Sunday 31 July 2011

Shorebirding - July 31

I decided to finish off the month of July by doing a round of shorebirding to the northwest. Brett Fried and Erika Hentsch joined me, and the goal was to check out the conditions of a few lesser known lagoons on our way to Grand Bend.

The first stop was the Mitchell lagoons. To be honest, this location really sucks right now. The only bit of shorebird habitat was the narrow island. All we found were:
8 Lesser Yellowlegs
5 Least Sandpipers
1 Semipalmated Sandpiper
1 Spotted Sandpiper
a few Killdeer

The next spot was the Seaforth Sewage lagoons. I had no idea if there was even access to this place. The gate was open however so we drove right in. All the lagoons were very full, but there were a few scattered LESAs and LEYEs around the edges. The highlight for me though was a leucistic Mallard!

We continued on to the Hensall lagoons. The gate was locked and no trespassing signs were everywhere. We didn't want to be shot, so we continued to Exeter.

This was actually probably the highlight of the day. As we arrived, we saw a Vesper Sparrow flush from the road. After parking the buzzing notes of Grasshopper Sparrows were everywhere. Other sparrows seen here include Field, Chipping, Song, and Savannah.

While checking out the numerous swallows we were surprised to see an all white thing. I managed to get some shots from a very long distance with the new lens, and it appeared to be an albino or leucistic tree swallow. The day of abnormally plumaged birds continued.

leucistic Tree Swallow

Also, check out this swallow. Unlike the nearby Cliff swallows, this one had a dark forehead, much like a Cave Swallow. However the throat pattern seemed more in line with Cliff. Can anyone provide any insight?

Petrochelidon swallow - Exeter sewage lagoons

Petrochelidon swallow - Exeter sewage lagoons

In comparison, here is a normal Cliff Swallow from further down the wire.

Petrochelidon swallow - Exeter sewage lagoons

Water levels were high but there were still a good variety of ducks. Only a few common shorebirds were present.

The last stop was Grand Bend. Unfortunately there were not really any huge numbers of shorebirds like we expected. I saw my first Semi Plovers of the fall, and there were also a bunch of Solitary, LEYE, LESA, semi sands, etc. No Pectorals, Dowitchers, Stilt Sands, Baird's, Greater Yellowlegs etc. Quite dissapointing actually. The White-throated Sparrow was still singing strong, and we also had a bunch of Bobolinks near the entrance. A Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Eastern Phoebe rounded out the sightings. At this point the day was getting quite warm so we called it quits and headed back home.

Bobolinks - Grand Bend sewage lagoons


dwaynejava said...

Great report Josh. I love the final bobolink shot!

Blake A. Mann said...

I remember one of those white Tree Swallows at Blenheim Lagoons a few years ago! Very neat.
Not sure about the odd Cliff Swallow.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dwayne. I'm looking forward to trying out the new lens for more than just record shots!

Blake, that is the first leucistic bird I've seen (other than Mallards). I did a google search and there are quite a few photos of white Tree Swallows, so I guess it is more common than it seems! We called it an Ivory Swallow.

Stuart Immonen said...

Thanks for the lagoon details on the Guleph/KW board and for this informative post, Josh. It's a great help for my map project.