Saturday 6 June 2020

Sydenham River Breeding Bird Blitz

Today was the breeding bird blitz at the Sydenham River Nature Reserve, organized by Larry Cornelis. I believe that this is the fourth year of the survey, this being my second time doing it. The Sydenham River Nature Reserve is a piece of property owned by Ontario Nature near Glencoe, right on the Middlesex/Lambton border. It is a very unique property with special plants, breeding birds, and the river, which harbours many aquatic species at risk, including freshwater mussels and fish,

I went early, in hopes of finding a Vesper Sparrow, which breed in the area. I got to Buttonwood Drive, one of the entrances to the reserve, around 6:30. I drove the first bit, but a large tree down in the road halted any progress, so I got out and walked. I tallied 40 species on the road, including Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Wood Thrush, and a Scarlet Tanager. At one point I am almost positive I heard an Acadian Flycatcher calling, and it very well may have been, but with a bird like that I want to be sure. The habitat is basically perfect. 

After Buttonwood, we made our way down Old Airport Road for a bit. A singing Pine Warbler was a bit of a surprise. After several Savannah Sparrows, and a Grasshopper Sparrow, I finally found a Vesper Sparrow! This was actually a new Middlesex bird for me, and a long awaited on at that!

After that success, I went to meet up with a couple other of the surveyors. Larry, as well as Ed Lavender, and I did a section on the east side of the river, the same one we did that year.

Overall, it was a fairly quiet morning in our section. Highlights including several Eastern Wood-pewees, three Scarlet Tanagers, a couple of Yellow-throated Vireos, a Mourning Warbler, and lots of Indigo Buntings. 

As usual, when the going gets slow, you look at other things.

The vegetative communities were quite rich. Several species of sedges can be found in the floodplains.

James' Sedge (Carex jamesii)

Gray's Sedge (Carex grayii)

Longbeak Sedge (Carex sprengelii)

Foxtail Sedge (Carex alopecoidea)

Inflated Narrow-leaved Sedge (Carex grisea)

After a couple hours, we finished up our area, and went back to our cars. Larry and Ed headed out, but I opted to grab my net and head back in. There were a fair number of odonates around. I had a few nice nice species, and by the looks of it, Blake had some nice stuff on his side of the river! I'm thinking a return trip is in order...

I added a few new species to the area on my journey back into the reserve, including a second Mourning Warbler, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, American Redstart, Bald Eagle, and a Wood Duck.

Swift River Cruiser was pretty common in Algonquin Park last summer, but seems to be quite uncommon down here. I saw a few. New for my Middlesex ode list (I had one in Lambton too!) Check out the legs on that thing! All the crusiers have very long legs. Perhaps later this summer Royal River Crusier will be a possibility. It has never been recorded in Middlesex county.

My lifer dragonfly for the day was Midland Clubtail. There were several of them out over the river.

As mentioned earlier, the river is good for freshwater mussels. This next one, Threeridge (Amblema plicata), was quite common along that section.

On my way back I passed by an opening in the floodplain and noticed a large colony of sedges. They looked quite messy in appearance, and as I approached them, I realized it was Hairy-fruited Sedge (Carex trichocarpa). Originally I thought this may have been the first Lambton county record, but I just became aware of a recent one from 2019. I actually think that recent record may have been this exact clump! Oh well, still nice to see.

Another rare species that calls the floodplain home is Beak Grass (Diarrhena obovata). This is ranked S1 in Ontario, with only two known populations of it in the province, here and the Ausable River Valley. 

I'll finish off with this Southern Blue Flag (Iris virginica).

A good day in good (socially distanced) company. Should be interesting to see the results!

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