Sunday 29 January 2017

Sarnia and the St. Clair

Today was the annual Nature London field trip to the St. Clair River.  We met this morning at 7:30, and started the day by heading to the traditional Snowy Owl spot. I spotted one on top of a hill on the way, however only the cars behind us got to see the bird as the rest of the group didn’t notice us stop, so they kept on driving.

20 minutes later we came back with everyone else, but the owl was nowhere to be seen.

The drive to Sarnia was quite uneventful in the beginning, but as we neared our first destination, things picked up. One of the channels held hundreds of waterfowl, and we managed to pick-out such birds as American Black Duck,  Northern Pintail,  and a Black Duck x Mallard hybrid among the geese and Mallards.
European Starlings

Canada Geese

Wawanosh Wetlands didn’t yield the Northern Shrike we were hoping for, but Downy Woodpeckers kept us entertained.

Upon leaving the wetlands, we picked out a Green-winged Teal in one of the channels leading out of the Conservation Area. It’s a great bird for this time of year.

We couldn’t find much in the way of birds in Canatara Park. We were counting on seeing the Eastern Screech Owl that usually overwinters in the petting zoo, but it wasn’t to be.

Long-tailed Ducks and Mergansers could be found on the lake and under Bluewater Bridge.
Long-tailed Ducks

The marina is usually the best bet to finding something good, and it didn’t let us down today. Despite us only finding 3 species of gulls (and one HERG x GBBG hybrid), we found most of our waterfowl here, and a couple other goodies such as two American Coots, and eight Cackling Geese swimming in a line, a lifer for many of those present.
American Coot

Cackling Geese

After lunch, we headed back to the marina where we found a small raft of Redheads close to shore with Canvasback, Greater Scaup, and a Ring-necked Duck mixed in.

Ring-necked Duck

American Black Ducks provided better views than earlier in the day.

Heading down river, we were awarded with decent looks at various ducks. The only new waterfowl species we added were White-winged Scoter and Mute Swan.

Redheads and Scaup

Common Goldeneye and Herring Gull

Mute Swan

Sombra wasn't as spectacular as we thought it would be, probably due to the snow moving in. I didn't take any photos here as it was pretty boring.

We bid farewell to half the group, then some of us went down Bentpath Line. Instead of a Short-eared Owl at the solar farm, we found a nice female Northern Harrier.

46 (give or take) Wild Turkeys were a nice surprise. Sure beats the groups of 3 or 4 we see around London! There was a group about this size along the road last year was well.

Our first Rough-legged Hawk of the trip was spotted about 20 minutes later.

Our first and only Bald Eagle soon followed. The trip leader was pleased.

Snow Buntings are always a joy to come across, and we observed a large group on Nauvoo Rd.

The group tried the Snowy Owl spot one last time before calling it quits. We quickly located one on a telephone pole.

"I'm Outta Here!"

All in all, it was a "slow" day, but it was filled with great birds.

Trip List:

Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
American Black Duck
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
White-winged Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Wild Turkey
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Snowy Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
European Starling
Snow Bunting
American Tree Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Total: 51 species


  1. Glad you had a decent outing.
    I find early morning is best along the St. Clair River.

  2. I'll probably have to go and explore the area myself sometime. Looks like you had some good birds in the morning.