Thursday 23 March 2023

Some first sightings of the season

 I have been a bit busy working on a project which I hope to announce soon, but have still been able to get out and see some of the new hints of spring. For example earlier this week, I saw my first butterfly of the year, a Mourning Cloak. This species overwinters as an adult, so on a warm day, it can suddenly appear. It wasn't all that warm, a mere 4C but sunny and with very little wind; still it was a nice hint of other thingst to come.

In the bird world, I now have seen 5 species of shorebirds in the last little while, with things like Pectoral Sandpiper.....

.....and Dunlin being the latest arrivals this week. Actually a Pectoral Sandpiper had been seen by others a week or two ago, but I never caught up with it.

Dunlin, while typically being one of the latest autumn shorebirds to be seen (we got one on the Christmas Bird Count last Dec), the date of seeing this one yesterday is unusual. In checking sightings on eBird, this individual seems to be the first one of the season here in Ontario.

Both of these shorebirds were observed at the Erieau Marsh/Rail trail, and there is always a few species of waterfowl to be seen. In fact there are often thousands of ducks within binocular/scope view as they rest on the bay before heading off to their breeding ground. Most are too far away to bother with a photo, but some of the 'puddle ducks' are close enough to give them a shot.

Blue-winged Teal have just arrived in small numbers

Green-winged Teal have been around for a couple of weeks or so.... have Northern Pintail.

While not technically a waterfowl, I also saw this American Coot at the McGeachy Pond Conservation Area just outside of Erieau.

Mute Swans, well what can I say. If there is any open water, even throughout the winter, there will be some (too many!) around. This one is just resting on a mud flat along the Erieau trail. Some are even on their nest already.

In other swan news this escapee, the Whooper Swan, continues in the Erieau area, either on the bay or in the roadside pond on the way to Erieau.

Continuing with the swan topic, I was at the Mitchell's Bay South Shore trail yesterday and saw a lot of Mute Swans, as well as this Trumpeter Swan. It is native, and staging a comeback in Ontario. It is noticeable by its size, as large as a Mute Swan, but with a large, all black bill and a wide black area just in front of the eye.

Continuing with the waterfowl theme, I finally caught up to Greater White-fronted Goose. There had been a few seen here and there for several weeks, but never right where I was. That changed yesterday when I saw 11 of them at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons. I met another birder there, and together we managed to locate them at the far end of the lagoon site. They allowed us to approach, slowly and carefully, to within about 150 metres before they decided that was close enough, and so flew off to another berm on the southeast side of the lagoon system. We left them alone there, and the next day (yesterday) two more had joined them.

Also along one of the two Mitchell's Bay trails, I saw two Sandhill Cranes, and they are definitely getting into breeding mode as I noted an attempt at copulation.

I also saw my first Great Egret of the year, a bit early for the species given the un-spring-like weather over the past few weeks.

A Ring-billed Gull isn't something I normally decide to photograph, but this one gave me a good setting, and it was in prime breeding plumage, so I took it!

Rounding out some new spring sightings, I added these two species of turtles: Midland Painted Turtle...

....and Blanding's Turtle.

There were actually at least a dozen or more of the painted turtles out basking, but were quick to plop off into the water before I was able to get positioned through the shrubbery to get the photo I was attempting. The Blanding's Turtle, on the other hand, was quite tolerant.

Hopefully there will be a lot more first of year sightings in the near future!

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