Spring has arrived and our songbird residents and returning migrants fill the morning air with music. A delight for us, this chorus is serious business for the birds while they establish nesting territories and attract mates. Here's an introduction to a few of the two hundred plus bird species with which we share our valley.
One of our most visible songbirds, returning early in the spring, is the American Robin. Easily recognized by its orange breast and gray brown head and back, this songster can be found almost anywhere from our front lawns to the estuary. Listen for his musical song of low warbling phrases and chirrups.
Chickadee-dee-dee-dee! This familiar call belongs to a year round resident, the Black Capped Chickadee. A tiny gray bird with buffy sides, a black cap and throat and white cheeks, the Chickadee flits about busily in trees and shrubs, often upside-down. They are easily attracted to bird feeders. A high-low dee-dee is the Chickadee's song you may hear as nesting season approaches.
A visit to the estuary or other brushy sloughs will almost certainly produce the Red-winged Blackbird. The red shoulder patches of the male, often hidden, are brilliantly displayed while singing his harsh gurgling trill, kno-ka-reeee. The inconspicuous female is brown and streaked for camouflage.
Another year-round resident is the Winter Wren found in woodland underbrush and conifer forests. This secretive tiny brown bird with a long bill and a short cocked tail, moves quickly about on the ground often flicking its wings. During breeding season the males ascend to high perches where they give voice to a beautiful song of long-running musical trills.
Ah, the sparrowsthere are so many. Watch for the White-crowned Sparrow in gardens, thickets and forest edges singing "Cheeeeery, cheery, cheery dee". You can recognize this bird by its bold black-and-white striped crown and yellow bill, streaked brown back and gray breast.
As the salmon berries begin to ripen, listen for the beautiful ascending flute-like song of the secretive Swainson's Thrush, also called the salmonberry bird. Look carefully in dense shaded woods and you may spot this small brown robin-like bird with a light speckled breast.
With all the busy nesting activity around us, this is a great time of year to enjoy getting to know our feathered neighbours.
Upcoming Squamish Songbird Festival Events:
Saturday, May 8: Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day at the BAG featuring the film:Winged Migration
7:30 p.m., Brackendale Art Gallery
Delicate creatures 'on wings as fragile as a whisper' undertake epic journeys of thousands of miles to nest in our valley. Watch amazing film footage of migratory bird flights.
Sunday, May 9: Gardening is for the Birds
1-4 p.m., Unity Garden at Cleveland & Victoria
Help us create a demonstration wildlife garden. All hands welcome - Bring plants, shovels & laughter.
Sunday, May 9: Native Plant Walk
1:30-3:30 p.m., Squamish Estuary, Vancouver Street entrance
Take a walk with plant expert Laurence Brown from UBC. Discover what rare & special plants we have sprouting in our own backyard.
Sunday, May 16: Birding for Beginners
8 a.m., Meet at Tim Horton's
Here we go again tromping round the estuary spying on our feathered friends. Soon we'll know them by name!
Saturday, May 15: Our Precious Estuary
7 p.m., Brackendale Art Gallery
Habitat ecologist Linda Dupuis tells us why. She also shows us how nature & development, though strange-bedfellows, can co-habit very nicely, thank-you very much.
Sunday, May 16: Families Go Wild!
12:30-2:30 p.m., Squamish Estuary, Vancouver Street entrance
Explore your Estuary! Take a map & take a look! Workshops on birds, bugs & critters in the mud. Check out where the Wild Things Live!
Thursday, May 27: Bad Weeds Gone Good
7:30 p.m. Howe Sound Inn
Relax! Swing in your hammock - now you've got an excuse. Messy gardens are good for you and the birds! Renowned local naturalist, Al Grass will demonstrate how "weeds" are actually very beneficial for wildlife.