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...

Friday 21 May 2021

Mid-May Birding Highlights

What a week it has been! I have had some pretty great birding, and here are some of the highlights. 

Last Friday finally saw some movement (coincidentally, last year the 'drought' ended on May 14th as well), so I made a point of going to Kilally Meadows ESA first thing in the morning. Although it was not crazy, I still manged to tally 80 species in the five hours I was there (see the eBird checklist here). Highlights included Evening Grosbeak, Broad-winged Hawk (seemed a bit late), FOY Blackpoll Warbler, and my county lifer Golden-winged Warbler. 

Just as I was leaving, I got a call from Bill Lindley who had White-rumped Sandpipers at the Strathroy Sewage Lagoons, so that's where I headed next. Although I struck out on the White-rumpeds, I did end up finding a small flock of Short-billed Dowitchers. Not a species I was exactly expecting to see this year in the county! I also saw my FOY Dunlin and Semipalmated Plovers. 

As soon as I had gotten home, I got another call from Bill, letting me know a Wilson's Phalarope had been reported at Dingman Wetland, on the south side of the city. I was off again...

I arrived and immediately saw the female Wilson's Phalarope. What a gorgeous bird, the photo does it no justice. 

The next morning I went back to Kilally. It was a bit slower than the previous day (eBird checklist here), and I tallied a few less species. Nevertheless, it was nice to see my FOY Scarlet Tanager and Bay-breasted Warblers, as well as getting some decent looks at another Blackpoll. At one point, I was surprised to find a Savannah Sparrow in the tree right above my head! Odd place for such a bird. 

Savannah Sparrow

Blackpoll Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Later that afternoon, I saw that a Prairie Warbler, a species not seen in Middlesex since 2002, had been found at Cavendish Woods earlier that morning in the middle of London. A couple phone calls later, and Bill, Gord, and I were on scene. 

To make a long story short, we spent a couple hours (with a short intermission to go see a White-rumped Sandpiper at Dingman) looking, but came up empty. We went back the next morning and found out from the guy who found it that the bird had stopped singing by early afternoon anyways. 

What we did find however, was a Hooded Warbler! I got some pretty bad photos of it, but you can tell what it is. Patagonia Picnic Table effect anyone?

I did my usual Kilally route on Sunday morning, followed by that return trip to Cavendish Woods, but nothing really of note.

I saw there was a chance of rain in the afternoon (spoiler alert: it didn't happen), so I went out to look for shorebirds. My first stop was Strathroy, which in addition to my FOY Black-billed Cuckoo, I saw some more dowitchers. Spent some time photographing shorebirds.

Short-billed Dowitchers

Dowitcher and Lesser Yellowlegs

Least Sandpiper


Dowitchers in flight

Afterwards I went to Dingman. There were many shorebirds to sort through, and I had 45 or so Semipalmated Plovers, which was my personal high count for southern Ontario (have had flocks of over 100 up on James Bay though), as well as my FOY Semipalmated Sandpiper. I was also pleased to get some better looks at the White-rumped Sandpiper. 

Digiscoped White-rumped with many Leasts

The next morning I went back out to Kilally, and was pleased to find a bunch of birds had come in, including my FOY Mourning, Canada, and Wilson's Warblers, Eastern Wood-pewees, Red-eyed Vireos (finally), and best of all, a Red-headed Woodpecker. Not a picture taking morning! See the eBird checklist here.

Later in the evening, I caught wind of Ruddy Turnstones down at Dingman (which is so inconveniently far away), and I was out the door before you could say "Arenaria interpres".

After some frantic scoping in the evening light, I managed to find them. A county bird for me, and one I was really hoping to cross paths with this spring. First Middlesex record in five years I believe. 

Another digiscope

A couple other birders showed up, and we stayed until dark. Paid off, since a Black-bellied Plover flew in!

The next morning I stuck to my neighbourhood (I wanted to be able to get home in time for the opening of vaccine registrations!), but I still managed to find my FOY Philadelphia Vireo and Alder Flycatcher. Compared to Kilally, not much going on though! 

I finally set up my moth sheet on this night as well, since it was warm out. Not much in the way of moths, but I did add a new neighbourhood bird when I heard a couple Long-tailed Ducks calling as they flew over. 

Kilally the next morning didn't yield much other than a few more Canada Warblers, and a lateish Common Loon. Still found nearly 70 species though. In the evening, I had my FOY Common Nighthawks flying above my yard.

The next morning once again started with Kilally (lol). FOY Yellow-billed Cuckoo was nice, but other than that no more year birds. I did have four Canada Warblers and three Mourning Warblers though, so hard not to be pleased with that I guess! 

After I got home, I got an alert for Red-necked Phalarope and some Wilson's Phalaropes at the Strathroy Sewage Lagoons, so I bet you can guess where I ended up in the afternoon! It took a loop of the north lagoon, but I finally spotted both species of phalaropes (one Red-necked and four Wilson's). This was my first time seeing a breeding plumaged Red-necked.

Wilson's, Red-necked, and a Mallard

And so that brings us to today, and of course I went to Kilally. Overall, it was pretty uneventful, although there was one highlight. As I was walking along the paved path, I heard a flycatcher vocalization deep in the woods that caught my ear. I suspected Acadian Flycatcher, so I investigated. Sure enough, I managed to get a better listen and a visual, and it was indeed an Acadian! The first one I have seen in four years. The species breeds regularly in a few woodlots in Middlesex, although there are very few records for right in London. It is no mega rarity, but it was nice to find something.

I have some audio recordings on my eBird checklist.

It was a fantastic week, and there should still be more to come! Still have a few species to catch up with, maybe tomorrow...

Thursday 13 May 2021

A Blue Grosbeak in London!

 Backtracking a bit with this post...

Last Tuesday evening  (May 4) I was just settling down to get a start on some schoolwork when I got an eBird alert about Purple Finches. With the return of the finches happening now (I got an Evening Grosbeak early last week by the way, in my patch to boot!), I knew that I would need to change the eBird filter for them. So I opened up the eBird review queue to do so and my eyes just about bulged out of my head when I saw "Blue Grosbeak" sitting there! It had just been submitted five minutes prior, and hadn't even made it out into the alerts yet. It was about 6:00pm at this time, and the report was from a few hours prior. I made a couple calls, and within 20 minutes I was out at Kilally Meadows ESA in the company of a couple others looking.

To make a long story short, after a couple hours, we were unsuccessful in locating the bird. We marked this one down as a loss, and then headed back home.

The next morning, after a morning of excellent loon migration (I counted over 350), I was going through some iNaturalist sightings for Middlesex, and saw that a photo of the Blue Grosbeak had been uploaded, a spanking first year male. I'd be lying if seeing those photos didn't sour my mood a bit. My sadness was quickly replaced by excitement however when I got an alert that the bird had just been refound! I was out the door and on site within 15 minutes.

Others had arrived on site just mere minutes after it was posted, but it hadn't been seen since the original refinding earlier that morning. We all combed the area it was last seen, but came up empty. Things weren't looking too good.

A consolation prize for some was an Eastern Whip-poor-will that had been flushed by a hawk, and then perched nicely. This particular bird ended up staying on the same spot for four days! 

A couple hours went by, and the birders began to dissipate as hope was diminishing for seeing the grosbeak. As I was wandering around, Gord Payne showed up on his lunch break. I mentioned then whip-poor-will, and he wanted to see it, so I took him to the spot and pointed it out. As we were chatting afterwards, I happened to glance off in the distance and notice a songbird fly in, perch briefly on a goldenrod stalk, and then drop down to the ground. I didn't get any colour or features off of it, but it looked mildly intriguing, so we went over to investigate. As we approached where it dropped down, it flew up and perched. It was the Blue Grosbeak!!!!

I snapped a couple photos, and then it flew off and we lost it in some shrubs. We called over the other birders, and then began our search for it again. 

It took a bit, but once again, when everyone else was looking for it where it was last seen, I walked a bit further down the trail, and was pleasantly surprised to see it sitting out in the open! I called everyone over, and thankfully this time pretty much everyone there was able to see it! 

In the last 50 years or so, I believe there are only two other records of Blue Grosbeak for Middlesex County, the last being in 2007 at Pete Chapman's feeder in Hungry Hollow near Arkona. What an exciting bird for the county, and only 5 minutes from home. As of time of writing, the bird was still being seen. One has to wonder how long it will stick around!  I will admit, I am a bit annoyed, because earlier in the day on Tuesday I had actually walked right by where it was seen a few times! Our evening search was my third time at Kilally Meadows that day.

Who needs Pelee? ;-)

Sunday 9 May 2021

eBird Global Big Day 2021

Yesterday was eBird's annual Global Big Day, which coincides with World Migratory Bird Day. As per usual, I like to do what I can and see how many species I can see. While in a normal year I would have likely gone down to Rondeau or Pelee, in this day and age, I decided to stick right around Middlesex County, like I did last year. Throughout this pandemic I have had an increasing interest in Middlesex birding, so I figured it would be fun! My camera was acting up unfortunately, so not many photos today. 

I threw together a rough plan for the day before I went to bed on Friday, and went to sleep dreaming of the success I was hoping to find. 

I woke up around 5:00am, and after throwing some stuff in the car, was on my way. My first stop was Fanshawe Lake to get Common Merganser. I only stayed for a few minutes, but was successful with my quarry! 

By 6:00am, I arrived at Kilally Meadows in North London, which has been in the birding news as of late for a rare visitor! It has also been one of the best birding locations in the city this spring, likely in part because of its proximity to the river. 

As soon as I got out of the car, I heard a Northern Waterthrush, an excellent bird to start the day. It was one of three I found here. Several other species of birds were vocalizing, and my day list was growing by the minute!

I stopped to check a tree in which a Whip-poor-will had been hanging out for a few days, and was pleased to find it in the same spot! Day tick.

I continued on my way hiking the trails, picking up many of the typical spring birds, although it seemed much quieter than previous days. It wasn't until a couple hours in did I get my first Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers! In all, I ended up with 15 species of warblers here, a respectable count, with highlights including Magnolia, Tennessee, Blue-winged, Black-throated Green, and American Redstart.

As for some other miscellaneous highlights, there were several Least and Great Crested Flycatchers, Warbling and Blue-headed Vireos, Veery, Hermit Thrush, Tufted Titmouse (I've had at least four in London this year so far, pretty crazy), Merlin, Common Loon, and Purple Finch. 

On my way back, I came across a group of birders, and they had the Blue Grosbeak which has been around since at least Tuesday (I'll get around to writing a post about that soon). This bird has been pretty tricky to nail down because of its secretive habits, so I was quite happy to see it on this day! I got a couple record shots, nothing to write home about.

I stuck around a bit longer to help others see the grosbeak (some of which this was their fourth attempt trying to see it—that's how elusive it is!), but was eager to carry on my way. Just as I was pulling out of the parking lot, with my sights set on heading up Thorndale way to check out some ponds, I got a call from Pete Read...he had a Black Tern at the ponds at Komoka Provincial Park! This a rare species in Middlesex County nowadays, although a few decades ago it was a bit more expected. Needless to say, plans changed, and I zipped over there about as fast as I could go without getting pulled over. 

I pulled into the parking lot at Komoka, and made my way to the back pond, where it was last seen. On the way, a pair of Trumpeter Swans flew over. This pair has been seen with some regularity in the Komoka area for the past couple months, and they appear to be attempting to breed. This may be the first breeding record for Middlesex, but don't quote me on that.

I met up with Pete, and the two of us scanned the ponds, but were unable to come up with the tern. Darn. He mentioned that perhaps it has gone over to one of the other gravel pits in the area. I didn't really feel like driving around searching them all, so out of desperation, I pointed my spotting scope towards the nearest pit, which you could just barely see from where we were standing. There was a Bonaparte's Gull flying around. Nice. Then, a couple seconds later, I saw the Black Tern! Pretty sweet county bird! It ended up sticking around all day for everyone else to enjoy.

I took a more leisurely walk back to the car, and picked up such birds like Eastern Bluebird, Grasshopper Sparrow, Mute Swan, Double-crested Cormorant, and Eastern Meadowlark. By the time I finished up in Komoka, I was sitting around 90 species for my day list. 

My next stop was Skunk's Misery. Along the way I picked up Savannah Sparrow, Horned Lark, and a Bobolink. I took a drive down Centreville Drive, but overall it was pretty quiet. I did come across a group of warblers, which included my first Pine, Black-throated Blue (actually a FOY), and Chestnut-sided Warblers of the day, as well as a couple Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. I didn't get any Hooded Warblers, but it was midday and overcast/cool, so perhaps they just weren't singing. 

I saw a lot of Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida). The "petals" aren't actually petals at all, but are bracts! The genus Cornus has undergone a taxonomic shift, so perhaps the more proper name for this species is Benthamidia florida

I began my way back towards Strathroy along some of the backroads. I had originally intended to take highway 80 up to Calvert Drive, but opted last minute to take Old Airport Road. Glad I did! As I stopped at the stop sign at Carolinian Drive, I noticed a sparrow-like bird fly into a dead tree. I snapped a few (terrible) photos, and was shocked to see it looked like a Dickcissel! After a moment, it flew down towards the abandoned house, and I couldn't find it again. Shame that pesky branch was in the way.

Not a bad bird for #100.

I stopped into the Sydenham River Nature Reserve for a brief moment. Not too many birds, but I did hear a Yellow-throated Vireo. 

Lots of Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) in bloom. I'd be lying if I denied that part of the reason I made this detour was to see these plants. 

I made a quick stop at a spot for Upland Sandpiper (which I didn't see), before continuing onto the Strathroy Sewage Lagoons. Here I added such birds like Sora and Virginia Rail, American Coot, Common Gallinule (stuck around!), Cliff Swallow, Purple Martin (a FOY), and a variety of ducks and shorebirds. Seems I missed a Dunlin and Semipalmated Plover, but can't get them all I guess. 

It was time to head up to the northern part of the county. Along Sylvan Road, I found the pair of nesting Common Ravens, a nice addition to the day list. I then went to the Ausable River Valley Trail, which proved to be rather quiet, although I did get Eastern Phoebe, Pileated Woodpecker, and my main target here, Vesper Sparrows. They weren't new for the day list, but I also had a pair of Yellow-throated Vireos It was a nice walk anyways, and I saw a great variety of plants. Hopefully I can try to get my camera back in working order and come back to properly photograph them. 

I opted to skip out on Parkhill CA to try for Ruffed Grouse (partially because of running out of time, and partially because my phone battery died), so I made a beeline for Thorndale to check out those ponds I had not gotten a chance to go to earlier in the day. 

Birds were getting harder and harder to add, and when I arrived at one of the ponds, I saw they were doing work with heavy machinery on one of the hedgerows in which I had a variety of would be new birds for the day list the night before. All I managed to add at that one spot was Hooded Merganser. 

At the next spot, a gravel pit, I scoped for ducks, but was only able to find a single new bird, a lingering black duck. As I tried to find a place to turn around, I had my first and only White-crowned Sparrow of the day fly across the road. I let out a whoop when I saw that one. 

I stopped briefly at a spot where I had a singing Golden-crowned Kinglet earlier in the week, but I didn't find it. I then went out of my way to get an Osprey by scoping a known nest. A bit later one would fly over me, so I guess that was for naught...

I finished my diurnal birding by hitting a spot in the neighbourhood, which is where I got Green Heron, Cooper's Hawk, and Swamp Sparrow (good thing I know that spot well, I had to go to a pretty out of the way place to get that sparrow!). 

A couple hours later, I went out for woodcocks, but for the first time in pretty much all of my spring big days, I couldn't for the life of me find one! Over the course of an hour I checked five or six locations, each one of them coming up empty. Very strange, perhaps all the new development in the area made them move on. As a consolation, I still added two last birds to the day list: Great Horned Owl and an Eastern Screech-Owl.

At the end of the very tiring day, I ended up with 128 species all within the borders of Middlesex County. Sure beats last year's total of 94, and my total of 101 from earlier in the week. Had it been a bit later in May, and we were seeing more migrants move through (overall it was a pretty cold, windy, overcast day, and it hadn't been great for migration in the days leading up), I probably could have even tallied a few more! Of course, there were some quite notable misses, excluding woodcock, such as Eastern Kingbird, Brown Thrasher, Chimney Swift, Indigo Bunting, Northern Parula, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cedar Waxwing, and Herring Gull.

It was a really fun day, and I saw some great birds. I live for this kind of stuff! 

Monday 3 May 2021

An Accidental Big Day

I did not set out to do a big day today, but it sort of turned into one.

I had a few hours before I had class today, so I decided to head out and bird the Kilally Meadows ESA. Figured I'd shake it up! This park is situated along the Thames River, and as such is a corridor for migrating birds. 

I got there shortly before 6:00, and was immediately greeted by the songs of Yellow Warblers, of which there would be dozens, and my first Ovenbird of the year. As I continued on my walk, I got the feeling it would be quieter than I had expected it to be. I walked for quite awhile, and the only other warblers I managed to pick up were Common Yellowthroat and a Black-throated Green. Finally, my first Great Crested Flycatcher of the year started calling, which at least spiced it up a bit.

On my way back from the furthest reaches of the park, I came across my first Chestnut-sided Warbler of the year. Perhaps a tad earlier than when I normally see them, but certainly not unexpected. Was nice to see! Not too long after, I added a couple more FOYs in the form of an Indigo Bunting and Lincoln's Sparrow. 

Lincoln's Sparrow

At one point I came across a group of finches feeding, represented by four species: Purple Finch, House Finch, goldfinch, and siskin. Nice to see the Purple Finches coming back—will the Evening Grosbeaks be next??

Purple Finch

I walked around a bit more (it had started to rain by this point as well), but the only other year bird I could find was an American Redstart. I finished my outing with 62 species, not too bad! To see the eBird checklist, click here

After class, I was debating on what to do. I thought about going to the Strathroy Sewage Lagoons, but decided against it. That is, until I saw a report of a Common Gallinule. This is a decent bird for Middlesex, and I had only ever seen one previously. That changed my mind! Soon I was on route.

I arrived at the lagoons a short while later, and then began the task of finding the bird. A couple American Coots were posing nicely.

I was beginning to become discouraged, but then it occurred to me that I had been looking in the wrong area! Once I went to where I thought the right area would be, the gallinule made an appearance.

A gorgeous bird. 

With my target acquired, I decided to walk around the lagoons. What followed next was a fun couple of hours! I nailed several species of shorebirds, including Wilson's Snipe, Solitary Sandpipers, both yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Least Sandpipers. There were a few ducks around as well. Plenty of Soras (I counted eight) and a Virginia Rail rounded out the rallids. Along the backside of the cells, the forest was hopping with migrants, especially Yellow-rumped and Yellow Warblers. As I picked through them, I found a Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroats, Palm Warblers, a Chestnut-sided Warbler, and my FOY Blackburnian Warbler. There was also a Wood Thrush singing, another FOY. 

I tallied 65 species at the lagoons, quite a nice total! Click here to see the eBird checklist.

On my way home, I decided to take a detour to Komoka Provincial Park. There were a few birds around, including Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Bluebird, and Brown Thrasher, all of which I hadn't seen yet that day. There was also a Grasshopper Sparrow, my main target, singing back in its usual spot.

The biggest highlight though was spotting my first ever Eastern Milksnake! 

And just to throw a bit of botany in here...

Leafcup (Polymnia canadensis)

After I got home and entered my eBird checklists for the day, I was shocked to see that my day list stood at 97 species! This surpassed my previous best for Middlesex County of 94, which I did last year on the eBird Global Big Day (which is coming up this Saturday by the way). Since I was so close to 100, after supper I decided to go out in the pouring rain and try to hit triple digits.

I first went and scoped Fanshawe Lake. Here I only was able to add Common Merganser, but I wasn't really expecting much else.

I then went up to Thorndale in hopes of getting Pine Warbler, but they remained silent. I did however hear a singing Golden-crowned Kinglet. The habitat isn't too bad here, so I will keep an eye on it for the atlas. 

I went and checked some gravel pits, but found them pretty much devoid of birds. As I was driving back, I spied number 100: a Bald Eagle sitting in a dead tree! 

I decided to try for one more bird, so I went and scoped out an Osprey nest. There was one sitting there! 

All in all, a great day. I definitely did not wake up today and expect to see over 100 species. Gotta love spring birding!  

Saturday 1 May 2021

May Day

The first of May is always a celebrated day for birders (or at least, it is for me!). I like to get out and start the month off right!

This morning, somehow I slept through my alarm, but nevertheless, I was out and about in the neighbourhood by shortly after 7:00. The last couple days haven't been really conducive for migrants, but on my walk over, I heard a couple House Wrens, new arrivals, so my hopes were up. 

At the Northbrook Park/Wetland storm pond, I found a Solitary Sandpiper. I had heard one here the day prior, but it was nice to get a visual.

At one point I looked over and was shocked to see this staring back at me from the dried up wetland!

A Coyote! Although I have heard them on occasion in the neighbourhood, and commonly come across their scat, I very rarely actually see them (this is actually only my second time seeing one around here). It appeared to be quite mangey, and walked with a limp, so unfortunately I fear it was not well. 

It went and laid down on some phragmites, and was napping (I hope) when I passed by it again an hour later.

As for birds, the Blue Jays were moving, and I counted well over one hundred. 

A Brown Thrasher was making the rounds as well.

There wasn't really much else in the way of migrants other than a Blue-headed Vireo, my first this year. Not a single warbler at this location! 

My next stop at the north wetland yielded the warblers, and I found Yellow, Yellow-rumped, and Palm. There were several Tree Swallows around, including this one, which was collecting nesting material off the path. There is a pair building a nest in a snag—will keep an eye on it for the breeding bird atlas. 

Speaking of breeding birds, there was a House Finch sitting on the nest I spotted a few days back, and I saw my first brood of Mallard ducklings of the spring!

There was a small movement of Broad-winged Hawks, and I saw four go over. 

Next up was to check the Uplands Trail. I flushed a Wilson's Snipe while walking through the field, probably the most interesting thing there. There was also a Pine Warbler singing.

I got distracted by the sedges. I saw my first "getting there" Graceful Sedge (Carex gracillima) of the year. The perigynia (fruits) on this species are short and plump without a "beak". 

The terminal spikelets of this species are also what we call "gynecandrous", meaning that there are female flowers above the male flowers. You can kind of see that here (although it may not be super obvious if you don't know what you're looking for!). The gynecandrous tendency of Graceful Sedge is a distinguishing feature, separating it from most of the other similar species in Carex sect. Hymenlochaenae (this is a trait only shared by C. prasina, C. davisii, and C. formosa, all of which are not commonly encountered in Ontario).

Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica) is a species I have portrayed on this blog before. It's colony forming habits make it a pretty distinctive and easy to identify species once you are familiar with it. 

Another species I saw was Fibrous-rooted Sedge (Carex communis). This can appear similar to Pennsylvania Sedge, although it is more clump forming and not colonial. The leaves are also wider, and the bracts (specialized leaf below the flowering part) are longer.

 A feature I don't see discussed too much is that the bract sheath has reddish margins were it meets the culm (sort of like the 'stem' in grasses and sedges). I believe that is is fairly diagnostic of Fibrous-rooted Sedge, at least in species that it looks similar to (Carex sect. Acrocystis). 

I'll finish off with this Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) with a "leaf necklace".

It was a great way to kick off May, and things can only look up from here!