Lookers.

Despite the wind, the rain and the fog the summer birds are now forcing the issue and just showing up whether the conditions for migration are good or not. Birders are finding Black-and-White Warblers and Northern Parula starting to occupy the woodlots, slipping in along with Black-throated Greens and Yellows, Magnolias and Common Yellowthroats. In two weeks-time most regular species will likely be with us and it will just be a case of driving the back lanes and listening to find them. We birders like this time of year.

These early arrivals soon set to marking their places, driven by an evolutionary desire to be first to get the mate, then, job done, it is back to kicking back and smelling the aphids. They sing loud and long and are often easy to watch and photograph. It gets harder when the trees catch up and decorate the countryside with leaves but, for now, if you find a singer, the chances are you will get a good view and photo.

The Northern Parula below was along Quinn’s Road, Clyde River at a spot where I’ve seen them before, it may even be the same bird I had there last year having successfully negotiated the hazards of migration to the tropics and back. It had a repertoire of several songs, one of which I recorded and put on the eBird checklist not great but audible. You can view anyone’s eBird checklist unless they hide them, something you would normally only do for a sensitive breeder or a bird on a resolutely private and un-viewable location. Oddly some seem to hide their checklists routinely, I suspect they have something to hide when they do that, but there are ways around it and the ever vigilant eBird reviewers know the score I’m sure.

Our understanding of vagrant distribution is in its infancy and will remain so until all birds are banded with micro-transmitters the size of a mite and can be tracked in real time. The best we can do is find them in the field, record them and then, over decades, build up some sort of basic understanding of their actions. For example, Yellow-throated Warbler is recorded annually (now) in Nova Scotia. As you can see from the map, courtesy of Cornell, they are normally found some way from Nova Scotia (we are the above the red square for any geographically challenged types) and so a bird here is out of range. They turn up in Nova Scotia as spring overshoots, a bit like those folk who can’t stop at a line when driving and end up the wrong side of it blocking the road and to the amusement of other traffic, or as reverse migrants. That is the fly the opposite way to the direction they are supposed to and some end up with us.

Most get found at migration hotspots, so known because most migrants get found there! In reality, every vagrant found is one of many present, or at least one of many that headed the same general direction, it has to be, the math rules here and the odds against a birder finding a rare bird are high, even at a hotspot. So, obviously, the others get missed because the birders are not looking where they are, it is just logical. Sometimes however a bird might be found in an unexpected place, simply because a person is there looking for birds but not necessarily rare ones, and so it was that the Yellow-throated Warbler below came to be found along a rutted track to Great Pubnico Lake (a track with surprisingly heavy traffic at times) hopping around a set of bushes that look exactly like all the other sets of bushes for miles around, the difference here being that a birder just happened to take look.

Big thanks to Laurel Amirault for finding the Yellow-throated Warbler and for putting the word out and also to Ronnie for directions. Spring just keeps giving.

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