Tuesday 9 April 2013

Ruffing it

Two days ago, Alan Wormington found a Ruff at Hillman Marsh, near Point Pelee National Park. This European species of shorebird is a fairly regular wanderer to North America including the Great Lakes region. Usually there are betwee 1 and 5 records annually in Ontario, though it is a species that I had never seen before. Barb Charlton, Brett Fried and I decided to drive down to Point Pelee and see if we could find it.

We ended up searching the Hillman Marsh area for the majority of our time, unsuccessfully I might add. We checked the entire perimeter of Hillman Marsh and we walked the length of the Hillman dyke. Shorebirds were in abundance with about 300 Pectoral Sandpipers, several dozen yellowlegs (of both species), good numbers of Dunlins, and about 40 Wilson's Snipes. A nice surprise was a pair of Snow Geese that flew overhead with 2 Canada Geese. Later on we found them in the southeast corner of the marsh.

Snow Geese - Hillman Marsh

Snow Geese - Hillman Marsh

In addition to all the shorebirds, a few other "first of spring" migrants were around. Several Marsh Wrens called deep within the phragmites, Blue-winged Teal had arrived in numbers, a single Caspian Tern was sitting on a mud flat with a gull flock, and about four Great Egrets were found in various locations. Among the numerous Tree Swallows were two each of Barn Swallow and Purple Martin.

I was happy to spot a/the Eurasian Wigeon in the boardwalk area of Hillman Marsh. This was a long-awaited new Pelee bird for me! You can kind of see a gray duck with a red head in the (heavily cropped) photo below.

Eurasian Wigeon - Hillman Marsh

After tallying about 75 species near Hillman, we entered the park to see what was going on. It was cold and fairly windy, but the west side of the point was calm and numerous phoebes were in abundance. The large sparrow flocks consisted of 50% Field Sparrows, with small numbers of a few other species mixed in. Feeding with the sparrows in some grassy areas were 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet and several Golden-crowned Kinglets, evidently new migrants. Hermit Thrush, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Winter Wren, Eastern Bluebird, and Horned Grebe rounded out some of the migrants.

At the Visitor Centre, dozens of kinglets were feeding in the grassy areas between the parking lots. It was obvious that the large number of kinglets, combined with the low temperatures made any available insects a hot commodity, with many birds forced to feed on the ground within a few feet of us. I wonder how many of these kinglets will perish after an episode like this. We did find one dead bird.

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Point Pelee National Park

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Point Pelee National Park

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Point Pelee National Park

Despite missing our prime target (the Ruff), we still saw quite a few interesting birds including lots of new migrants. I am excited for what the next few weeks bring!


Unknown said...

Congrats on the new Pelee bird. Not a bad consolation!

Alan Wormington said...

And he got an awesome photo of it too!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kory! Glad it hung around for me.