Great Egret

Great Egret

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Spring is trying to get here!

Spring is teasing us, but is not here to stay yet. The waterfowl are building up in diversity and overall numbers, in response to the improving weather, longer daylight and promise of better weather to come. As Rondeau Bay and the lake become more ice-free, the birds are a lot farther out, and difficult to identify let alone photograph.

Erieau is always worth checking out. I've been looking for the reputed Harlequin Duck, but so far it has stayed in hiding whenever I am around. Others have been more fortunate, but then again some of them (Jim B, Steve C) live closer and check the harbour front more frequently than I do. So I take some solace in photographing things like American Coot, as they are comical and cooperative, sticking pretty close to the interior part of the harbour. As the ice increases during a cold spell, their movements are more limited. It seems that there are only a few remaining of the ~4000 that were around before Christmas. I saw 14 today.

They are normally plant eaters, but when they get really hungry, as I am sure they are right now, they will eat whatever they can survive on. This next image shows one picking away at some fish remains. But it didn't get much of it, as a Herring Gull swooped in moments later and took off with the fish.
 There are usually a few Bald Eagles out on the ice, feeding on fish or crippled ducks. I saw this one just north of Shrewsbury, only a few hundred metres from a possible new nest site. This bird is not quite a full adult, which normally takes 5 years. This one is likely into or approaching its 4th year.
In a healthy population, eagles will not normally breed until their fifth year, but where there are empty territories as there is now, some birds will breed at age 4. There have even been records of eagles attempting to nest at age 3, but I don't think they successfully fledged any young.

One day while I was at Erieau, I looked across to Rondeau and noticed the south end of the marsh going up in smoke. And that was a good thing.
Prescribed burn of the Rondeau marsh
As many of you know, Phragmites is a very aggressive, non-native vegetative form that has taken over many wetlands. One of the few methods of keeping it somewhat under control is by spraying an approved herbicide to kill as much of it as possible, then rolling it when it has died, followed by burning it to remove the extensive thatch so that any stems that were missed can be seen during the next growing season. These will be hit with a subsequent touch up herbicide application. It is far from perfect, but it is about the best approved option to keep it from taking over completely.  Hopefully in the next growing season or two, the natural cattail vegetation will return, and as that happens, it will be more conducive for declining species such as Black Tern to nest successfully.
Black Tern at nest
The pair of Trumpeter Swans was still around as of a few days ago. They aren't normally migratory, at least not to the same degree as the Tundra Swan which is so abundant around here these days. Perhaps the Trumpeters will remain to nest as they did historically.
A recent visit to Rondeau included a walk along the southeast beach area. I hadn't been there for a few weeks, and I was surprised to see how much more exposed this recent historical feature was.
 In looking at it from the north side, it is apparent that it is closely associated with a large slab of concrete, which is visible at the right side of the next photo. The concrete slab is all that is left of the former campground office, which was operational until about 1972/73 when late that fall and early spring, the high water arrived and flooded the campground. The campground was closed except for a very brief time in the late summer of 1985. But by 1986, the campground was closed for good. The large block of concrete was probably all that remains of a vault toilet attached to the camp office.
The South Point Trail has few birds along it at this time of year, but once the spring migrants begin to arrive it will be a priority for checking out. However the feeders at the Visitor Centre are always worth stopping by, even if only to see some of the regular winter visitors.
In thinking of Blue Jays, note that the Grapefruit League games of baseball's spring training season have now begun! And I read just today that the Blue Jays logo was considered the best logo of all the baseball teams. I'm sure that could be debated hotly, but that is way beyond the purview of this blog.

Pine Siskin
The Ridgetown Sewage Lagoons continue to attract a dozen Greater White-fronted Geese, eleven of which are shown in this next image.


  1. One has to wonder where these Trumpeter Swans originate.
    A pair was photographed at the south end of St. Anne's Island last July 15--first ones I have heard about in the area for summer.

    1. I'll have to get out in the kayak around Rondeau Bay this spring/summer. Maybe get a summering record if nothing else. I also plan to get the kayak out at Mitchell's Bay to check on the grassy islands offshore a bit, so maybe it will be worthwhile to swing up towards the south end of WIFN. I think the offshore areas are quite underbirded.