Thursday 26 July 2012

Little Blue Heron at Big Creek Conservation Area

This evening Laura and I headed down to Big Creek Conservation Area to search for the Little Blue Heron. Kory Renaud and Chip Weseloh had originally found it two nights ago, coming in to roost with all the Great Egrets and visible from the hawk tower. Andrew Keaveney had relocated it last night around the same time (8:00 PM) flying around, so I was hoping that this bird would do the same thing for the 3rd night in a row.

After a 3.5 hour drive we pulled into the parking lot for the hawk tower right around 7:00 PM and climbed to the top to begin our search. It was hot and sticky with not even a hint of a breeze as Laura and I started scanning. Some Common Gallinules here, a Pied-billed Grebe there. A flock of Bonaparte's Gulls, about 4 species of swallows, and some Lesser Yellowlegs. Our shirts were soaked with sweat but we kept searching. Eventually we saw a few American White Pelicans off in the distance. I noticed 3, but there could have been more as I barely even glanced at them - visions of Little Blue Herons were still dancing in my mind.

Eventually some of the egrets started to fly around and settle in a woodlot to the southwest of the hawk tower to roost for the night. This is where it started to get tricky, and I was very glad to have Laura manning the scope while I used my binoculars. Between the two of us we hoped that the small, white egret with grayish legs and bill wouldn't slip by undetected.

At 7:23 PM I was scanning with my binoculars when I picked up a smaller heron high above the trees. It circled around a few times, and as it descended below the treeline I could see that it didn't have a bright orange bill like all the Great Egrets. Laura quickly got on it, but not long after it disappeared behind some trees and landed. It was either a Snowy Egret or juvenile Little Blue Heron, but I couldn't say with certainty due to the back lit view and the distance. Fortunately for us, about 10 minutes later it took off again, flying around. We could see it a little better this time, and sure enough it did not have the yellow feet of a Snowy Egret! I blew my photos but you can kind of see the size difference between it and a Great Egret...

small white blob (left), large white blob (right)

This time it settled in the main woodlot with all of the other herons, though hidden out of view. Eventually it walked out to the open and we were able to study it at 60x magnification with the scope. They weren't the best views, but it was definitely a Little Blue Heron!

Little Blue Heron (left) - Big Creek CA

Eventually Jeremy Hatt and Mark Field arrived, hoping to get this bird after a long day of birding various locations across southern Ontario. Of course by this point it was no longer being seen but with some patience Jeremy picked it out again. We watched it for a few more minutes and it even gave us a pretty close flyby! Again, the lighting was shit so this was the best I could do as it flew back towards the woodlot.

Little Blue Heron - Big Creek CA

This Little Blue Heron was my 320th species of the year, but more importantly, another code 4+ bird in the bag! I now have 20 of them and will need another 5 or more to break the record, but probably close to 10 more. This was also a new Ontario bird for me, giving me 350. Just like after seeing the Magnificent Frigatebird earlier this month we celebrated again by going to McDonald's for dinner. Hopefully no more rarities show up soon so that this doesn't become a trend...


Alan Wormington said...

The most shocking part about this post is that you went to McDonald's for dinner LMAO!

Ken Burrell said...

The most shocking part of this comment....Alan using the term 'LMAO'!

Alan Wormington said...

Behold the Little Blue Heron: I have this feeling that in the weeks ahead there are going to be birds all over the place. If so, it would mean other southern herons are lurking about as well. As they say, time will tell.