Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

How high's the water momma?

If you have spent any time along the Great Lakes recently, you will likely have noticed the water levels are high. Which reminded me of the late Johnny Cash song which I used for the title of this post. And it is a fair question to ask. Just how high is the water? An excellent source of information is found on this web site, which is that of the US Army Corps of Engineers, and is updated weekly.

In a nutshell Lake Erie, for example, is about 15 cm higher than it was a month ago, and is only about 15 cm below the all time record high for the month of May, which was set in 1986. It currently is about 132 cm higher than the average lake level since water levels were recorded. The greater than normal precipitation and cooler than average temperatures are at least part of the reason. So it is no surprise that when there are strong sustained winds from the east or southeast, places like Rondeau and Erieau get battered. For those with waterfront property, the good news is that the forecast is for the water levels to start to go down.

We will see.

On one of those windy times, I stopped by Erieau. It was kind of wild. I don't recall seeing it quite like this before in the spring. Some years, there is virtually no water at this base. You can see the post with the rescue pole, which is normally about 50 metres or so from the lake, but at this point it is in the lake.

While I was photographing I noticed a shorebird taking refuge in the lee of the base of the pier. It was a single Whimbrel. Since I had on a wide-angle lens, this is all I got. If you look close in the centre, you should see it.
 It didn't stay long, but when it did get up to fly to the east, it realized that it wasn't going to happen. It was flapping hard, and the wind was actually blowing it backward, so it eventually gave up and turned to let the wind whisk it the other direction.
The east shore of Rondeau isn't much better off. There is little or no beach left along the north half of the peninsula, and extensive pools of water are collecting on the inside of the first dune.

 There are some shorebirds making do, such as the occasional Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and others.

Spotted Sandpipers always seem to survive and will be nesting soon, if they haven't started already.
Spotted Sandpiper
At the very end of the South Point Trail, the southeasterly winds were crashing on shore, spilling over to flood the trail. Either that, or the portable washroom overflowed!

Away from the shoreline, however, it is business as usual, although the roar of the wind and waves on such days can be heard from any point in the park.

Baltimore Orioles are abundant.
Cedar Waxwings have increased noticeably in the last few days. They won't begin nesting for a few weeks yet. In fact, they seldom start their nest building process until at least the third week in June.
Warblers are still passing through. Some, like this Canada Warbler, are more often heard than seen, as they move through the dense shrubbery. On occasion one might even get a photo, although a branch or two partially obscuring the perfect view seems to be the norm.
When one is hiking the trails of Rondeau, some of the sloughs appear to be partly covered with brown blobs.
 It isn't an early form of algae. It is actually the male flowers of the American Beech which have finished their function and have fallen off.
male flowers of American Beech
 The female flowers are smaller and less obvious.
Female flowers of American Beech
 If the number of flowers is any indication, it looks like it will be a good year for beech-nuts this fall, much to the delight, I am sure, of critters like Wild Turkeys, squirrels and mice.

On those days when it was actually warm and sunny, winged critters besides birds can be seen.
American Lady

Northern Crescent

Spicebush Swallowtail
 I saw my first Monarch of the season just a few days ago. Some years they are hard to find until well into June, but rumour has it that it was a good winter for them in their Mexican highland wintering area, and decent numbers are well on their way here. This individual was very fresh looking, so presumably it had just recently emerged somewhere in the midwest, such as Missouri, and then caught a southwesterly wind to aid in its arrival here.
Dragonflies are out and about, and there are ample small flying insects for them to feast on.
Green Darner
 This next one is a presumed Carolina Saddlebags. It has a very limited range in Ontario, arriving when it occurs, in late May. It is considered rare in northeast Ohio, so is presumably rare here as well.

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