April 15th – The REAL Sign of Spring

A great shot of a Pine Warbler. -MMG

Amidst these cold, windy days one needs a sign that things will get better. And yesterday morning and again this morning I saw that sign, a bird that, for me, is the real sign that Spring is on its way: Common Loon.

Now I’ve written about this before but….it’s magical so I’m going to go over it again. I live in York, which is just about halfway between Lakes Erie and Ontario and directly south of Hamilton. There is a definite consistency from year to year about loon sightings: start watching about half an hour after the sun breaks the horizon and if they’re on the move you’ll see one…or many spread out over a wide front. My theory is that they spend the night in the inner bay around Long Point and, when the sun rises, take off for their flight north. Almost invariably (and the two yesterday and today were no different) they are heading NW or NNW. I estimate (and I think this is a conservative estimate) that their flight speed is around 60 kilometers/hour. On that heading and at that speed they would easily make the southern portion of Georgian Bay within 3 hours – well before noon. And they could continue right up the Bay. The inland lakes would largely be ice-covered. The loons would maintain themselves in the Bay making prospecting trips regularly to check out the degree of melt; they want to define their territory and start nesting as soon as possible. Thus getting into Georgian Bay is an important step.

When I see these marvellous birds winging their way across the sky I can’t help but think of northern, forest-enshrouded lakes just waiting for their arrival and plaintiff calls – the very spirit of the North.

Get up early and keep your eyes on the sky; the sight of migrating loons is well worth it. (Although I’ve seen only single birds so far, you could be in for a treat and see many. They don’t fly in flocks but in “loose groupings” from two to four or five spread out on a broad front. The most I’ve seen at Ruthven in a morning was 77 – now that was a day!)

A beautiful male American Goldfinch – well on the way to assuming its “breeding plumage”. -MMG

Not too long ago Bald Eagles were a rarity in southern Ontario. Now I see them daily over the Grand River. Yesterday an Osprey was stooping at a juvenile, letting it know he wasn’t going to take any harassment. -MMG

Red Trillium out already. -MMG

American Kestrel – a raptor in decline. -WF

Kestrels will nest in boxes; in fact, they will benefit from folks putting them up. -WF

An Eastern Bluebird checking out a kestrel box; White-breasted Nuthatch waiting its turn. -WF


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