Thursday, 5 February 2015

Birding the Ellice Swamp

Last Sunday, I finally got a trip to a birding location fifteen minutes from home that has long been on my list of places to visit, but one that I had never been to.  I had driven by before, and the reports of birds coming from the swamp lured me in.

Recently birders have been observing species here that are for the most part a rare or unusual occurrence for my area of southern Ontario.  After being exterminated from much of southern Ontario, common ravens are making a comeback.  Sightings over the past year have led birders in this area to believe that they are possibly nesting in the Ellice swamp.  Three individuals were sighted the week before my visit so my hopes were high to add ravens to my Ontario list.  It isn't a new species for me, I saw many on my trip out west several years ago, but I really wanted to see one for myself in Ontario.  Another bird a bit more common around here is the ruffed grouse.  The area of Ontario where I live has a number of forested areas, but none of any decent size and this makes ruffed grouse fairly uncommon around here.  I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one on a neighbour's farm last summer, but the Ellice Swamp has been a major hotspot for them according to Ebird.

The swamp covers an area of 856 hectares or 2115 acres, it is the largest woodlot in Perth county.  The size of the swamp and extreme diversity within it, make it a valuable natural area.  This information was found from and you can learn more at this link. 

So anyways, I took my skis to the swamp and by mid afternoon was heading down the Ellice swamp Rail Trail.  The trail followed an old railway line so travel was easy on skis and relatively obstacle free.
Shortly along the trail, I came along a marsh with multiple mallard nest tubes scattered around.

If you have been reading my past posts, you will know that I am interested in wood duck nest boxes.  I was fascinated to see these mallard tubes and someday hope to build my own to put up at home.

The trail was relatively quiet.  Several crows and a red-tailed hawk were the first birds that I saw.  I heard and saw a couple cardinals and saw one blue jay.
 I headed on down the trail, spooking a deer some distance ahead.  I travelled about a kilometer before coming to this.
Although it was somewhat disappointing to turn  back, it was a great trip anyway.  I had come a good distance and the trail went through amazing wilderness.  It was a cold day with a cold wind which might have had something to do with the lack of species.  I did however see signs that looked like something had a good meal.
Whatever it was, it looked like some type of a bird.  It was grouse sized.  Perhaps this was my brush with the ruffed grouse for the day.  Feel free to leave me a comment below with any ideas.

Overall, although I did not see the swamp's ravens or grouse, it was still a great day.  I learned about a great location for birding and definetely plan to go back.  During spring and summer, I hope to take this trail and make some observations in the marsh along the trail.  It will also give me another good chance at some of the birds I had hoped to see.  
By the way, I apologize for the cell phone pictures.  Next time I'll remember to take the digital camera that I usually use :)

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