Notes From a Northwestern Ontario Backyard – April 2017

Happy Belated Easter to all!

Spring is a very confusing season up here in Northern Ontario.  Temperatures can change by upwards of 30 degrees in 24 hours or less.  Last week is a good example of this.  On April 9th, we reached a daytime high of 21C.  The next day however, the temperature plummeted and we had -10C wind chills.  It’s painful when that happens!

Ruffed Grouse in snow just before the big 21C melt

I’m sure it must create some confusion in the birds as well.  A mixed flock of blackbirds, including Grackles, Starlings and Red Winged Blackbirds showed up in my yard when it was nearly 20C and then they got hit with those wind chills the next day.  On top of that, we had wet snow over the Easter weekend, about 3″ worth.  The only ones who didn’t really seem to mind were the Juncos!

Finch Fest just prior to the big melt – Redpolls & Pine Siskins

Recently returned Dark Eyed Junco sitting on my hummingbird ornament

I’ve been watching the birds in my yard pairing up for the season.  Hairy Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Crows, Ravens and Red Breasted Nuthatches have all been in pairs in my yard in recent weeks.

Male (above) and female Hairy Woodpeckers

Pair of Red Breasted Nuthatches

I’ve had a small assortment of Finches vising the feeders lately.  The Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks have moved on north but in their place, I now have Purple Finches and Pine Siskins.  I expect to see Goldfinches any day now.  Evening Grosbeaks will likely stay for the summer now, to nest.

Purple Finches with Pine Siskins

Handsome male Purple Finches

Evening Grosbeaks

I recently noticed one Pine Siskin that was more overall yellow than the rest. The term for this is Xanthochromism: an excess of yellow pigment

Along with the pair of Crows, other blackbirds are now visiting the yard daily.  I have mixed flocks of Grackles, Red Winged Blackbirds and Starlings coming around.  I’m really hoping to see Yellow Headed Blackbirds and Rusty Blackbirds again this spring.

One of ‘my’ Crows in the Easter snowfall, having a drink from the birdbath

Some of the Grackles and colorful Starlings visiting my yard

Recently, I received a report from a friend of mine that she had seen a pair of Trumpeter Swans on a pond off the back road toward our camp.  My husband and I took a drive out there the next morning to try and find them but no luck.  My husband did happen to see them the next morning, when he was on his way to work.  Others have now reported seeing them as well … they have been in this pond now for nearly 2 weeks.

Trumpeter Swans … see the Goldeneye Duck in behind? 🙂

We might have missed the Swans that day but we did see a nice assortment of ducks and some geese including:

American Black Ducks (male is on right with bright yellow beak)

A trio of Canada Geese

Female Hooded Merganser

A male Common Goldeneye displaying for his mate

My favourite: the male Hooded Merganser

A pair of Mallards

Synchronized Hooded Mergansers!

Another recent trip out on the dirt roads showed that the Bald Eagles returned in March, once again.  Such majestic beauty!

Adult Bald Eagle

And a classic sign of Spring:  The Robin.  I went for a walk around my neighbourhood yesterday and saw at least 20 of them in less than a half hour!  I was also lucky enough to see a Fox Sparrow and 2 Turkey Vultures.

The first American Robin sighting from my backyard this season

My busiest birding season is now on my doorstep.  On the evening of Friday, April 21st, my husband and I will be conducting our annual Nocturnal Owl Survey.  On May 5th, we’ll be completing our very first American Woodcock survey.  On May 20th, I’ll be completing my annual Great Canadian Birdathon (please follow this link if you would be interested in sponsoring me … all funds I raise go to Bird Studies Canada!  You can also email me at bthache at yahoo dot ca for other methods of donating).  And on May 27 & 28th, we’ll be participating in the 9th annual Dorion’s Canyon Country Birding Festival .

On a final note, the Cornell webcam in my yard has now been shut down for the summer season. Thank you to all who watched ….. we’ll be back up and running around the first of November.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

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