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Friday, 22 March 2019

Tuesday Rambles with David - Long Point, Norfolk County, ON

19 March 2019

     The last day of winter was a bright, sunny day and a visit to Long Point, where Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus) should be arriving in their thousands seemed like a fine plan. Judy and Mary had other arrangements for the day, but we met up with Franc, Carol, Jim and Francine to begin a rewarding session of birding.
     Our first stop was at Port Rowan harbour where the sheer number and variety of waterfowl out on the bay was staggering. Most were far out, however, and seemed to be moving farther away as we watched.


     There were many Tundra Swans and a few were reasonably close.


     In the distance we could also see two Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched against the shoreline, no doubt ever vigilant for a duck in trouble.
     We scanned the harbour from a couple of different vantage points and while the spectacle of such a huge concentration of waterfowl was very exciting, it was also distant. However, we were confident that as we explored other areas of the Long Point complex closer views would be possible.
     Our next stop was at the Lee Brown Waterfowl Management Reserve, but the water there was still frozen solid and not a duck was to be found. In this general area Tundra Swans historically have congregated by the thousands and I have been present when a bare field having barely shed its cloak of snow is transformed back to white by thousands of swans descending on the dun coloured soil. Today was no exception, there was a constant procession of swans coming in, called noisily to each other, in sheer exuberance perhaps to be returning to their Arctic nesting grounds, going home so to speak.


     This annual rite of spring is one of the greatest of all natural spectacles to be witnessed in Ontario, an event that fills me with awe each time I see it.
     Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) populate Long Point and the environs year round, but we saw only five individuals the whole day.


   Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) have returned to the province and a couple were spotted in a conifer, one spreading its wings, perchance to capture the warmth of the sun.


     Carol had spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and while we were watching it another bird flew in. It played hide and seek with us for a while but finally showed itself reasonably well. An Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) is always a pleasing sighting.


     We moved along to the headquarters of Bird Studies Canada where the assortment of species can sometimes be very rewarding.


      As you might imagine Miriam could not resist taking a picture of this barn quilt.


     In recent years barn quilts have popped up in many counties in southern Ontario and they add a pleasant dimension to the rural landscape. I find them very attractive.
     The pond at Bird Studies Canada was still frozen, but we noticed something at the lip of the entrance to a nesting box designed for Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) and, knowing that it is not unusual for Eastern Screech Owls (Megascops asio) to opportunistically occupy these boxes, were delighted at what we found.


     The box was far away but you can see the owl quite clearly taking advantage of the warmth in the sun's rays. This view was especially exciting for Carol who had never been with us before when we had located a screech owl.
     For the past couple of years when we visit Long Point, Carol's sister Betty who lives there, always permits us to take our lunch to enjoy it inside at her house, a very kind gesture indeed. If she is not at home Carol knows where to find a key to the front door, but today Betty was there to welcome us, and we were all delighted to see her. A fresh pot of coffee enabled us to enjoy our lunch with a steaming hot drink.
     Our next stop was at the Long Point Bird Observatory and in homage to my good friend, Phil Slade, an English blogger who interned at Long Point many years ago, I am including a couple of pictures that might bring back fond memories for him.



       It seemed that we could barely turn our heads without seeing scores of Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) and Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus).


     This Red-winged Blackbird seemed to exhibit partial leucism, the first time I have seen the condition in this species. 


     As is so often the case, a Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) perched quietly in a tree, aloof from the raucous scrum of blackbirds and sparrows below.


     Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) was a very common species, being seen frequently throughout the woodlot.


     On our way back along the causeway we stopped at various points and a Merlin (Falco columbarius) accounted for the absence of songbirds in the immediate vicinity.



     Its crop was bulging so I suspect it might have just eaten and was resting to aid in digestion.
     The ice on the bay was starting to melt a little at the edges but in general it was still locked in ice.



     An American Beaver (Castor canadensis) had embarked on a particularly ambitious venture! When the ice recedes it will perhaps return to finish the task.



     Invasive phragmites are a real problem throughout Ontario's wetlands, and while a major (and expensive) attempt at removal is underway at Long Point, it remains a serious issue.



     Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) aplenty were seen close to shore, males outnumbering females each time we saw them.



     Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) was also quite common. In the photograph below you can actually see the very faint ring for which this species is named - a name (along with a few others) that seems to have been conferred by a taxonomist with a perverse sense of humour!



     We saw literally thousands of Tundra Swans but only two Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) the entire day.


     But there were many, many Canvasbacks (Aythya valsineria).


     Just before leaving the causeway to begin our journey home we pulled over to the side for one last look at the Tundra Swans, a fitting end to a day of excellent birding, another encounter with nature at its best.


     We will return in the fall when the swans undertake their reverse migration to winter off the Atlantic coast. À la prochaine, mes amis!

58 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    oh my word... I am in lluurrrvvv with the hooded merganser! What a delightful wee critter. YAM xx

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  2. Thanks David and Miriam for the wonderful account of our day in Long Point. The Screech Owl was surely a thrilling moment for me. And the multitude of swans and ducks congregated was a feast for the eyes.

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  3. Very beautiful photos, David. So many swans.

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  4. What a gorgeous place to spend a hopefully spring-like day. So many swans. And the cranes. Wow. We don't get them here at all. I did once see them in New Mexico flying north, well we could hear them before we could see them. You had an amazing bird day for sure.

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  5. Hola David.

    Como siempre unas maravillosas imágenes acompañan a tu relato. Ha de ser realmente hermoso contemplar la llegada de las grullas (Grus canadensis) en formación; pero lo que me dejó sin palabras ha sido la primera foto: ¡cientos y cientos de anátidas!

    Un abrazo desde Galicia,

    Rafa.

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  6. Hi David.

    Beautiful specimens pass by.
    Very nice.

    Greeting from Patricia.

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  7. Un día maravilloso, viste muchas aves muy bonitas. Besos.

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  8. A lot of swans! Last Tuesday I saw hundreds of them, I even tried to photograph them but they were so far away. They also were so noisy. The Red-winged birds are wonderful! I have never seen before Canvasbacks, they are so beautiful! Wonderful moments!

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  9. They are all so beautiful. That merlin is so handsome. I have never seen Hooded Mergansers in the wild before. Amazing.

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  10. Hello, wonderful outing and report. The Swans and Hooded Mergansers are my favorites. I also love the owl looking out of the box. Great birds and sightings. Enjoy your day, have a happy weekend!

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  11. Queridos amigos, fabuloso reportaje y narrativa como siempre amigo David. No cabe duda que tuvo que ser un día maravilloso con tanto avistamiento. Tenéis el privilegio de disfrutar de un entorno verdaderamente maravilloso, aunque los inviernos sean duros, está sobradamente compensado por poder disfrutar de semejante belleza.
    Un fuerte abrazo queridos amigos.

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  12. It must be a great spectacle to witness; some sights in nature one never tires of seeing. Splendid photographs, Miriam. I enjoy seeing some shots of the wider landscape alongside the bird portraits. I suspect that our winter swans, Whoopers and Bewick's, have mostly left us by now headed for Iceland and Siberia respectively.

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  13. My goodness what a great day, the photographs are stunning. I have had to scroll up and down a few times to take them all in.

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  14. Hi David
    You were lucky with Sandhill Cranes, flying in v types. nice and beautiful.

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    1. It was actually the Tundra Swans, Bob, but the Sandhill Cranes are certainly beautiful too.

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  15. Tundra swan is a new one on me, interesting. We are so lucky to live under the flight path of the Common Cranes, as you say it fills you with awe. The Hooded Mergansers are amazing a new one on me also, you have some unusual birds over there.

    Hope you have a great weekend. Take care Diane

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  16. Lots of bird life for you to take in!

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  17. Another lovely outing and I did enjoy both looking at your photographs and reading your report.
    Love the owl looking out of the box, but so many great birds for us to enjoy.

    All the best Jan

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  18. Jag förstår din djupa hänförelse över att bevittna detta skådespel med alla dessa svanar, det är ett underverk som sker rakt inför våra ögon när naturen befäster vårens ankomst. Jag ser aldrig dessa mängder med fåglar men varje dag hör och ser jag något nytt nu när jag arbetar i trädgården. I går hörde jag skogsduvans ho-hoande för första gången i år och det fyller mig med sådan glädje när dessa välbekanta ljud åter kan höras i grannskapet.

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  19. A very rewarding outing. Love the flying formation of the cranes. I think I can hear the noisy calls of the birds. Have a beautiful day!

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  20. Hi David - a great collection once again with the added notes re your friend and of his time spent at Long Point. Nature is just incredible giving us so many species ... all delightful to see - or not they've been around e.g. the beaver. You certainly live in a wonderful area with so many water areas to visit offering birders and nature lovers much to see. The sun really does help us all ... warmth to the feathers, or suntanning by reaching out of a nesting box! Wonderful photos - thank you Miriam - cheers to you both - Hilary

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    1. We sometimes bellyache about the winter, but in reality, Hilary, it is a wonderful place to live. Today I am off to the annual meeting of the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society; now there's a species we have helped to recover.

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  21. Lots of birds in their paradise!
    The birds soring into the sky is my favorite,David.
    Have a beautiful day!

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  22. Hi David,
    The last signs of winter were still visible but without any doubt spring is coming up fast. It obviously has been a succesful trip, because you can show us here quite a few of different types of birds. The merganser is a truly beautiful bird, completely different from the species we can see in Europe. I can imagine that a hugh number of tundra swans is extremely impressing.
    Greetings, Kees

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  23. Such an abundance of birdlife ... lovely to see the returning light!

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  24. Hello David, stopping back to say thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Your photos and birds are lovely, especially the swans. The invasive Phragmite seems to be a problem everywhere. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend. PS, thank you for the comment and visit to my blog.

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  25. Wow! What a wonderful series of photos! Great to see large flocks of birds. I almost never see Owls when there is enough light to get a photo - that one is a special sighting.
    Love the barn quilt, too!

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  26. The Hooded Mergansers are very sweet. The tree half eaten by the beaver will probably fall when he starts gnawing at it again :) Amazing photos David and Miriam.

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  27. What a wonderful blog this is David.
    I think the swans are really beautiful.
    I enjoyed it.
    Best regards, Irma

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  28. Such a wonderful selection of birds David. I love all the Waterfowl, and the Hooded Mergansers look so comical. To catch the Tundra Swans in flight is a quite wonderful picture. The Merlin and Nuthatch really stand out too.

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  29. Very nice pictures of some wild corners of nature. The swans are stunning. Thank you to Miriam for sharing this unexpected picture of the barn quilt.

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  30. That pic of the swans overhead is wonderful! What a day you had!

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  31. Nature's gift to us is a wonderful thing.

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  32. The birds in flight - lovely to see their formation.
    Photos are wonderful and that beaver did a job of the tree and to be finished..they are destructive it seems.

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  33. Hello David!!! Beautiful collection of images .. Regards ..

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  34. what a great collection of ducks and birds, the hooded mergansers are a favorite of mine. i see most of those ducks here but not the tundra swans - i only see mute swans. miriam got some excellent flight captures, that is not my forte.

    it must be cool to see the large groups of tundra swans!!!

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  35. How wonderful to get to go to see the Swans...they really are gorgeous! And it's neat to see all the other varieties that congregate there! Love seeing that little owl...a perfect spot of him. Beautiful photos as always! Enjoy your day!

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  36. Hej igen David! Jag har nyss bevittnat en stor idrottsman som idag avslutade sin fantastiska idrottskarriär med en silverplats på sin hemarena i Quebec, skidåkaren Alex Harvey. Förutom växter och natur är längdskidåkning en av mina stora intressen, har följt skidåkningen ända sedan TV kom in i mitt liv. Världscupen på skidor är stor i Europa med tävlingar under varje helg på olika platser runt om i Europa. En del amerikanska och kanadensiska idrottsmän deltar och i helgen flyttade Världscupen till Quebec i Kanada. Vackra vyer av Saint Lawrence floden med smältande is fick vi njuta av. Men framförallt en magnifik prestation av en fantastisk idrottsman Alex Harvey från Quebec som härmed avslutade sin karriär med ett toppresultat. Jag har följt honom i tio år och kan berätta att han är stor här i Europa, inte enbart för sina idrottsliga resultat utan också för hans stora personlighet.

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    1. Hello Gunilla. Thanks so much for sharing this! I am glad to hear that you have followed the career of a good Canadian boy! He obviously ended it in fine style. i used to live in Québec City; my daughter was born there in fact.

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  37. Qué buen reportaje, David, me fascina ir conociendo, gracias a tí, estas especies tan interesantes. La formación de grullas es todo un espectáculo, el mirlo de cola roja me ha gustado mucho y ver los patos y cisnes en el agua.
    Un abrazo!

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  38. Woah, spring is happening way up north, too! I love the little screech owl peering out at the world.

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  39. You certainly manage to pack the birds in in your Tuesday Rambles, David! Miriam's shot of the Tundra Swans in their almost perfect 'V' formation is wonderful. Well done to whoever spotted that Eastern Screech Owl - I'd love to see one. Drake Hooded Mergansers have to be one of the strangest-looking ducks - another species I'd like to see one day.

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  40. Hi Both,
    What a magnificent day out you and your party of friends had with such a variety of birds.
    Some stand out with the Tundra Swans and the Sandhill Cranes but the real beauty is the Hooded Merganser, what a beautiful duck. Then you manage a Screech Owl looking out of its box.
    Super interesting post.
    All the best, John

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  41. What a great ramble! I’ve only ever seen one or two hooded mergansers at once, how amazing to have a whole “raft” of them. We used to have towhees all the time in Oregon ...I guess they must be Western ones.

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  42. You can say that again, Spring has unsprung so th speak. Amazing the different birds you already saw. The Swans, the Cranes, and al those amazing Ducks. Hope the sun will do the rest to melt snow and ice for the coloring with flowers etc.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  43. I don't think i've ever seen so many Swans in one place as you show here, it's quite a beautiful sight especially with the snow and sunshine!

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    1. We estimated that in total there were around 7,000 of them, Pam.

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  44. Beautifully varied blog David.
    Very nice to see all the different ones.
    Beautiful the swans in the snow.
    Greetings Tinie

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  45. I love what I see here. My place is scarce with wildlife. Maybe I should move to yoour place. Seems more interesting to go for a hike. You actually see things :)

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  46. You sure found a variety of birds. I especially enjoyed seeing the swans and the canvasbacks. We have had a bird drought the last few months, but they are beginning to return. Have a wonderful week.

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  47. David - a delight from beginning to end. The hooded merganser and the screech owl steal the show for me. Enjoy the ongoing thaw ….

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  48. David que reportaje más bueno. Me encantan tus imágenes.

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  49. Thank you David. I'm not kidding when I say that the picture of the Long Point Obs brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. I'm not sure I was interned there! Far from being a prisoner, I spent 2 spring periods there, 7 weeks in all, and was privileged to see and handle many wonderful species and to meet many lovely, friendly Canadian people.

    For anyone reading this comment who is considering a trip to LP, as a volunteer "intern" or just for a day, I can thoroughly recommend the experience. this is especially so in the coming weeks when they will experience bird migration in action, a phenomenon that at LP can be spectacular indeed.

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  50. Muy interesante publicación, se ve que las aves se están moviendo con el cambio de estación. Qué contraste con las imágenes a pleno sol y las de la bahía congelada, no da la sensación de frío las de tierra adentro pero me imagino el aire debía estar bastante fresco. Aquí también el tiempo lógicamente está cambiando y ya algunas hojas están amarillas, con la llegada de algunas que vienen del sur y la lenta partida de las que migran hacia el norte.

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  51. I love my little buddies the Mergansers! I don't see them often at my lake but feel especially happy when I do! And a sandhill crane fly-by is always breathtaking. Wonderful sightings for your group. And tell Miriam I would have taken photos of that quilt too. Probably a lot of photos!

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