It’s here! Spring, at long last! With longer days and shorter nights, that cozy spring sunshine beams sweeter than Easter chocolate and does wonders for the soul.
All around us, green spaces – forests, parks, and your own backyard – are all waking up. With each passing day, the sights and sounds of this new season are returning: a migration, both figuratively and literally.
Birds are the ambassadors of April, and Oakville and Burlington have a front-row seat to the show. This region is a primary “flyway” (think invisible highways in the sky) for feathered creatures passing through on their journey to return home. For some, the trip is completed here, while for others it is a mere pit stop for rest, food, and to wait out less-than-ideal weather before continuing north to nesting grounds in Canada’s boreal forest and the Arctic.
Leading the flock are waterfowl by the thousands, including ducks, geese, swans, and cranes. These are the largest migratory birds and their arrival signals the new season. For many “birders” however, the true harbinger of springtime is the arrival of the Red-Winged Blackbird. The males are out the gate and arrive early, so they can scout and claim a prime spot for a nest, while also doing everything they can to get noticed. These very vocal birds will sit high on a perch and belt out their signature “conk-la-ree” call.
Joining them are the American Robins, Killdeer, Common Grackles, and, later this month, the Warblers. Warblers are amazing, colourful little songbirds that fly thousands of kilometres to feast on Ontario mosquitoes, all while weighing no more than a quarter!
There are over 350 species of birds that call Ontario home. For those that are returning, they arrive exhausted and hungry. Imagine if you took flight and flapped your wings from a warm tropical retreat as far away as the southern tip of South America! A notable presence: over 50 million birds that return home during their annual spring migration!
Here are a few ways that you and your family can help welcome April’s ambassadors:
- Keep a clean birdbath. Birds will love it for the dual purpose of drinking as well as yes, bathing!
- Consider marking large windows with decals or sun catchers to prevent bird strikes.
- Plant small native trees and shrubs, especially fruit-bearing species, like dogwood, serviceberry, and sumac. This provides berries and encourages native insects to flourish, offering a further source of food for birds.
Feathered-Friend Family Fun: Play Bird Detective
Spring is a great time to engage kids to discover nature by becoming a bird detective. Screen time gives lots of stimulation, but it’s mostly visual. Explore a green space as a family and encourage kids to close their eyes and focus on what they can hear first. From there, the bird detectives can start searching for and recording various other clues like size, colour, and eventually, the type of birds that they hear.
Royal Botanical Gardens
680 Plains Road West, Burlington |
Try visiting the garden areas during spring bloom festivals. Common species include Broadwing Hawks visiting the Rock Garden spring ephemerals, Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks frequenting the Arboretum lilacs, Baltimore Orioles enjoying the Laking Garden irises, and Chimney Swifts speeding through the Hendrie Park roses.
LaSalle Park and Marina
831 LaSalle Park Road,
A photographer’s dream, LaSalle Park is the birthplace of a Trumpeter Swan reproduction program. There are great opportunities to catch sight of these beautiful birds both in and out of the water.
Bronte Provincial Park
1219 Burloak Drive, Oakville
The trail along the top of the east bank of Bronte Creek has been excellent for spring migrants. A good selection of grassland species usually nest in the general area of the new campground.
Anwar Knight is an award-winning broadcaster, whose genuine and warm engaging personality has made him a favourite with audiences nationwide. He is a passionate steward of nature and is working to propel efforts to preserve our earth. Join Anwar on his podcast www.BigBlueMarble.earth and his recently launched FBLive show “Here n’ There” every Friday at Noon www.facebook.com/AnwarKnightTV.