Great Egret

Great Egret

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Gaggles, Teams and a Parliament of birds

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, one might as well have gone into hibernation with the frigid cold and snowy conditions that prevailed. So it is nice to enjoy the present spring-like conditions, making it easy to get around, and with lots of open water to attract birds.

The Shrewsbury dock area continues to be a great vantage point to see waterfowl. I haven't caught up to the Bewick's Tundra Swan yet, but have seen lots of the usual Tundras as well as Snow Geese, including the blue phase. Perhaps the Trumpeter Swans are still around, but they are harder and harder to find with so many Tundras. A large number of swans is referred to as a Bevy, a Wedge (when in the air) or a Team.

Flight of the Tundras

Snow Geese mixed in with the Canadas and much larger Tundra Swans
 There are lots of ducks around, including large numbers of Canvasbacks
Canvasback (mostly) and Redhead

There are the inevitable Mute Swans as well.
A trip to the Rondeau Bay area wouldn't be complete without at least a bit of time at Rondeau. Woodland birds are pretty few and far between at this time of year, so I took a hike out the western side of the South Point Trail, out to the lake. I had the place pretty much to myself, seeing only one other hiker.

There is no shoreline ice, meaning that erosion is continuing. Nonetheless, the wave action is creating some interesting icicle features along the shoreline.

The Ridgetown Sewage Lagoons are often attractive to geese, and right now is no exception. There have been as many as a dozen Greater White-fronted Geese around, a species that is always a highlight. I only saw 6 on the occasion that I was there, but the others were likely just over the berm and out of sight. They were mixed with 4 Snow Geese and a bunch of Canadas. Of course they chose to be in the farthest cell, so these images had to be cropped considerably.

Greater White-fronts in the lagoon

Greater White-fronts, Snow Geese and Canadas in the adjacent field

Snow Geese and Greater White-fronts in the lagoon
Today I roamed around part of Dover Twp in the vicinity of St. Clair NWA. SCNWA is always a good spot to find waterfowl, almost any time of the year. However today there were not a lot compared with a few weeks ago when we held the Christmas Bird Count. There were 4-500 Canada Geese ( a large group of which is called a 'gaggle'), about 60 Tundra Swans and a few Mallards and Blacks. I was hoping to pick out a more unusual goose or two, and was able to see a couple of Cackling Geese, which are a miniature version of Canada. At one point not that many years ago, there were about 11 subspecies of Canadas, including some of the really small ones. However a decade or so ago, genetics determined that the four smallest subspecies were distinct enough to warrant their own species status, and the Cackling Goose was established as a full species. They are much smaller than the average Canada, with a shorter neck, and a stubbier bill. There are two individuals in this image, with the center one the most distinctive.
In other meanderings around Dover, I noted a single Snowy Owl along Heron Line just east of SCNWA. It was well out in the field, beside a tuft of grass. As I checked out the area along Meadowvale Line, in the former Chatham Twp just east of Hwy 40, I came across 4 Snowies out in a field, and all within easy sight of each other. A group of owls is called a 'parliament' (not sure why it has a particular political connotation, as owls are believed to be intelligent, and politicians are.....). Just kidding!

They were still a ways off out in the field, but the light was decent and after very heavy cropping, I came up with these two images.

With the weather turning a little more winter-like over the next few days, I doubt that these Snowies will be going too far.


  1. I've missed one of the Meadowvale owls the last few time I have been by hwy 40. One usually sits on a post beside the east side of the highway.
    I saw one Snowy today near the SW corner of Marsh and Winter Lines.

    Sure has been an exceptional winter for waterfowl in C-K (especially Rondeau Bay)!

    1. I hadn't been out checking on these owls for awhile, so since I thought the Shrewsbury area would be extra busy with birders, I would do something a little different today. I may try and get to the Bay tomorrow, depending on the rain. It has been an exceptional last few weeks.....hope it continues for awhile yet. Maybe the Trumpeters will stick around, since they've now been there for a few weeks and seem to be paired up.