One quirk of climate change is that new birds are always moving into Ontario that we used to have to travel south to see. Ten years ago, Turkey Vultures were rather exciting in the southern reaches of Northern Ontario. Now Black Vultures are being seen in southern Ontario skies. Today’s little puffballs didn’t used to nest in Ontario but now are not even surprising to birders more experienced than I. They are called Blue Gray Gnatcatchers which I personally think is a great name.
I believe this is the female.
I met two of these Gnatcatchers while walking through the Rattray Marsh last week. Actually I met them in the forested part of the preserve, under some towering conifers and maples. They were busily hunting for insects, perhaps even gnats!, in the scrub beside the creek.
The name is also apt because in many lights they appear grey and only in others does their blue show up.
The white outer tail feathers remind me a bit of the Juncos, who seem to have moved north for the summer. The gnatcatchers also have a noticeable white eye ring to aid in identification.
As you can see, they had to choose their perches with care as many of the branches were wild rose canes still prickly with thorns.
I believe this is the male.
These birds were calling fairly frequently but just a short soft call. Apparently when the leaves come out that call will be a big clue that they are around. I was fortunate that spring is a bit late this year, so the birds are back before the leaves provide privacy screening.
I was quite pleased to see these birds for the first time this spring. I hope it won’t be the last!
Do you think “Gnatcatcher” has a certain quirky charm? Have you seen these little puffs of steely-gray fluttering through your shrubbery? Please share your experiences with a comment.