Freezing rain a threat to early migrating birds
The ice storm is likely to kill some early migrating birds while forcing others to hunker down against the twin threats of cold and lack of food.
It came at just the wrong time, said birder Bruce Di Labio. On Saturday, he was starting to see some early arrivals among insecteating species: eastern phoebes, yellow-rumped warblers and tree swallows.
In any other year, this would be the right time for them to arrive.
“But then, boom! This wave of freezing rain,” he said Monday.
“I don’t think we’ve had this freezing rain in mid-April very often. Sure, we’ve had 20 centimetres of snow. That’s one thing. But freezing rain — birds have a lot more difficulty because everything is covered with ice,” he said.
“I’m certain there is going to be a small die-off of the insect eaters,” he said. “And it’s not just one day. Remember how nice Friday was? And then Saturday the cold starts to set in, and not just cold in the day. It’s cold overnight.
“I feel sorry for the swallows, because a lot of these birds arrive low on their fat supply ” after flying thousands of kilometres, he said. That means they need to eat to rebuild their strength.
“You try and find an insect in the past couple of days. It’s pretty tough. I was watching tree swallows on Saturday over along Moodie Drive. They were actually landing on this pond on the ice ... to pick up insects.
“A few species of birds are already nesting and have birds in their nests,” he said. This includes great horned owls, with babies, and American woodcock, with eggs.
“Hopefully the young are small enough that the adults can protect them from the freezing rain and then the (ordinary) rain, because they could easily get saturated with water.”
Warm weather and sunshine are expected to return Wednesday.
Wooden utility poles snapped in half at the Trainyards shopping area on Monday.
Rachel Hauraney has her umbrella pop as she walks in the wind and rain along Laurier Avenue.