Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Sandhill Cranes, a rare heron and a duck

A few more random photos from this past spring and early summer!

On May 31 I drove to the north end of Simcoe County to check out a new location - Matchedash Bay. The 18 square kilometre natural area is a designated Ramsar wetland (a wetland of international importance, as defined by the Ramsar Convention), Over 550 species of vascular plants, close to 20 species of reptiles and amphibians, and over 170 species of birds can be found in the area.

I explored the wetland complex on a relatively cool, overcast morning on May 31. The birding was excellent and after a couple of hours I had encountered 51 species. Typical marsh species included Virginia Rail, Osprey, Alder Flycatcher and Marsh Wren, while several singing Sedge Wrens were my first of the year. Both Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers were around in small numbers. The highlight bird for me, however, was a single male Cerulean Warbler singing away in the canopy. While I was unable to obtain photos, I did capture a recording of the song and had good enough views of the bird directly above me. Ceruleans have declined considerably in Ontario and it is a bird I rarely encounter. It was a bird that I had missed during the spring migration, despite a concerted effort to find one.

Another big highlight was having a photoshoot with some Sandhill Cranes. As I passed from a section of deciduous woods into an overgrown pasture, two cranes materialized. They tolerated my presence as long as I did not get too close, preferring to feed quietly.

Sandhill Crane - Matchedash Bay

Sandhill Crane - Matchedash Bay

Sandhill Crane - Matchedash Bay

Sandhill Crane - Matchedash Bay

In June I made the long trek eastward to Ottawa on two occasions in search of the provincial-first Little Egret, both times catching a ride with Barb Charlton. I dipped on the bird on June 3, but we were successful on June 24!

During the June 3 stake-out we took a break in the mid-morning to search for a long-staying Yellow-crowned Night-Heron that had materialized on various lawns in a nearby subdivision. This southern heron species strays to Ontario rarely but regularly, usually once or twice a year. Oftentimes these are immature bird in the autumn so we jumped at the chance to see an adult!

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - Kanata

The bird was a bit distant and the lighting was quite contrasty, but I was happy to get even distant record shots.

It was quite entertaining watching the bird as it stalked earthworms!

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - Kanata

This summer was a busy one for me work wise, and just about every week I flew to either Timmins or Thunder Bay for field work. On June 11 I rented a car in Timmins with the plan of driving to Hearst that evening to complete some work nearby in the morning. During June the days are very long in northern Ontario which allowed me to make several birding stops! One particular excursion was to check out a male Eurasian Wigeon at the Moonbeam sewage lagoons that Roxane Filion had discovered earlier in the spring. I keep a Cochrane District list since I've birded there a lot in the last few years and Eurasian Wigeon had been a conspicuous miss on that list.

The bird was right where it was supposed to be, loosely associating with some American Wigeons. The lagoons had a good variety of ducks (eleven species) including both species of scaup and Northern Shoveler.

Eurasian Wigeon - Moonbeam sewage lagoons

Nice bird! Again, a little distant for good photos so these cropped shots will have to do.

Eurasian Wigeon - Moonbeam sewage lagoons

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