Doug and I set off for the OFO (Ontario Field Ornithologists) Annual Convention in Long Point last Friday morning and met up with John along the way with the hopes of some good shore-birding (ugh) at both the Jarvis and Townsend Sewage Lagoons. Uhuh, what better way is there to kick off the week-end than in these stinky places??!! But the high winds made it an exercise in futility (phew, that was a close one), so instead we checked in at our Simcoe hotel, then made our way to the Bird Studies Canada Headquarters in Port Rowan:
From there we went to the Long Point Bird Observatory's Old Cut Field Station area:
But the high winds and eventual rain kept any significant birds out of sight for us, other than Black-capped Chickadees and numerous Golden-crowned Kinglets that tortured us with their calls yet made it impossible to locate them high up in the trees.
We gave up and returned back to town to meet up with Glenda and Kathy for dinner....
...Doug was in one of his Guys-Gone-Wild moods that evening, sipping on his CC with water, soon to be followed by a beer chaser, who knew??!!
...later that same evening, Doug manages to
still stand up participate in a group shot with his fellow Pickering Naturalists, what a trooper!
Saturday morning, against a backdrop of gunshots every so often (!!!!), we met up with other OFO members at Old Cut and as we walked over to the shores of Lake Erie at Long Point Provincial Park, a Bald Eagle flew overhead, a good sign!!
The high winds from the previous day continued to prevail:
Both Ring-billed and Herring Gulls were on the beach with Canada Geese and Caspian Terns. You'll have to trust me on this in the below photo, and also be forewarned that this week-end was not an award-winning photo session for me, waahhh:
In the forested area bordering the beach we saw both Golden-and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, several warbler species, including Blackpolls, Magnolia, and Cape May, a Brown Thrasher, Dark-eyed Junco, tons of Northern Flickers, both Nuthatches, Downy Woodpecker, and Ruby-throated Hummers.
We returned to the Old Cut area, and instead of keeping up with the group I found myself drawn inside to the bird banding station where in the end I spent most of my morning, it was fascinating! John, Doug and I had seen the "wrapped-up" mist nets from the day before...
...but now they were properly set up for the morning bird activity, in fact I walked right by this captured Swainson's Thrush (one of many caught during my time there) without even realizing it was there! And yes, it is still alive, despite looking like its next stop should be Larry's Taxidermy:
The mist nets are designed to capture the birds without causing them grief, and some birds are noisier than others when caught (for example, Gray Catbirds and Cedar Waxwings were the most vocal that I heard). The nets are frequently checked for birds and are then carefully extracted and put into cloth bags for delivery to the banding station to be examined and banded. Three customers below await their turn to be processed:
The banders (or ringers, if you're a Brit!) worked in pairs, one to handle and examine the bird, the other to record data. For me, it was almost like Christmas morning to see them open up each bag to see what bird was inside! First the bird was carefully banded, then a fat analysis on the lil sweetie was done by blowing on the feathers to look at the skin, then its wing measurements were recorded, its age and sex were determined, along with its weight, and duly noted, then it was finally released back to nature through a hole in the wall, unless it was a larger species.
Some of the customers included several Swainson's Thrush and Brown Thrashers (one had been caught three times (duh!!), so it was immediately released, once they checked the band number):
A first year Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, immediately after being banded and released, the band can be seen on the right leg if you have phenomenal vision like me (as if):
A common observation was that each and every species was smaller than I expected, I'm not sure what the deal is with that, as I would have expected them to be larger up close, perhaps it's a trick of
the my brain or something??
A gorgeous Black-throated Blue Warbler was banded, as was a Northern Parula, but Blackpoll and Yellow-rumped Warblers were probably the most frequent species:
Several Northern Flickers were moving through the area and therefore caught in the nets, and to see them up close like this was thrilling, their colours and marking are spectacular! I was even allowed to release one of them outside, what a blast to hold one, so light! Feisty little things they are, too, here's another one being held (not by me!) before its release:
Absolutely fascinating, in fact I must confess that this was probably the highlight of my entire week-end! Somuchso that I intend to further investigate and possibly even pursue this aspect of birding, if anyone wants me!
I tore myself away from the banding station after sharing some of my baking with the staff as a "thank-you-for-letting-me-be-in-your-face-for-far-too-long", they seemed pleased
to see me depart with my baking...
After lunch Doug and I had time to hit Big Creek Marsh before the next group outing. Doug is trying to decide how to successfully persuade me to go up on the observation deck as gunshots from local hunters continue to reverberate around us:
He succeeds. I make it out alive after shooting (haha, get it??!!) this photo of the view:
Other than a Great Blue Heron, the only other critter of note was this:
Yup, that's how slow it was that day.
So just like Bonnie and Clyde, Doug and I dodged more bullets as we retreated to the car to join up with the others at the BSC Headquarters for the afternoon outing. More Bald Eagles migrated overhead. At the wetlands from the observation deck we observed Wood Ducks and a Green Heron, and at the Inner Bay Overlook added to our day list American Coots and Wigeons, Pied-billed Grebes, Mallards, and Mute Swans. And more gunshots, yikes.
The next stop was The Coves, an area that can be quite productive for migrating raptors, and within seconds of exiting our vehicles, several Sharp-shinned Hawks flew overhead, but then after ten minutes the action subsided.
We returned to a private property opposite the BSC Headquarters for my Lifer of the trip, a
n Equestrian Cattle Egret. With horses. Not cattle.
However, one of my field guides tells me that it gets its name from chasing livestock to nab insects, so I suppose hanging out with horses is allowed.
As the Cattle Egret took off, so did Doug and I from the group to find the Sandhill Crane that we had missed seeing next to a cornfield on the northwest corner of Lakeshore Road and Highway 59. Success looks like that tiny grey blob in the grass, left of centre (you were warned):
The dinner banquet that night was outstanding, as John and Glenda can attest to:
I even lucked out and won a pair of Kowa 8 x 42 binos, one of the best door prizes going that night, now I have no excuse to not look at butterflies!
On Sunday morning we set out for the Turkey Point area and were much more optimistic for birds as the winds had calmed down, what a difference a day makes!
We initially focused on the beach area where this one-legged Kildeer (!) caught our attention:
He was quite adept at hopping around the beach, surprisingly! Other shorebirds we saw included Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Snipe, as well as Bonaparte's Gulls, Marsh Wrens, Barn Swallows and a lone House Finch on a wire as we made our way back to the car.
Our next stop was at the Normandale Fish Hatchery, which formerly boasted a twenty-acre pond that was wiped out in 2008 when a dam burst. What remains now is a forest around the hatchery:
Warblers were feeding high up in trees, including a Black-throated Green and this Cape May (I warned you that there were no prize photos from the week-end):
Overhead we enjoyed migrating raptors, including Turkey Vultures, Cooper's Hawks, and this Broad-winged Hawk:
A Red-shouldered Hawk soared over us too:
As we progressed along the road, Black-capped Chickadees, Blue Jays, and a Hairy Woodpecker were also seen, but the "quiet trend" continued, so we all left for Silver Lake in Port Dover. We were pleased that our chosen route wasn't hindered by any excess motorcycle traffic, being grateful that it was not a Friday the Thirteenth!
Silver Lake allowed me to add to my list more Mallards, a Black Duck, a female Northern Pintail that Jean picked out of the masses, a pair of snoozing Green-winged Teal, Peregrine Falcon, and a Belted Kingfisher. An adult Bald Eagle flew overhead, here's a pathetic flight shot, when compared to my B.C. photos:
Suddenly I was pulled back over to the Dark Side of nature when someone bellowed out "BUCKEYE"!!! Huh???
Okfine, this is a Common Buckeye, my new favorite butterfly for the year, this first one has been around the block a few times, look how faded and worn it is...
...as opposed to this fresh, bright young thing:
Timmie's in town beckoned, though, so we answered its call and after lunch (John had ice cream, oink oink) drove off to our final destination, the Townsend Sewage Lagoons. I'm including this photo below as proof that I'm not the only nutbar/freak that hangs out in these questionable locales, look at them all!! And there are more of them up ahead that cannot be seen!
As it turned out, the aggravation that it took Doug, John, and I to climb over the wire fence was worth it in the end, as we added more birds to our year lists, including American Pipits and Rusty Blackbirds. Both male and female Ruddy Ducks, already in their winter plumage, were languishing in the first cell along with numerous Northern Shovelers. Marsh Wrens were seen in the cattails as we made our way back to the car, as we called it a day, declaring it time to head home after a good few days away.
My final tally for the week-end was 84 species, my Year List grew to 241, and my Life List now stands at 271 species, thanks to Saturday's
Equestrian Cattle Egret.
My good fortune continued into Sunday night as I had a phone call from Terry, the Director of the Friends of the Osprey organization, informing me that my submitted "Yawn" Osprey photo placed second in their contest, whoohoo! Ann's fabulous "goof" shot took first prize, so a big congrats to her for winning the competition.
Here's my "Yawn" shot again, and thanks to all who took the time to vote for it!