In recent years my territory has included the South Beach of Rondeau, all the way to Erieau. Then I return, drive out the Marsh Road and walk the south half of that trail. All in all it usually totals about 15km or more, often carrying about 14 lb of stuff. There is one area where there isn't even any cell phone coverage....probably the only place in Chatham-Kent where that is the case!
It is a real workout, especially as one gets older, and the weather conditions have varied considerably. I've canoed on this count, and I've almost been blown into the lake due to the fierce wind at the very exposed south beach area. But it is always a treat to get in such an out of the way place at that time of year....one never knows what birds might be out there! Over the years I have even had about 10 species of shorebirds!
This is what the South Beach looked like for the 2015 bird count...clear sailing all the way.
But with the several inches of snow, freezing rain, ice and snow drifts of recent days, it was a different story. The sudden arrival of winter snow made the access roads impassable to get to the starting point of these remote areas, and since there is always so much walking once I get there, I didn't want to walk an extra several kilometres. Besides, with the wind and ice conditions being what they were, chances are there might not have been as much as some years anyway. So I decided on a different strategy. Since so much other area of the park never gets covered, I thought I would deviate from my usual route and experience what most other bird counters do.... a lot less walking in a more forested and edge habitat.
Scanning the lake is often worthwhile, so I started scanning from the east end of Bennett Ave. The lake was pretty empty, but at the horizon one could see large groups of waterfowl moving through the distant haze. I suspected scaup and mergansers, and found out later that more than 7400 scaup had been reported from the Morpeth Cliffs area. The best species of note for me at this point in the day was a pair of adult Bald Eagles, one of which came in off the lake to perch beside its presumed mate. The many branches interfered with the focus, but at least you can see what they were.
Checking out a feeder along Lakeshore Road just a bit south of Bennett turned up a good variety of birds, including some of the few cowbirds I saw all day, as well as Fox Sparrow, White-throated Sparrows, Tufted Titmouse and others.
At times, the only birds to be seen were those flying high. There were hundreds of Canada Geese as well as a few Tundra Swans moving west-southwest, clearly on the move from farther afield. I guess winter had arrived farther north as well!
|Flock of 47 Canada Geese|
There were lots of hikers out.
And others who were content just to sit along the trail in one place and smile.
The shrubby and grassy areas along Lakeshore Road were the busiest for birds. I noted an American Robin and a couple of Hermit Thrush.
I did get a pleasant but not totally unexpected, species. While scanning out over the lake with the 'scope, I looked down the shoreline and noted a small sparrow type bird heading directly at me. I followed it through the scope and when it got close enough, switched to my binoculars. It landed by a tussock of grass not more than 10 metres away.....it was a Savannah Sparrow! It is a species that isn't always recorded for the count, so I was pleased to add it to my list.
I didn't get a photo of the Savannah Sparrow, but this lake freighter was more accommodating, albeit too far away to get a clear shot.
Another adult Bald Eagle was spotted in a cottonwood tree along the lake.
I stopped at the Visitor Centre, just to make sure the Eastern Towhee was there. It is technically in Blake's territory, but right on the edge of mine, so I took the liberty of looking for it.