Great Egret

Great Egret

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Early December action

December has arrived, and that triggers the period for winter birding lists. It also means local birders are out scouring the bushes to see what lingering avian critters might be around for the upcoming Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The Blenheim/Rondeau count is less than two weeks away!

For this count, Rondeau Provincial Park and Erieau are two of the hotspots known to catch the attention of late migrants. A male Eurasian Wigeon has been fairly reliable at the north end of Rondeau, although not often seen close to shore (although I got a text today from Garry Sadler that it was at the edge of the bay under the willow tree closest to the normal viewing point.....a day when I had other commitments and couldn't get out). This first photo, greatly cropped, is one of my more successful attempts.
Eurasian Wigeon on the right
It is often in the company of American Wigeon and Gadwall.
American Wigeon

There has been a handful of less common birds scattered in various place in Rondeau, but they are not always easy to catch up to. One place I often check is the north end of Harrison Trail and also the adjacent campground, which is closed, but has easy access and lots of shrubbery for birds. Yesterday I went for a hike in this area. It was much quieter than I expected. I saw nine Gray Squirrels...

....a feral cat....
...and a mouse before I saw or heard a single bird (full disclosure: my hearing isn't all that great, so it is possible or even likely that there were birds I missed). Eventually I did get some birds for my day's list at this location, including Black-capped Chickadees, American Goldfinches, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Cardinals, Golden-crowned Kinglets, etc.

I know there was a Golden-crowned Kinglet on the branch in this next photo when I pressed the shutter....honest! They never seem to sit still, so in the ensuing millisecond of time, it was gone. (Over the years I have collected a few shots of empty branches.....😏)

There have been some strong winds from the southeast recently, and I wanted to check on the state of erosion along the south and southeast beach areas of the park. The wave action so far didn't seem to do too much damage.
Southeast Beach
South Beach

The Erieau pier and channel has received the brunt of such wave action as well.

Note the uppermost branches of the tallest tree in the previous photo. For those who have spent time over the last couple of years birding the Erieau area, you have undoubtedly noticed the dead Double-crested Cormorant blowing in the wind. It has been there for at least two years, and is a testament to the tough, leathery skin of a desiccated cormorant. Maybe we should start a pool to see who can predict how long it will remain?

These gulls in the next image would normally be out on the pier, but as you can see from the third photo above, it wasn't a popular place to hang out on this day. The birds in this next photo were about to get a shower.

The Rail Trail and the McGeachy Pond trail are two good spots to check out. There has been an interesting assortment of song birds in the last few days, including Wilson's Warbler, Palm Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Gray Catbird, American Robin and Bohemian Waxwing, among other more expected species. The density of the shrubbery adjacent to the phragmites as well as the abundance of non-native rose hips makes it attractive to such lingering migrants, but sometimes very challenging for birders! I haven't spent as much time combing the bushes as some others, and so haven't caught up with all of the above. In fact of those listed, I have only seen the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robin and the Bohemian Waxwing. The latter species was probably the most surprising, as they are rarely seen in Chatham-Kent in any year. In fact I have only seen them in C-K about three times in the past four decades. This individual shown below was with a flock of about 125 of the much more common Cedar Waxwings.
American Robin feasting on rose-hips
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher from a different day
Bohemian Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing enjoying fruit of Red Cedar
The Rail Trail is popular for sparrows.
Front to back: Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Fox Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
This trail is also a spot to see White-tailed Deer on occasion. This one was only a short distance away, but reluctant to move off. After a few moments of trying to stare me down, it eventually settled back down.

An occasional Great Blue Heron remains in the area, not surprising given all of the open water. This one was taking shelter along the canal adjacent to Lagoon Road.

With the imminent arrival of colder weather, it will be especially interesting to see how many of these species are recorded on the upcoming CBC!


  1. Wow! I've never noticed the deceased cormorant at Erieau before. Perhaps I'll look for it next time I'm there. See you (hopefully) at the CBC!

    1. Wait...I may actually recall seeing it my first time in Erieau last November (2015).

    2. It has been there for awhile, but doesn't always register, and of course it is barely visible when the leaves are out.

  2. Haha, I've noticed that "flowing" cormorant every single time! Your photos, as usual are amazing Allan, especially the gnatcatcher. Wow! It definitely makes me miss being home.

    1. Thanks, definitely is different from the high arctic, or even Parry Sound for that matter :-).