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Fall migration continues into early December

The Common Redpoll, a winter finch, arrives back in Middlesex County in November. Photo by Paul Nicholson.

In the same way that some folks think that spring migration only happens in May, many birders focus only on September’s birds during fall migration. While the early fall is prime time for many southbound warblers, fall migration starts in late July with some early shorebird migrants and continues into early December with the late raptors.

Through the later fall, we can really start to refocus on waterfowl. Cackling Geese are being seen regularly now in Middlesex County. A couple of London hot spots for this species have been Fanshawe Lake in the north-east and Hyundai pond in the south-east. In November, we should also be watching for Snow Geese. Greater White-fronted Geese and Ross’s Geese are less frequently seen migrants, but there are sometimes reports of these birds in the London area.

Watch and listen for Tundra Swans as they fly south. They are en route from their Arctic breeding grounds to the Chesapeake Bay area and elsewhere along the Atlantic coast of the U.S.

Numbers of Ring-necked Ducks in and around London peak from late October to early November. Photo by Paul Nicholson.

American Black Duck numbers increase in Middlesex County through November, as do populations of Ring-necked Ducks, Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers, American Coots, and Pied-billed Grebes. Have an eye as well for Long-tailed Ducks, Gadwalls, Canvasbacks, Redheads, scaup, and Horned Grebes, through the late fall.

Most shorebirds will have flown south by now, but watch and listen for some late Killdeers that will persist into November.

Dark-eyed Juncos have already arrived back in London. Both kinglet species can also be seen. Other songbirds arriving for the winter include Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Common Redpoll, American Tree Sparrow, and Pine Siskin. Northern Shrikes typically return in mid-November.

The exclamation point at the end of fall migration is the arrival from the north of late raptors. Rough-legged Hawks start to be seen in late October and they will continue across Middlesex County and the rest of Southwestern Ontario until the first weeks of spring.

Golden Eagles are most likely to be seen from late November in west Middlesex. The Golden Eagle is named for its golden nape that is most easily viewed on a sunny day. Look for white at the base of the tail and clear white patches under each wing to identify a young bird. Sorting out immature Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles can be a bit of a challenge. Laure Neish’s excellent Bird Friendly London blog post from last November includes useful identification tips.

Finally, Snowy Owls and Short-eared Owls make their appearance in December. For tips on how best to find a Snowy Owl in Middlesex County in the winter you can read another Bird Friendly London article.

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