I hadn't been to the Erieau area for quite awhile, so decided to check it out on Saturday. The winds were favourable for some hawk movement. Turkey Vultures, although technically not a raptor but fly in with many raptors on the fall migration, were fairly common.
|Baird's Sandpiper (L), Least Sandpiper (R)|
On Sunday I got word from Steve Charbonneau that there was an abundance of Nelson's Sparrows at the Keith McLean Conservation Area. In a way this was not surprising. I lived right across from the KMCA for more than 5 years when Keith was alive and farming the property. He always left some natural habitat, especially near the wetland areas, and even planted several acres of tallgrass prairie on the east side of the property as well as the east side of the creek system. After Keith passed away and the property was given to the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority several years ago, the property has increased in wildlife values and I knew it would draw a greater diversity of wildlife and therefore a greater number of birders. To date there have been 173 species of birds seen here, and likely other species that have not yet been reported.
With the high water levels of this year resulting in much more extensive wetland habitat, it was only a matter of time when some rarer species of birds showed up. It has not been disappointing in the least, as species like Snowy Egret, American Avocet, Willet and Red Knot have put in an appearance for birders this year already. Looking at the grassy/weedy field edges adjacent to the creek system, it looked perfect for Nelson's Sparrow. The species migrates through southern Ontario every year from their Hudson Bay Lowlands breeding range, but are very secretive even in the usual spots one finds them. A conservative estimate was on this day was 15, with the likelihood of at least 20. However they were always on the move flitting back and forth between the grassy area and the cattail vegetation and being the very furtive species that they are, it was difficult to get a precise number. I headed out in the afternoon, and although I did see several, it was so windy that even on the rare occasion that a bird was visible, it wasn't visible for long. They dropped into the grasses and out of sight very quickly. I did not get any photos.
Yesterday was another windy, blustery day but I decided to try again for some photos of this relatively elusive species. While searching for the target species and waiting for one to pop up and remain in some kind of view for more than a split second, I saw lots of other species.
One of the less expected species was Indigo Bunting. Most would have departed the province several weeks ago. There were actually at least 4 and possibly 5 or 6 individuals, all sporting the female/immature plumage. It is entirely likely this was a family group, and perhaps raised locally.
Sandhill Cranes are not unusual, as they nest nearby, with some persisting into early winter. But they are a photogenic species so I often try and get a photo when the opportunity arises.