Diverse groups of migratory birds increase in numbers as spring approaches. This year, we had a slightly warmer winter than usual, leading to a number of birds being seen in the province throughout the winter, including meadowlarks, grosbeaks, orioles and warblers. These species tend to be seen with the return of spring, not during mid-winter.
Will Ontario’s warmer than average mid-winter conditions and presence of warmer-season birds herald an early migration? We will have to wait and see.
People beginning to watch for birds in late winter may also have the chance to enjoy the 2020-21 finch irruption, which could include the presence of evening grosbeaks, red-winged crossbills and common redpolls. These birds came to central and southern Ontario this winter to enjoy a greater availability of food than they could find in northern Ontario.
Though COVID-19 social distancing requirements and gathering restrictions limit how and where bird watching occurs, there are still many opportunities to connect with nature and look for birds. You can do it by yourself, with members of your household or in parks while abiding by social distancing rules.
Similar to how this winter provided chances to see birds closer to home, resulting in an unexpected number of sightings in less frequently visited areas, this spring people can also visit nearby natural areas to find birds they might not have expected to see closer to home. Exploring these areas may also identify outdoor locations for other nature enthusiasts to consider visiting.
Bird and nature lovers can also look forward to joining much-anticipated spring bird festivals, though many of these festivals will happen online through workshops, webinars and virtual tours offered by festival hosts.
Avid birdwatchers can help efforts to expand our understanding of the abundance and distribution of bird species across the province. Support the third Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas by participating in its monitoring program. Visit their website to learn how you can take part and regularly report on birds you observe in areas across the province this spring. You can also do your part by bird-proofing your windows to help protect our feathered friends.
Underrepresented groups, like Black and people of colour, often report not feeling welcomed when bird watching or enjoying natural spaces. So, please do be mindful and sincere about helping people feel more at home and comfortable in Ontario’s great outdoors.
Noah Cole is Ontario Nature’s communications technician and a regular contributor to Ontario Nature's blog and ON Nature magazine. Noah is an accomplished naturalist with a passion for protecting the great outdoors and a nature photographer. Noah is the author of Ontario Wildlife Photography (canadianimages.net).