Yellow Warbler

Nature Observations from the Conservancy – Spring-Summer 2021

Our wildlife and nature observations have been unusual so far this year at the Conservancy. Spring arrived quite early in Quebec due to a heat wave during the first two weeks of April. Several heat records were shattered and we saw temperatures reach highs of 9 degrees celsius above average for that time of year. The hot, dry spring had a dramatic effect on the landscape and wildlife at the Nature Reserve.

Water levels were much lower in our ponds and in the Acadie river, leaves grew almost a month earlier than usual, and migrating birds started arriving weeks earlier than normal. Having an early thick leaf cover combined with the sporadic arrival of species over a much longer period (as opposed to dozens all arriving around mid-May), made it much more difficult to spot small birds, especially warblers. Nevertheless, despite the early migration and its challenges for birdwatching, we still managed to discover some new species and appreciate springtime at the Reserve.

Springtime new species

A total of four new species were observed for the first time at the Reserve this spring. Ring-necked Ducks were spotted at our lake in the early spring, often accompanied by Common Mergansers and Green-winged Teals. Northern Rough-winged Swallows were observed on several occasions and in various areas, foraging and gathering nesting materials. Fox sparrows passed through in the early spring, searching for food in the leaf litter on the forest floor.

Nature observations at Fauna: Ring-necked Duck
A Ring-necked Duck takes flight in early spring. Photo © J. Taus
Nature observations at Fauna: Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Photo © J. Taus

Biodiversity: Early summer nature observations

A couple of Black-billed Cuckoos were present for a few weeks in late May and early June. Gypsy Moth caterpillars were in great abundance in Quebec this year and we suspect they attracted these uncommon birds to the area. Black-billed Cuckoos eat so many caterpillars that they are actually able to shed their stomach lining by coughing it up like a pellet in order to rid themselves of the spines that accumulate in their stomachs. Black-billed Cuckoo populations are believed to have declined by 68% since 1970 and scientists estimate that they will lose another 50% of their numbers by 2055 if the trend continues. Pesticide use, habitat fragmentation and the loss of breeding and wintering grounds are suspected to be contributing to this decline. What an experience it was to observe these magnificent birds at the conservancy.

Nature observations at Fauna: Black-billed Cuckoo
A pair of Black-billed Cuckoos were present in late May and early June. Photo © J. Taus

Other notable nature observations

A Snow Goose was spotted at the lake mixed in with a group of migrating Canada Geese, something we had observed once before in 2017. Although it sometimes happens that a member of one species will join a flock of the other, it is still a rather rare occurrence.

Notable nature observations: Snow Goose
A snow goose rests with Canada Geese in the early spring. Photo © J. Taus

Black-crowned Night Herons and Baltimore Orioles were observed in much greater numbers than usual this spring.

Black Crowned Night Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron. Photo © J. Taus
Baltimore Oriole
A Baltimore Oriole. Photo © J. Taus

Breeding species

As always, the conservancy was a productive breeding site for dozens of species including the American Robin, Canada Goose, Mallard, Green Heron, American Black Duck, Wood Frog, Snapping Turtle, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Rough-winged Swallow, House Wren, Great-crested Flycatcher and Northern Flicker.

American Black Duck with ducklings.
American Black Duck with ducklings. Photo © J. Taus
Wood Frogs breeding.
Wood Frogs breeding in early April. Photo © J. Taus
Snapping Turtle
Snapping Turtle. Photo © J. Taus
Northern Flicker in tree cavity.
Northern Flicker in tree cavity. Photo © J. Taus
Green Heron
Green Herons were observed nesting at the Conservancy for the first time this spring. Photo © J. Taus

The threatened Bobolink also returned to nest in our fields in numbers consistent with those of past years. If you haven’t already, please see our “A Refuge for the Bobolink” blog post to learn more about these charismatic birds at our Reserve.

Bobolink. Photo © J. Taus

In Conclusion

With the first half of 2021 now behind us, we look forward to what the rest of the year will bring as we continue our species inventory here at Fauna. Please stay tuned for more nature observations from the Conservancy!