After work on Friday, I headed out for a quick solo paddle through the marsh at Point Pelee. The weather was fantastic. The sun was shinning and only a light breeze was blowing making it perfect for an easy paddle.
I went out a few weeks earlier and was surprised at the lack of exposed mud in marsh. The lake water levels are much higher than they’ve been in some time. I was hoping that the conditions had changed. My goal of the paddle was to find some migrant shorebirds. As I was coming around the large Lotus patch in the middle of Lake Pond, a mixed flock of shorebirds circled over my head and seemed to land off to the east so that was the direction I headed. As I got closer, I could see some exposed mud where there was no mud on the previous trip. A good sign! I paddled up slowly with the sun at my back. The nice thing about paddling in the marsh is that you can get relatively close views of the shorebirds without disturbing or flushing them. I nudged my kayak up on some mud where some shorebirds were busy feasting. They didn’t even flinch at my presence. I watched a few territorial spats as the shorebirds were fighting over the prime feeding spots. Here’s a little video I shot on my phone…
I didn’t see any unexpected species of shorebirds but it’s always nice to get great views and to study them. All in all, I counted 7 species of shorebirds including Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, Killdeer, and Spotted Sandpiper. I have a feeling I’m going to turn up a good rarity soon!
Short-billed Dowitchers & Other Shorebirds (iPhone)
The Point Pelee Marsh is one my favourite places to explore in the park. I don’t think it gets the attention it deserves! I really hope more people get out to enjoy it. If you don’t have a canoe or kayak, it’s easy to rent one either from the Friends of Point Pelee right at the Marsh Boardwalk or Pelee Wings just down the road. If you’re interested in getting out in the marsh and you happen to be coming for the OFO Conference, be sure to sign up for one of the guided marsh paddles that I just happen to be leading
This morning I headed out to Point Pelee like I’ve been doing for the past few Saturday mornings. I tried to get to the park for sunrise but missed it by a few minutes. It was beautiful over the marsh this morning.
A great start to the day
I met Jeremy Hatt at the tip parking lot and we scanned the ducks off to the west and picked out some Surf Scoters, a bird I still needed for the year. Nice start to the day. We eventually made our way down to the tip where we were joined a little while later by Richard Carr. He was telling us about an Eared Grebe that Alan Wormington had picked out the day before at the tip. Just after he finished the story, I went back to scanning and almost immediately picked out an interesting grebe. It was an Eared! Eared Grebes are uncommon but seem to be pretty regular migrants at Pelee.
Eared & Horned Grebe for Comparison
After scanning the ducks at the tip, we headed north to check out the land birds. We added a few more birds to our day and year lists (yes we’re listers – it’s fun!). Some of the new additions included a very obliging Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown Thrasher and a few others.
Our last trail for the day was Woodland Nature Trail where we hoped to come across a Louisiana Waterthrush. We checked all of the sloughs and finally on the last one, a L. Waterthrush made a brief appearance. After watching many Yellow-rumped warblers working the slough, we headed off back to the Visitor Centre and our cars. I headed home for lunch.
Hermit Thrush in the thicket
Surf Scoter over the lake
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – FOY
Did you say Tricolored Heron?!
After lunch, I got a text from Jeremy Bensette and Jeremy Hatt, an email from Alan Wormington, and an Ontbirds post about a Tricolored Heron that Jeremy Bensette had just spotted flying toward the Sturgeon Creek area. This was a very ‘wanted’ bird for me. I mentioned it to Sarah and she said “Let’s go!” We packed a few snacks for Emily and the three of us jumped in the car. I got a few updates that the bird had been spotted again in flight so I was hopeful that we would get it. The plan was to check out Sturgeon Creek so we pulled into the marina and I started scanning the marsh. I spotted what I thought was a small blue heron-looking bird at the back of the marsh but everyone thought the bird was still out near the lake so I didn’t really think much of it. I started scanning out toward the lake and didn’t see anything but something clicked in my brain that I should turn around and check that bird again. I sure am glad I did – It WAS the Tricolored Heron! We tried to get everyone on the bird but just as Sarah was about to look through the scope, the bird flushed back and out of sight. We waited a while but unfortunately it didn’t pop back out. Sarah has seen many of them on our trips to Florida but I still felt bad that she didn’t get on it in time. I guess we’ll just have to find another one here!
A trip to the office would not be complete without a little after-work excursion to Col. Sam Smith Park in Toronto. It was nice to get out for a little walk on a warmish evening (relatively speaking). The bird numbers were not high but it’s all about the quality!
Long-tailed ducks were in close giving crazy good looks and a lonely White-winged Scoter drifted by. The long-staying Snowy Owl was still at the marina. My sort-of target bird for the trip was ‘Red-necked Grebe’ which are easy to see here compared to back home. They didn’t disappoint! What more could you ask for? Well sure – a rarity or two – but that’s birding! You never know what you’re going to see (or not see). Just nice to be outside.
RANT WARNING – The only disappointment this evening was the amount of dog poop in the park! What’s up with that? I also saw used “doggy bags” just sitting along the trail. Is it that hard to pick it up and toss it in the garbage bins? Sheesh. RANT OVER.
With a few errands to run in Leamington, I decided to get up a little early and head to Point Pelee for some first of spring birding. The weather forecast, when I had last checked, was for a warm and partly sunny day but on the way in, I was welcomed with some light rain showers and the wind was brisk and cold. I got to the park gates at 7 am and made a quick stop at the Marsh Boardwalk to see if I could hear the pair of Great Horned Owls I had heard last weekend. As soon as I opened the car door, I heard the distinct hoots amongst the loud songs of American Robins and Red-winged Blackbirds – a true sign of spring.
After that quick stop, I headed down to the tip to try for the sunrise but the clouds were obscuring the view. Still lots of ice built up around the tip, but a lot more open water now. This open water was a welcomed sign, and the birds were already streaming by. I was hoping to see some Scoters or some grebes but came up with a big ole zero on both. Still lots to look at though with flocks of Goldeneye, Redhead, Wigeon, Scaup, Commmon and Red-breasted Mergansers. It was definitely nice to see this movement. After a while, I was joined by Richard Carr and Alan Wormington and we scanned for a while but weren’t seeing much so we decided to head back north. I left Richard and Alan, and headed up to Sparrow Field. Lots of Song Sparrows but not much else. I did run into a raccoon that didn’t seem to healthy. He kept his one good eye on me the whole time. Poor lil fella.
The next stop was Cactus Field and just as I arrived at the field, a strange looking junco flew into view. I think it looks decent for an “Oregon” type. Thoughts? Jeremy Hatt and Mark Field joined me and I got them on the bird for a quick look before we lost it. All-in-all, it wasn’t too bad of a morning. The lighting was poor for photography but I still fired off some frames. It’s digital anyway so why not?
“Artistic” (A.K.A. Mistake) Common Mergansers
Lots of Geese Heading North
The Worst Shot of a Meadowlark
Silent Sandhill Crane
I got word of some Trumpeter Swans being seen at Lakeview Marina just before lunch today (thanks Tom!) The sun was shinning brightly so I decided to take my lunch break on the road. I grabbed my camera, car keys and my sandwich and dashed off to the marina.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I could see a group of Mute Swans in close to the docks and then the three Trumpeters just jumped right out. It’s not a species we get a lot of in this area so to see 3 together up close was a nice little treat. I fired off as many shots as I could before my time was up – Had to get back to work. Unfortunately they had their backs to me most of the time!
It was really nice to get out there to enjoy a few minutes of the sun, especially after feeling under the weather for over a week now!
Happy New Year! Of course I had to start the New Year off with a little birding…
This morning I joined the team covering the Canadian side for the Detroit River Christmas Bird Count. Dan and I were tasked with counting birds in some woodlots around the area and we managed to turn up a decent number of birds despite the harsh cold winds. We didn’t find anything too rare but it was a fitting start to a more relaxed year of birding. No “Big Year” this year. I’m just going to enjoy being out and seeing what I see instead of spending a lot of time chasing. Don’t get me wrong, “Big Years” can be a lot of fun! I had an amazing time chasing down the 266 species during my 2014 Essex County Big Year but I want to do something different this year (look for my 2014 wrap-up soon).
I will still list all of the birds I see. Yes – I am a lister and proud of it! According to eBird, I recorded 37 species today without really even trying to add them. Not a bad start to a lazy year. I did have a couple surprises today too. My first bird was not the expected House Sparrow or European Starling, but rather a nice male Cardinal. The lighting was less than ideal but a decent bird to start off with! The second surprise was a Snowy Owl that I spotted on the fence at E.C. Row and Lauzon on my way home. Unfortunately it wasn’t in a good spot for photos.
Looking ahead… I hope that Sarah and Emily can join me more often on the trails this year. I’m looking to forward to enjoying a slower pace to birding with them. I think this will also help me to work on my photography skills. I need a lot more practice and that’s my biggest goal this year.
What are you looking at? White-breasted Nuthatch
Lots of these aroud at Ojibway – Tufted Titmouse