Bioacoustics Almanac — May Listening Together Project
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First Week of May
The Ruby-crowned Kinglet, not much larger than a hummingbird, is one of our smallest birds. Despite its size, it has a very loud and complex song. The males and females look identical except for the ruby crown on the male, which is usually hidden. It is a bird of the boreal forest preferring to nest in mature and old growth coniferous stands. It is declining in eastern North America (Photo: Don Faulkner; Sound: Xeno-Canto, Thomas Ryder Payne).
The song of the Hermit Thrush is one of the most iconic sounds of the forest. Its melodious, flute-like quality adds to the enchantment of the forest environment. It begins its return to Nova Scotia in mid-April with the majority of migrants arriving in the first two weeks of May. Much more easily heard than seen, you will most likely catch a glimpse of it near the forest floor. It may even give you a flick of its wings and a few pumps of its reddish tail, a field mark of this species (Painting: Louis Agassiz Fuertes; Sound: Xeno-Canto, Christopher McPherson).
Second Week of May
The White-throated Sparrow is a common bird occupying a wide variety of forest habitats but is more likely to be seen at forest edges, openings, or disturbed areas. This species nests primarily in Canada and its song, “oh-canada-canada-canada,” is a tribute to its native land. The White-throated Sparrow is polymorphic. The adults are either white-striped or tan-striped on the head with both having a white throat. Adults not only breed with the opposite sex but also with the opposite morph (Painting: Robert Bateman; Sound: Xeno-Canto, Doug Hynes).
The Yellow Warbler breeds in wet deciduous thickets and very young forests. It is the yellowest of our yellow-coloured warblers. It spends the winter in Central and South America, returning to Nova Scotia in mid-May. It is also one of the earliest autumn migrants among songbirds, beginning its flight south in mid-July. It’s song is easily recognized by its distinct cadence that says: “Sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet!!(Photo: John Kearney; Sound: John Kearney).
Third Week of May
The Eastern American Toad is found in a wide variety of habitats. During the breeding season, they require a water body to mate and lay their eggs. When the tadpoles become “toadlets” they will soon leave the water and become terrestrial, often moving in a mass migration to upland forests. Toads are among the last of the amphibians to hibernate in the fall when they bury themselves in the soil below the frost line (Photo: Cephas; Sound: United States Geological Survey).
The American Redstart is one of our most common summer birds, nesting in deciduous forests. It spends the winter in the Caribbean and Central America and is an early fall migrant, departimg Nova Scotia in August and early September. While its songs can be variable, the most distinct song of this bird is phonetically represented as “See-See-See YOU,” (Painting Louis Agassiz Fuertes; Sound: Xeno-Canto, Martin St-Michel).
Fourth Week of May
The Red-eyed Vireo is probably our most common forest bird, found predominantly in deciduous and mixed woods. It is difficult to see as it forages mainly high in the canopy of trees. But it makes its presence felt by constantly singing. The Red-eyed Vireo is so common and its singing so persistent that it is the dominant noise in the summer forest soundscape (Photo: Kelley Colgan Azar; Sound: Xeno-Canto, Christopher McPherson).
The Alder Flycatcher is one of three species of Empidonax flycatchers that occur in Nova Scotia. They cannot be readily identifiable by sight alone but are best distinguished by their distinctive songs during the breeding season. The Least Flycatcher is found at forest edges and makes a short, dry “chebek” sound that is repeated many times in one minute. The Yellow-bellied Flycatcher nests in spruce bogs with a call similar to the Least Flycatcher but more two-parted “che-lek.” The Alder flycatcher in common in alder patches and sings “fee-bee-oo” or “free-beer.” All three species are small with an eye-ring and two whitish wing-bars (Photo: Alan Schmierer; Sound: Xeno-Canto, Sue Riffe).