Great Egret

Great Egret

Friday, 14 November 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like....

....wait a minute....we shouldn't be singing that jingle for at least another month (although Christmas songs are now being heard on the radio from time to time).

But yesterday morning, it was looking like this for Chathamites: a fresh blanket of snow with autumn leaves still falling.

And to think just two short days before, we were enjoying Indian summer like weather, with temperatures reaching as high as 17C!

Weather changes can affect wildlife, especially migrating birds. Given the as yet not severe late fall/early winter weather, some birds have not taken the next leg of their southern migration journey. I got a message from Jim Burk yesterday morning that he had seen a Semipalmated Plover fly over at Erieau, and also a quick glimpse of a Spotted Sandpiper which had been seen a few days ago and I reported on a previous post. Both of these species should be much farther south by now. So I headed to Erieau in the hopes of finding one or the other of these birds, or something else equally as interesting.

As expected, the closer I got to the lake, the less snow there was, and by the time I got to Erieau there were only tiny bits of snow remaining in some sheltered areas. It is the lake effect, which is the reverse in the spring when inland temperatures can be quite warm, but breezes off the water can make being at the lakeshore very cool.

The water is still completely open, since it hasn't been below freezing long enough to produce ice. And there were birds. The most notable bird species and numbers were: Horned Grebe (125), Ruddy Duck (35), Double-crested Cormorant (22+) and Bald Eagle (2). Actually one of the eagles was so far off it was difficult to call it a Bald for sure.....Goldens are migrating through right now, and it appeared very dark all over, so it might have been the latter species. Of course there were other species, including good numbers of Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, scaup, Red-breasted Mergansers and the usual mix of gulls, some of which were quite close in the main slip. Most were quite a way off, and not worth attempting a photo of, but for those that swam by close enough, I tried to oblige with the camera.

Double-crested Cormorant

Horned Grebes

Red-breasted Merganser
But no shorebirds that I saw.

Leaving Erieau and returning inland, I noted lots of gulls feeding in the fields, along with huge flocks of starlings. Horned Larks are also around in increasing numbers.

I decided to stop in at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons, as I hadn't been there for awhile, and one never knows what lingering shorebirds there might be. It turned out to be a worthwhile decision, even though the sun was getting lower. There were lots of ducks, and a good mix of species. Most notable were: Ruddy Duck (260+), Northern Pintail (4), Northern Shoveler (175+), Hooded Merganser (5), Green-winged Teal (6) and Horned Grebe (5) (although the latter species is not technically a duck). Other waterfowl included Mallard, Black, Bufflehead Canada Goose and Greater Scaup. There were lots of gulls as well, mostly Bonaparte's, in a feeding frenzy. I'm not sure what they were finding, as I never saw them with anything in their beaks, but they were sure trying hard!

Bonaparte's Gulls

Bonaparte's with Northern Shoveler and Greater Scaup

Northern Shoveler

Ruddy Duck
The sprinkler cells had quite a bit of water in them, at various levels, providing optimal conditions for a variety of species. The most northerly cells were quite full, and had lots of the Northern Shovelers. Fortunately the closer two cells had a bit of water more suited to shorebirds, and it was there that I found the shorebirds. I counted at least 82 Dunlin as well as a single Pectoral (with one leg) and also had a single Killdeer fly over.


 The sun was very bright but getting fairly low by this time, giving everything a golden glow, so the colour of these Dunlin look more golden than they might under different conditions.
Pectoral Sandpiper
The Pec had a bit of trouble hopping around and feeding, but in flight it had no apparent problem at all.

There were also quite a few American Pipits scattered around.

American Pipit
As the sun began to go behind the clouds near the horizon, it resulted in a brilliant sundog. Having only a lens combination with the equivalent of 640mm at hand, I couldn't back up far enough to get more of the sky.

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