Friday, 23 August 2013

Brown Pelican at Wheatley Harbour!

The big news in Ontario birding this week was most certainly the Brown Pelican at Wheatley harbour. Alan Wormington was standing on the pier at Wheatley Tuesday morning when the pelican came in and landed on the breakwall. What a bird! Unfortunately I was on my way to work when I heard the news and I had a busy few days of work lined up.

The bird continued to be seen the rest of the day and then Wednesday, so when it was reported to still be present on Thursday Laura and I made plans to drive down to Pelee and see it. Not only would this be a new Point Pelee bird for me, but a new Ontario bird!

Unfortunately I was delayed for a crucial 15 minutes at work. These 15 minutes, combined with the highway being paved near Rondeau, delayed us just enough that by the time we rolled into Wheatley harbour the sky was dark. Not even a trace of the daylight remained, yet we still walked up to the edge of the water and still scanned the pier, lit with the dim glow of the distant harbour lights. We did see a mysterious large, light brown object roosting on top of the pier, but couldn't say for sure that it was the pelican! Admitting defeat, we were determined to find it the next morning.

We arrived around 7:30 and sure enough, there was the pelican on top of the breakwall! It turns out that it almost certainly was the mysterious bird was the previous night. We were pretty excited and I took a few photos of the bird as it slept.

Brown Pelican - Wheatley Harbour

Brown Pelican - Wheatley Harbour

After about 1/2 an hour of watching, the bird finally woke and stretched its wings. Eventually it took off in flight, heading southeast out to the lake. There it landed on the water and sat for about 5 minutes before returning back to the breakwall.

Brown Pelican - Wheatley Harbour

An adult Osprey flew over at one point.

Osprey - Wheatley Harbour

This bird was originally found in Cleveland back in June I believe, and it had been seen there on and off (mostly on) ever since. On August 16 it disappeared. Perhaps it had been using Wheatley harbour in the days prior to Alan finding it.

Brown Pelican - Wheatley Harbour

There are only 8 previously accepted records of this species for Ontario; most occuring in 2002 and 1994 when several pelicans were found in various locations in the province. The 1994 records are thought to pertain to the same adult Brown Pelican. Previously this year, Brown Pelicans were reported from Niagara Falls and Leamington both earlier this summer. Maybe this is the same bird?

Brown Pelican - Wheatley Harbour

After the pelican excitement we made our way back home, stopping at a couple of sewage lagoons to check for shorebirds. The highlight at Ridgetown were 3 phalaropes (1 Red-necked, 2 Wilson's) as well as 5 Stilt Sandpipers. Hespeler Mill Pond in Cambridge had lower numbers of shorebirds than on my last visit, though the locally uncommon Stilt Sandpiper and Short-billed Dowitcher were still present.

It was a quick visit to the Pelee area but certainly worthwhile! Now Laura and I can each say that we have seen both species of Ontario pelican in one week.


Blake A. Mann said...

Good you got to see it! Seems to be co-operating to allow everyone a chance to have the experience of seeing this rare bird for Ontario.
Something else will show soon.....

Anonymous said...

Thanks Blake. Looks like I saw it just in time as it flew back "home" to Cleveland 5 hours after we saw it....

Anonymous said...

I saw a brown pelican at Tommy Thompson park yesterday. I have a couple of pictures of the bird in the water and one of it in flight. I don't know much about birds, but I was stunned to see a pelican. A couple of other cyclist took some photos. Mine are from my phone, so the quality is not good. Rob Watt