Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Harlequins and Sandhills

First, an update on the Harlequin Ducks that have been hanging out at Erieau these last few days. I was checking on them a couple of days ago, in much calmer conditions, and both of them were in the vicinity of the farthest rocks on the eastern side of the channel. Still fairly distant but a lot easier to focus on than the previous time
After a bit, the Harlequins drifted off out of sight on the southeastern side of the rocks, so I left for awhile to check other things. When I came back a little while later, they had appeared in the channel, at the lake end, and were seen drifting in with a small group of Bufflehead. They didn't come real close, but I was definitely pleased with the better results.

Inland a little bit from Erieau, I noticed some drainage tiles going full tilt. The rain storm of a couple of days prior resulted in about 30 mm that fell, so there were wet spots in the saturated fields. Not surprisingly, water was being directed into the various ditches and canals......
 .......and from the canals, the water was being pumped into Rondeau Bay in large quantities.
It is a little surprising how saturated the soil is, considering how little moisture we've had. Certainly some of the woodlots are not wet at all. One forest that I check out periodically, the McKerrall Forest, is a swamp forest with Silver Maple being the dominant species. I usually have to wear good rubber boots to get around at this time of year. A few days earlier I had gone out to look and listen for the spring chorus of frogs, only to find that I could have used running shoes and not got even the least bit damp! There wasn't a single frog to be heard.

This first image is of an Eastern Cottonwood, which measured 108 cm dbh, which is often found near water.
This next image is of the largest Silver Maple in the forest, which measured 143 cm! Normally there would be 10-20 cm of water all on around the forest floor, but it was completely dry.
Last evening, I decided to go to St. Clair National Wildlife Area. It can be interesting either in the early morning or early evening. The light at the end of the day was particularly nice for photography, and I always consider that when I pick my travel spots.

There weren't a lot of ducks close at hand. Some hikers with dogs had been out just a bit ahead of me. But I heard Pied-billed Grebes giving their hooting and hollering. There were Ring-necked Ducks a-plenty, but not close by. A small group of Bufflehead had attracted a male Blue-winged Teal.

Red-winged Blackbirds were abundant. I was hoping for a Yellow-headed Blackbird, but it is a bit early for them, and in the last few years they seem to have avoided this NWA in favour of the marshes farther north near Mitchell's Bay.
 Canada Geese were abundant, as usual. It is a bit of a shame that they are somewhat of a nuisance in some areas....they really are a handsome species! It was relatively easy to get some flight shots in the beautiful light and crisp blue sky.



This next one was trying to look inconspicuous, skulking along the far side of the open water. It obviously had a nest nearby, likely with its mate incubating the eggs.
A highlight at any time of the year is to come across Sandhill Cranes. They used to be a novelty in southwestern Ontario, but have steadily increased in numbers so they are more predictable. They feed in nearby fields, and roost in various parts of the vast Lake St. Clair wetland complex. They probably breed in some of the marshes, too. Usually you hear them from afar giving their trumpet/tremolo, long before you see them. This pair came towards me without warning, flying soundlessly and low over the marsh. The camera wasn't at the ideal settings, but I was pleased with some of the shots.


 In just a few seconds, they were out of the good light and heading into the sun, so the images at that point required a lot more tweaking to overcome the high contrast.












6 comments:

  1. Hoping to see some Sandhills up here.

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    1. They should be passing through your area soon, if not already. I noted that last week some were reported as far north as Algonquin PP, albeit a long way east of you, but just saying that they should be up your way by now.

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  2. Great article as usual.today we were in Rondeau park and saw what we thought were snow drop flowers (galanthus Nivalas).spotted on the west side of water street just passed theWegles cottage, about 50 meters from Rondeau Rd ,They might be of interest to you.Your pictures will be better than mine,thanks Bob and Marg Miller

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    1. Hi Margaret & Bob. I saw some out along Lakeshore Road, across from the campground a few days ago. They don't stay in flower long. I'll take a look at the clump you mention.

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  3. Hey Al. Where is the MC. Kerrall forest?

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    1. Hi Ken. McKerrall Woods is in the former Chatham Twp. It is between Darrell Line and Eberts Line, east of Centre Side Road. Access is from Darrell Line. There is a small parking lot and you follow a grassy lane way for 150 metres or so to the south side of the woods. There is a sign at the road, but it is mostly obscured by White Cedar trees.

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