IT has been called the "Miracle of Migration" as birds travel thousands of kilometres, often from one continent to another, or even opposite ends of the earth.
And while science has added much to our understanding of migration, there are many details that still remain to be discovered. Much of bird migration on the North Shore goes unnoticed at night or very early in the morning, on a journey which has brought many from neo-tropical wintering grounds in South America. These include wood warblers, flycatchers, vireos, the western tanager, black-headed grosbeak and Swainson's thrush. Purple martins that breed at the Maplewood Conservation Area, winter in Brazil. Our tiny rufous hummingbird spends its winters in southern Mexico. Some of the migrants that have recently been spotted at Maplewood include the black-throated gray warbler, western tanager, Cassin's vireo, and warbling vireo.
What birders really look forward to are weather conditions that cause a "fallout," ie. birds are held down by foul weather. In fine weather, birds just keep moving through an area, but when they settle down in a fallout, birds seem to be everywhere "dripping from trees." It really is an amazing experience for anyone who loves birds, but timing is everything.
Habitats like Maplewood provide birds and other wildlife with needs to sustain life. Some of the best migration routes on the North Shore - like Maplewood - are examples of migration corridors.
Recently, visitors to Maplewood, and local parks (like Ambleside), have enjoyed excellent numbers of yellow-rumped, orangecrowned and Townsend's warblers. And the cheery little bright yellow fellow sporting a black cap (beret) that is often seen in local gardens is called Wilson's warbler.
It's always good to keep an eye out for the unusual (rare) species. Recently, there have been sightings of the Nashville warbler.
Flycatchers add much to the interesting mix of birds that you can watch for. True to their name, they fly off a perch, nabbing flying insects in mid-air. It is a habit shared with other birds like waxwings, and even robins.
Pacific-slope, Hammond's, willow, and the western wood pewee are commonly encountered flycatchers on the North Shore. They can be challenging to identify due to their similar looks, but thankfully, they have distinctive easy-to-learn voices.
A good birding App or set of CDs is what is needed to help learn bird songs and calls. In fact, many birders do most of their observing with ears, not eyes, in the breeding season.
At Maplewood, we recently enjoyed a wonderful "dawn chorus" walk, starting out at 6 a.m. for about two hours, tallying about 33 species. Many birds start singing well before six, like robins who wake up the forest with their bright "cheerily - cheer-up" song.
Look skyward for raptors like hawks, eagles and turkey vultures, all on migration.
Migration is a celebration of colour, song, and it is something that evokes our sense of wonder. Enjoy!
Al Grass is a naturalist with Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia, which sponsors free walks at Maplewood Flats Conservation Area on the second Saturday of every month. The next walk is Saturday, June 9 when participants will learn more about the returning of the spring birds of Maplewood. Meet at 10 a.m. at Maplewood Flats, 2645 Dollarton Hwy. (two kilometres east of the Iron Workers Second Narrows Memorial Crossing). Walks go rain or shine. www. wildbirdtrust.org.