Sunday 17 August 2014

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in Toronto

The last number of weeks have been busy for me and as a result my birding has been sporadic at best. This weekend however, with my girlfriend Laura now in town, we went camping at Charleston Lake Provincial Park for a few days with family, a trip that I will post about in the next few days. Laura and I arrived back home this afternoon and after unpacking and doing some chores, I noticed on Ontbirds that a reported Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was still being seen at Colonel Sam Smith Park in Toronto.

This juvenile night-heron was originally found and posted to Ebird by Stephen Smith on Saturday with an accompanying photo - a great example of a Yellow-crowned! Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, along with other "southern" wading birds like ibises, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, and even Wood Storks, regularly disperse during mid summer to places further north with occasional individuals arriving in Ontario. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron averages about one record a year in the province. My only sighting involved a flyby of an adult at Hillman Marsh in September 2012, so I was looking forward to studying a juvenile in Ontario. I think this was the first "twitchable" one in a few years in Ontario.

The drive only took about 40 minutes and we rolled into the parking lot at Colonel Sam around 5:00 PM. The park was busy with dog-walkers and other people out enjoying the rare sunny weather. Laura and I walked over towards the pond where we ran into several birders. With no sign of the heron, I called Len Manning who had seen it earlier in the day and he pointed us into the right direction on the east side of the pond. It was Henrique Pacheco who first noticed the bird, standing on the shoreline and slowly walking along. 

Unfortunately my camera and big lens are out of commission (they don't swim well) so I was delegated to using my backup D40 with the 18-55 lens to try to digiscope the heron. As you can see they are not great photos but enough to ID the bird.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - Toronto

Some of the ways to tell apart a juvenile Yellow-crowned from a Black-crowned include the thick, blunt, and mostly dark bill, small white spots on the wing coverts, thin streaks on the chest, and long-legs and neck. I find that Yellow-crowneds look like a ganglier, darker bird compared to a Black-crowned Night-Heron. I never did capture a photo of it with it's neck extended.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - Toronto

This was the first time I actually spend studying this species at close range, and my first photos of one in Ontario. A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!


Brandon Holden said...

Nice bird JV - I've also recently discovered that cameras don't enjoy swimming (2 died that way in 4 days back in July)

Linda said...

Great series! Greetings from Montreal!

Josh Vandermeulen said...

Sorry to hear that! Hopefully not the big one....

Josh Vandermeulen said...

Thanks Linda, cheers!