Great Egret

Great Egret

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

April fooling!

All around the country side, the appearance of winter is changing over. It was only a couple of days ago that the large drainage canals in the former Dover Twp were breaking up. They are mostly open now.

Remnant snow drifts along the road sides revealed what they were concealing beneath the mounds of white. Here a Striped Skunk met its end. Did it get hit by a car or a snow plow while crossing the road (it should have taken notes from the chicken :-)....regardless, I doubt if many people will shed tears over its demise.

Skunks do have a role in nature, and even now, its remains will nourish large scavengers, such as Turkey Vulture or numerous smaller scavengers....the decomposers such as carrion beetles and fly larvae, a.k.a maggots who will do their thing. If natures cleaner-uppers weren't around we would be up to our necks in dead creatures!

I was lured today, April 1, to the Erieau area due to the reports yesterday of Eurasian Wigeon and shorebirds such as Lesser Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpiper. It was a very balmy 18C when I left home, but I knew with the brisk southwesterly winds coming off of the ice on the lake, it would be considerably cooler at Erieau.

It was. It never got above 8C, and with the wind chill, it felt barely above freezing. There is still lots of ice along the lakeshore and well out into the lake.

The Rondeau dock, what is left of it. Nature can do the unexpected, sometimes quite violently, and this structure paid the price.

But there are gradually a few open areas showing up in the ice, and a steady dose of warmer temperatures, brisk winds and spring rains will speed up the process! The open water of Rondeau Bay at Erieau is opening up quickly. And Great Blue Herons have arrived back to their nesting tree near Shrewsbury. I saw four birds at the nest tree yesterday, inspecting the nests to see how they survived the winter and what needs to be done to get them patched up for the new season. I am looking forward to getting my kayak out and photographing this small nesting colony in a few weeks.

While I was at Erieau today, I ran into several other birders with similar hopes of finding the Eurasian Wigeon. The partly flooded fields east of McGeachy Pond were perfect.....and there were lots of ducks! American Wigeon and Northern Pintail were by far the most common, and in the greatest numbers I have seen this spring. Green-winged Teal were also fairly abundant, and catching a quick glimpse of their reddish head gave cause to take a second look....Eurasian Wigeon look very much like an American Wigeon, but have the reddish head. There were a few Northern Shoveler and Redhead, as well as Mallards and American Black ducks. But no Eurasian Wigeon. It may have been there, but there were too many low wet spots and too much tall corn stubble...the combination of which is ideal for hiding a single bird. Collectively the half-dozen birders spend at least 11 person-hours scanning all possible spots with 'scopes, but it was not to be seen today as far as we know.

Shorebirds are slowly increasing in numbers and diversity. I didn't catch up to the Lesser Yellowlegs, but I did have two Pectoral Sandpipers and a single Dunlin. Unfortunately they were too far away for a photo to prove it!

I ventured out along the Erieau Railroad Trail. The snow is almost gone, so it made the hiking conditions much better. There were lots of Song Sparrows. I saw a single Northern Flicker as well as a single White-throated Sparrow, the latter of which was skulking in the shrubbery and allowed me to take one record shot. It looked fairly fresh, almost like a spring migrant, but I suspect it was an over-wintering bird. They don't usually come back until the end of April.

Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles were in abundance. Even though they are so common, they are still attractive in their own way.

The partly clear skies and westerly winds just might induce a few more migrant birds to arrive over night!

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