Saturday, August 8, 2009

This morning's "cast of characters"

That “perfect string of summer days” has come to an end. It is cool, overcast to the point of being downright gloomy … and rain is on the way.

We woke to an unusual sight for early August—hundreds upon hundreds of birds were flying in, seemingly from the southwest field, landing on every available perch and gathering on the lawn. Their en masse arrival and general rowdiness had the mourning doves cowering at one corner of the roof, visibly unnerved by it all. Even the barn swallows and the sparrows were staying well out of the way. The interlopers were noisy and voraciously hungry, pecking in the grass and poking around the flowerbeds. There were birds on the antenna. On the satellite dish. On the tree stumps. In the bushes. On the eaves.

Casting call for a remake of The Birds perchance???

Their behaviour, however, seems to have had all the indications of a migratory event. So soon? This early? This is something we generally start to see late in September or early October. I spoke to a neighbour about it and she, too, had been visited by several hundred birds last night before dusk. Given what we saw, we believe we witnessed not a flock of starlings but possibly a flock of Rusty Blackbirds migrating from their summer breeding area to their winter home south of the border. Jury is out on this one. But we are pretty sure what they are not. Starlings have yellow beaks; these "black birds" did not.

And the blue jays are back. No, not the baseball team. They’re happily being trounced in some stadium somewhere. I’m talking abouth those colourful, crested songbirds who usually winter with us. Today I spotted six of them, as a matter of fact, flitting back and forth between the spruce and the pines. Unusual to see jays here in the summer. Although, according to their range and migration patterns, jays are supposedly here with us all year round, we tend to see them throughout the winter, spring and fall, less so during the peak summer months. Do they prefer cooler climes to the hot, humid days of a typical southwestern Ontario summer?

But this has not been a typical southwestern Ontario summer.

So a morning of rather unusual bird observations, given the time of year and the area. With these sightings, autumn could be “in the air” so to speak. This is a bit of a twist to Shelley’s oft-quoted line from his “Ode to the West Wind” — if summer comes, can fall be far behind?

Indeed, this year, we are to some extent, still waiting for summer to come. She’s been an elusive tease.

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