the two species could have been named the “Gatineau Warbler” and the “Outaouais Warbler” by me.

I started Sunday morning at a Purple Martin colony, helping recover small Global positioning tracking devices from a couple of birds at the Nepean Sailing Club.   When I returned home at 8:00 am, I was ready to spend several hours birding from the balcony (inside actually as it was freezing cold and windy outside).  And the birding was good!   The warblers showed up – with a parade of striking species working the spruce trees nearby.   Cape May, Yellow, Black-throated Green, and Blackburnian moved back and forth between the tall trees.   While enjoying them, my ears detected a new species for the yard, a Rough-winged Swallow, which zipped over the forest trees and then roof above my head.  A little later, a Barn Swallow winged past, more or less following the road into Gatineau Park.   I stopped birding early afternoon, when sleep caught up to me.   However, my list has jumped over just a few days to 74 species!.  This is looking like a good year, and here are some of the stars so far from the this past week.

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