Friday 23 March 2012

Educated Speculation: Ontario

I've been hearing and reading a lot about the warm winter that Ontario and most of North America has experienced. I was getting a little worried that maybe all the migrants will be on their breeding grounds by the time I got back. Similarly, I wondered if birds typical of southern North America might be more likely to venture further North. In either case, it's going to be difficult to see, let alone find any vagrant passerines if they're in the trees because, presumably, the leaves will be wide open by early May.

I decided to do a little research into this. A quick Google search revealed that the 1999-2000 winter was the warmest on record. And the 2001-2002 winter was the warmest for Souther Ontario (as of March, 2002). Then I read the NAB (North American Birds) reports for Ontario for Spring and Summer for both of those years:
Spring, 2000
Spring, 2002

Notable records for those two seasons:
-As expected there were plenty of early spring migrants from Loons to Warblers
-13 Snowy Egrets on May 16th, 2000 (+ several more throughout S. Ontario)!
-a few Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites.
-low water levels on the Great lakes resulted in a lot of shorebird habitat (there was no indication as to what caused the low water levels - perhaps the lack of melting snow?)
-interestingly there were 2 Mountain Bluebirds that wintered that years as well (at least 3 were found this past winter)
-worm-eating warbler singing in S Ontario (no breeding records, I believe)

Spring, 2002:
-a warm February and March were followed by snow and colder temperatures throughout much of the Spring, that doesn't seem to be the case this year.
-Snowy Plover
-Brown Pelican, Pelee
-Ferruginous Hawk
-Vermilion Flycatcher, Pelee
-Barn Owl
-Painted Bunting


So that doesn't really let me come to an obvious conclusion. There was no pattern between the two years (although drawing patterns from 2 data points isn't really a pattern in the first place). Not an exceptional number of vagrants, overshoots... etc
It was interesting to note that the water levels on the Great lakes were low during the 2000 Spring. I wouldn't mind that this year!
It also may mean that Laurel Lake (in Waterloo) won't be as high as usual, maybe providing at least a little bit of local shorebird habitat. I'm interested to see what happens to that lake in the Autumn...

In 2010 the lake emptied out after they opened the dam. But in 2011 it remained flooded for most of the season.

Laurel Lake from 2010 - I'll soon be boring my readers with repetitive reports from this area: