Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Monday, 17 November 2014

Weather flip-flops

A few days ago we saw our first snowfall. But this past weekend was fairly decent, and instead of the snow out our kitchen window, we saw this:

If you look hard, you can see a bit of snow lingering in the shelter of the house on the far side of this park entrance. But all in all, it was pretty decent weather, so I went out to see what I could see.

There had been a Snowy Owl reported from the Grande Pointe area towards Mitchell's Bay, so that is the direction I headed. It seems like one or more Snowies show up in this vicinity fairly regularly, even in a non-invasion year. I drove slowly along a lot of back roads, but didn't see any Snowy, but perhaps one saw me.

I ended up in the area of the Bear Creek Unit of St. Clair NWA, at the north end of Bear Line. In the main drainage channel along the access road, I noted a Great Blue Heron on the ice.

I don't know what it was expecting to find, but at least it was down out of the wind. I saw an eagle in a tree way off in the distance, but it was too far to even ID properly let alone get a photo of.

I went over to Mitchell's Bay. The lake was still completely open....no ice except for in the very quiet sheltered areas along the shoreline. But there were lots of ducks, geese and swans scattered in every direction. However they were scattered, and a long way out, since the waterfowl hunters were scattered about as well, hoping to entice some less than wary birds within shotgun range. Some waterfowl blinds were on the shoreline in front of privately owned property, but elsewhere the hunters were out in boats partially covered with cattail or other type of vegetation.

There were lots of ducks, as stated above: Redheads, scaup, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Bufflehead, Mallards, Ruddy Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, etc. I heard lots of banging both near and far.

I checked the Lake St. Clair Trail, heading north from Angler Line. It was sheltered from the brisk westerly winds, so I thought there might be a better chance of bird action. However it was limited mostly to American Tree Sparrows and Song Sparrows only.

There are several nesting boxes along the trail, at the edge of the woods on the far side of the channel.

Wood Ducks may make use of them during their breeding season, at least that is the hope of the well-intended people who put them up. They are largely empty now, but other forms of wildlife may make use of them. Mice are notorious for adding nesting material to make a cozy home. And sometimes Eastern Screech Owls will use them for roosting in. Screech Owls can sometimes be enticed to show themselves if you imitate their descending, nasal, quavering whistle type of call. So I whistled. And whistled some more. But either they weren't there, or they didn't want to investigate where the strange call was coming from, so no owl showed itself in any of the nest box holes. I'm going with the idea that the boxes weren't occupied, since I have had a fair bit of success calling in screech owls at other times, although it is usually a bit duller light. But just to make a point, a Screech Owl did respond from farther back in the woods. It called at least half a dozen times, although it remained out of sight. Once in awhile you can be lucky enough to see them in fairly broad daylight, such as the time when I came upon this individual at Rondeau last April right in the middle of the day.

There was a constant stream of geese flying overhead along the Lake St. Clair shore. Of course being hunting season, and with plenty of birds around, there are lots of hunters out in the lake area as well as on recently harvested corn fields. All of that hunter presence does stir the birds up. I decided to go to the St. Clair NWA to see what waterfowl were gathering there. As expected, the marsh was full of ducks and geese, with a few swans as well. Virtually every species of expected duck was seen, but from a distance. There were literally thousands of birds, sometimes in the air, and often circling or landing right in the NWA which, fortunately for the birds, is off limits to hunting. I didn't go out the trail, although from the observation tower and with a good 'scope, one can see better what ducks are in the numerous open parts of the marsh.

Of course the swans are not a huntable species, so they are relatively safe.

Along the south side of the NWA was a field of corn that was partially harvested. A large White-tailed Buck was out in the field, gleaning corn that had spilled from the harvesting equipment. It appeared to have 5 points on one side, and at least 4 on the other and for the area, was a good-sized animal. But with all of the shooting going on for waterfowl, deer are quite nervous, so this one didn't stick around long for the best photo op.


Another Great Blue Heron was hunting for unwary frogs or fish that were in a nearby and not-yet-frozen canal.




Not too far away was a huge field of Tundra Swans. Overall between the NWA and Pain Court, I estimated there to be at least 3000 swans.

So it was a good day to be out, although I didn't see anything really noteworthy.

And then this morning, we woke up to this.



Have you noticed that there is a drab, gray and white colour theme in the photos on this post (except for the first one). Might as well get used to it.....and just think there are only about 33 days until winter 'officially' arrives!!






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