Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Spring is starting in the Timmins area

It's the best time of the year and migrants are slowly arriving in northeastern Ontario.  So far, March and April brought us average temperatures, unlike last spring when the temperatures were significantly below average for most of April.  But on the other hand, we are witnessing one of the most important snow depth in history.  Even though we lost a lot of snow during the past 2 weeks, there is still a good amount of it and the thaw is threatening floods in various places.   

This is just a quick post and will not cover every arrival. For an up to date list on which bird species have arrived in the area, see my Spring Arrival Dates page. I have been compiling it for the last 3 years in the hopes of establishing approximate arrival dates for bird species in our area.

Spring birding in the Timmins area always starts by scanning the bigger rivers for open water.  Sometimes we find some small open section just to go back a few days later and see it frozen again.  This year, we had to climb snow banks just to scan the rivers.

Looking for open water on the Frederick House River
5 April 2019
As of today (24 April 2019), the lakes are all still frozen but a few rivers and creeks are open and the water levels are really high.

Even though Common Goldeneyes and Hooded Mergansers are usually here first, this year the first waterfowl observed was this Common Merganser on Frederick House River.  The Frederick House River is always the first river to offer open water to waterfowl in the spring.

Common Merganser
Frederick House River (23 March 2019)
Arrivals were very dispersed and slow until the first real day of south wind on April 13th.  That wind brought us the first Great Blue Heron as well as some Hooded Mergansers, Mallards, American Black Ducks, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls.

First Great Blue Heron of Spring
Frederick House River (13 April 2019)
That same south wind brought our first Trumpeter Swan who stopped by the small thawed section of Porcupine River on April 13th.  A second one joined it on April 22.  Still uncommon in our area just a few years ago, we can count on seeing a few Trumpeter Swans every year now.  Trumpeter Swans used to nest abundantly in most of Canada including here in Northern Ontario before their serious decline (and their disappearance from the province). It's nice to see a few regaining their historical range every year.

Trumpeter Swans - One arrived on April 13 and the other one on April 22
Porcupine River / Shallow Lake - Porcupine (22 April 2019)
On April 19th, our first American Tree Sparrow showed up.
First American Tree Sparrow of spring
South Porcupine (19 April 2019)
This week, we saw our first Rusty Blackbird of spring and the Rough-legged Hawks are passing through.

Rough-legged Hawk
Timmins (22 April 2019)
This coming weekend, we should hopefully see some of the lakes starting to thaw on the edges, which should bring larger numbers of waterfowl and flocks of gulls next week.  One of my favourite time of year is when Porcupine Lake is half open / half frozen, inviting large flocks of gulls that usually stick around for a week until the thaw is complete.

Happy spring birding!