Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

May 3, 2009

A Bird for the Season(s)

Ever since I got into birding, and as I learned more about them; I began to not use the calendar to rely upon seasonal changes. I don't need an exact date told to me by anyone when spring, summer, autumn or winter is here. All I need to do is look for the signs and listen to the sounds right outside the kitchen window.

Let us roll through a year together, using my backyard as the example...

They've always told me that the American Robin is the first sign of spring. Some years ago that was very true. Nowadays, many of the Robins do not fly south anymore. I see them all winter long, just deeper in the forests, near my house.

Personally for me these days, the first true sign of spring is the arrival of the Red Winged Blackbirds. They fly south every fall between late September thru late October, and begin returning at some point in March. Their familiar calls and flashy red banded wings are a welcoming sound/sight after a long Canadian winter.

My summer bird is the return of the Baltimore Orioles. A stunning visual for sure. The males look like fireballs as they fly low across the grounds. Their first sightings are earlier than what our calendar defines the arrival of summer; usually 3 to 4 weeks prior. As it goes here in Toronto, we can get some very extreme summer weather in the first week of June. I know this for a fact because there is an annual car show, the first Saturday of every June. My friend and I have not gone the last two years because of the weather being up around +40c with the humidity. So, I end up sitting at home, staying in the shade out back, keeping cool and watching my feathered friends, including a pair of Orioles who have stopped in the last 3 years (so far). They do go further along in their journey to where they nest, as they disappear for up to two months during the summer season. Although last year I believe they nested much closer since they were seen more often.

Here in Toronto, people often say "Summer is over when the Canadian National Exhibition opens in late August". Which I can agree upon and I used that as an awareness to the end of the season for some years after I graduated high school. During school years it was Labor Day. Now though, I definitely know summer is coming to a close as the Orioles pass through once again in late August. They will be around daily for up to ten days before they are gone again until the following year.

The first true signs for me that autumn is here are when I begin to see large flocks of Red Winged Blackbirds and the Common Grackle (pictured below). An afternoon in mid-September can have the backyard filled with 40 to 50 Grackles. They, as many other birds, have some very distinct sounds. I would say that a few of their noises are almost machine-like. It's a peanut scramble out in the back as I toss handful after handful to assist them all in their long journey ahead. They never spend the night and within a day or two another flock will show up and it goes like this for at least two weeks.

So, here we are now in October of a calendar year, the leaves are changing and falling to the ground. We have frost one morning and +25c in the afternoon. People get confused. What season is it now? The calendar says fall but there are so many changes in the weather. Up and down it goes. Deep down we know it's only a matter of time before it stays cold constantly. The calendar says winter arrives officially on December 21st of every year. For me, I call it winter when I first see the next bird below, which is the Dark Eyed Junco (tuxedo bird). When do they arrive? Last year my first sightings were the third week of October. The year prior it was the end of November. Years before that were anywhere in between.

The Juncos prefer cooler climates. It's hard to believe this is "flying south" for them. I am believing they probably spread out more in the winter months as part of their survival and search for food.

I hope with this blog, that maybe someone out there reading this will have learned something and perhaps at sightings of some of the birds I have mentioned, they will think back to this post.


socurly said...

Thanks Rob, I had Juncos last month, now they are gone.

Teena in Toronto said...

That's so cool that you have so many visitors.

I think I had some kind of finch on the terrace yesterday.

Dale Forbes said...

juncos are friggin awesome! one day I will see one again.

... and whenever I see a red-winged blackbird, I always think "longtailed widow with chopped off tail" (Euplectes progne).

thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment, the "follow" button is on the right hand side of the page - it would be great if you joined in the Alpine Birds fun!

oh, and why don't you put a blogroll up the side with some of your favorite blogs?

Happy birding

Jo-Anne said...

It truly becomes Spring when a male Red-winged Blackbird (at park behind my building)pecks the back of my head then laughs. This happened quite early this year back in mid-March!

Lots of Baltimore Oriole sightings out here in Mississauga lately. I could sit all day and listen to the male singing. So beautiful!

Juncos are super cute little birds. I'm still seeing one or two around.

Today, saw a male Yellow Warbler and a Catbird.

Have been seeing Groundhogs out munching on the grass lately too. Also, lots of frogs and turtles.

Dave said...

Hey Rob, nice shots. I believe that most of the birds that you see on my blog go north, so you get them when I have the 100 degree weather with 100% humidity that comes for 3 months, plus comfortable weather. Things are pretty quiet here after everything goes through for migration.
If you have questions about using my blog, ask on Birder's World and I will be glad to help.


Rob said...

Thanks for the comments everybody!

I am trying to do this blogroll thing but am having trouble with the URL. Every time I try, it comes up with my latest post, regardless of what blog url I am trying to put in there.

I can't figure out if it's my settings or ????

The blogroll is a great idea! Allowing some of my most memorable or important blogs to stay up from via links than be buried.

Anybody offering help? The help pages here are confusing or vague.

Dale Forbes said...

Hi Rob, this is a step-by-step way to get a blogroll on blogger:

Sign in and go to your blog "layout"
Check that you are on the "page elements" tab (at the top left).

on the right side, you will see three boxes "Followers", "Archive" and "About me", and a little "Add a Gadget" thing written in blue right at the very top. Click on it. This will give you a dizzying array of choices.

Scroll down until you find "Blog List". I like having a little more info on each recent blog post (and a photo helps to drive more traffic to my friends' blogs too!), so I click all the check boxes.

Then click "Add to list" and copy and paste the blog url in to the box it gives you (and it finds the feed automaticall). Click save and you are A for Away!

I'd be happy to help with anything else I can (if I know it of course - I am just stumbling through this myself ;-)


Rob said...

Hi Dale,

Thanks for the help. My only problem now is the cutting and pasting of the URL. Whatever I try to copy and paste just comes out as my latest post "A Bird for the Season(s)".

Like, there is one in March called "Who Would You Call or Would You?" that I would like on Blogroller. So I copy and paste that exact link, which I am thinking is the URL, to the add part and when I check my blog after... my latest post is there instead.

So, it may be part of my computer illiteracy or ????

Rob said...

Oh, for the record, these photos are NOT mine... I used google images for this one as I don't have the best and clearest shots of all these birds yet in my own portfolio

I probably should have made mention of that in the blog.

Dale Forbes said...

hi rob, can you send me a message directly to daleatbirddotat. then I may be able to help you more specifically.

Kind regards

Anonymous said...

Just saw a Red Breasted Grosbeak, wow! He has been hanging around the birdfeeder all morning.

Rob said...

Cool! I have yet to see a Grosbeak.

Jo-Anne, what part of Mississauga are you in, with the Orioles buzzing around? I'm still waiting and hoping for mine to return again this year. They are a tough one to find... very elusive.

Jo-Anne said...

Hi Rob. I've seen the male Baltimore Orioles in 3 separate locations out here:

1. Lake Aquitaine, right behind my building.

2. Erindale Park.

3. Rattray Marsh.