Birds, Butterflies and Bees! Spring is underway!

Brenda VR, natural heritage ecologist at Conservation Halton, takes us along another one of her strolls. What will we come across this time?

Last week I remembered to clean out the bird houses in the regeneration area behind the CH administrative building in Burlington, Ontario. Yes, bird houses should be cleaned every year, usually spring before the birds return.

When I came to one of the bluebird style houses I noticed a head disappear inside the hole so I left that one undisturbed while continuing on to clean the rest. Other than that there were few signs of activity up there that day.

Earlier this week, I decided to take in the nice day so after eating lunch outside I went for a quick walk through the regeneration area. I was happy to see that one of the small houses I had cleaned out appeared to be claimed by a pair of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and the one I had left undisturbed did have someone fly away from it.

I snuck a little closer to the individual and indeed it was a bluebird. Yay! We had a pair of Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) nest up in this area last year so it was very nice to see them back.


Bluebird – Sialia sialis (male, I think) on the fence


Also seen were a number of bees feeding on the early blooming dandelions (warmed, and given a head start, by the southwest facing brick wall of the office). I observed at least two species of native bees nectaring on the dandelions (and covered in pollen!), along with the usual European Honey Bee and a type of wasp (time to put up some new native bee nesting sites). I also observed the first butterfly in the regeneration area for this season; a Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa). It is often one of the first butterflies seen in the year because they overwinter as adults so come out as soon as the temperature is warm enough. Sometimes they can even be seen mid-winter if we get a very mild spell. What would they do for food with no flowers out yet you ask? Well Mourning Cloaks (and some other butterflies) supplement their diet with tree sap, which would also be flowing (from a broken branch or wound on the tree) on those mild winter days.


Native bee (left), possibly a Mining Bee – Family Andrenidae, and European Honey Bee – Apis mellifera (right)

 Spring is well underway! Keep your eyes peeled; the birds, butterflies and bees are out and about!


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