What the Catbird Knows

Written by Steve Earsom
Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Photo of Stephen D. Earsom.I saw the catbird on Friday. He was sitting on my back porch railing, just staring at me as if to say, “What are you doing here?” He was right. All the other signs were there. I had mowed the yard three times, the barn swallows had their nest built in the same place as always on our front porch, and my brother’s bug boil went off last weekend.

Everyone uses their own tea leaves to determine when it is time to head north. We even use scientific measures like status of ice melt (see the most recent image from NOAA below), leafing out of the trees, and talking with our Canadian colleagues about what they’re seeing on the ground, but once I see the catbird, it’s settled. It’s time to go to Canada.

I’m honored to play a role in the 60th annual Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, and excited to have Nick Wirwa returning as my observer. We’ll be surveying southern Ontario and southern Quebec, an area roughly bounded by the Great Lakes on the southwest and the US border on the southeast. It’s a bit harder to explain the northern boundary, since there isn’t much up there, but if you can find the town of Chibougamau, Quebec, on a map and draw an east-west line, that’s pretty close.

If all goes well, Nick and I will depart today and be surveying soon thereafter. Next report from Toronto!

Southern Ontario and Quebec survey crew.

Southern Ontario and Quebec survey crew. Photo by Gianna Baiges

May 4, 2015 ice cover map.

May 4, 2015 ice cover map. Courtesy NOAA.