Great Egret

Great Egret

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Some interesting winter birds

I will get back to my previous theme of Species At Risk on Pelee Island, the complications and an interesting solution to one of the more challenging issues but first, an interlude on some recent winter birding.

Winter birding can be fun, but requires a lot more effort since birds are relatively few and far between compared with the other seasons. Nonetheless, and especially if you are able to find much open water or a well-stocked feeder, the birds are there!

The Rondeau Visitor Centre has had a fair bit of activity, even in this recent mild spell. Hairy Woodpeckers are around.....
Hairy Woodpecker
 ....and Red-bellied Woodpeckers are quite regular.
Red-bellied Woodpecker
 Pine Siskins are quite erratic....they were no where to be found not that long ago, but in the last week or so, at least a few have been there regularly.
Pine Siskin
 Fox Sparrows are not seen very often in winter, but the feeder this year has kept at least one bird well fed.
Fox Sparrow
There are always a few things to be found here and there. A Great Blue Heron has been seen at a creek along Stefina Line from time to time.
Great Blue Heron
 Wild Turkeys are well established.
Wild Turkey
 If you find a berry bush, such as a cluster of Staghorn Sumac, you might find American Robins or sometimes a group of those non-native and noisy European Starlings busily scarfing down the fruit.
European Starling
And birds, beware of the feral cat! Unfortunately one sees a lot of these scattered across the landscape.
Where there is open water, there is often a greater diversity of birds to look through. In the Rondeau Bay area, Erieau and Shrewsbury are the places to be. And that is where I spent some time today. Redheads are not abundant, but scattered around.
 There is still the occasional Ruddy Duck.
Ruddy Duck
 Tundra Swans are on the move, although  a few hundred that arrived late last fall, never really left.
 A bonus this year has been the presence of a couple of Trumpeter Swans at Shrewsbury. There is only a handful of records for the Rondeau area. I took this next shot on a very cold day a week or so ago. The pointed feathering at the top of the bill, the large more or less straight bill and the wider black patch just in front of the eye (it is less pinched than for a Tundra Swan), the lack of yellow on the bill, and overall their larger size are all helpful clues as to their identity.
Trumpeter Swans
 Today, the two birds were right close to the dock area, and the light was nice and even. I even heard them give their distinctive nasal honk a few times.
 After a little while, they drifted off to the southwest and then arrived at the edge of the ice 400 metres or so away, but they still stood out due to their size. I also had  a Paul D. Pratt sighting at Shrewsbury who, along with a couple of others, was also out looking for the Trumpeters

At Erieau, was a beautiful male Long-tailed Duck in the marina area. Although they are typically very abundant on Lake Ontario in the winter, they are more of a novelty along the western end of Lake Erie.
Long-tailed Duck
 In the marina by the fish tugs was a lingering Belted Kingfisher. I watched it catch a fish on a couple of occasions, and it seemed healthy and active.
Belted Kingfisher
 American Coot often try and survive at Erieau during most winters. Some birds are more successful than others, as I saw a few dead ones on the shore, but the couple of dozen or so that I saw in the water or pecking at something in the grass all seemed to be okay.
American Coot

 Gulls typically seem to vacate the north shore of Lake Erie in January. I think they spend that time on the south side of the lake, or perhaps much farther away, but this year, since there is open water, there are a few Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls and a smaller number of Great Black-backed Gulls still around.
Ring-billed Gull
The lighthouse at the entrance to Rondeau Bay is not operating these days, although there still is one fishing tug out catching fish. The lake looks bleak and cold, but there isn't much ice on it these days. I spent a bit of time talking to an MNR&F Port Observer at Erieau today, who is based out of Wheatley. He indicated that the brisk westerly winds of a few days ago blew a lot of the ice from the western basin well down the lake towards the east.
Bleak Lake Erie
The sentinel


  1. I think I can barely see some "rufous" on the underside of the kingfisher. If so, it is a female and likely the same one we saw at Erieau during the CBC. I have not seen many female kingfishers in Ontario during the winter. The ratio of males to females at this time of year is at least 10:1. Why males winter farther north I do not know, but I'm sure the reason is published somewhere in the literature.

    1. You saw correctly, Alan....this is a female. I think it is very likely the same one that has been hanging out there for the past month and a half.

  2. You had a good day "birding ' Allen. Great pics too !
    For anyone reading your Blog, who still needs to "tick off"
    the Wild Turkey for their 2016 list--there is a good size flock ~ 30 on a farmsite on New Scotland RD. East.
    I've seen them on the roadsides, about 2 farm fields West of
    McKinley Rd. There is a short hedge on the North side of
    the road where they sometimes attempt to hide.
    BTW: these birds are very good "flyers"-- :}

    1. Thanks, Irene. And you are quite right that there is a good flock east of New Scotland. There is lots of great habitat both north and south of New Scotland Line in that vicinity. Another good location is just east of the Blenheim Golf Course, near Sinclair Line.