It’s for the birds

Birdhouse and wren
Our little house wren on the post beside her new home

There have been several interesting and unexpected phenomenon that have come out of COVID-19. One is how the animal world has reclaimed territory as humans have retreated. Nowhere more can this be seen than in the abundance of migratory birds in Eastern Ontario this spring.

While I wouldn’t exactly call myself a birder, I have enjoyed watching and identifying all the species that we’ve seen on our property in the past few weeks as the weather has gotten warm.

We’ve had all the usual suspects: blue jays and eastern kingbirds, goldfinches, woodpeckers and robins. The herons, loons, barn swallows, kingfishers and red-winged blackbirds have all returned to the marshes and lakes.

But I can’t recall seeing so many different types of birds like we have this year. We’ve seen flickers, cowbirds, bobolinks, baltimore orioles, rose-breasted and black-headed grosbeaks, yellow-rumped warblers and blackburnian warblers. We’ve even had two wood ducks show up several mornings in the trees watching us eat our breakfast.

And the songs, oh the songs. This morning, as I was planting my annuals and perennials, I was serenaded by a beautiful brown house wren who has taken up residence in one of our birdhouses, while a rose-breasted grosbeak tried to drown her out with his own magnificent melody. If you look up the song of a grosbeak in the bird book, it says, “rising and falling passages, like a Robin who has taken voice lessons.

My friend Karen sent me a picture of two black-necked swans that flew over their boat at their hunting camp near Tamworth. They are considered “exotic” so you would normally never see them in this region.

Yes, it’s been a banner year for the birds. This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and make a new fine feathered friend. Happy birding.

Black-necked swans flying over a lake
Rare sighting of two black-necked swans

Be a citizen scientist

Grace in charge of the count with her clipboard
Grace in charge of the count with her clipboard

What’s 115 years old and North America’s largest citizen science project? If you guessed the Christmas bird count, you’d be right.

Yesterday we spent the morning at Elbow Lake Environmental Education Centre north of Kingston. They were holding a special Christmas Bird Count for kids. I’ve always been interested in the Christmas Bird Count and was excited to find out more and participate in this important initiative.

The CBC as it’s called started in 1900 and happens between December 14 and January 5. Local groups choose a single day during that period and conduct the count—counts are carried out within a 24-km radius.

We took the red trail and saw 17 perch birds (songbirds like chickadees, junkos, nuthatches), 4 other bird species and 20 water fowl (ducks). The night before I watched Bear Grylls—his guest celebrity this week was Barack Obama and they talked on their trek in Alaska about the effects of climate change. To see 20 waterfowl at this time of year is highly unusual. It’s been so warm, all the lakes are still open, causing migration cycles to alter.

I have to admit, even though we love the outdoors, birds and nature, I’ve always thought of birdwatching being as exciting as watching paint dry and we thought the kids might be bored. We were wrong. They loved it and felt they were making a difference when we explained the research we logged after would help scientists understand migratory patterns and the effects of climate warming.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take part in one of the local bird counts near you. What better way to celebrate the holiday season and work off that turkey than getting outside and seeing if you can spy a wild turkey of your own? To find out more about the Christmas Bird Count, visit http://www.birdscanada.com or if you live in the Kingston region, contact the coordinators for our area Carolyn Bonta or Michael Johnson at 613-353-7968 or bonta.johnson@sympatico.ca. Happy holidays everyone!

bird's nest
Tiny bird nest we discovered on our hike

girl holding bird seed