Great Egret

Great Egret

Friday, 26 September 2014

Recent North Lambton travels

I've been out a lot these last few days, so it is time to catch up on some blog posts.

A few days ago I was doing some inventory type of field work with a couple of colleagues at a site in northern Lambton County. The weather was great, and we found some interesting things, including a small tallgrass prairie type of site. There wasn't anything really exceptional in the hadn't burned for quite some time, and a regular occurrence of fire is absolutely essential for the long-term and short-term health of the prairie and its inhabitants. Nonetheless, we did find a few stems of a rather rare orchid called Great Plain's Ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes magnicamporum), which is provincially ranked as S3. I look forward to re-visiting the site at another time of year to see what other goodies might be present.

There are several other Ladies'-tresses types of orchids, but this is one of the later flowering species, and it is distinctive by its larger size compared to most of the others. It also has a very distinctive fragrance reminding me of a combination of hot plastic and vanilla!

On our lunch break we observed several Sharp-shinned Hawks, a 3rd year Bald Eagle, a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Red-tailed Hawk, one or two common Nighthawks and a couple of Sandhill Cranes.

Back on site, we found a few snakes (Northern Brown and Eastern Garter) as well as frogs (Leopard and Green) and American Toads, but nothing exceptional. Some of the plants we were on the lookout for we encountered, including American Ginseng, Green Dragon and Butternut, all officially Species At Risk. Due to their significance and legislated rarity, I will not divulge their locations. 

This next image features a fruiting individual of American Ginseng. It was not taken at the site we found it, but is one I had in my photo files. I did take a photo with my cell phone, but on the chance that someone could obtain the location from the cell phone pic via some internal GPS reading, I decided not to use it here (aside from the fact that it is a relatively poor quality). I do not have my main camera connected to any GPS coordinate software, partly so no one can track the location where I have taken my photos. American Ginseng is highly sought after by collectors for its apparent medical benefits, and the major illegal collecting problem is the reason it is now a Species At Risk.

Towards the end of the day, we were travelling near Kettle Point, and noted an obvious movement of raptors. In a matter of minutes we recorded several kettles (appropriately near Kettle Point!) of Broad-winged Hawks totalling more than 500 birds, a juvenile Bald Eagle, 2 or more Red-tailed Hawks, more than 20 Sharp-shinned Hawks and 20 Turkey Vultures. Later in the day, I read where a resident of the area had reported a total of 15,600 hawks passing through between 1-4 p.m., just to the north of where we saw our birds a bit later.

Broad-winged Hawk

I had heard from another birding friend that large numbers of hawks can be found migrating along the Lake Huron shoreline during periods of brisk east to northeast winds. The brisk southeast winds of this particular day had pushed migrating hawks up along the Lake Huron shoreline, so we were at the right spot at the right time to view this phenomenon.

Before heading back home to Chatham, I stopped in at one of my favourite places in north Lambton to view one of the area's relatively well-kept secrets. 

One doesn't normally associate waterfalls in the extreme southwestern flatlands of the province. If one wants to see such landscapes, one has to go to the more rugged part of the country along the Niagara Escarpment or central/northern Ontario, right? 


This waterfall is located at Rock Glen Conservation Area, at the NE edge of Arkona. The Ausable River Conservation Authority manages this site which is famous for its fossils in the sedimentary rock that are exposed along this stream. There is a parking area, picnic area, rustic washroom facility, museum and best of all, a hiking trail compete with stairway to reach the bottom of the gorge to see the falls up close. The first photo shown above was taken from 2/3 of the way down the stairway.

Side views are generally my preference, but one can get downstream a bit to see it from different vantage points and angles. One has to be cautious, of course, because the wet rocks are slippery!!!

Venturing a bit farther downstream, one can get intimate views of some of the minor sections of the falls.

A few days earlier, I had noted a plea for help posted on ONtbirds to track down a certain Great Egret which had been spotted in the Petrolia area. This egret had a blue wing tag, but the tag number was not easy to determine. So while travelling down hwy 21, I stopped where Black Creek flows under a bridge immediately north of Oil Springs. My primary goal was to photograph the flooded creek, overflowing with water from recent rainfall events. 

As I looked at the flooded pasture, I noted a Great Egret, and upon a closer view, noted it had a blue wing tag. Out came my 'scope and telephoto lens.

Part of the individual identification alpha/numeric code was visible, but even in looking at the bird for several minutes with my 'scope, it was clear that the letter was hard to discern. I sent the photos to the individual with Environment Canada who did the banding. We agreed that it was likely bird 95K rather than 95R. This bird was banded this year on June 26. The colony was on an island in southern Georgian Bay and the bird was too young to fly when it was banded.


  1. Allen, great write-up. I hadn't thought of the GPS meta-data as giving away the location of endangered plants.

    1. Thanks, Dwayne. I hadn't really thought about the GPS data giving away location information either, until the topic came up on a photo forum I check out regularly. As a result of the input from the more technical savvy people there, it was evident that if someone knows what they are doing, the GPS coordinates of individual photos can be pin-pointed. Hence there may be a danger to revealing precise location information of any photo one has taken, whether it is in your back yard or somewhere you have travelled to.