Great Egret

Great Egret

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Rondeau, Blenheim lagoons, etc

I've been out and about regularly these last few days, usually to Rondeau and area. Birds are becoming quieter, since the nesting season is winding down. There are more young out begging their parents for food, and some nesting species are still busily gathering food for their young still in the nest, such as what this Red-headed Woodpecker is doing.

The Red-headed young has now left the nest.

A Prothonotary Warbler is also feeding its just hatched young. Both male (shown here) and female are busily going back and forth regularly.

The spring wildflowers are long gone, well they are not showy, but are putting forth fruit. The interior of the forests are deep green and enjoyable to explore and photograph on a cloudy day.

South Point Trail

Along woodland edges and other open areas, there is a steady stream of newly opened flowers to be viewed. While travelling along Bennett Ave last autumn, I noted the bright red berries of Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), so I checked it out a few days ago, was just nicely out in flower. This is the first time I have seen it in flower at Rondeau. The camera came out to record the occasion, naturally.

Ilex verticillata
At the north end of the park, along the maintenance loop, were the bright red flowers of about 20 stems of Bee-balm, a.k.a. Oswego Tea (Monarda didyma). It is a very uncommon plant of rich woods in the Carolinian Life Zone. I sometimes see hummingbirds hovering about, feeding on the flowers, but not today.

Monarda didyma
I don't often go along this short trail once the spring migration is over other than to check on the Bee-balm....the mosquitoes are usually quite plentiful I was surprised to see several small stems of the endangered Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) in a couple of locations. Red Mulberry occurs naturally at Rondeau but not at this exact location; in fact some of the best quality stems of any in Ontario can be found at Rondeau. It is likely these individuals were planted a decade or more ago, when a researcher was doing his graduate work on the species here and at a couple of other places where they occur naturally.

Morus rubra
Red Mulberry has very distinctive leaves. They are quite large and roundish, with some of the ones on these trees attaining a length of almost 10". They are a bit rough/hairy above and below, and they have long tips, called 'drip tips', which help shed water after a rainfall.  The leaves show very little, if any, lobing. The much more common, and non-native, White Mulberry, has much smaller, shiny leaves with very little in the way of a drip tip, and they often show lobing.

Along this trail there were quite a few odonates in the sunny open area. Damselflies were abundant. I got a few photos of the dragonfly White-faced Meadowhawk, both male and female.

White-faced Meadowhawk female

White-faced Meadowhawk male
In some sunny openings or at the edge of the forest, one can find the impressive Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense).

I did not use a flash for this image. I simply metered on the bright orange flower, and chose an unlit background, so that the lily would really jump out. Flash can produce similar effects, but with the shiny/waxy flowers, there is more likely to be distracting hotspots produced.

Out along the southeast beach of Rondeau, the Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa) is in flower.

The presence of this species at Rondeau is a conundrum. It doesn't occur in the park naturally, but some well meaning individual who had a particular love of this species planted several clumps along the southeast beach in the mid 1990s. The habitat works well for this species, and it is spreading steadily. There are now at least 20 clumps of varying sizes. The conundrum is that it is a legally endangered species under the provincial Endangered Species Act. And in Ontario it only occurs naturally at Point Pelee National Park and at Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve (on Pelee Island). The small population at the latter location is not doing well at all. So now there is a planted population in a nature reserve zone of Rondeau.

What to do? Do park managers sacrifice the integrity of a nature reserve zone of one of the most significant provincial parks in the province to allow a legally endangered species from elsewhere persist? Or do they attempt to retain the natural integrity of the park and nature reserve zone by removing it? The questions are easy to come up with; the right answers are not.

Moving along....I hiked part of the Marsh Trail. There is lots of Common Milkweed scattered along it, and I thought I might have seen a few butterflies. They were really few. Some Red Admirals and a couple of Viceroys were about all there was to see on this trip, although the windy conditions might have been a factor.


In a low wet meadow adjacent to the trail was a beautiful display of Swamp Candles (Lysimachia terrestris).

The view from the observation tower is always fun to see, except for the steadily increasing number of wind turbines across the bay. I reported in an earlier post about counting 178 wind turbines from the lower level of the tower. On this most recent visit, from the upper level, I can advise that I counted a total of 203 towers!

If you look towards the south beach, you get this next view, complete with the absence of wind turbines.

I stopped at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons one evening recently as well. The shorebirds are starting to build in numbers and diversity. There were probably as many as 100 shorebirds in all, including a group of small 'peeps' that never landed where I could see them. But there were a dozen or more Least Sandpipers, 9 Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Short-billed Dowitchers and the usual Killdeer and Spotted Sandpiper.

Short-billed Dowitchers

Spotted Sandpiper

Duck diversity wasn't high, but this male Canvasback (on the right), shown alongside a male Blue-winged Teal starting its moult, was still around.

Perched in the fence along the east side of the lagoons was this young Baltimore Oriole. It made composing the photo using the 'rule of thirds' a lot easier :-).

Baltimore Oriole

And finally, at the end of the day recently, I raced off to the north end of Bear Line, where one can get a great view of Walpole Island across the Chenal Ecarte, and is a perfect vantage point from which to capture a sunset.


  1. wonderful article with some beautiful photography.thank you Allen.Bob & Marg

    1. Hi Bob & Marg....thanks for 'stopping by'....I'm glad you appreciate the info and photos.

  2. Great "stuff". Any word on young Yellow-Headed Blackbird ?

    1. Hi Barry....thanks for your comment. As for the YHBBs.....the birds that were at the location for several weeks along Angler Line moved a bit north to presumably raise young. There was a fire in some of the Phrag nearby the Angler Line location, which may have caused the birds to re-think the safety of that spot. At any rate, some friends of mine who are at the north end of Mitchell's Bay have reported seeing the adults in that vicinity just recently, so I expect to hear reports of young in the near future. If I do, I may get up that way myself to photograph them and will post any success I have.

  3. Loving the blogs. Great info on the milkweeds. Thanks.