Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Crazy April Weather!

The past two days have seen a bout of our typical but crazy April weather. I thought we were ready to start working in the garden, and had the first tasks underway, but then the temperature plunged and we were back into winter. Light blowing snow arrived Saturday night, and continued on and off all day Sunday, interspersed with periods of rain and sun. There's still snow forecast for later today.

It's only a thin white covering on the ground, which is rapidly disappearing in the sun, but April snow always arrives like a blustery surprise, and Sunday it was blowing horizontally more than not. Reminded me of one day in a boat off the west coast of Scotland some years ago!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

2nd Wave of Migrant Birds and First Frogs

A few warm days, and the snow is pretty well gone. It's mid-April, and the second wave of migrant birds is arriving back. While robins, red-wings and turkey vultures have been here for a month, now a new group of common summer birds is showing up, their calls adding to the variety of music in the air.

The song sparrows have just been back a week. They sit at the very top of younger spruce trees and call their distinctive, easily recognized song. Little brown birds, like all the sparrows, they have a dark brown spot on their breast that makes them immediately recognizable, along with their song.

Yesterday I saw a pair of chipping sparrows too. Even tinier 'little brown birds', these sparrows are one of the most common in residential yards, their call a clear trill that you will hear all summer long. These sparrows have a plain breast, and a small reddish-brown cap on their head, and are frequently heard squeaking from the ditch as they hunt for food.

A flicker has been calling it's long staccato series of notes, like a woodpecker that can't stop. I haven't seen it yet, but the call is clearly distinctive.

Finally, our favourite spring migrant arrived back yesterday, the bluebird. Calling from high in the ash tree, it sat in the sun and waited while I found the binoculars to identify it for sure. From underneath you just see the white and reddish breast, but seen from behind the flash of blue is clear. We hope it stays around and nests nearby.

And our favourite sounds of spring - the spring peepers and now the wood frogs are calling madly from a hidden pond across the road. They seem to start on the day the last of the ice is melting, and the song gets stronger by the day, filling the evening and night with frog music.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring is Finally Here

Well, I think spring is finally here. At the moment there's actually a thunderstorm passing overhead, it's pouring rain, and whatever snow is left is quickly being washed away. The air is now so humid that fog is washing in, cloaking the trees in a ghostly blanket of greyish-white. The temperature is supposed to soar to 20 degrees by 4 o'clock.

Turkey vultures as we usually see them.

Meanwhile, the early birds have been active. Turkey vultures are almost always visible soaring overhead, and with warmer tempertures will come the thermals that let them rise to be just a black dot in the sky. The other day though, they were swooping low over the yard, and landing to dine off some unfortunate road-kill.

Swooping in to the roadkill.

Since the temperatures rose, the robins are everywhere, running across the ground searching for worms, and the mourning doves are starting their nest under the eaves. The male red-wings are still in a small flock, but will soon disperse to claim their nesting territory too. Goldfinch are turning bright yellow, and there is still a small flock of redpolls, a sparrow-like bird with a red patch on top of its head, staying nearby. They will leave for the boreal forest soon.

Goldfinch and redpoll on the feeder.

Spring run-off has been slow this year, bursting down the streams during the warm speall in mid-March, but then freezing in place again as temperatures dropped. Only now, nearly a month later, will we see another burst of spring flow in the creeks and river.

Male redwings in the top of a poplar.