Monday 31 May 2021

Middlesex Biggish Year: May Update

At what point does a "biggish year" become a "big year"?

May has just come to a close on my "Middlesex Biggish Year", and behind us we leave one of the busiest months of the year bird wise. And busy it was. In an absolute whirlwind of a month I saw SEVENTY (that's seven - zero) year birds. Maybe not a super crazy number on a provincial scale, but for Middlesex, and considering I had already seen over 80% of the birds reported in Middlesex at the end of April, I think it is quite exceptional. My year list now stands at 224 (over 90% of birds recorded in the county so far this year), which just so happens to be what I finished with at the end of last year. I have had a few misses this past month, including migrants such as Orange-crowned Warbler and Gray-cheeked Thrush, as well as some good rarities like Connecticut Warbler (not too torn up about that one, would rather self find my lifer anyways!), Kentucky Warbler (shows up the first morning in a week I don't go to Kilally), and Prairie Warbler. Never did get out to try for Whimbrel (would be a long shot, but doable), maybe next year. 

I should make a quick note about the weather: it sucked. Or rather, it sucked for birders. There were a few "good" days here and there, but nothing compared to what we had last year with "fallouts" of birds. The weather was conducive for migration the first few days of May, then we hit a patch of north winds with not much happening, followed by summer like temperatures with virtually no rain for a couple of weeks. Finally in the past few days we have had winds switch back to north, with temps down to the single digits. The clear nights coupled with south winds meant that birds got going...and just kept going. Although we had a pretty good diversity of birds this spring, we really had to work hard, and the case for many species was fewer individuals than normal (for example, I saw less than 20 individuals of Swainson's Thrush in the whole of May...what the heck??). 

The breakdown: 

Code 1: 129 (26 new)

Code 2: 60 (26 new)

Code 3: 22 (10 new)

Code 4: 8 (5 new)

Code 5: 4 (2 new)

A bunch of loose ends tied up with code 1s this month. In fact, 129 species marks every single one of the code 1s there are to see! It only gets harder from here. Flycatchers, warblers, vireos, gnatcatcher, a few know, the usual stuff.

Bay-breasted Warbler

Big increase in my code 2 list as well, leaving only three remaining (Marsh Wren, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Orange-crowned Warbler). Quite a few shorebirds added here, as well as some of the more uncommon flycatchers, warblers, vireos etc. I worked pretty hard to get Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Olive-sided Flycatcher, and it eventually paid off—I saw Yellow-bellied twice in the last week of May, and saw an Olive-sided yesterday in Skunks Misery! 

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Code 3s consist of mostly annual rarities, as well as scarce breeders. Up to 22/34, which I don't think is too shabby. A few good shorebirds such as Black-bellied Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher and White-rumped Sandpiper, as well as some rarer migrants like Common Gallinule and Golden-winged Warbler. The scarce breeders were made up of Acadian Flycatcher (seen both on migration and territory), Clay-colored Sparrow (which I actually saw as a migrant in my neighbourhood, a new patch bird!), and Cerulean Warbler. 

Common Gallinule

Acadian Flycatcher

Clay-colored Sparrow

What a crazy month for code 4s! More good shorebirds in the form of Ruddy Turnstone, Wilson's Phalarope and Red-necked Phalarope. Black Tern and Evening Grosbeak made up the other ones.

Evening Grosbeak


One of my code 5s for the month was the Blue Grosbeak in Kilally Meadows. You can read more about that here. I also had a Western Meadowlark in early May.

So what's next going forward? Well, I think I will scale way back on my birding until the fall. Still a few birds to keep an eye out for over the late spring and summer months, so I guess we will have to wait and see what happens! For now, I think it is time to pay attention to insects and plants :) I have had an amazing time so far this year, and look forward to picking it up again! I guess I can actually sleep in now...


  1. Gotta say, I love reading these posts, keep 'em coming!

  2. Sleeping in...this I gotta see. Nice work on your bird list.