Tuesday 19 March 2013

More from Pelee

When this gets posted, I will be on a jet across the Atlantic ocean to visit the beautiful Laura Bond. My next post should have photos of European birds!

Anyways, about a week ago I visited Ontario's banana belt for a few days - specifically the Point Pelee area. I was going to post some photos from that trip, but then excursions to Haldimand County, the Collingwood and Owen Sound areas, and Toronto got in the way! Anyways, here is a day by day summary of the trip.

March 10:

Drove from Cambridge down to Point Pelee. I had my first migrant Turkey Vulture of the year just outside of Cambridge, then ended up seeing 0 more the rest of the trip!
The highlight for the drive down by far was a Common Raven flying over the highway just outside of London in Middlesex County.

I checked the Rondeau area in the afternoon, though I could not find much of interest. No little white geese to speak of! There was quite a high number of waterfowl in Rondeau Bay, though much of it was too distant to ID. Ridgetown lagoons was great with 6 Canvasback, 48 Tundra Swans, and my first big flocks of blackbirds being highlights for me!

From here it was off to Point Pelee - specifically the Couture Dyke to search for the Greater White-fronted Geese that had been reported on and off throughout Hillman and the onion fields. There was a huge number of Canada Geese back here, and by carefully scoping them I found a flock of 8 Cackling Geese mixed in. Cool! I scanned the large flocks of wigeon and pintail, though I couldn't find any rarities mixed in. I was specifically looking to find a Eurasian Wigeon all weekend, to no success. The White-fronted Geese weren't here unfortunately.

While I was driving the onion fields, I got a text from Kory Renaud that he and Sarah had just found the target geese in a field just south of Hillman Marsh. I was pleasantly surprised to see 34 of them, though they were quite distant! This was not only a new Pelee bird for me, but the first time that I had ever seen more than 2 together in Ontario.

trust me, about 20 of the White-fronted Geese are in this photo!

Jeremy Bensette drove up while I was looking at the geese. We spent the rest of the daylight checking out some areas near NW Hillman Marsh.

The first two Tree Swallows of the year were combing the air above the shorebird cell for insects. This was the earliest I had seen this species in Ontario, beating my previous best of March 13 (from last year).

We finished the day by listening to a pair of Great Horned Owls dueting, while the occasional Long-eared Owl flew past and at least 4 American Woodcocks "peeent"ed. A great day!

March 11

Jeremy and I started the day by birding Point Pelee National Park. We checked out the tip area, though it was very quiet for passerines. Presumably the strong winds had something to do with that!

I was happy to spot two 2nd winter Iceland Gulls sitting on the tip. This was another new Pelee bird for me! There was a 2nd winter Glaucous Gull and an adult Lesser Black-backed here as well. Some ducks were migrating past, including a few small flocks of Green-winged Teal and a Horned Grebe.

While walking the park road, we ran into Alan Wormington who had just found a Snow Goose just outside of the park gate. This would be another new Pelee bird for me. We made a brief check of several locations in the park and found quite a few sparrows, though they were all American Tree, Song, and Dark-eyed Junco. A highlight was a group of 5 Eastern Meadowlarks in Sparrow Field.

Fortunately, the Snow Goose was right where it was supposed to be!

We checked the flooded onion fields extensively and combed through thousands of Ring-billed Gulls. Several Glaucous and Lesser Black-backed were mixed in, but none of the hoped for Mew or California Gulls! 5 Greater White-fronted Geese were mixed in with a flock of Canada Geese along Mersea Road 19.
Also, I realized that female pheasants can really blend in to corn stubble.

Here's a funny looking pheasant - a young male maybe? To be honest I know next to nothing about this species.

We went back into the park, but didn't see a whole lot. I finally got my first Rusty Blackbird of the year in a flooded slough just north of the Visitor's Center. We ended the day scoping the thousands of ducks at the shorebird cell at Hillman in strong winds and rain. We thought that the newly-erected shelter/blind would provide some protection from the elements, but it did the opposite! The horizontal rain went right through it, and its design acted like a wind tunnel! We were better off standing outside of it.

March 12

I had a later start than usual, but the cold and windy weather did not seem very inviting for birding. I checked Hillman Marsh out briefly, including the south end, but didn't see much of interest. Later on I heard that Alan had found 43(!!) Greater White-fronted Geese, a new high for Point Pelee and presumably southern Ontario as well. I basically worked my way back to Cambridge along the north shore of Lake Erie. There were some birds here and there, and the highlight for me was finding 4 Snow Geese at the Aylmer WMA. A Northern Shrike was also in the area. Notable for the area were 3 Long-tailed Ducks at the Port Stanley sewage lagoons. Long-tailed Ducks are hard to come by on Lake Erie, so to get 3 together at close range was nice! I also had 6 Canvasbacks at the Aylmer sewage lagoons.

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