27 February 2018
With Franc and Carol back from Arizona, and Jim and Francine newly returned from Québec, for the first time in almost three months the entire complement of our regular group of eight was reunited for a day's excursion to Long Point.
In the southerly regions of the Province of Ontario migrant species have been recorded for a couple of weeks and we fully expected to see many "firsts for the year" at Long Point.
Judy and Mary drove with Miriam and me, while Franc and Carol came with Jim and Francine. They left from Kitchener and we from Waterloo, but amazingly, even before we arrived at our destination Jim was right behind us at a stop sign.
We drove into Port Rowan harbour, our usual meeting spot, and right away were treated to the magnificent spectacle of hundreds of Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus) arriving from their wintering haunts off the Atlantic coast. Some touched down in the water, others moved to to fields of corn stubble.
Unfortunately I don't have a picture to post here. For part of the time Franc was experimenting with new equipment and he has not yet perfected the technique of satisfactorily downloading the images. He did, however, capture this great shot of a couple of Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) using his familiar Canon camera.
We stationed ourselves on a high point overlooking Lake Erie where thousands of ducks could be observed, albeit quite far out.
The rafts of inshore ducks were comprised mainly of Mallards (Anas platyrynchos), Redheads (Aythya americana) and Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser).
There were surprisingly few gulls and those we did see were all Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis).
Handsome, robust male Redwing Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) populated the cattails, staking out territory, waiting for the females to arrive over the next couple of weeks.
I had to make a stop at Bird Studies Canada to pick up some nest cups for Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica), a device with which we will experiment at our two Barn Swallow colonies, and everyone took advantage of the stop to have a bio break and look around the headquarters of this premier ornithological research centre.
We then headed out towards the Lee Brown Waterfowl Management area, on the way sighting a pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) - at least I am assuming they were a pair. They certainly tolerated each other's close proximity well if they were not.
The only waterfowl at Lee Brown were Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), but several Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris) put on a bit of a show for us.
We saw our first Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) of the spring, although this species, in small numbers, is now found throughout the winter.
I am not sure what everyone was searching for here, but their attention seems to be focused on something. Tundra Swans were landing in the fields, but generally coming in behind stands of trees, never in the clear for a clean photograph.
By now it was lunch time and we headed to Carol's sister's house. Betty has made us welcome in her house every time we have visited Long Point over the past couple of years, and even when she is not at home permits us to go in to enjoy a comfortable place to eat our lunch, with a warm, clean washroom break especially appreciated by the ladies. Carol makes fresh coffee for us all to enjoy. I would be remiss indeed if I did not express the sincere appreciation of everyone for Betty's kindness. It is very much appreciated.
Our final stop was at Old Cut, where the Long Point Bird Observatory is located.
Old Cut is quite legendary. It is but a small woodland adjacent to the bird observatory; however, the number of rarities that have been recorded there over the years is quite remarkable. And on a good day in spring, when neotropical migrants are flooding the area, great numbers of warblers, flycatchers and thrushes can be found.
It is early yet, but many Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) were in evidence.
There are well-stocked feeders next to the banding station (not yet in operation this spring) and many species are attracted to an easy meal, including this Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).
We saw our only Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) of the day at this location.
This female House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) looked especially fit and healthy.
We parted company and left for home; our final species of the day being a Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) in the bay just before getting back onto the highway.
I am sure we will return for a visit in the spring when a whole range of new arrivals will be there to greet us.
All species: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Tundra Swan, Mallard, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Horned Lark, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal. Total: 25
28 February/01 March 2018
Francine let us know that a friend of hers had advised that an owl had been seen in a conifer at a school quite close to Francine's house. It turned out to be a magnificent Long-eared Owl (Asio otus). We all went to see it at different times and Franc, Miriam and I took photographs, even though the bird was deep in the tree and well camouflaged. Franc gets the prize for the best image.
Thank you, Francine, for giving us all the heads up!