Monday 31 October 2016

Two Lakes in Two Days

When a birder thinks of late October, they think of ducks. Ducks were my primary target this weekend, and I was hoping to add all three scoter species to my life list (I did!).  Also on my mind was Golden Eagles (nope), Red-shouldered Hawks (nope) and a rarity that you'll have to read on to find out what it was.

The trip started Friday, and the first location my dad (he wanted to come too) and I visited was Hawk Cliff in Elgin.

the cliff

I was hoping some GOEA would fly through, but none appeared. The weather system on the shores of Lake Ontario has cut off many of the raptors coming in from Quebec. Despite no migratory birds of prey, there was quite the variety of smaller birds including Purple Finch (trip lifer #1), Yellow-rumped Warbler, Fox Sparrow, kinglets, Cedar Waxwings, White-breasted Nuthatches, sparrows, and Downy Woodpeckers.

Purple Finch

YR Warbler

WB Nuthatch

White-crowned Sparrow

We drove about an hour to our next stop, Morpeth Cliffs. There were a number of ducks here including Greater Scaup, Redhead, White-winged Scoter (trip lifer #2), and Red-breasted Merganser.

WW Scoter

Next up was Blenheim Sewage Lagoons. We stopped in at the post office to get a permit and the code for the gate (you can't get in without them). This was my first time visiting the lagoons, and I know that I'll be back!

All the cells were covered with hundreds of Ruddy Ducks and over a thousand Bonaparte's Gulls.

A few other ducks could be found as well.

Northern Shoveler

Shorebirds are still present, and there were about 80 dunlin, along with yellowlegs, Killdeer, and a Wilson's Snipe, which I flushed while walking along the berm.


You haven't really lived until you've been swarmed by Bonies!

You may have heard about the recent "invasion" of Cattle Egrets in southern Ontario. I was lucky enough to catch up with one of the four that have been spotted at the lagoons in the last week.

It was quite flighty, and the only way I could get any good photos was by hiding in a ditch or behind a pile of junk...I'm pretty sure I got my tetanus shot. A Rusty Blackbird (trip lifer #4) flew over head at this point as well.

At one point the egret got between me and my dad.

Awesome (trip lifer #3)!

Erieau was next, and I managed to pick out five species of gulls on the pier.

This Herring Gull kind of scares me.

Horned Grebes are now in their winter plumage. It's quite the opposite of their breeding plumage!

Can you spot the Great Blue Heron? (hint: it's beside the Red-breasted Merganser)

The next day, we started in Sarnia.

There really wasn't all too much to look at other than a large raft of Redhead/Scaup and a Black Scoter (trip lifer #5) off Canatara Park.

Since there wasn't anything else to look at, it was off to Kettle Point!

Immediately I managed to find a small group of about 8 scoters with White-winged, Black, and Surf (trip lifer #6).

Pied-billed and Horned Grebes were abundant. I found a Common Loon as well.

There was some hunting going on, so there wasn't too many ducks.

Forest Sewage Lagoons was the last stop. A number of Mallards, Green-winged Teal, and Black Ducks were flying around.

GW Teal

Common Milkweed is pretty much done for the season.

South-western Ontario residents may have noticed the large flocks of migrating crows lately.

Happy Halloween!

Sparrows were abundant, and I saw several FOS American Tree Sparrows.

I also added a new shorebird species to the trip list, Black-bellied Plover, a Dunlin was with them.

A few Sulphurs were flying around, including this Clouded Sulphur.

It was quite the couple of days, and I'm sure that I'll be out again soon!


On a side note, my life list is now at 233, only 17 off from my goal of 250 by the end of 2016.

Birds that I still have a chance to see:

1. Red-throated Loon
2. Black Vulture
3. Red-shouldered Hawk
4. Golden Eagle
5. White-rumped Sandpiper
6. Little Gull
7. Thayer's Gull
8. Long-eared Owl
9. Short-eared Owl
10. Northern Saw-whet Owl
11. American Pipit
12. Common Redpoll
13. Lapland Longspur
14. Yellow-headed Blackbird
15. Bohemian Waxwing

plus maybe a few rarities will show up!