Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Migrating Bird Watch March

We were blessed to see so many birds in March that we've created a separate post for migrating and new birds. Although we're experiencing an extremely slow spring thaw, migrating birds are showing up, albeit in much fewer quantities. 

The first migrating bird sighting of the season was on March 16th as I headed toward Francis, SK. My head swiveled from side-to-side to catch any dark spot on the sea of snow. And then I saw it - the long neck of a Canada Goose. All alone, it sat on the snow-covered field a short distance from an equally covered slough. I didn't see its mate anywhere, which left me wondering if it was injured and had fallen behind the flock. 

Canada Goose, RM Montmartre, SK, Mar 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

In case you can't see it in the middle of the above photo, here's a close up...

Canada Goose, RM Montmartre, SK, Mar 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

A few hours later I was on my way home and heard loud honking through my car window. Slowing, I opened my window and caught this Canada goose flapping and honking in a frenzy. I was a miles west of where I'd spotted the lone goose earlier and this one was headed in that direction. I have no idea if this was the mate, but clearly it was in panic mode. I stopped for photos a few times along my route and by the time I passed the stop I'd seen the first Canada Goose of the season earlier, the field was empty. 

Canada Goose, RM Francis, SK, Mar 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

On the same stretch of road, I spotted the first Western Meadowlark of the season! I hadn't expected to find a meadowlark ploughing through a snow-covered ditch and so it caught me by surprise as I drove past. After turning around, I drove slowly back, past the way I'd come, to see if I really had seen one. The ditch was empty. Yet still hoping, I pulled to the side of the road and waited with the window down. And then I saw it on a bare patch of ground, striding back and forth and calling out. I've never heard one call before and was left with the impression that it had crash-landed in the snowbank and was now letting the others know where it was. No melodious singing for this meadowlark on this day. 

Western Meadowlark, RM Francis, SK, Mar 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

The next day was St. Patrick's day, which I don't celebrate because I'm Scotch and Finnish, but I was having a party at the end of the day after spotting a new bird to add to my Life List. You see, while doing dishes, I noticed the sparrows hiding in the big poplar tree. When the sparrows aren't sleeping in the barn loft, they're hanging around the mixed bird feeder near the cotoneaster or potentilla bushes. When new birds visit, the sparrows go on guard duty around the yard. The only time they hide together in the big trees is when danger lurks. Since I couldn't see an intruder from the window, I went outside and looked around. Suddenly, the sparrows all flew behind the house. A few seconds later they all flew back in a rush and spread into the shelterbelt. 

Before I could blink, a small hawk sailed in low from behind the house and flew out of the yard past the hedgerow before it perched in the high branches of the trees at the end of the driveway. I raised my camera and got off a few shots without making out the species due to the  extreme low light level of the overcast day. I was quite surprised then, when I uploaded the images to my computer and realized I was looking at a Merlin - my first ever sighting, and one for my Bird Life List. 

Merlin, RM Montmartre, SK, Mar 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

A week later while on our way to church, Nelson spotted a large bird of prey sitting in a group of trees alongside the road. Although it looked like a hawk, its beak confirmed it was an eagle. It pointedly ignored us for over a minute before flying past our car. 

Bald Eagle, RM Montmartre, SK, Mar 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

Not going far, it landed in a nearby group of trees where I continued by photo shoot. This isn't our first Bald Eagle sighting of the year, but this young one is the closest capture of 2018.

Bald Eagle, RM Montmartre, SK, Mar 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

On Mar 29th I was going through the bird pics of the day when this next image caught my attention. I added my signature and was about to file it with the other pics of Redpolls when I spotted the thick beak. Redpolls have fine yellow and black beaks, not thick finch-like ones. 

House Finch, RM Montmartre, SK, Mar 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

I took a closer look at the other photos for the day and when I saw this next one I clicked on my bird identification app and pulled up finches. Sure enough, our visitors of the day were House Finches. 

House Finch, RM Montmartre, SK, Mar 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

House finches have a greyish-brown cap with red around it, whereas redpolls have a red cap. The following photo clearly shows the red cap of one of the Redpolls which wintered here this year. You can also see the different beak styles, as well as the breast markings. 

Common Redpoll, RM Montmartre, SK, Mar 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

Although Southeastern Saskatchewan is known to have Ring-necked Pheasants year-round, they usually stay close to the USA border where they are North Dakota's state bird. Nelson thought he was seeing things on March 17th when he spotted one, but then it disappeared into the bush. He took pictures of the area anyway. Good thing, too, because once the image was uploaded to the computer we spotted the tail sticking out of the ditch where the pheasant had taken refuge. 

Ring-necked Pheasant Tail, Southeast Saskatchewan, Mar 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

Closer inspection showed the pheasant hiding behind the brush where he was almost camouflaged into obscurity. Gotcha! 

Ring-necked Pheasant Camouflaged, Southeast Saskatchewan, Mar 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

Pins on most of the above images can be found on our Pinterest board Photos: Birds

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