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Good Birding: Do you know your birds timetables?

Harbingers of spring arriving – here’s what we’ve seen so far
C.Yellow-rumped warbler : Getty Images
The yellow-rumped warbler (as of Tuesday) hadn’t yet been spotted on the Coast this year – the migratory birds usually arrive around the third week of March.

Spring officially begins at 8.33 a.m. on Sunday, March 20, this year. However, not all the birds received notice of this and some early migrants have jumped the gun. In my mind, the official bird harbingers of spring on the Sunshine Coast are swallows, yellow-rumped warbler, and rufous hummingbird. However, things are never precisely cut and dried in the natural world, exceptions abound and keep us naturalists on our toes. For instance, on Jan. 12, John Field reported a lone barn swallow at Oyster Bay, Pender Harbour. It turned out that this was part of an incursion of barn swallows around the Salish Sea, as they were reported in a number of different locations. The birds were present for a couple of days and then disappeared, and we will never know from whence they came and what they were doing in Canada in mid-winter.  

Migratory species do migrate on predictable timetables, though local and wider weather systems can advance or delay actual arrival dates by a few days. On the Sunshine Coast the first swallows are often reported in the second week of March, the first yellow-rumped warblers in the third week of March and the first rufous hummingbirds around March 20. Having said that, the warbler and the hummer have both rarely spent the entire winter locally. This year, Barb Harrington reported a rufous hummer in late February and John Field was greeted with a flock of 60 violet-green swallows at the head of Oyster Bay, Pender Harbour, on March 14. No yellow-rumped warblers have been reported yet, but that may change even before publication of this column.  

Another harbinger of springtime is the turkey vulture, with the first report in late February, another on March 2 and others on the 13th. In Gibsons, Karen Holland discovered two western meadowlarks on a playing field on March 3, and the first band-tailed pigeon was at Lily Lake, Pender Harbour, on the 5th (Kaiden Bosch). There is a significant migration of trumpeter swans along the Sunshine Coast in March, with the first flocks reported on March 9. These birds are en route from the Fraser Delta and south to a vast area of the north. On March 12, Brian McKenney reported that the wintering horned grebes were beginning to acquire their summer plumage and Brian also located a great horned owl roosting in the Sechelt Marsh and being harassed by crows. 

In other notable sightings, Karen Holland, photographed a saw-whet owl on her deck in Gibsons and Kaiden Bosch located a yellow-billed loon inside Pender Harbour, which was subsequently viewed by other birders. 

We are on the cusp of the exciting spring migration period, so keep your eyes and ears peeled! To report your sightings or questions contact [email protected] or 885-5539. Good Birding.