Sunday, 24 May 2015

Afternoon on the Avon

My mom, sister and my three nephews decided to take a walk around the Lake Victoria section of the Avon river in Stratford this afternoon.  The major push of migrating waterfowl has passed through our area, but I was still hopeful to see something interesting among the summer residents.

The first part of the walk yielded a mallard hen with ducklings.  The first ducklings that I have seen this year.
Mallard Ducklings
A bit further on I was surprised to find a male ring-necked duck along the far shore.  These guys are really quite unusual for this area this time of year so it was an interesting find.  Unfortunately he was too far for a picture.

Stratford's resident mute swans were out and about on the river.  They were quite co-operative for photos.


The canada geese had goslings too.
The birds around the river here are used to people making them easier to photograph.  Had home, I would not be able to get as close as I could here.

Lilacs are also out in full bloom, adding a pleasant perfume to the air.
We ended our walk at a waterfall near the river, the end of an enjoyable afternoon.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Pelee and Rondeau Weekend Part 3- Holiday Beach and Rondeau

This post might end up longer than some of my past posts. The warm weather means that I am busier at home on the farm which leaves me less time to write a blog post.  The weather also means that birding is getting even better as the summer visitors arrive and nesting gets underway.  So much birding and so little time to write about it :)

After leaving Pelee Provincial Park on Friday May 1st, we headed past the location where the Eurasian-collared doves are commonly seen.  Last year I was lucky enough to spot the doves and they were present on the power lines this year again.  It sounds like they are maybe nesting in the area.
Eurasian Collared Dove- Leamington Ontario

On Saturday May 2nd, we left the Pelee area and headed for Holiday Beach Conservation area.  It was here that I picked up a couple snowy egrets last year and a tricoloured heron had been seen there the week before, so I was hopeful for a good day of birding.  We got there early and were one of the only ones there at first.  I started scanning the water and decided to head up the hawk tower for a better view over the marsh.  Several species of ducks and a handful of pied-billed grebes were out on the water.

A large number of mute swans were also present.

Mute Swan- Holiday Beach

 It was also a thrill to see a healthy population of purple martins.

Purple martins, one of my favorite shots of birds in flight.

I met a very co-operative tree swallow.

We headed down a nearby trail where I got my first glimpse of a swamp sparrow.  Further down, the trail turns into a boardwalk that heads through the marsh.  As I passed a clump of marsh grass, a sora suddenly scurried out.  The picture below is far from good, but I was satisfied considering how shy soras generally are.
Can you spot the sora?
 I watched as a second sora scurried into view and the two interacted with each other, but soon disappeared.  Ahead, I again heard the grunting of a virginia rail, my second of the trip.

I picked up 27 species here and posted them to ebird. 
I didn't see the tricoloured heron, but was still satisfied.

We left Holiday Beach and headed on to Rondeau Provincial Park, the last stop of the trip.  I have learned a lot about Rondeau from other bloggers, but had never had a chance to visit it myself.  First stop was the visitor's centre where I had a great birding conversation with a member of the Friends of Rondeau as we watched the feeders.  The first trail I went on was the tuliptree trail.  It was here where an american woodcock flushed up, a species I had been trying to see for a long time.
We were just a bit too early to see the prothonotary warblers that nest here.
There were plenty of chipmunks along the trail.

Then we moved on to a trail that headed down towards the beach.  On the way down the trail, a couple birders pointed me to a pair of blue-grey gnatcatchers, another life species.  As we approached the water, it became obvious how serious the erosion is at the park. Some parts of the trail had to be re-routed.

The water was relatively quiet for bird life, but it was still a great spot to stop and look around.

I picked up a large ebird list here as well.

Back home, I spent the other day at the Mitchell Sewage Lagoons.  The water level in the cells is ideal for shorebirds and I picked up a new species, dunlin.   An out of season tundra swan and 3 out of season lesser scaup were present along with the usual species.

If you're still reading at this point, thanks for putting up with a long post.  It was a great trip with 11 new life species.

Enjoy the spring weather.

White trilliums- home farm

Friday, 8 May 2015

Pelee and Rondeau Weekend Part 2: Point Pelee National Park

One of the most well known birding locations in Canada is Point Pelee and that is where we headed after leaving Hillman Marsh.  We arrived at the park early that afternoon and decided to start with the marsh boardwalk trail.

 As well as an amazing 1 km boardwalk through excellent marsh habitat, this area also offers a lookout over the marsh and canoe rentals for those interested in exploring a different area.
Canada goose munching on something.

The boardwalk was quiet to start.  Canada geese were feeding in the shallows and further on a lone american coot was busily working among the reeds.  A drake wood duck was also swimming some distance off.
American coot.

The highlight here came as we neared the end of the boardwalk.  I heard the unmistakeable kiddit kiddit kiddit call of a a virginia rail, another lifer.  I saw the grasses move as the bird moved around, but didn't actually see it.

We then headed on to the Pelee tip, stopping first at the visitor centre where we looked around and then took the shuttle down to the most southern point of Canada.

I'm always interested in the taxidermy displays such as these from the visitor centre.
Passenger pigeon

Mergansers and vulture
Ruffed grouse, a species no longer found in the Pelee area.

I immediately picked out two more lifers that for some reason I had not seen before on my previous trips to Pelee, red-breasted mergansers and bonaparte's gulls.  I also saw some buffleheads and double crested cormoronts flying and swimming off the tip, not lifers but fun to see.

I spent a while at the tip, but very little variety was flying over.  I heard later that there were several surf scoters off the tip that day, but I missed them.

The Pelee tip.

Looking back from the tip.
From here it was on to the woodland trail.  There was good bird activity where I picked up a lifer hermit thrush, but also great opportunities to photograph the plantlife.

Wild Leeks
The final trail of the day was the tilden's woods trail.  More of the usual ducks, songbirds and these turkeys.
Up next is a stop at the Eurasian collared doves that appear to be nesting in the area and a visit to Holiday Beach, an area just as rich in birds.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Pelee and Rondeau Weekend Part 1: Hillman Marsh

Female Red-Winged Blackbird
I spent Friday and Saturday of last weekend visiting one of the most well known areas for migrants in Ontario, the Point Pelee area.  I knew that this would be my last chance for a while to get to Pelee before things got too busy here at home. 

We left around 7:00 in the morning on Friday.  A brief Tim Hortons stop for breakfast was the only stop on the way down.  We were actually planning to visit Point Pelee National Park first, but when I saw that the route went right past Hillman Marsh, we changed our plans.  I did not want to miss the opportunity to look for the american avocets that had been seen observed there in the last week.

The usual red-winged blackbirds and common grackles were some of the first birds of the day.  Further down the trail, we met a photographer that pointed out a yellow-rumped and a pine warbler trying to hide in the tall grasses.  I would soon see a couple yellow warblers which would be the extent of my warbler sightings here at Hillman.  Out on the water, several distant terns caught my eye, but they were too far for a positive identification. 

I was hopeful when approaching the shorebird cell, thinking that this could be where the avocets were.  If they were there I didn't see them.  However it was far from disappointing.  A northern rough-winged swallow offered some excellent views, but took off as soon as I raised the camera.  Lifer!!
The shorebird cell can attract all sorts of shorebirds, many of which are pictured on this board just overlooking the water.

Swimming out in the shorebird cell was a pair of scaup.  I have seen scaup before, but have not had them close enough to tell if they were definitely greater or lesser.  These ones got close enough for a picture and I got good views through binoculars.  Based on the slight tuft on the head, I believe that they are lesser.  I know that the pictures make it hard to tell but if anyone disagrees, feel free to correct me.  The two bottom photos were taken in a ditch just outside of the marsh. 

Possibly a slight tuft on the head.  Very hard to tell from the picture.

The chorus of frogs was a welcome spring sound and I managed to spot several of them among the marsh grasses.
While singing the frogs seemed to float stretched out along the water's edge.

Painted turtles

From here we headed on to Point Pelee.I could have gone through the full trip in one post, but I have plenty of pictures and so I'll spread it out a bit. 

Ebird List