Notes From a NW Ontario Backyard – March ’16

Hello again from NW Ontario and welcome to Spring 2016!

Since you last heard from me, we’ve lost about 18″ of snow and I actually have a bare patch of grass in my backyard now, where the snow was thinnest.  Unfortunately today, we’ve reverted back to winter and it was -16C (3F) this morning … and will be tomorrow morning too.  Last week’s break in the cold temperatures (up to 10C, 50F for a few days) was a lovely reminder that spring is indeed just around the corner.

With the nice temperatures last week came a new (that I know of) visitor to my backyard: a male Red Crossbill!  There were actually 2 of them but 1 flew away almost immediately. This fellow, however, stayed for a good 5 hours, working over the pine cones in my trees. He was very cooperative too, staying just outside of my windows for some lovely photos.  I was hoping to see a female as well but no such luck.  Have not seen this species again since last week either.

Male Red Crossbill1

Male Red Crossbill working on the pine cones my backyard trees.

Male Red Crossbill

Such a handsome fellow! Here, showing where his name comes from.

A few weeks before the Crossbill, I had another (super adorable!) visitor that was another first (I believe) for my yard:  a Boreal Chickadee!  This wee one was waaaayyy harder to photograph as it barely sat still for 2 seconds at a time.  I saw it in my spruce tree 4 times over 2 weeks but have not seen it again.  Sure hope it returns ….. and brings relatives!

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee in my spruce tree

Redpolls are still here in pretty incredible numbers.  This week alone, they have been numbering between 100 to 150 at a time!  I am filling my nyjer feeder twice per day and could fill it 3 times if it was more affordable!  Also putting seed on the platform for them twice per day and filling the triple tube hanging feeder every day to second day.  They are loading up for their journey back to their Arctic nesting grounds.  One day, an adorable male Hoary Redpoll sat for a lovely portrait.  🙂

Male Hoary Redpoll

Fluffy male Hoary Redpoll


A portion of the Redpoll flock in my crabapple tree

Redpoll Wings

Redpoll wings (with a male Pine Grosbeak looking on)

Evening Grosbeak numbers have picked up some while Pine Grosbeak numbers have been dropping.  The Pines are still around, they’re just not hitting the feeders as hard as they were.  One day last week, I counted 34 Evening Grosbeaks in and around my backyard!  Lately, their singing on the webcam has been incredible most mornings.

Pine Grosbeak Pair

Male (right) and female Pine Grosbeaks

Male Pine Grosbeak Squabble

Male Pine Grosbeak squabble!

Male Evening Grosbeaks

Male Evening Grosbeaks

Female Evening Grosbeak

Female Evening Grosbeak

Webcam Snap Pine Grosbeaks and Redpolls

Female Pine Grosbeak with a few of the Redpolls

2 of my visiting Ruffed Grouse have now paired up for the season.  I’ve been seeing them here together in the yard almost every evening, just before dark, for the past week.  Sometimes, a single one will fly into my pine trees, settle in on a favourite branch and nap the day away in the backyard.

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse in my flowerbed

Here is a (now nearly world famous!!) video clip from a year ago of a Ruffed Grouse courtship display that took place at my feeders and live on the webcam.  I never get tired of this clip!

The Gray Jays have pretty much disappeared now for nesting season.  I have not seen one in over a week.  Blue Jays are still around but only sporadically, not coming into the yard much now.  I do hear the female’s ‘Blue Jay Growl’ mating call regularly.  Love that sound!

Gray Jay at Bird Bath

Gray Jay having a drink at the bird bath.

Crows are around the neighbourhood more now.  I had a pair of them all winter but now, more have returned and are busy building or repairing their nests.  Ravens too.  I’ve seen them flying around, hauling twigs for their nests.

Crow in Snowy Pine Tree

1 of ‘my’ 4 resident Crows

Even Chickadees are disappearing, not being seen in the yard daily anymore.  Everyone’s busy now!

Chickadee & Redpoll

Black Capped Chickadee (bottom) with Common Redpoll in my crabapple tree.

I’ll end this month with one more new visitor report, this time just from my neighbourhood, not my yard.  One night last week, while it was so warm and melting like mad outside, I had my bedroom window open before I went to bed.  I stuck my head out the window to smell and listen to the heavy dripping for a few minutes when I realized I was hearing something else too:  the high pitched hooting of a Northern Saw-Whet Owl! Turned out it was in the woods down at the end of my street and some of my neighbours had heard him calling for about 3 weeks.  Not sure why they didn’t TELL me!!  Anyway, I only heard him the one night and suspect he has now moved on.  I will hope to pick up more calls during our annual Nocturnal Owl Survey coming up in April.

I guess that’s it for this month (enough, right?  😉 ).  Happy Easter to you all … and again, Happy Spring!  Thanks for reading!


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8 Responses to Notes From a NW Ontario Backyard – March ’16

  1. Angie says:

    Your backyard is as pretty and colourful as a Christmas Tree! We heard a Northern Saw-whet Owl on our street this year too, but didn’t find it. Still exciting to know it was so close. Great post! Happy Spring!

  2. Tammie Hache says:

    Thanks, Gilda. I can only imagine how difficult it is to bird watch from an apartment. 🙁

  3. Gilda Blackmore says:

    Thanks again. I never cease being amazed at the birds at your feeders. All I’ve seen (London, ON) so far from my apartment balcony is one robin and two house finches.

  4. Tammie Hache says:

    Thanks so much, Rosie! Love hearing from teachers about the webcam!

  5. Rosie LaLonde says:

    Such lovely pictures, and the one of the crossbill with his individual feathers—stunning!
    Thanks for posting these. I enjoy your feeders so much and check every day. Many days this past winter the site was open all day as I graded papers in front of the computer screen. So relaxing. Some days I forgot to shut off sound before class, and so my students would want to see for themselves once they could hear the birds!

  6. Tammie Hache says:

    Hi Polly, thank you! My feeders will be so quiet when the Redpolls migrate next month!

  7. Polly Halicki says:

    Beautiful pictures, thank you for sharing them. You sure have busy feeders this time of year!