Sunday, 29 September 2013

Kitchener-Waterloo Naturalists Field Trip

Trip Report
Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists' Outing
Reesor Pond, Little Reesor Pond, Cranberry Marsh
Raptor Watch, Whitby Harbour, Lunde Shores C.A.
28 September 2013

Leader: David M. Gascoigne

KWFN Members: Betty Brechun, Peter McLaren, Carol Nussli

Guest: John Lichty

Reesor Pond, Markham 08:40 – 09:33

Of late, there have been reports of both Snow Geese and a Ross'Goose at this location and these were our target birds. Upon arrival we chatted to a local birder who advised that the Ross'Goose had not been seen for a few days, that the Snow Geese had been regulars, but left the pond at the crack of dawn only to return near dusk.
There was much of interest, however. One of the first things to attract our attention was a Canada Goose, very much bloodied around the bill and face, also on the breast. It appeared that it might have been the victim of an attack by a coyote or other such predator, and had managed to escape, albeit seriously injured. Given the condition of the bird we doubted that it could survive.
There was a Great Egret glistening pristinely in the early morning sun, a Great Blue Heron for contrast, and no less than four juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons. There was a great congregation of Killdeer, numbering around fifty by my estimate, and they squabbled and scurried and fed providing great entertainment for us. We saw both Blue and Green-winged Teal and the sun glinting off the speculum of the Green-winged Teal was simply breathtaking.
Waterfowl are beginning to arrive from their northern breeding grounds and we saw both Northern Shoveler and American Wigeon.
The most spectacular exhibition was provided when a Merlin swooped low over the Killdeer, all of which immediately took to the air shrieking. What was most amazing, was that as the Merlin began the process of segregating its quarry from the flock, the Ring-billed Gulls all arose in unison and attacked the Merlin, finally driving it off to a tree on the far shore where it perched. Incredibly a second Merlin cruised by in front of us, but it appeared not to be hunting.

All species at Reesor Pond (not in taxonomic sequence) – Black-crowned Night Heron, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Blue-winged Teal, Double-crested Cormorant, Killdeer, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Canada Goose, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Merlin, Red-winged Blackbird.

Little Reesor Pond, Toronto 09:41 – 10:05

There is a small wetland at the end of Old Reesor Road, near Finch Avenue, which has come to be commonly called Little Reesor Pond, although I believe it has no formal name. The area is quite small, barely a hectare I would say, but is sometimes very productive.
A single, untagged, Trumpeter Swan was the first bird we saw, followed by a female Wood Duck. Several passerines were flitting around, some flycatching, including a juvenile Eastern Phoebe, so lovely in the yellow plumage it sports at this time of year. A couple of empidonax flycatchers were impossible to identify as to species. Two Swamp Sparrows moved back and forth from one section of the marsh to another.

All species at Little Reesor Pond (not in taxonomic sequence) – Trumpeter Swan, Wood Duck, Mallard, Accipiter sp., Swamp Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe, Empidonax flycatcher sp., Blue Jay.

Cranberry Marsh Raptor Watch, Whitby 10:30 – 11:30

A visit to the hawk watch had been the focal point of this trip and we were hoping for a miserable day's weather with northwest winds. Instead, we were treated to as benign a September day as one could possibly wish for, with bright sunshine, a high of 22 degrees and barely a breath of wind! It was, to say the least, not classic raptor-watching weather.
Despite this we spent a fine hour on the viewing platform with other hopefuls, renewing old acquaintances and enjoying a few raptors and a wide variety of birds on the marsh.
Chief among the great pleasures of this stop was a sensational show put on by a Peregrine Falcon as it patrolled low over the water. Everyone was able to have superb views of this bird, certainly among the apex predators of the avian world. Later we were treated to a second Peregrine Falcon. Rayfield Pye and I were reminiscing about many how many years we had been watching hawks together at that location (well over thirty!) and back in those days, when the Peregrine Falcon was barely beginning its recovery from the dark days of organochloride pesticide contamination, the sighting of a peregrine was cause for great celebration.
A local Northern Harrier was joined by a migratory bird and the two of them coursed briefly over the marsh together. We saw eight Turkey Vultures, but they, like everyone else, seemed to be content to simply enjoy the good weather, and certainly didn't press on with their migration.
A source of great pleasure was derived from a Sharp-shinned Hawk which passed low right over our heads, and gave a textbook display of flight techniques, enabling everyone to see how skillfully it used its tail as a rudder. Everyone was enthralled with this “demonstration flight.”
Rusty Blackbirds are at the peak of their period of migration and numerous birds were seen, as well as a variety of ducks.
Great Egrets dotted the marsh; it is quite remarkable how common this species has become in recent years.

All species at Cranberry Marsh (not in taxonomic sequence) – Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Great Egret, Mute Swan, Rusty Blackbird, Peregrine Falcon, American Crow, Mallard, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Red-winged Blackbird, Wood Duck, Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Great Blue Heron, Northern Harrier, Mourning Dove, American Black Duck, Green-winged Teal.

Whitby Harbour 12:00 – 12:50

We moved over to Whitby Harbour to enjoy our lunch in the very pleasant ambiance of the boardwalk, with a few birds to keep us company, and even a Monarch butterfly, exceedingly rare this year. It made one feel good to be alive, basking in the sun, enjoying good fellowship and food which always tastes better when consumed al fresco.
Among the birds we did see was a wing-tagged Trumpeter Swan as shown in the picture below, and a remarkable thirty-seven Mute Swans.

Great Blue Heron and Ring-billed Gulls
Mute Swans, Trumpeter Swan (K21), Canada Goose, Ring-billed Gulls
Mute Swans, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gulls
Mute Swans, Trumpeter Swan, Herring Gull

All species at Whitby Harbour (not in taxonomic sequence) – Double-crested Cormorant, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Trumpeter Swan, Mute Swan, Turkey Vulture, Great Blue Heron, Mourning Dove.

Lynde Shores C.A., Whitby 12:56 – 14:49

We ambled along the road searching for a small marsh where we were told a Long-billed Dowitcher was present. Unfortunately, even with five people looking, we did not find the marsh!
During a walk through the woodlot we were both surprised and pleased at the numbers of people out enjoying nature with their children. The paths through the wood have been well provisioned with bird feeders supplied by local schools and children are encouraged to feed the birds, principally chickadees that are renowned for their confiding nature, and willingly take food from the hand. While some purists might argue that this kind of behaviour is not de rigeur I could not help feeling very reassured that some of those children, based on their encounter with wild creatures, will form the next generation of naturalists. It was quite lovely to see grandparents, parents and children all enjoying nature together, with not a tablet or Iphone in sight!
Even three Wild Turkeys seem to have been well habituated to throngs of people surrounding them.
The entrance to the woodlot was populated by large numbers of Common Grackles and the noise was almost deafening. At one of the feeders we saw two White-breasted Nuthatches, our only nuthatches of the day. We also spotted our first White-throated Sparrow of the fall.

All species at Lynde Shores C.A. (not in taxonomic sequence) – Great Egret, Blue Jay, Ring-billed Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Canada Goose, Great Blue Heron, Mute Swan, Lesser Yellowlegs, Rusty Blackbird, Blue Jay, Pied-billed Grebe, Common Grackle, Mallard, Wild Turkey, Mourning Dove, White-throated Sparrow, House Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch.

Lake Ontario Shore, Whitby 15:00 – 15:20

The lake was noteworthy for its paucity of species! We saw only Double-crested Cormorants and Ring-billed Gulls.

General Comment

I am very grateful to the people who joined this trip. We had a great time together and I will look forward to birding with each of them again.

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