Thanksgiving Birding in Southern Ontario

Early fall in southern Ontario has, so far at least, been what the weather people call “variable.” One day it’s 30 degrees outside, the air conditioner is running and dinner comes from the barbecue. The day after that, it’s cool enough for a sweater, the heat’s on in the house and everyone feels more like hot soup than anything from the grill. Fall in Ontario has always meant some amount of alternating between shorts and a light jacket, but this year the pattern has seemed more up and down than usual. We see the evidence in our own back yard.

Our summer-resident robins, blackbirds, orioles, hummingbirds, grackles and most of the goldfinches cleared out long ago. But with the frequent warm spells, the autumn arrivals haven’t quite arrived, and we seem to be in a bit of a bird vacuum. Thankfully we have our year-round resident cardinals, house finches, chickadees, downy woodpeckers, mourning doves and house sparrows to keep us entertained.

Poofy red cardinal on a cooler morning.

House finches and chickadees enjoying lunch.

One of the little gang of sparrows who terrorize the yard.

Mourning dove sunning itself. Better watch for hawks!

Cheery downy woodpeckers seem to like safflower.

Of course there have been a few migrants passing through, and in the last week or so we’ve seen a few birds that haven’t been around for a while. A visit from a northern flicker was cause for minor celebration. It routed around in the yard for a while, giving us a great view of its beautiful colouration – including that impossibly saturated patch of nuclear red feathers on the back of its head. We see flickers fairly often at our place in PEI, but they’re more occasional visitors to our feeder in southern Ontario.

Beautiful northern flicker.

Amazing red plumage almost glows.

The blue jays have begun to arrive as well. So far the Blue Crew consists of maybe a dozen birds, the huge swarms haven’t yet shown up. But it can’t be long now. A small gang of white-throated sparrows have also begun hanging around the feeder, and have at least temporarily moved into some lilac bushes planted close by. They like to haul seeds into the bush, and of course they drop them all over the place making a heck of a mess. Thankfully the local chipmunks seem to be on the job.

Put out peanuts and look who’s here.

Mmmmm … peanuts!

One of several white-throated sparrows that recently arrived.

Chippie appreciates the handouts from clumsy birds who drop goodies, especially peanuts.

On Thanksgiving weekend we had extra reason to be thankful as we welcomed our first brown thrasher to the yard. Well, the first one that we’ve positively identified. Although they’re apparently year-round residents in our area, one which arrived to check out our shrubs and drainage swale was the first we’ve seen. Very pretty bird, I hope it comes back.

Brown thrasher – our first! What a beautiful bird.

The rest of the fall migrants should begin to arrive once the weather stabilizes into its normal, cooler pattern. I’m looking forward to it, since it’s always fun to record new visitors we haven’t seen before.

About Craig Ritchie

Craig Ritchie was born in Toronto and has always held a deep fascination with nature and wildlife. After an initial attempt at putting a bird feeder in the yard led to confrontations with gangs of house sparrows and mischievous raccoons, he set out to learn more about birds and birding, sharing those discoveries on his blog. Craig currently divides his time between southern Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

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