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April bird watching is promise of even more spring arrivals

Hermit Thrushes are migrating through Middlesex County now on their way to the boreal forests where they nest. Photos by Paul Nicholson.

By April 1, the keenest London-area birders had already welcomed some early avian migrants.

Several of the Middlesex County breeding species had returned from the south. Ospreys were inspecting local nesting sights. Eastern Phoebes. Chipping Sparrows and Field Sparrows were being reported in and around London. The earliest Double-crested Cormorants had also returned.

There were also sightings in the last days of March and the earliest days of April of fly-through migratory species. Common Loons were stopping to refuel and to rest on local ponds before pressing on further north. Fox Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were also being reported on bird alerts.

It makes sense for birders to anticipate what they might be seeing through the balance of April.

April is a tremendous month to observe sandpipers and other shorebirds. Spotted sandpipers, which breed locally, will return. We will also have the chance to see Snipe, Solitary Sandpipers, and Pectoral Sandpipers. Greater yellowlegs will be seen in good numbers and then Lesser Yellowlegs will arrive.

It surprises some folks to learn that the American Woodcock is in the sandpiper family, even though it prefers old fields or forest habitats as opposed to sandy beaches. Woodcocks are arriving back now, and this bird’s courtship calls and flight displays are a spectacle to behold. At dawn or dusk, males will utter loud, nasal, and buzzy meep calls, and then, with wings aflutter, they will repeatedly fly in tight loops to impress potential mates. You might witness this after the sun has set in the open areas of north London’s Kilally Meadows ESA or similar areas.

In early April, Virginia Rails start to return. These are secretive birds so the ki-dick call may be heard before a bird is seen. Soras, another rail species, arrive back in Middlesex in late April.

Watch and listen now for Gray Catbirds and Brown Thrashers. Golden-crowned Kinglets were being seen frequently in March, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets are now be making their appearance. They will be observable into May.

The Brown Thrasher is a migratory species that flies into Middlesex County every April. Many will stay here through the summer and nest.

By the end of April, the happy-sounding chatter of Chimney Swifts over the city will be heard. Green Herons and Great Egrets will also arrive later in the month, as will Blue-headed Vireos, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, and House Wrens.

Rusty Blackbirds and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are a fly-through species. Few if any nest in Middlesex, however they can be observed now and into May.

By the end of this month, most or all of the Tundra Swans, Juncos, many duck species such as American Black Ducks and American Wigeon, and other migrants will have left Middlesex, so enjoy these birds too while they can still be seen.

As ever, eBird Canada as well as Discord and other bird alert platforms are useful and interesting since they provide up to date intel on local bird sightings.

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