Foam Lake Birding No. 114


No. 114

The nice thing about spending the latter part of winter down south is that one experiences spring twice in one year - once at the beginning of March in Texas and the second at the end of April here in Saskatchewan. The greening of grass and the blossoming of flowers is much the same in both places, but the migration of birds is not.
     In the spring, in Saskatchewan, we experience the loss of a few winter birds like the Bohemian Waxwing and Pine Grosbeak that leave for the north, but at the same time we are swamped with an influx of summer residents of every description and with quite a few transients such as the White Crowned and White Throated Sparrows thrown in for good measure. In Texas things are just the reverse. There, the large migration is of winter birds, especially waterfowl and shore birds, that head north in the spring leaving the southern wetlands somewhat barren for the summer. The opposite occurs in the fall. On the other hand, they do have many more transients than we do, especially warblers, that are passing through on their way to and from the north to the tropics. However, there are very few summer residents in Texas. One notable example is the Scissor Tailed Flycatcher that spends the winter in the tropics and breeds in the southern US. The Fulvous and Black Bellied Whistling Ducks used to head for Mexico for the winter and show up in Texas in March, but in the last few years even they have been observed all year round. In summary, the large influx of migrating birds in Texas occurs in the fall while ours occurs in the spring.  
      At the moment some of our summer residents such as crows, robins and Mourning Doves are already here but the bulk is yet to come. With the prediction of much milder weather for the next little while, the transients should be arriving in full force in the first two weeks of May and then lingering for two or three weeks before heading north. Juncos and Fox Sparrows are here already. Transients can be seen both spring and fall, but spring is better because the spring birds are in their bright breeding plumage and easier to identify.
     This week I decided to cover a transient that is a member of the family of warblers but behaves more like a nuthatch than any warbler. This warbler, aptly named the Black and White Warbler, is an uncommon but regular visitor in the backyards of towns like Foam Lake. All warblers have powerful legs and feet and can hang upside down when feeding but none do to the extent that the Black and White does. When feeding it spends most of its time creeping head first up and down the trunks and larger branches of trees looking for insects. Its colour patterns are such that, once seen, the bird cannot be mistaken for anything else. No other bird is striped in such bold contrasting black and white stripes running the full length of its body. The males and females are very similar with the male having more black on the face. The Black-throated Grey and Black Polled Warblers look somewhat similar but are not nearly as "stripy".
     I have taken pictures of the Black and White Warbler in our backyard but they did not turnout well so I could not use them. However, I did manage to get a good shot of a female taking a bath in a water feature in Texas and this is the one that is included with this article. With any luck this bird might show up in somebody's backyard this spring.  I finally got a good shot of a male, and, in our backyard.