It is not a time that is likely appreciated as much by the birds or other types of wildlife, as it can be stressful in finding food and shelter, and migrants are sometimes blown off course from their usual routes. Of course such winds from these directions may hasten the migration of certain types of birds, such as raptors, as evidenced by significant movements observed at the various hawk watches. And when watching some of the gulls and terns over the lake these last few days....well it almost seems as if some of these strong fliers revel in it.
These conditions are instrumental in shaping the landscape, particularly shorelines, as anyone who has waterfront property can attest. Sand spits in particular, being initially formed by water currents and wave action, are also altered by them.
I've shown this first photo previously, but it is relevant to today's post. The pier provides shelter from the prevailing winds and waves, but it also interrupts the shoreline currents and causes long-term deposition of sand on one side. This results in the severe loss and erosion on the other side. Before this pier was constructed in the 1800s, the beach of Erieau on the left more or less aligned with the south beach of Rondeau Provincial Park, on the right. This photo taken in 1989 shows how much a century or more of interference with the normal water currents has modified the shoreline. Erieau is being built up, and anyone who has been to Rondeau is well aware of the major erosion along the shorelines there.
There were hundreds of gulls and terns flying along the lakeshore at times. Occasionally they would be soaring high up and other times they would disappear in the trough between the 3 metre high waves, only to wheel up again. When they got tired of this, they would come to rest on a quiet stretch of the beach. An occasional jaeger would be seen well out, and almost always too far away to conclusively identify it to species, but it was believed that all three species....Parasitic, Long-tailed and Pomarine.....had been seen.
A Black Tern was noted on a few occasions, and at one point came in close enough to attempt a photo.
Ducks of various species were seen, including scaup, mergansers and scoters, but always too far out to photograph. Small numbers of shorebirds were noted, including Black-bellied Plover, Sanderling and White-rumped Sandpiper. At one point a possible Purple Sandpiper flew by mixed in with some Sanderling.
One of the main attractions of being at Erieau these last few days was the occurrence of up to four Sabine's Gulls. Given that they moved around a lot, it is impossible to know how many for sure, but this species was first noted on Wednesday and sometimes two or more were seen daily until Saturday. All were juveniles.
I first saw one on Wednesday afternoon. Steve Charbonneau had seen one shortly after day break that day. When I arrived mid-morning, he and I got side-tracked by the sight of a jaeger off in the distance. We are sure it was a Long-tailed, but cannot be conclusive due to the lighting and distance. At any rate, there was no further sign of the Sabine's. However later in the day when I returned to Erieau and started scanning the lake under much better light conditions, I did observe a Sabine's Gull out over the lake, and coming my way. In the few seconds it took to reach for my camera anticipating the bird getting within shooting distance....I lost it and did not see it again.
Fast forward to Saturday, and one or more were reported at various times, but never where I was. I was actually at the Rondeau entrance, in hopes that the sheltered area at the north end of the park would have a few gulls, terns, etc. There were gulls and terns, and rafts of ducks but I never looked through them all. It was then when Steve texted me to say that a Sabine's was on the water between the Erieau marina and the western tip of the Rondeau sand spit. Fifteen minutes later I was there, only to be advised that a Peregrine Falcon had come through moments earlier scattering the gulls. We looked and looked, and eventually noted the Sabine's flying with a few other gulls over the surf near the rocks east of the pier. After awhile, it returned to the relative quiet water along the Rondeau sand spit. It was a distant shot, with the bird bouncing around on the waves so focus was challenging, so most of my images were not kept. Here are a couple of the better ones. (Camera info: Canon 7DII, Canon 500mm II f/4, Canon 1.4X III, ISO 800-1600, 1/800-1/1600 sec, f/5.6 or f/4.5)
In between my times at Erieau, I ventured elsewhere to look around Rondeau Bay. Shrewsbury was a definite stop, as the sheltered area to the southwest of the dock area was good for gulls and terns. Upwards of 500 or more gulls, mostly Bonaparte's were arriving and resting on the water, but I couldn't see anything more unusual with them. A steady stream of Common Terns were passing through the area.
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