Cooler weather means great wildlife

A hummingbird feeds in preparation for migration. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman
A hummingbird feeds in preparation for migration.
PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

I don’t know about all of you, but for me this is the most wonderful time of the year. Many people love the hot summer weather, but give me a crisp north-westerly wind and the rich colours of fall and I’ll see you outside.

My love for this season goes beyond the weather, of course. At this time of year I can guarantee that there will be songbirds flying here, hawks flying there, and skies full of butterflies everywhere.

Just the other day at the Rosetta Maclean Gardens Hawk Watch a new park record of migrating bald eagles was set (95 at time of writing), and the season is still young!

While walking around during my lunch break I feel like I’m becoming a dangerous pedestrian as I keep bumping into people while I’m walking with my eyes looking up at all the birds flying by. Recently I’ve had close encounters with a peregrine falcon having lunch in a tree, a red-tailed hawk perched by my office and several merlins hunting by my car.

Monarch butterflies feed before making their way to Mexico for the winter. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman
Monarch butterflies feed before making their way to Mexico for the winter.
PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

Equally exciting is seeing the monarch butterflies finally arrive. There haven’t been as many as past years, (there is a growing concern – this year’s numbers are down almost 90 per cent), but over a couple of days I was still able to see several hundred sucking up much-needed nectar on butterfly bushes.

For the past few weeks hummingbirds have also been seen around various public parks and gardens sipping nectar from the remaining flowers. They were so hungry they didn’t even notice dozens of photographers angling for a shot. These tiny, delicate, and beautiful creatures are preparing for a migration of thousands of kilometres.

Many passerines can also be seen resting and eating bugs, preparing for their own voyage south. Included in this group are warblers, wrens and a personal favourite of mine: yellow-bellied sapsuckers. Don’t forget to peek into your bushes and trees from time to time or you’ll miss these tiny guys.

A great egret in flight. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman
A great egret in flight.
PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

A moderately rare sight, to the casual birdwatcher, is the great egret. I saw one the other day at Ashbridges Bay, instantly recognizable by its large pure white body, long sharp yellow beak, perfect green eyeliner and a head dress to die for (and many did in years gone by). For the past four years I have been helping monitor great egrets at the Rouge beach and marsh. They like the marsh for fishing and at night they roost in the trees. A couple years back I saw 13 egrets every evening in the same marsh. Tommy Thompson Park has great egrets nesting in the spring, they can also be seen at Bluffers Park during the summer, and watch the sky over the lake and beaches as they migrate south in the fall.

These are just a few of the reasons why this is my favourite time of year – watching birds and wildlife, enjoying the fall colours and cooler weather. Soon the snow and cold weather will arrive and all of these birds will be gone. Not to worry though, for me that means ducks, owls and winter landscapes are just around the corner.

Turkey vulture in flight. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman
Turkey vulture in flight.
PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

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