By: Shirley & Michael Thompson
Date: November 1, 2002
Whistlerites would be hard pressed to remember when we last had such an extended period of dry, sunny fall days. We have been amazed at the dazzling displays of colour in our maples, cottonwoods, dogwoods, and grasses. Even the tall fireweeds stayed around long enough to show off their display of fluffed seed-bearing puffs. The recent winds, however, have done their thing, scattering seeds far and wide and filling our ditches with red, gold and bronze-coloured leaves.
Nature seems to be winding down and with it, most songbirds have left us. But maybe not all. Two or three weeks ago at Green Lake, Michael observed five shorebirds feeding (or at least searching) on the sandbar at the outlet of the River of Golden Dreams. Wait a minute! Why do they have yellow breasts like warblers? Feeding and looking like shorebirds with longish bills, in shorebird habitat, it was puzzling. Just then, along came Karl Ricker with his bird book and we determined that they were, in fact, Western Meadowlarks completely out of their natural drier habitat!
These marvellous singers are about robin-sized, and feed on insects and some seeds in open fields. Breeding range is the southern part of all provinces from Ontario west, and very rarely in Quebec City (honeymoon destination!). They are short-distance migrants – some winter in southern B.C., while others move to the U.S. as “snowbirds!”
Taxonomically, they are not larks at all, but brightly-coloured members of the Blackbird family. Watch for them next spring, and enjoy their music!