Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A new year bird....finally

After a dry spell of over two weeks I finally added a new bird to my list today. I had kind of taken it easy since returning from Rainy River with my birding adventures limited to a few mornings somewhat locally. I spent a morning last week in Halton Region, adding about 20 birds to my Halton list which is now approaching 200. A few days later I drove around the backroads of Brant County, a location where I had never really done any birding before despite it being so close to home. Among the 72 species I saw were a few "good" ones in Red-headed Woodpecker, Common Gallinule, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Winter Wren, Black-billed Cuckoo, and Sandhill Crane. Nothing earth shattering and certainly no year birds, but it was fun just to explore new areas in places where birders rarely, if ever, go. I did stop to photograph a pair of Barn Swallows that morning since they were letting me approach closely and I hadn't ever photographed that species before.

Barn Swallow - Brant County

 Barn Swallow is a Threatened species in Ontario, despite still being common in most rural areas. The reason for Barn Swallows being listed is the sharp decline that they have gone under - about 65% between 1966 and 2009 (Sauer et al., 2011).

Barn Swallow - Brant County

Today I decided to try my hand at some shorebirding at some of the lagoons west of the Kitchener/Waterloo area. This is a good time of year for rare shorebirds to show up and Ruff, a European species, has been in the news recently with multiple birds being scattered across North America. I have it listed as a code-4 bird for Ontario.

I checked a number of lagoons - Tavistock, Milverton, Mitchell, Dublin, Seaforth, and Hensall - with Milverton and Mitchell both having excellent habitat and quite a few birds! I was hoping to make it over to Exeter, Grand Bend, Forest, and Strathroy but ran out of time and motivation once the temperature started soaring around noon.

At Milverton the front cell and middle cells were mostly empty, but the back cell had lowered water levels creating a huge expanse of mudflats that the shorebirds were utilizing. After a few minutes of scanning I was pleased to pick up an adult alternate-plumaged Stilt Sandpiper - quite a striking bird and a new year bird! I took a few crappy phone-scoped shots since I had purposely left my camera in the car and it was quite the walk back. Leaving the camera in the car usually increases the odds of finding a rarer bird.

Stilt Sandpiper - Milverton lagoons

The total shorebird list for Milverton was:
~30 Killdeer
~80 Lesser Yellowlegs
~15 Greater Yellowlegs
6 Solitary Sandpiper
~25 Spotted Sandpiper
~30 Least Sandpiper
4 Semipalmated Sandpiper
2 hendersonii Short-billed Dowitcher
1 Stilt Sandpiper
1 Pectoral Sandpiper

Mitchell was even better. I was surprised to see the main pond was drained but the pond down the path and behind the chain-link fence had great habitat and was crawling with shorebirds! My counts for here were:

~60 Killdeer
~20 Spotted Sandpiper
~160 Lesser Yellowlegs
~30 Greater Yellowlegs
~50 Least Sandpiper
~10 Semipalmated Sandpiper
~30 Pectoral Sandpiper
6 Stilt Sandpiper
24 Solitary Sandpiper

I actually got a photo of one of the Stilts with the real camera this time, though the photos were quite distant.

I scrutinized every bird as closely as I could but unfortunately there wasn't a Ruff mixed in. A small, bright peep almost made my heart jump until I realized that it was just my first juvenile Least Sandpiper of the season. One of these days someone will turn up a Little or Red-necked Stint somewhere!

While driving a backroad in Perth county, I stumbled upon 3 of these cuties playing on the road...

Red Fox

Red Fox

Red Fox

That's it for now. I think I may head up to Grey County tomorrow morning since I haven't ever birded up there, and there's nothing to chase in Ontario at the moment. I'll also post about my upcoming trip to James Bay soon.

Sauer, J.R., J.E. Hines, J.E. Fallon, K.L. Pardieck, D.J. Ziolkowski, Jr., and W.A. Link.
2011. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 -
2009. Version 3.23.2011. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD.


  1. I hope to be kept busy approving all your sightings from tomorrow :p

  2. Next year birds for Josh: Nelson's Sparrow, then Arctic Tern, then Little Stint!

  3. Yeah, make sure you document all the White-throated Sparrows with photos.