Great Egret

Great Egret

Monday, 7 April 2014

Visiting the St. Clair wetlands

I had heard that the ice at Mitchell's Bay was finally disappearing and there were numerous ducks present, so I headed off that way today. On the way, I took a hike along the trail at St. Clair NWA. The ice there had all but disappeared, and there were numerous waterbirds present. Ducks, geese, gulls and Pied-billed Grebes were making a ruckus. A single Sandhill Crane flew over at a distance. I have seen or heard Sandhills here on several occasions this spring, so it is likely they may attempt to nest in some of the larger wetlands.

A short way down the trail, I noted a pair of Northern Harriers flying and dipsy-doodling over the marsh. The female dropped down out of sight, but the male continued on. Unfortunately they were too far for a decent photo.

From the observation tower, I scanned towards the lakeshore and saw at least three Bald Eagles. Two were full adults and the third was a young one. There is a nest nearby to the southwest of the NWA on private property. One can see the nest in the tree now, from the observation tower, but unless one has a scope and the light is good, it is difficult to see what is on the nest. The nest is in a large Eastern Cottonwood tree, one of the most common trees, and certainly the largest, along the shoreline. By May the leaves will obscure the nest activity. The next image, of a first year Bald Eagle, is one I took from the north end of the St. Clair River a couple of months ago under much sunnier conditions.

Red-winged Blackbirds abound. Even though they are so common, I find them interesting, sometimes bold and quite photogenic.

Ring-necked Ducks were fairly numerous and often in groups of three or four....usually one female to several males in pursuit, as shown here.

Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler and Bufflehead were all in flight over the NWA.

These Northern Pintail have a flight profile that is hard to mistake! The leaden gray skies didn't help much with photography, and I didn't get photos of the other ducks mentioned.

On the way back from the observation tower, a pair of Canada Geese decided they needed a resting spot right on the trail.....perhaps it is in their nesting territory.

I did make it to Mitchell's Bay but en route I was surprised by two female Ring-necked Pheasants scooting across the road in front of me. This non-native species is really quite uncommon compared with the numbers they used to be in, although they do persist in small numbers here and there. Presumably their decline has been due to decreasing habitat and increasing coyotes!

At Mitchell's Bay there were extensive open patches of water hosting thousands of ducks....mostly Canvasback, but with a smattering of American Wigeon, Gadwall, Redhead, Common Merganser and Red-breasted Merganser mixed in.

On the way home, I noted more than one feral cat patrolling the grassy roadsides or hedgerows. It is surprising how many of these felines are across the landscape. As the vegetation grows, they will become more hidden and less noticeable to us. But these non-native species are tremendous hunters, so it should come as no great surprise that across the continent there are millions upon millions of birds and other types of wildlife that are killed. Some studies have concluded that more than a billion birds and small wildlife are killed each year by feral and pet cats across North America. This one was patiently waiting along the tunnel of some species of small wildlife and was completely oblivious to me.

Please be aware that I have nothing against cats per se; however 'Fluffy' is designed to hunt small prey, and is quite successful at it. It is our native wildlife that is suffering the consequences. If you have a cat please, for the sake of our wildlife, keep it indoors!


  1. What a perfect way to spend a Monday!

    1. Yes it was indeed.....but had I known the weather on Tuesday was going to be as nice as it turned out, I might have switched days....or gone out on both, but home responsibilities took priority today.

  2. Your photography is fabulous! I heard a Sandhill Crane the other day! Even though the Otonabee River is open, Rice Lake is still frozen over. Great shots and info!

    1. Hey Monica...thanks for your comment. It is so nice that Sandhills are much more common across southern Ontario than they were a couple of decades ago. Just get rid of that ice, and maybe some will stop by for a photo op :-)

  3. This is a new comment on an old post but the feral cat topic hits a nerve with me.
    My neighbour puts out 8 dishes of food every day for the strays that consequently come in to my yard to relieve themselves and hunt the birds I attempt to feed. I had 4 birds killed in a week this summer. 2 fledgling robins, a cardinal and a blackbird of some sort. There could've been more but these 4 are ones I unfortunately either observed or found the remnants of.
    I have a cat that stays strictly indoors where she causes no death or destruction.

    Thank you for posting about the places you visit in Chatham-Kent. I live in Essex county and love to get new ideas for locations to check out.

  4. Hi Karen. Thanks for your visit and comment. I only wish that more people realized what damage free-ranging cats can do to native wildlife and looked after their own pets accordingly.