Great Egret

Great Egret

Friday, 7 November 2014

North Lambton and southern Chatham-Kent combination

I'm playing a bit of catch-up here. I've been up to a private site in north Lambton County a few times lately, doing some inventory and enjoying some terrific forest landscapes. The most recent time was a couple of days ago. Even late in the season, the woods are interesting, and the solitude is worth the effort. The rolling topography of Hemlock-American Beech-Sugar Maple forest, with lots of Tuliptree, is quite impressive. And once on the unofficial trail, there is often no other sound but that of a woodland.

Woodland birds are relatively few at this time of year. But sometimes you can see evidence of them, and be able to identify what was there. The following image is a case in point.

This is the typical workings of a Pileated Woodpecker, which has a massive bill for tearing into tree trunks to go after carpenter ants and such. The deep, oblong holes are very characteristic.

An unexpected highlight during this trip was to find evidence of a fairly rare orchid. It is S2 in Ontario. It may come as a surprise, given the time of year, but this orchid, unless it is flowering, is more obvious from late fall through the winter (if the snow is not covering the leaf litter) and into the early spring. It is known as Puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale).

The leaves are quite distinctive, with their green colour complete with a hint of gray, especially on the underside. And the leaf veins go the length of the leaf, which is typical of Monocots (includes orchids and lilies). Most other plant families, known as Dicots, have different leaf venation.

There are very few individuals in a population that send up flowering stems....usually less than 10%. So when there is lots of greenery in June, the period when it flowers, and there aren't any flowering stems, it is almost impossible to see this plant. But the leaves at this time of year are quite perky and upright, making them more visible when most everything else has dried and fallen. This plant was historically known from Lambton, but the official database indicates the last record was before the 1920s, so it was quite an important discovery. I plan to look for other populations in Lambton and elsewhere at this time of year. There is lots of forest to look through!

Today, I spent a bit of time checking out the Erieau area. My previous post showed some of the unusual gull and tern observations that I had, and I wanted to see what else there was a few days later.

As it turned out, the gulls were relatively few. There were several hundred gulls feeding off the south beach area, mostly Bonapartes. There were a few in the main channel and next to the marina. Even though they are quite common, I always enjoy watching and photographing them and listening to their calls.

And there were dozens of Horned Grebes. I saw at least 65, but I heard a higher number from another birder (Steve) who was there a bit before me.

I was just ready to leave the marina area, when a Spotted Sandpiper flew into view and landed on the edge of the pier. It was rather skittish, and I had to photograph it through a chain link fence as it darted amongst some of the pipes and other things along the edge of the slip.

This is quite late for Spotted Sandpipers. They are normally gone by late September or early October. A few may linger well into October. This is the first November record for the Rondeau area that I am aware of. It is interesting that there was an individual counted on the local Christmas Bird Count on December 22, 1952, by far the latest record for the Rondeau checklist area. Perhaps it was injured, or there was a really mild spell?

Will this one linger for a December record, or better yet, another record for the CBC? Time will tell.

I also had three Sanderling on the big pier sticking out into the lake. I didn't get any photos of them, as when the gulls were flushed up, the Sanderling left also. We've had them on the CBC on at least 3 occasions.

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