Tuesday 5 July 2011

Fall shorebird blitz - kicks off with a rarity

Shorebirds are probably my favorite group of birds for a few reasons. First, there is a wide variety of species that migrate through in large numbers. Second, many of the shorebirds can be difficult to identify, making it more of a challenge. And third, the chance of vagrancy is high with this group, making the search for rarities quite enticing.

Seeing as it is now early July, a few species are already on the move southbound. For the next few months, I am going to spend as much time as I can searching some of my favorite haunts for these migrants. Today was my first chance to go out and check my two regular spots that are relative close to where I work in Windsor - the Blenheim sewage lagoons, and the Tilbury lagoons.

After checking Hillman Marsh (it is pretty dead this time of year), I headed east to Blenheim, making a quick stop near Wheatley where a few Dickcissels have been hanging out for a while. Ken Burrell found a male here on June 16 and since then 2-3 males have been seen regularly. The birds did not disappoint and I had excellent scope views of one singing, with 2 others also singing off in the distance.

The Blenheim lagoons had a nice selection of early southbound migrants. Among 40+ Killdeer and 34 Spotted Sandpipers, I also found 2 Short-billed Dowitchers, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 1 Solitary Sandpiper, 17 Lesser Yellowlegs, and 8 Least Sandpipers. They were all hanging out in the irrigation cells as the water levels were still quite high in all 5 lagoons. The back lagoon (number 5) also held a few families of Wood Ducks, a female Ringneck Duck, a male Green-winged Teal, some Ruddy Ducks, and 4 American Wigeons.

Tilbury was my next stop and it did not disappoint. I noticed a few ducks and shorebirds on a small exposed mudflat, and after looking with my scope, a nice American Avocet stood out. This is only my second sighting of this species in Ontario and my first for a few years. A few photos of the beast (please excuse the image quality - I was digiscoping with my 18-55 kit lens):

American Avocet with Mallards - Tilbury lagoons

American Avocet - Tilbury lagoons 

American Avocet - Tilbury lagoons

American Avocet - Tilbury lagoons

Also at Tilbury were 1 Black-crowned Night-heron (new for the year, surprisingly), 1 Great Egret, a few ducks of various species, 1 Lesser Yellowlegs, and about 10 Least Sandpipers.

So there you go. A nice start to the fall shorebird blitz! Last year I didn't get any rarities among the ~25 species of shorebirds I saw during the months of July, August, and September.


dwaynejava said...

Awesome find. Nice way to kick-off the shorebird season. I'de love to go tonight to see the Avocet, but I doubt its still there. A confirmation on Ontbirds from some local birders would be nice!

Brandon Holden said...

Awesome find Josh!!!

Anonymous said...

Dwayne, it seems that the bird has moved on. If you can, check out tilbury a few times this summer. The lagoon there is one of only a few areas in this part of Ontario with a large amount of shorebird and wading bird habitat, so if a rare heron or shorebird ends up in this part of Ontario, there's a decent chance that it will end up at tilbury. Unfortunately it seems that this lagoon is checked far too infrequently.

Thanks Brandon!