Saturday, 19 November 2011

Have you met Frank?

I know I wasn't going to post until tomorrow night, but its pitch black by 6:00 PM and I have nothing better to do, so I went to McDonalds to steal their free wifi (its not stealing though - I bought a small coffee for 90 cents so that I wouldn't feel guilty).

I arrived in the Point Pelee area around 2:00 in the morning last night, and after a short sleep in my car I headed down to the Point. Driving towards the park, the winds were already very strong and the waves quite large.

I set up at the tip with Blake Mann and Kevin McLaughlin. After a while Alan Wormington showed up, as did Richard Carr (the "afternoon shift"!). Despite the heavy winds, there were very few "good" birds! Maybe we need a good bout of north winds to bring in some rarer things to Lake Erie.

Despite being a quite common species, I enjoyed watching the 10s of thousands of Red-breasted Mergansers, fighting the wind and streaming past. Occasionally flocks of other ducks would be mixed in with them, and I saw all three scoters, several Black Ducks and Mallards, many Scaup sp. (mostly Greater Scaup), Long-tailed Ducks, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and a few Redheads. Alan saw a Sanderling fly past. Common Loons are Horned Grebes were fairly common too, with about 18 of each seen by me. Unfortunately many of the loons were too distant for me to try to turn them into Pacific Loons!

Perhaps the highlight of the day was watching Kevin almost swimming in the lake to fetch a lost glove! Unfortunately we didn't have our cameras ready and he wasn't about to recreate the shot for us!

Kevin had seen a Franklin's Gull just north of the park on Thursday, and Alan had seen it yesterday. Franklin's Gull is a midwestern species of gull that occasionally wanders into southern Ontario, particularly after strong west winds. I figured after leaving the tip that I would chase this bird, as I've never seen one before. No luck there (its a nemesis bird of mine), so I headed back to the park. As expected there were very few songbirds around. Highlights include Chipping Sparrow, a few young Bald Eagles, and a beautiful Great Horned Owl. Any day where you see an owl is a good day, in my book!

Later that afternoon I headed back to Sturgeon Creek to try for the Franklin's Gull again. This time I lucked out, as the first bird I saw was the Franklin's flying over my car! I was surprised by how dainty they are - almost as small as a Bonaparte's Gull in flight.

I managed to fire off a few frames as it circled. The lighting wasn't the greatest and I had to use a high ISO - hence the low quality shots.

Franklin's Gull - Sturgeon Creek

Franklin's Gull - Sturgeon Creek

The combination of white eye-arcs, long drooping bill, buoyant tern-like flight, and dark half-hood distinguish it as a 1st cycle Franklin's Gull. In the above photo, notice the dark mantle colour and black tail band as well.

Franklin's Gull - Sturgeon Creek

Spurred on by that success, I made my way over to Wheatley harbour, stopping briefly at the north end of Hillman marsh to get a few crappy photos of a Great Egret. It is starting to get late for Great Egrets.

Great Egret - Hillman Marsh

Along Deer Run Road (southwest of Wheatley), I saw a large flock of Ring-billed Gulls behind a house. Immediately I picked out a second Franklin's Gull. Funny how it was my nemesis bird not half an hour earlier, and now I had seen two. By the time I managed to get my camera gear and scope ready for digi-scoping, the bird was farther off in the field against the setting sun so I was unable to take any photos (you should be glad - they would have been pretty crappy quality!). Not a bad day!

Tomorrow I plan on following the lakeshore east, hitting up several harbours, beaches, and sewage lagoons. Maybe I'll see some more gulls named Frank after all these winds.


  1. Its always nice to see "Frank". Not often we see him down this way.
    Larus McLaughlin was the highlight of the day!