Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Blenheim Sewage Lagoon goodies

Sewage lagoons aren't everyone's idea of the place to could even say they are for the birds, and you would be right! Birds love the pickings they can get at these delectable spots, especially right now when so many species are on migration and requiring huge amounts of energy to continue their journey. They are looking for the abundance of food, whether it be fish, invertebrates or plant matter.

The Blenheim Sewage Lagoons have been popular for birders as well. Access is by permission only, and a permit is available from the local municipal office in Blenheim. I have been told by municipal staff that they issue between 300-400 permits annually to birders from across the province and beyond. So sewage lagoons can be a boost to the local economy in the form of ecotourism!

I have been to these lagoons several times in the last few days, and there is always something new to see and photograph.

One of the main attractions currently to be seen is a Willet. It is the western subspecies, and this one, or an identical one, has been here for at least three weeks.
Sometimes it is along the edge of one of the big ponds, and other times it is in the sprinkler cells, where it is usually a lot easier to find.

 Sharing the sprinkler cells with so many other shorebirds has its challenges.....this yellowlegs appears to be about to land on its back. It missed by just a little bit.

Lesser Yellowlegs have been fairly common, as usual at this time of year.
Lesser Yellowlegs
Pectoral Sandpipers are also pretty regular, although not as abundant as some other species.
Pectoral Sandpiper
One of the most abundant shorebirds at the moment is the White-rumped Sandpiper. Today I counted at least 78 birds, and there were a few more but I never got to finish the count as a Peregrine Falcon blasted through and all the shorebirds, except for a handful of Killdeer, left in a huge flurry. I'm not sure where they went; they never came back while I was there over the next 40 minutes or so.

White-rumped Sandpipers, shortly before the arrival of a Peregrine
Another celebrity bird at the lagoons has been a Red-necked Phalarope. Often you see them well out in the middle of the lagoon ponds, so really great views are hard to get.
 On occasion they like to hang out close to the edge of the pond. On Monday, it came from well out in the pond,  straight in to the edge of the pond that I was at. It was almost too close! At this point it was in the shaded edge due to the low angle of the sun, and the reflection of the wispy clouds above gave the water a much more pleasing look, in my opinion.
The Long-billed Dowitchers that were there on the weekend, seem to be Long-gone, as is the Hudsonian Godwit that was there for at least a few hours before being spooked by a Peregrine earlier in the week.

Waterfowl are numerous as well. Being a no hunting area, it has a particular attraction for them during this time of year. At the moment there are several hundred birds of about a dozen species. Most numerous are Ruddy Duck. Between the four ponds, I estimated there were over 500 birds.
Ruddy Ducks
Northern Shoveler is also abundant at the moment, with at least 90 around, although one day I estimated there to be upwards of 150.
Northern Shoveler in moult
Many other birds can be found over the course of the season. According to ebird, at least 215 species have been recorded in the Blenheim lagoon vicinity. I am sure that some species noted before the era of ebird are not included on that list.

Often there is a Northern Harrier or two hunting in the grassy sections. Today another falcon, this time an American Kestrel, was harassing the starling population along the western edge.
Northern Harrier (Juvenile)
Tree Swallows are still fairly abundant as they swoop over the warmer water searching for a feed of insects. I saw at least 185 today, along with a handful of lingering Barn Swallows.
Tree Swallow
The weedy areas of the lagoon property are popular for sparrows. Savannah Sparrows are probably the most abundant sparrow species right now. I kept an eye open for a Nelson's, which others had seen on the weekend, but did not come across any.
Savannah Sparrow
Another highlight of today was coming across a Bronze Copper butterfly, the first one I had seen this year. This one was a rather well worn female, so not as vivid as it might have been. It is not a common species of butterfly, but is locally found. There were lots of sulphurs and Cabbage Whites around as well as a very worn Viceroy.
Bronze Copper


  1. Willie the Willet may be going for record late!
    I am hoping for a Hudsonian Godwit this weekend.....

    1. I am hoping for a Eurasian Dotterel! Or Mongolian Plover, or.....

  2. Allen--We may "think of it" as a "No hunting" area---but---in reality, birders are
    seeing & hearing "so-called-hunters" in very close proximity to the lagoons.
    These people are "calling ' the birds away from the ponds--before they shoot !
    So, in reality, they are not on lagoon property ! I, personally, and others, have
    had to leave the area in fear of stray bullets ! Police were called on at least one
    occasion--with unfavourable results--for the "Birders " ! Now that hunting is
    allowed even on Sundays there seems to be little that we can do !

    1. Thanks for your concern, Irene. Note my email response to your forwarded email. In a nutshell, the hunters are probably not shooting towards the lagoon, since unless they had an access permit, would not be able to retrieve the ducks they shot, which is an offence under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. As for stray bullets, duck hunters use shotguns, which for all intents and purposes, are only effective for about 60 metres or so, after which the pellets rapidly decline in momentum and fall to the ground. If birders were on the lagoon berm, the ducks would not likely be very close to them, so unless the hunter was a really horrible shot shooting low to the ground, the chances of being hit are next to none. That is all assuming that the hunters are hunting legally, of course, and there are always a few that take liberties. In that case, they should definitely be reported to the local police or a conservation officer.