Tuesday, 16 September 2014

White Ibis in Wheatley

Last night a juvenile White Ibis was eBirded by Saffron Mrva at the bridge near the Two Creeks campground at Wheatley Provincial Park. It wasn't posted to eBird until later in the evening, but Kory Renaud decided to scour the park early this morning in hopes of turning it up. He quickly relocated it and posted to the listserv. Other local birders managed to see the bird and it was reported all morning.

This was a bird I really wanted to chase, as I had never seen one in Canada before. Prior to this year the OBRC had only accepted 5 records of this species, with only one of those birds staying in one spot for more than a day (October 1990, Turkey Point). Surprisingly Ontario has had three juvenile White Ibis reported in the past three weeks. One was near Napanee from August 24-26, then a bird only staying fora few hours at Oshawa Second Marsh on September 11. Is this one bird making its way down the lower Great Lakes? Or do we have several White Ibises (ibi?) in the province right now? I would be inclined to think that the Pelee bird is different than the Lake Ontario bird(s) - its a hell of a distance from Oshawa to Wheatley, switching lakes, no less. This individual would be the second record for Point Pelee, (the first consisted of a brief flyover on September 27, 1970) and the first for Chatham-Kent..

I wasn't going to chase the bird at first, but after tying up some things at work and realizing that I could finish early for the day, I worked through lunch than packed up at 2:00, and by 2:20 I had left my house in Aurora.

Some traffic in London delayed my drive down, but around 6:30 PM I finally pulled in to Wheatley Provincial Park. Jeremy Bensette  and Chris Gaffan had arrived an hour earlier and Jeremy called to let me know that the bird was still there. A relief!

I parked in the Two Creeks campground near the bridge in question just as the skies, which had threatened all along my drive, were looking ominous again. A group of about a dozen birders were lined up on the bridge, all staring intently to the north.

juvenile White Ibis - Wheatley Provincial Park

The bird was distant but easily identifiable as a juvenile White Ibis! While adults of this species are all white with pink legs and faces, the juveniles are a dingy brown colour from a distance. Up close however the orange facial skin, chocolate-brown back, and white flanks were quite noticeable! After watching the bird forage near a Black-crowned Night-Heron and Great Egret along the creek, I headed along a trail running parallel to the creek for some closer looks. The ibis foraged constantly and certainly looked content!

juvenile White Ibis - Wheatley Provincial Park

Eventually as darkness encroached most of the herons got up and began flying around. The ibis soon left flying south down the creek. We did not see where exactly it landed but it didn't look like it was planning on going very far, and is likely roosting in a tree somewhere for the night. Here's hoping it returns to the same spot for others who are searching tomorrow!

juvenile White Ibis - Wheatley Provincial Park


  1. Great photos. The thing stayed in the back of that bay while were were there!

  2. The Ibis flew right over my head just as I arrived on the bridge and set my scope down. It landed in the water in front of me to give great views. Easy, peasy! lol
    It was spooked when someone came over the bridge and flew to the opposite side, foraged a bit and then apparently flew over the trees, never to be spotted again.
    Seeing this bird makes up for dipping on the Smith's Longspurs for me. :D