Monday, 10 November 2014

Tilbury to Pelee - November 7

This past weekend I made the long familiar drive back down to the Pelee area for a few days of solid birding. With southwest winds forecasted for Saturday and Sunday I was hoping that the lake-watching would be excellent!

A big highlight on the Friday was seeing the Cattle Egret that Brandon had first reported at the Tilbury lagoons a few weeks ago. It had remained on and off in the area in the weeks since, and at one point was briefly joined by three others! 

I had almost circled the lagoons when I finally spotted it hunched down behind some plants at the water's edge, taking shelter from the wind. Strangely, it flew towards me and landed on the dyke only ten feet from my car...

At one point I walked down to the water's edge so that I could try my hand at eye-level photos as the bird foraged for grasshoppers (rather successfully!) on the berm only a few meters from me. Needless to say it was one of the few instances where I removed the teleconverter from my need for the magnification...

Cattle Egret - Tilbury lagoons

Cattle Egrets are "native" to southern Europe and tropical Africa and Asia, though they began a rapid expansion across much of the globe in the late 1800's. The first confirmed breeding record in North America was from Florida in 1953. They quickly spread throughout North America and for a time in the 1970s it seemed like they would soon be a regular Ontario species....Despite a few breeding records, that was not to be and Cattle Egrets remain a rare species in the province. Every spring and fall, however, there are multiple Cattle Egrets seen in the province.

This was only the 3rd Cattle Egret I had seen in the province, and my first for Essex County. For some reason I don't see too many of them!

Cattle Egret - Tilbury lagoons

My favorite photo of the bunch! It was extremely difficult getting a clean shot without a ton of vegetation in the way.

Cattle Egret - Tilbury lagoons

It was extremely efficient at hunting grasshoppers and grabbed about five big ones in less than a minute. It also didn't seem to mind me hanging out with it...I think it would make a good pet.

Cattle Egret - Tilbury lagoons

A check of Wheatley harbour turned up a number of Horned Grebes but not the Eared. For some reason I didn't look at my photos closely enough and I mistakenly thought this was the Eared.

Horned Grebe - Wheatley Harbour

A nice looking Horned Grebe...

Horned Grebe - Wheatley Harbour

A final highlight on Friday was spending over an hour to sift through the massive flock of ducks on the east side of the tip. The lighting was on my back, the winds had died down and the ducks were mostly milling about (as opposed to frequently diving) making identification easier. There were over 15,000 present making it very tough picking out that "needle in a haystack" such as an eider, Harlequin Duck, or something crazier. Needless to say I did not see any of the above species, though it was nice to have prolonged close-up views of three scoter species as well as some locally uncommon Long-tailed Ducks. Greater Scaup outnumbered the Lesser Scaup slightly.

ducks - Point Pelee National Park

That's all I've got for the Friday!

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