Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Sunny with a few birds and herps today.

Tis the season for tapping maple trees. It is a great Canadian tradition, and Canada produces most of the maple syrup in North America. Species besides Sugar Maple have been tapped, but Sugar Maple produces the best quality and quantity. There isn't much tapping in southwestern Ontario.....there may be only one producer in Chatham-Kent. It is a lot of work, and even though the price of maple syrup seems high to the consumer, the producer really doesn't make a lot for all the hours they put into it and the cost of equipment.

Here, at Sinclair's Bush in southern C-K are pails collecting the delicious sap, which will be boiled down to that rich, tasty syrup many of us love.

After driving through Sinclair's Bush I continued to Rondeau and headed straight for the South Point Trail. The forecast indicated the winds had been light to southwest over night, and I was hoping for some new bird arrivals to greet me. However the winds were actually more northwest! But it was a great day for an extended walk in the sun. The birds weren't terribly plentiful. I heard several woodpeckers, including Red-bellied and Pileated, the latter of which was drumming its particular style which makes it easy to identify from quite a distance....their drumming sound really carries well!

There were lots of Song Sparrows.

And a few Golden-crowned Kinglets, which apparently have recently arrived in numbers larger than I had seen all winter. They are active, and typically spend most of the time in shrubbery, making photography challenging.

The lake at the southeastern end of the park is still surrounded by ice....there are a few open spots, but not like the east and northeast part of the park where it is becoming quite open. And there are signs of struggle and death. Here is a carcass of a White-tailed Deer. It may have been chased out onto the ice by coyotes, perhaps slipped and broke its leg, and was easily taken down by the coyotes. The deer had major struggles to survive this winter, as did much of the wildlife especially if it was young and inexperienced, or injured. Some of the smallest deer yearlings did not survive trudging through the deep snow.

Farther north, the east beach is quite open, the most open I have seen it all winter. All those strong westerly winds have made a difference! Of course a strong east wind will bring much of the ice back, but for now, it is looking better all the time. Flocks of Common and Red-breasted Mergansers are scattered about. The dark mounds visible at the edge of the ice is not solid sand. It is sand that was blown on the mounds of ice over the winter, and as the mounds melt, the sand is more and more exposed at the uppermost layer.

I checked Tuliptree Trail, hoping that the sloughs were open enough to trigger the emergence of Wood Frogs. They emerge early and sometimes even when there is still a bit of ice on the slough, they will be very vocal, trying to attract a mate during the short breeding season. But even though some of the sloughs are starting to open up, a lot of them looked like this.

I took this shot from one of the longest stretches of boardwalk. I particularly like the moss covered tree root, with a few large roots tight against the root ball. This is a Silver Maple, which grows in the wettest sites. They are shallowly rooted, and even when one blows over, a new branch will take off and be a 'new' tree, or at least appear to be a new tree trunk.

While I was along this trail, I stirred up several Turkey Vultures which had been roosting on a huge old tree. There were nine of them, and they circled around before returning to the tree.

 Turkey Vultures have been arriving steadily over the last few weeks, but in much greater numbers over the last week. The Beamer Conservation Area Hawkwatch along the Niagara Escarpment near Grimsby has recorded the arrival of almost 2100 vultures so far. It will be interesting to see how many they record this spring. The Detroit River Hawkwatch recorded almost 70,000 Turkey Vultures exiting southern Ontario last fall!

A stop at the Visitor Centre feeder did not have anything new. But the female Red-winged Blackbirds are now back. The males return first, and the females follow 2-3 weeks later. This is only the second female I've seen at the feeders. It isn't as distinctive or flashy as the is much better camouflaged for sitting on the nest when that time comes.

I wanted to get more hiking in, so I went around the entire block between Gardiner Ave and Bennett Ave, between Rondeau Road and Harrison Trail. In spite of the beautiful day, I only saw one other hiker and two bicyclists.

The birds weren't anything different than what I had seen earlier in the day. I managed to get a record shot of this Eastern Phoebe.

Of greater interest was hearing a few Wood Frogs calling from the sloughs closer to the north extent of my travels along this hike. The farther north one goes, the less influence there is of the icy lake. And then on Bennett Ave, I saw one cold Wood Frog sitting on the road. It was so cold it didn't move even though I was quite close. I moved it off to the leafy edge of the road, out of the path of traffic.

Not to be outdone, another species of Herptile (collectively reptiles and amphibians) was seen today. I noted my first Eastern Garter Snake crossing Harrison Trail.

This one has a cloudy eye. Normally a cloudy eye of a snake indicates that it is about ready to shed its skin. But usually the cloudy area covers the entire eye....this one doesn't. And snakes don't usually shed their skins when they first emerge, so this individual may have had its eye damaged.


  1. Allen, really nice to see some views from Rondeau. Thanks for the informative posting.- DM

  2. Some good spring nuggets.
    I had my first Chorus Frogs on Monday up at Sarnia.
    That deer carcass may be the one the Coyote was feeding on last Saturday. I only got a photo of the coyote running away!