March is a precursor month for migrant birds, with most of those on the move not dependent on insects or nectar. Those species begin to arrive from mid-March, with the flood to follow in April and May. Springtime is running a few days late this year, with the thermometer finally breaking the 10 C barrier (shade temperature at my residence on Redrooffs Road) on Saturday, March 18. Evidence of the tardy spring is the late blooming of such showy and familiar garden species as forsythia, magnolia, flowering cherry, and daffodils.
The most obvious migrants have been the many flocks of trumpeter swans flying northward along the Salish Sea, with the first flock reported on the 12th. Sometimes the flocks put down on the water, as with the 40+ birds in Trail Bay on the 19th, but overflying flocks also reveal their presence (day and night) by their soft “trumpet” chatter as they fly. They migrate far to the north, and we will see them again, heading south, in November. Other waterbirds noted were the first common loon of the year yodelling on Garden Bay Lake on March 6 (Michael Jackson), and the first wood ducks appeared on Colvin Lake at Sargeant Bay, and on the ponds at Smuggler Cove from the 10th.
The first turkey vulture of the year was reported in Roberts Creek (John Hodges) on the early date of Feb. 27, the first of a common summering species on the Sunshine Coast. Gospel Rock in Gibsons is a favoured location for both birds and birders, as the open country aspect in a sea of forest, is attractive to various bird species. Western meadowlark, a familiar species in B.C.’s interior grasslands, is an early and scarce migrant to the Sunshine Coast and can appear in any non-forest habitat, but Gospel Rock is a regular location, and the first was there on the 13th (Karen Holland). Other species reported there (but not as migrants) were Bewick’s wren, Townsend’s solitaire, and Lincoln’s sparrow. On the 20th John Hodges photographed a greater yellowlegs at the Wilson Creek estuary, this being a few days earlier than normal for this shorebird.
I mentioned the insectivores at the start of this article. The first violet-green swallows of the year were reported by Aldo Cogrossi at the Ruby Lake Resort on the 17th, followed by three tree swallows at Sargeant Bay on the 18th. Also on the 18th was the first yellow-rumped warbler of the year. With the arrival of these three species, we can truly feel that spring is here! By the time this article is printed, the first rufous hummingbird of the year may have appeared at someone’s feeder.
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