Great Egret

Great Egret

Thursday, 13 April 2017

More first of year things, including birds

I thought it was time to give my Snowy Owl header photo a rest, especially since most, if not all, of them seem to have left the area. I was out yesterday to where the last lingering Snowies have been seen, and did not see any sign of them. Undoubtedly since farmers are getting busy on the land spreading fertilizer, etc, the extra activity has convinced the owls to move on.

I thought this Prothonotary Warbler photo was in keeping with the upcoming season. Hopefully there is a healthy number of them that arrive here in the next few weeks!

The last few days have been productive. That isn't surprising, since this is the time of year when many signs of spring are gaining momentum: early migrant birds are relatively abundant, and the next wave is arriving; reptiles and amphibians are becoming more noticeable; native wildflowers are appearing, and butterflies are becoming more numerous. Yaaay!

Winter Wrens have been back for a few days, but they are so hard to photograph. They are constantly on the move it seems, playing hide and seek amongst the branches and debris on the forest floor or swamp. Once in awhile, you get lucky.

Ruby-crowned Kinglets are starting to be a bit more numerous. They are almost as hard to photograph as Winter Wrens. This one was photographed through a fence at the maintenance yard of Rondeau, into the row of White Cedars, so not as clean and sharp as I would like.
I got my first migrant Yellow-rumped Warbler skulking amongst the leafing out branches of an invasive honeysuckle.

The star of last spring at Rondeau was the White-winged Dove. It was quite predictable and remained for several months. This spring, every time I went by the cottage lot that hosted it in 2016, I would slow down and glance in, but it wasn't until this past Sunday when I wasn't at the park, that it was first seen for this year. It was noted carrying on similar behaviour....checking out its reflection in the sun roof of the cottage owner's car and calling regularly. I got to see it a couple of days later. Too bad it didn't think to bring a mate along with it!
A pair of Black-capped Chickadees was noted excavating a rotting stub.

This species is generally quite tolerant of people, but this nest site is a mere metre or so away from a boardwalk along a busy trail. With the busyness of the birding season building, will they continue their quest or move to a quieter neighbourhood?

The trails have been good for other things besides birds, of course. I recently noted my first of the year (FOY) Eastern Ribbon Snake swimming along a slough, slithering over logs, etc. It looks much like the more abundant Eastern Garter Snake, except that it normally inhabits swampy areas, has more vivid yellow lines down its back and has a small white dot in front of its eye. The reddish brown colouration along its sides are on slightly different rows of scales as well. This species is declining in Ontario, and is designated as Special Concern under the Endangered Species Act 2007.
 I noted my first of year Hepatica in flower. Until the leaves appear, which will be very shortly, it is more difficult to determine if this is Sharp-lobed Hepatica or Blunt-lobed Hepatica.
The open male flowers of Silver Maple are becoming more apparent.
I saw my FOY Red Admiral recently.
Eastern Commas have been out for awhile now, as have Mourning Cloaks. I saw my first ones during the warm spell in February, but it isn't hard to find a dozen or more along the trails on these sunny days. This particular Eastern Comma was willing to sit still for awhile.
 I wanted to get a different perspective from ground level to show the underside of its closed wings. Fellow nature photographer and Canon camera aficionado David Barr captured me with this shot, and graciously allowed me to use it here.
 This is what I was photographing.

From Rondeau I sometimes scoot over to Erieau in a round-about way home. The pair of Bald Eagles nesting in a woodlot along Fargo Road have been more successful this season than they were in 2016. There are two little ones in the nest. Garry Sadler sent along a photo he had showing an adult and two small young. At my most recent check of the nest, one adult was perched on the side and there was a very brief showing of a young bird's head for a fraction of a second. No photo, however.
At Erieau, there was a FOY Forster's Tern resting amongst a small group of Bonaparte's Gulls.
In the fish tug harbour area, there were a few Red-breasted Mergansers.....hardly uncommon at this time of year, but I always enjoy their courtship antics. They start out with their 'hair' looking quite unkempt, swimming directly towards their target or sometimes another male.

 They then 'slick their hair back' and get ready to extend head and neck, dipping partly underwater in the process.

 The ritual concludes with the male extending its head upward again.
This is the target of their affection.
 And this close-up of the partially open beak shows the serious looking row of teeth that point back toward the base of the bill. That feature is very important for a species that feeds almost entirely on fish, slippery critters that they are.
I've sprinkled some of my outings to the southern parts of Chatham-Kent with the occasional trip north, at least to the Mitchell's Bay/Lake St. Clair area. The two trails north and south of the village are often worth checking out.

The sheltered areas of the canal along the south side trail is a great spot for basking turtles. It isn't hard to find a couple of dozen Painted Turtles out. I haven't come across the much rarer and designated Threatened Blanding's Turtle yet, but I am sure it won't be long.
I got my FOY Great Egret along these trails, not surprising since just a short distance away at Walpole Island First Nation at the north end of Mitchell's Bay is a large nesting colony of them. This particular one came up behind me and was almost missed, but I managed two photos.


  1. I'm sure we can all relate to getting down to secure that special shot! Just don't do it in a patch of stinging nettle like I did last year to get some Dickcissel photographs.

    1. are quite right, Quinten. And not poison ivy either! I purposely stuck to the gravelled portion of the trail to minimize any contact with nasty stuff, including ticks!

  2. The chickadee photos suggest (to me) there is some "Carolina" in that bird (10-50%? the greater coverts don't have the uniform brighter white edges I typically associate with BCCH), although it's hard to be confident from two photos... If you have extra shots I'd love to see them (email, whatever!)...

    1. An interesting observation, Brandon.....thanks. I will send a couple of other pics your way, although I think because the bird was in the bright sunlight later in the morning, the white of the cheek was washed out so as I reduced the white in post processing, it gave the bird overall a little more of a muddy look with subdued white on the wing.