Great Egret

Great Egret

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Birds and early gales of November at Rondeau

Rondeau has beckoned to me several times in the last few days. Bird migration is certainly a reason to be out and never knows what the autumn storms have blown in! It was not quite two years ago that I found a Cassin's Kingbird, dead, unfortunately, in the grassy dunes. It was only the third record for Ontario, and the first since 1970. If I had been there a few days sooner, I might have found it alive.

Another reason to be out is to watch the forces of nature in action. As a land form built entirely by the lake currents depositing and re-arranging sand, Rondeau is particularly vulnerable to the wind and wave action. This effect is even more dramatic in the last century or so, due to the existence of the Erieau pier.

There have been some pretty wild storms over the past month......are these the 'gales of November come early' as the Gordon Lightfoot song "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" describes....or are there more to come? My guess is the latter.

I've been out along the South Point Trail several times, and from both the east and west sides. It wasn't that long ago that one could make the loop at the south end, but due to the wind and wave action, it is now almost impossible to travel the loop.

The west side section of the South Point Trail is not often travelled by many is a closed forest and lot greater distance to the lake. But the forest is inviting. My visit this day was not on a windy one.....I didn't want to get clobbered by a fallen branch, and the usually slow shutter speeds required for forest photography would not work with branches and leaves waving wildly in the wind.

I noticed this attractive and distinctive fungus emerging out of a fallen American Beech log.
 It is known as Lion's Mane or Bear's Tooth Fungus (Hericium americanum), and the reference books indicate it is edible. I left it as I found it, expecting some of the forest creatures such as mice and voles to nibble on it in their quest for survival.
I got to the beach and followed the trail to the washout. As I approached, I immediately noticed something new.....well something old really, but newly exposed. It is a concrete crock, from which the old South Point washroom had a sand point sunk down to provide water to the washroom. Note the hint of a concrete foundation in the background.

 It is the foundation of a former washroom, more visible in the next image. I remember when it was at least 100 metres from the shoreline. This washroom was quite functional up until the early 1970s when the high waters of the lake in the fall and winter of 1972/73 caused serious flooding which resulted in the road and nearby picnic area and campground to be closed. Up until the mid 1970s, there was a large picnic shelter close by the parking lot not far away, but it succumbed to the wave action decades ago. I last remember seeing a pile of concrete rubble out in the water in the late 1970s as the only testament to the picnic shelter's existence.

Some readers may be aware of a pile of broken concrete in a shrubby opening visible from the south end of the trail. It is where the old septic system used to be for this washroom, and is just a few metres north of this foundation. It is likely just a matter of time when it, too, will end up on the shoreline.
On another recent occasion, I went out the eastern section South Point Trail. It was a very windy day, and the lake was quite riled up due to the strong south-southwest winds . This first image shows what it was like at Erieau.
Needless to say the wave action was impacting the south and southeast beach of the park.

 Yep.....not a user friendly trail at this point!
A few other shots, indicating the various conditions at Rondeau.
Bennett Ave
Rondeau Road
There was some wildlife to see as well. On a particularly sunny day, out of the wind, was a lingering Common Buckeye.
Birds were fairly plentiful, but often hard to see, and even harder to photograph at times, especially when the sky was covered with bright white clouds and the overall light was flat.

I noted at least 14 Eastern Bluebirds foraging in the oak savanna along the South Point Trail, but getting an identifiable photo against that sky was almost impossible. There were likely more scattered throughout the savanna. I did not find a long-awaited Mountain Bluebird.

Eastern Bluebird male

Eastern Phoebe
There are still lots of Chipping Sparrows mixed in with other sparrow types. Some may stick around for the upcoming Christmas Bird Count, only about six weeks away.
Purple Finches have just arrived in numbers, and were found gorging themselves on the berries of Red Cedar.
Snow Buntings are now here. I saw these two along the beach at the north end of the park. It seems a little early, and hopefully not a harbinger of wintry weather soon to arrive. We do get a few showing up in October most years, however.
 White-crowned Sparrows are scattered far and wide.
White-crowned immature
White-crowned adult
Carolina Wrens have not been very abundant these last couple of years, likely due to the severity of the recent winters. I came across this one in a tangle between the bay side boat launch and the park office.

I wonder what this bench will look like in the spring, after the gales of November and the wintry blasts have taken their toll?

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