As our Winter Songbird Monitoring program is nearing the end, the first migrants are beginning to arrive. The weather over the last month has been colder than normal, and the arrival of the earliest migrants, Tree and Violet-green Swallows and Rufous Hummingbirds are about a week or two behind. While monitoring on March 4 did not yield any clear-cut migrants, March 7th had the first Violet-green and Tree Swallows of the season flying around the outer ponds. A few other early migrants were also present, including several species of waterfowl, Killdeer, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Spotted Towhees and Song Sparrows. These are the first trickle of migrants, likely to start increasing later on this month. Willow buds have started opening up and with the warmer temperatures predicted over the next few days it is likely that leaf out will start. Also, get out your hummingbird feeders! With Rufous Hummingbirds present up to the Columbia River it is likely that in less than a week we'll be seeing them back in southwestern BC.
Banding on the 4th appeared spring-like with three Myrtle Warblers caught, although two were the birds caught in recent weeks. Another one of the Golden-crowned Sparrows wintering around the woodlot was captured and colour-banded with all yellow bands.
There also were three interesting sparrow recaptures in the last two days of monitoring, a Song Sparrow banded last April, a Lincoln's Sparrow banded last May and a Spotted Towhee banded last June. The interesting part is where these birds may have gone in the time between banding and recapture. The Song Sparrow and Spotted Towhees were both males with cloacal protuberances, indicating they were breeding locally. So these birds had likely setup territories near the banding area, and may have been roaming about recently getting ready to setup territories for this year. The Lincoln's Sparrow was a bit more interesting. It was originally banded on May 4, 2010 and was thought to be a migrant due to its high levels of fat and its capture during the height of their migration. Recatching it in early March means it has likely spent the winter here, as this is about a month before migration starts. But it raises the possibility that the bird may have been a lingering winter resident, as winter residents have greater site fidelity than migrants. Birds like this make our work interesting and make you rethink about how birds may be using the area.