Great Egret

Great Egret

Monday, 16 November 2015

A Fine Franklin's Foray and other Rondeau notes

Franklin's Gulls are currently in southwestern Ontario in impressive numbers. The recent weather systems, including strong westerly winds, have clearly influenced the migration route of this mid-western gull. On Friday, they were noted throughout the day in the agricultural fields a short distance north of McGeachy Pond at Erieau, with a maximum of 35 Franklin's Gulls observed late in the day. On Saturday, this trend continued. At least 2000 gulls, mostly Ring-billed, were seen foraging across several fields in a triangular area which I have called the Bisnett/Erieau Road/Erie Shore Drive Block. I met up with Josh Bouman, and a bit later with Mike Bouman, to try and get an estimate of the number of Franklin's Gulls. Given that they were frequently on the move and seldom settled down in one concentrated area for any length of time, it wasn't easy! However Josh, in looking through binoculars in one direction and I, looking through a 'scope in a different direction, counted 31 and 42 birds respectively. Since they were on the move, undoubtedly there was some overlap. However others had already left for the lake, so we likely missed some. We concluded that there were at least 50-55 birds present during our time there, and quite possibly many more had been in the area. This first image shows the scattered nature of a very small part of the gull flock.
There are about 5 Franklin's Gulls in this next image, although several are out of focus due to the shallow depth of field of the telephoto lens.
 On occasion, I could get more than one FRGU in a frame giving a closer view.

The next day, I met up with Steve Charbonneau and Blake Mann at Rondeau. They typically start at daybreak, or slightly earlier, at the Dog Beach to scan the waterbird movement moving by. I didn't arrive until about 8. They had seen numerous waterfowl, and a steady stream of Bonaparte's Gulls already. While I was there, another mixed flock of gulls appeared, and headed over the forest en route westward towards Rondeau Bay. Included with this group were 5 FRGU which were easily seen through the scope.

We next headed for the South Point Trail, expecting that the sun was high enough to warm up the forest edge. There, the dogwood berries were still plentiful enough to keep such berry-eating birds satisfied. Surprisingly it was quieter than we expected on our way towards the south end. We did catch up to a Gray Catbird a bit north of the wash out area. I had one along the northern part of this trail a few days ago. A few often stick around late in the season, and sometimes are found on the Christmas Bird Count.
On our way back we encountered a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets and warblers, including several Yellow-rumped which are often around in small numbers this time of year.
Yellow-rumped Warbler
More surprisingly, we came across a Northern Parula, which is a new late record for the park checklist area. It was flitting around in the tangle and I didn't get any shots worth keeping. Blake did get a recognizable shot on his return visit to the trail, however, which he has posted on his blog here.

We went up to the campground, which has lots of Red Cedars and some shrubbery with berries, and is always an enticement to birds at this time of year. Cedar Waxwings were plentiful.

Several Fox Sparrows were around, feeding on seeds or something else on the ground.
Other sparrows were not very abundant, however. We came across a Chipping Sparrow, a species which is usually found in very small numbers at this time of year. It is unusual to have seen more Chipping Sparrows (1), than White-throated Sparrows (0) given the habitat we were in!
I returned for another hike along the South Point Trail, hoping to spot some other birds. However with the increased tempo of the wind and the generally warmer conditions farther back in the forest, the birds were even less abundant than they had been earlier. I did see some other flying critters. Autumn Meadowhawks were around in small numbers.
 I saw a single Eastern Comma.
Climbing Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) is quite evident along forest edges, as the bright orange and red berries are certainly a bright spot at this time of year.
Every time I see these berries, I am reminded of an incident that happened in my youth. In elementary school I was chastised severely by my teacher (it was her first year teaching) in front of the class for selecting red and orange construction paper for an art project (even though they were the only two choices left at the time). She told me emphatically that those colours should never be used together. Interestingly she lived in an area where Climbing Bittersweet was fairly abundant, but I guess she never noticed that it was okay in nature......

A bit later I went to the north end of the park, stopping at the beach at the traffic circle to see what was there in the quieter water. Not much, as it turned out, other than several hundred Canada Geese which are often found here as it is not an area that is hunted.

I'm not sure what the future is for this bench. It might serve as a perch for birds, but that is about all.
 With the warm temperatures this fall, some plants are still in flower!

I took a short walk along the north end of Harrison Trail, since berry-laden vines (Virginia Creeper, Carrion-flower, Poison Ivy and Wild Grape) are here in abundance. However most berries have been picked clean, so there were very few birds. I was amused to see the following. I'm not sure what it says about some people's ability to read or understand.......

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