Great Egret

Great Egret

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

February Shorebirds!

It seems that oddities are the norm these days, thanks to the weather. My last post dealt with butterflies in February. Not to be outdone are shorebirds in February.

(Note: only the last photo in this blog post was actually taken in Feb.....the rest were obtained from my archived files.)

Killdeer have been around for a few days now; that isn't all that much of a surprise.

American Woodcock have also been around, and aren't too far off their normal arrival. Given that some stayed quite late in the fall (5 were recorded on the Rondeau Christmas Bird Count on December 18), is it possible that some of the handful that have been reported in the last week are actually winter survivors?
The most surprising shorebird arrival was one I unexpectedly saw yesterday, Feb 27. I was scanning a large, scattered flock of waterfowl at the head of Rondeau Bay. Some ducks and coots were close to the edge, which is piled up with black organic material, and appearing as mud flats. There were 4 Killdeer, and as I was scanning, a Lesser Yellowlegs popped into view! Unfortunately as I was scanning through my scope at about 45X or more, and with the sun shimmer, there was no way I could get a photo at all. But its size, (body size about the same as a nearby Killdeer, although slimmer) long bright yellow legs which made the bird stand taller than the Killdeer, and the long pointed beak were quite diagnostic, as was the habit of darting around in search for food.

As far as I am aware, the earliest record of Lesser Yellowlegs for the Rondeau Provincial Park checklist area is March 23, which occurred quite a few years ago (pre-1979). So this bird yesterday was more than three weeks earlier. According to the ebird database, the earliest record for Ontario was March 6, 1977 in the Hamilton/Royal Botanical Gardens area of Spencer Creek, so this record of Feb 27 is the earliest date ever for Ontario by about one week.

Still with the shorebird theme, but not one that I expect to see for quite a few weeks yet, is this Ruddy Turnstone. I feature it because the February, 2017 issue of Birding, published by the American Birding Association, has just declared it as the Bird of the Year for 2017. I photographed this individual from my kayak as the bird wandered along the edge of the sandy island in Rondeau Bay.

I did get a couple of other 'first of the year' birds yesterday, however, but no other shorebirds. I finally got the long-staying Orange-crowned Warbler along the South Point Trail, as it hung out with a group of Golden-crowned Kinglets, Tufted Titmice and Black-capped Chickadees. No photos, though.

The other FOY was a Turkey Vulture which flew low over the trees at the north end of the Campground, and enabled me to get only this one quick shot as it flew right over my head.

Happy late winter birding!


  1. Excellent find with the Lesser Yellowlegs, Allen! This spring sure has been strange so far - it will be interesting to see what kind of an impact it has on the local flora and fauna.

    1. Thanks, Josh.....I am glad that the weather is getting back closer to normal at least for the short term. I just hope we don't get winter in April or May!

  2. Hi Allen, a local young birder & nature enthusiast here.. this comment is somewhat irrelevant to the topic of this blog entry and I apologize but I was hoping you could offer some insight.
    I have had my eye on what appears to be a rookery or some sort of nesting colony in some trees about 1km East of the Wednesday Market on Longwoods road. There are about 25-50 nests packed into a small area. The nests are right beside the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks, between Caledonia Rd and Centre side road, although closer to centre side Road.
    As far as I'm aware, the only colonial nesting birds in Ontario are birds such as shorebirds and herons. (And crows, but they don't nest here.) So this really has my interest! The nests are empty now and visible only with the lack of foliage on the surrounding trees at this time of year.
    Would you happen to know what species of bird nests here? The most logical option in my mind would be great blue herons, as there is a fair amount of marsh land surrounding the area and nearby fields. Cormorants don't make much sense to me and I don't see many night herons here in the summer.
    Thank you for any information you may be able to offer!

    1. Hi David. Thanks for your question. Those nests stand out if you happen to be looking off in that direction, but probably aren't all that visible to the average person driving along Longwoods Road, so good eye. Those are indeed Great Blue Heron nests. That heronry has been there for at least a couple of decades, and when the herons come back in the next couple of weeks or so, you may see them flying to and from the river.