My First Redwings and Cowbirds of the Year: March 2021

For many years I commuted to Hamilton. During the last week of February and the first weeks of March I would always stop at a wetland en route to see if the Red-winged Blackbirds were back yet. For me, it signals the true beginning of spring.

As winters apparently become less severe, Red-winged Blackbirds seem to be arriving earlier. In Birds of Ontario (1985), Dr. J. Murray Speirs (my grandfather) writes that the 22 year average date arrival at Rondeau on Lake Erie was March 11. The 17 year average date at London was March14 with the earliest on March 5 in 1921. March 18 was the average arrival date in Toronto.

As I headed out for a forest walk near the Zoo (March 6), I came across a farm house with lots of bird feeder activity.

Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Mourning Doves

About 100 Red-winged Blackbird males (the females arrive a few weeks later) were under the feeder and in the trees.

Red-winged Blackbird (male)
Red-winged Blackbird (male)
Red-winged Blackbird (male)

Spring is officially just around the corner!

In addition, there were a few dozen Brown-headed Cowbirds (both male and female). Birds of Ontario gives March 30 as the average arrival date in Toronto. These were clearly precocious birds.

Brown-headed Cowbirds and House Sparrow

Other birds:

Canada Goose
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow

Woodland scenes:

Some botany:

Tamarack (Larix laricina)
Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Basswood (Tilia americana)
Cat-tail (Typha)
Phragmites (Phragmites australis)
American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
Crown Gall on Sugar maple
Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)
Moss
Riverbank Grape vine (Vitis riparia)
American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
White Pine cone
White Pine (Pinus strobus)
Red Pine and White Pine
White Birch (Betula papyrifera)
Gypsy Moth egg mass on Large-toothed Aspen (Populus grandidentata)
Large-toothed Aspen leaf (Populus grandidentata)
Red Oak acorns
Christmas Fern

I couldn’t resist getting these photos as I waited at a crossing:

MAILBOX

Hello Miles,
I must tell you how much I enjoy your posts (especially the duck and sparrow ID).
You have sparked my curiosity and educated me as well! I was delighted to spot my first Red Wing Blackbird a few days ago.

NATURE POETRY

The seasons they are turnin’
And my sad heart is yearnin’
To hear again the songbird’s sweet melodious tone
Meet me in the moonlight alone. – Bob Dylan

Miles Hearn


3 thoughts on “My First Redwings and Cowbirds of the Year: March 2021

  1. Lisa Volkov

    Yes! Those raucous little Red-wing devils ARE the harbingers of spring! How glorious! And the woods look like they are just about to awaken. It’s so exciting! Thanks, Miles!

    Reply
  2. Ruth Calman

    We had our first redwings at our feeder three days ago and since it is my first year with a feeder it was nice to get your corroboration that they are indeed a sign of spring and that migrants are starting to return. I was surprised that they didn’t have bright wing patches but I don’t usually see them till April so perhaps new feathers are still on the way!

    A question about migrants. We have been having flocks of redpolls which compete for food with our year round goldfinches. I assume the redpolls will not end up being year round birds but migrate north again in a few weeks time. Is that right?

    Reply
  3. Gloria James

    Thanks for all the photos of the signs that spring is on the way. I always get a laugh when I first see the red wing blackbirds in the ravine park near our house. The birds always perch on the highest branches of a tree and call out in a raspy voice when you walk by!

    Reply

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