Great Egret

Great Egret

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

After the windstorm, well sort of.

The wind of the last few days have been quite incredible. On the return from the K-W area yesterday, I noted that it was all some big tractor-trailers could do to stay on the road.

Today (Tuesday), I went out to the Erieau area to see what might have blown in to take shelter and decided to stay. The winds today were a mere 40-50 km/hr, not the sometimes 80-100 km/hr of yesterday, so the waves were only 2 metres today. On the way out, I noticed that a lot of unharvested corn was knocked down, which will make harvesting it much more challenging, I am sure. I also noticed the roofs of several houses which had missing or flipped up shingles. Having just replaced our own roof a mere two months ago with a steel roof, we fared quite well.

As expected there were quite a few waterbirds in the Erieau harbour area, the lake front and of course Rondeau Bay. Many were too far out to attempt to photograph, so I concentrated on the ones closer at hand. There were many Bonaparte's Gulls, one of my favourite species. They look so sleek, and acrobatic.

This next photo shows almost 70 of the estimated more than 450 Bonies zipping back and forth between the main channel and the marina slip. There must have been quite a few shiners in the slip, since the gulls were noted diving regularly, and periodically coming up with a small fish.

A bonus, but not entirely unexpected, were two adult Little Gulls. I managed to photograph one, and I was surprised at how pale gray the under wing was of this bird. Normally the underside of the wings are considerably darker. This first image only shows the upper side, however,

This next image isn't as sharp, but it shows the relatively paler gray under side of the wings, compared to the photo that follows, which I took a few weeks ago. All three images were taken under similar overcast light conditions.

A juvenile Glaucous Gull was in the harbour area as well, but I didn't get a photo of it. Elsewhere in the vicinity were the usual waterbird species, including:

Greater Scaup

One of more than 25 Horned Grebes

Red-breasted Merganser
There were lots of Ruddy Ducks, Bufflehead, Redhead, Canvasback, Common Goldeneye, American Coot, Mallard, American Black Ducks, etc, totalling well over 3000 birds, but as mentioned previously, most were out in the bay or off the south beach and some good optics were required to see them well.

I was watching the main channel for awhile, and I had an interesting observation pertaining to water currents. A flock of 5 Ruddy Ducks was in the channel, and appeared to be swimming rather vigorously towards the bay. As mentioned previously, the waves and swells coming from the lake through the channel and into the bay were at the most, only 2 metres, and they quickly subsided once they got close to the bay. However, the Ruddies were actually drifting towards the lake, so the water currents leaving the bay were stronger than the wind and wave action forcing water into the bay.

If you look at a map, you will notice that the orientation of Rondeau Bay is from a SSW-NNE direction. With the extremely powerful W-SW wind of the last few days, the water from the lake is forced into the bay in great quantity. However since the wind of today was merely 40 or so km/hr, the abnormally high water level of the bay was now attempting to drain back out into the lake, and this draining was overcoming the lower wind speed and wave actions. This is known as the seiche effect. On a larger scale, these powerful winds will have blown water towards the east end of Lake Erie during the peak of the wind storm; as the wind dies down, the water will come rushing back to the west end of the lake. Depending on the strength and direction of the wind, such a seiche effect can raise and lower the water level of Lake Erie significantly. Seiches have been noted on all of the Great Lakes, and examples are known where there has been as much as 8 feet difference from one end of the lake to the other compared to normal levels!

As in previous visits, American Pipits were a-plenty once again, with at least 28 seen here and there, but after awhile, one stops counting! I came face to face with this one on the lawn of the Library while I was looking at the myriad ducks on the bay.

A Great Blue Heron was lingering in a nearby channel. It looked a little scruffy, no doubt having had its feathers severely ruffled by the extreme windy conditions. But I observed it catch a couple of small minnows, one of which can be seen in its beak here.

I was keeping an eye out for Snowy Owls again, as one or more had been reported in the last few days. However either it was just hunkered down to keep out of sight, or it had been blown a long way away. Regardless, I did not see one today.


  1. Allen : Great shot of the Bonaparte's Gull !
    Don't think I've ever seen those "shadow" effects before--neat .

    1. Hi Irene: thanks for the comment. It is an unusual shot, and actually I took it at another time, not yesterday.....the sun wasn't shining at all to provide the shadow effect! But it was better than all of the other individual shots of Bonies that I attempted yesterday, so thought I would dip into my older files to use it.