A couple of days ago I had to be in London, so I decided to look for the Harlequin Duck which had been reported along the Thames River on several occasions recently. The good news was that it was seen the day before I was to be in London. So I struck out along the river at Springbank Park, hiking upstream and downstream for a total of at least 5 kilometres looking through all sorts of waterfowl. Unfortunately I struck out on seeing the Harlequin, too.
These first two photos show how open part of the Thames River is, and there are lots of ducks and geese scattered along. This open water is primarily the result of a warmwater outlet just around this corner of the Greenway water treatment plant. The river immediately upstream of this outlet is frozen solid as far as one can see. There are some other open sections closer to the Fanshawe Dam.
|Mallards and Redhead|
I also had an immature Bald Eagle soar over a couple of times, not very close, however.
The next day I decided to go up along the St. Clair River, since I hadn't been there for well over a month. As has been reported regularly on Blake's Blog, much of the river is packed with ice, especially along the Ontario side. There were the usual ducks scattered in the open patches around the Sombra ferry dock, and a few open patches along the shoreline in the Branton Cundick park area. Elsewhere I was surprised at how much open water there was north of Bickford Line to the Mooretown area, but was clogged with ice north of Guthrie Park. A warmwater outlet north of Bickford Line was helping keep some of the area open, and due to the very cold weather, caused steam to come off the water.
There were small groups of waterfowl, including Mute and Tundra Swans mixed in with Canvasback, Common Goldeneye and others.
Yesterday I decided to check the warm water outlet along the Thames River a bit downstream from the Keil Drive bridge here in Chatham. It is about the only open water for miles, and the following image shows just how small it has become. Earlier in the winter it was up to 10 times this size, extending for at least a couple of hundred metres downstream.
Apparently the ducks have become nonchalant about snowmobiles.....at one point while I was watching, three machines came roaring by, one which was no more than 3-4 metres from the edge of the resting birds.
The good thing about the open water area being this small is that the ducks that remain are much more concentrated. There were about 350 Mallards here, mostly resting on the ice but also vigorously chasing one another in the water or taking short flights around the area. Someone brings corn to the nearby parking lot from time to time, which has provided much-needed sustenance to these birds which I am sure has helped their energy levels.
Some of the Mallards even had time and energy to do some duck yoga :-).
I noted eight species of ducks here altogether.....not bad for such a tiny opening.
A trip through parts of rural Chatham-Kent shortly after enabled me to see several loose flocks of Wild Turkey. They are quite bold, and presumably quite hungry, seeking out the shallower areas of snow in the hopes of finding something to eat. There were at least 30 birds in 5 flocks altogether.
Interestingly the raptors seem to have almost vanished. In driving about 500 kilometres across mostly rural parts of Middlesex, Lambton and Chatham-Kent in the last three days, I saw a grand total of the two Bald Eagles noted above, and only two Red-tailed Hawks! And the latter two birds were in a dead tree adjacent to a weedy pasture. I guess most raptors have left for warmer places, or at least better meal time options.