Great Egret

Great Egret

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Avian nesting is underway!

Yesterday I went out and headed towards Thamesville. On my way out of town, I noted that a heronry of Great Blues, a bit north of Longwoods Road and a few kilometres east of town, had some Great Blues flying around, and with some birds on the nest. I'm not sure if the Great Blues were actually nesting yet, but the process is underway. This heronry has been active for quite a few least a couple of decades. There are at least 50 nests in this woodlot, well away from the highway but reasonably visible from a considerable distance before the leaves are out. Binoculars certainly help. It isn't the greatest shot, as it was a long way away. The focal length was the equivalent of 800mm, and it was cropped after I got home. Also the light was a poor angle making the focus difficult, and since the nests are spread out so much, only half a dozen nests are visible here.

 My main reason for heading out this way was to photograph the Bald Eagle's nest which is just a few kilometres east of Thamesville. I posted about it a few weeks ago. It is in an old oxbow between the highway and the river. While passing by it a few days ago, I noted that there was an adult on it, in an incubating position! So the nesting season is underway!
View from Longwoods Road

Closer, but still not as close as I would like.
It will be fairly easy to keep tabs on this nest, at least before the leaves emerge.

I wanted to know if this was the same pair that usually nests a bit farther downstream, closer to Kent Bridge. So I drove along the south side of the river to the north end of Scane Road. The nest is farther from the road and difficult to see except from a very specific angle, so I didn't even attempt a photo. But that nest also had an adult eagle on it, sitting as if it was protecting something. So it is definitely a different pair. It is so nice to see that this species is continuing to thrive, compared to the dismal prospects it had in the 1960s through the 1980s.

There is a fair bit of good habitat along the Thames River, and nesting pairs are popping up here and there. The river is entirely open now, but the levels are a bit lower than normal so there isn't a major current compared to most years at this time. Flooding anywhere was almost non-existent, even in the floodplain areas.

Taken from the edge of a trestle just west of Thamesville
 I looped around to the Ridgetown Sewage Lagoons, but there wasn't much to see. Lots of Canada Geese and three Cackling Geese on the berm, but other than that, only 4 Mallards and 2 Redhead. Most of the ponds were still frozen solid, which may change if the weather prognosticators are remotely correct in the next few days.

Today I took a look around Mitchell's Bay. Finally the lake is starting to open up. I didn't even see anyone ice fishing today, although there were a couple of vehicles in the parking lot which looked suspicious. But in a sizeable open area north of Mitchell's Bay were a lot of ducks. I estimated at least 1200 Canvasback, and a handful of Redhead, Common Merganser, Ring-necked, both scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Mallard and American Black. But they were way too far for a was all I could do to see them well through the 'scope.

I checked the Angler Line area, just in case the Yellow-headed Blackbirds were there. It really is a bit too early, but one never knows. I didn't see any, although there were a bunch of Red-wings. There were ducks around, including Wood Duck, Northern Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall and American Wigeon among others. I also saw three Double-crested Cormorants fly over.

I continued towards St. Clair NWA. Along Rivard Line just north of SCNWA, there were several hundred Canada Geese feeding in the corn stubble. Some white flashes caught my eye, and they turned out to be Snow Geese....5 of them.

I walked the trail at the NWA. It was really starting to get windy, as I knew a front was approaching. Just as I started down the trail, I heard, then saw, two Sandhill Cranes. They were too far away to attempt a photo, and I saw them land over in the St. Luke's Marsh area. I heard and saw them a couple of other times. Other than that, it was the usual mix of waterfowl, but it is always nice to see Ring-necked and Wood Ducks, although none of them were all that close. And with the deteriorating weather, it wasn't likely to be worth attempting a photograph.

I made it to the viewing tower, but lots of the NWA is still frozen up and there weren't a lot of ducks. I did see an adult Bald Eagle in a tree along the lake. Just as I got back to the car, the wind picked up and the snow pellets started flying around! Winter isn't going to let us out of its clutches quite yet, it seems. And while driving slightly east of the NWA towards home, I saw presumably the same 5 Snow Geese being buffetted as they flew into the wind, and I only got a tail end shot of them against a very bland sky mixed with snow.

 So eagles are nesting, and Great Blues will be shortly. Others will be soon as well, including American Woodcock and American Robins, Mourning Doves, Killdeer, Horned Lark, various waterfowl and raptors.

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