I always read the daily Hawk Watch updates each spring and fall from the Beamer Conservation Area on BirdAlert. Finally on the hottest day of April (so far!) I decided to make the trek out there to see what it’s like for myself. When I arrived, I discovered that in addition to the hawk watching tower, there is a huge conservation area with well-maintained paths through a Carolinian woods. I gave up on the distant raptors and instead rambled through the forest alongside a deep ravine, admiring the views and beaming at new discoveries around almost every bend and hummock at Beamer.
Butterflies Who Braved the Winter
Just after I parked at the conservation area, I saw a Mourning Cloak butterfly. These over-winter so that they can be among the first to start their families in the spring.
Spot the butterfly!
While walking down the wooded side trail, a rapidly flying “leaf” caught my eye: after all it was almost dead calm in this part of the forest. When the leaf landed, it opened bright orange wings. I tried to inch closer for a good photo but it was restless and took off again several times. Still, I did manage to capture enough to see it was either a Comma or a Question Mark.
There’s no “accent mark” on the top wing of this butterfly so it’s a Comma.
Like Mourning Cloaks, Commas and Question Marks often over winter as adults.
I had tried to sort out which was who after another sighting. So I tried to puzzle out which kind my Beamer butterfly was.
That white semi-circle on the dark stripe on the wing is the “Comma.” If it also had a white dot, it would be a Question Mark.
A Storm of Sapsuckers
Next up was an actually flurry of wings. Either the Sapsuckers had found a tree well worth drilling a few holes in the trunk, or they were up to some naughty springtime shenanigans. Either way, a group of 4 or 5 gathered near the top of one tree, and others were flying in towards them.
One paused long enough while checking out another tree trunk for me to get a reasonable photo.
According to Sibley’s, this is a female Yellow Bellied Sapsucker. The males have a red throat. Both have the red cap.
There were also some Downy and probably Hairy Woodpeckers working in the forest.
A Wave of Warblers
The flock of Yellow Rumped Warblers gave me some great camera practice. Since there were lots of insects flying, fluttering and creeping at all levels of the forest on this gorgeously warm spring day, the warblers stayed high and were flying fairly quickly. I took tons of photos, though, because other warblers sometimes team up with the Yellow Rumpeds and I didn’t want to miss anything through dismissiveness.
And boy was I glad I didn’t!
My First Vireo of Spring
When my feeble fingers focussed on one bird, I was startled to see it definitely was not a Yellow Rumped warbler. At first, I couldn’t remember what it was but I knew I’d seen one before.
I took as many shots as I could (5) as it skittered from branch to twig at the tops of the trees but only ended up with these two. Neither is likely to win me a National Geographic award but they clearly show the field marks for a Blue Headed Vireo. (I also double checked my id with other birders.)
This was quite a cause for gloating as it’s an arrival a few days earlier than expected for southern Ontario. In fact, eBird made me report it as a “rarity.” When I checked the BirdAlerts and other forums that night, however, I noticed reports from the Leslie Street Spit in Toronto, Thickson Woods in Whitby, and various other spots along the southern shore of Lake Ontario. I guess the Vireos came in early on the wave of warm air!
The Wonder of Falling Water
My trail ended up at a large waterfall. I wasn’t at an angle to get a good photo but I did enjoy the rush of the water and the coolness of the spray.
And so did some Northern Rough Winged Swallows. They were alternating between zipping around over top of the falls and basking in the hot sun from the telephone wires.
I endorse their choices wholeheartedly. After a long cold winter, it’s marvellous to feel even a little too hot again!
Did you find a new place to ramble recently? Please share your recommended route with a comment.