Followers

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Waterloo Region Nature Outing to Long Point, Norfolk County, ON

      It is getting hard to remember a time when COVID didn't affect almost every decision we make. In the wake of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant new provincial restrictions on assembly have been imposed on a weary populace, and there is now a limit of ten people on an outdoor gathering.
     At the last moment one participant's family contracted COVID and another had difficulty getting a caregiver for a younger family member, so we were eight that made a visit to the the Long Point area, along the northern shore of lake Erie.
     It was a cold day, but suitably dressed, we sallied forth in high spirits and with great expectations. 


     Once again, we proved the point that you can clothe yourself properly and deal with cold, yet oppressive heat is impossible to escape, especially when accompanied by high humidity.
     And by midday the temperature soared to a heady minus 9.5 degrees! No one had to worry about the mayo on a sandwich curdling in the hot sun!
     
Leader: David M. Gascoigne

Members: Miriam Bauman, Lisa Den Besten, Tina Den Besten, Bob Fraser, Angie Koch, Wendy Shaw, Zach Summerhayes.

Angie, Bob, David, Tina, Lisa, Wendy, Zach
  
   On the way down to Port Rowan, just outside the town in fact, we spotted a field with hundreds of Sandhill Cranes (Antigone canadensis) and stopped to get a scope trained on them.



     The bugling call of the cranes is as thrilling as seeing them; it is for me as evocative as the call of a loon on a northern lake. It denotes the spirit of wildness that we all cherish so much.
     There were several small flocks of swans too, almost certainly Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianius), stragglers who failed to migrate south along with their congeners in the fall. 


     While we were watching this spectacle Tina who had driven up from London to take part in the outing caught up with us. At the same time, ironically, we were talking to her sister, Lisa, who had driven directly to Port Rowan from Waterloo, and was giving us information on the thrills that awaited us there.


     At this stage, I should add a word about the pictures on this post. Either the camera was being temperamental, or the lighting was not perfect, but they are not of Miriam's normal high standard. 
     Enjoy them as they are, and relive the experience with us.
     We were all impressed with the number of cranes before us, none more than Wendy; little did we know that before the day was out we would have seen by our most conservative estimate 2,000 or so, and would repeatedly congratulate ourselves on our good fortune. 
     The other amazing aspect of the day was the sheer number of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). An immature bird was close at hand when we joined Lisa at Port Rowan, and several others were perched farther out.


      It is difficult to get an exact count since the birds move around, but I am quite confident that by the end of the day we had seen around fifteen different individuals.
     Once in a while, it's good to render homage to some of the people who come on my walks and make them so enjoyable. No one who has not been so featured should feel slighted, and spotlighting some does not in any way detract from others.
     Lisa had not been on any of my outings until earlier this year, but has been a devoted regular since. Recently on the foray down to the north shore of Lake Ontario we were joined by her sister, Tina, and what a fabulous addition to our group they have made.
     Not only are they knowledgeable, competent birders, they portray the very essence of good spirits and cooperate fully with every other participant, and demonstrate an absolute affirmation of sisterhood.


     They are sisters by birth, but good friends by choice. It is a pleasure to be around them.
     Given the recent spell of cold weather, Lake Erie was pretty much frozen over, so we were unable to enjoy the normal range of waterfowl we would expect at this time of the year.
     Several Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) huddled with Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) in a sliver of open water.


     There were a few Redheads (Aythya americana) and Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) but at too great a distance to get a picture. Lisa also saw a Canvasback (Aythya valsineria) or two. 
     The pond at Birds Canada was frozen, but at times an Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) occupies the Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) box - but not today!
     Sandhill Cranes were flying all around us.


     I thought that the weedy fields leading from the back of Birds Canada headquarters down to the lake would yield Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) and American Tree Sparrows (Spizelloides arborea) but there was nary a one. 
     A nest, the site of so much activity mere months ago, looked forlorn on a wintry day.


     Several Bald Eagles put on a show for us, with four occupying the same tree at one point.


     The bird on the left will soon sport the plumage of an adult bird, with emblematic white head and tail.


     I suspect that this male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) was feeding well on juniper berries.


     We drove along Lakeshore Road to Lee Brown Waterfowl Area. I knew that the water would be frozen, but for some members of our group it was their first time at Long Point and I wanted to show them where to come in the spring.
     Sandhill Cranes were our constant companions.


     There were many Canada Geese finding food in the corn stubble too.


     It was quite remarkable that we hardly ever out of sight of cranes, with very substantial flocks at times.



     Bob remarked that at times they were so close you could observe the detail on their feet!
     What a privilege to spend time with these birds.


     We picked a handy spot for lunch surrounded by cranes, with a Bald Eagle nest off in the distance.


     Just as we finished lunch an enormous flock of Canada Geese flew into the fields, their honking almost deafening. Between the cranes and the geese we were witness to a great natural spectacle.
     Our drive along the causeway was not particularly productive due to the simple fact that there was very little open water.


     A Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) seemed intent on playing a game of chicken as it wandered into the road. 


     We were pulled off to the side, and it decided to go under my car. Zach acted as traffic warden and we finally coaxed it away from the traffic.
     A female Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) was coursing over the marsh in classic hunting mode, a particular delight for Angie for whom it was a lifer. 
     A small number of female Common Goldeneyes (Bucephala clangula) were feeding where open water permitted.


     Most of the wide expanse of Lake Erie was icebound and hostile.


     Bald Eagles were stationed here and there, no doubt searching for a fish in open water, or a vulnerable, inattentive duck.


     At the Old Cut field station, headquarters of the Long Point Bird Observatory, the feeders had been filled and there was quite a bit of activity.
     This female Northern Cardinal had no doubt been banded earlier in the season.


     Dark-eyed Juncos darted under the feeders to snag seed falling from above, all the while perching patiently awaiting their turn.


     A couple of Red-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta canadensis) maintained a regular shuttle to and from the feeders.


     A few Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) are eschewing migration and opting to face the winter here.


     There have been many creative ways for organizations to alert people to social distancing requirements, and this sign is fitting for a bird observatory.


     A group of American Tree Sparrows had located a fertile feeding spot.


     The woodlot was silent for the most part, although we did hear several Golden-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa) and a few of us had a brief, but unimpeded view of a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus).
     A walk down to the entrance to the provincial park yielded little in the way of birds, but I enjoyed a great chat with Wendy,
     

     The park is closed due to COVID, so there will be no winter camping in there for a while yet.
     It was time to head for home, well satisfied with a great day of birding, despite the absence of waterfowl. 
     Let's do it again soon!  


    

81 comments:

  1. The cranes are a particular delight.

    ReplyDelete
  2. a wonderful time reliving Sandhills from Whitewater Birding area,Arizona and my wonderful time in a blind on the River Platte ,Kearney,Nebraska I note below my g mail address which I do not use [ only in Spain ]-not sure how that happened I use rjf13@sympatico.ca

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your group is a hardy bunch! Sometimes my photos look fuzzy when I shoot over a body of water due to mist. That may also happen with snow.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, those Sandhill Cranes! I remember a similar flock at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico on a trip there a few years ago. I can still hear their calls in my imagination.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The first large group of cranes I ever saw was at Bosque del Apache. It seemed odd at the time that is was called a refuge, yet was closed for part of the day to let the hunters wreak their carnage.

      Delete
  5. What a fabulous day. How I wish I could join you (and your current temperatures appeal too).

    ReplyDelete
  6. True. Will put on a lot of clothes in a minute to go get Ingo´s meds, 2C here. So... icky, but doable.
    Great pics of the birds and the sign of the crane. I should take that with me, still too many dumb people here who get too close.
    Two years and they still did not get it, how can that be.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well done on going out in that cold weather! I have never seen so many flocks of cranes and swans, fabulous! I can't imagine being out when its so cold, my c oat here would not be enough! Have a great day, take care, hugs! Valerie

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think it is amazing how many birds you can show in a blogpost David! The Sandhill Cranes was very beautiful. The sign was very creative made. Yes, the covid ghost still hunts us here too :(
    Warm hugs, Marit

    ReplyDelete
  9. A really cold day but fruitful because you were able to see a great variety of birds in a very beautiful natural park.
    Here the Covid is a problem now and the infections increase. We have many restriction at the moment.
    Stay safe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The warm companionship alone made it worth while, and the cranes were spectacular.

      Delete
  10. I would love to see and hear Sandhill Cranes congregating in those sort of numbers, David. This post got me visiting Xeno Canto to listen to a group of Sandhill Crane and it was more than a little impressive! That number of Bald Eagle would have me in danger of becoming over-excitred too.

    I understand your comments about coping with low temperatures. However, as we do not often get very low temperatures here, it is debatable as to whether it is worth the investment, both financially and spatially, in catering for such occasions. The case for such investment seems to weaken, although the requirement is amplified, as I get older! It's tempting just to get on with other indoor things, so that one's time is free when the warmer weather arrives.

    Best wishes - - - Richard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But just think of all those Snowy Owls waiting to see you, Richard...........

      Delete
  11. Buenos días, queridos amigos, un precioso recorrido con muy buenos avistamientos, a pesar del frío, resultó un paseo gratificante y bien rodeado de amigos.
    Gracias por mostrarnos siempre la belleza de esos paseos tan entrañables.
    Recibir un caluroso y fuerte abrazo de vuestro amigo y compadre alicantino Juan. Cuidaros mucho que el maldito virus sigue más activo que nunca.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi David.

    There was a lot to see during your trip.
    It's nice that people can still enjoy nature.

    Greetings from Patricia.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The cranes…incredible. I’ve never seen them but would love to! The red on their heads is quite beautiful and so many of them! They must be such hardy birds to stay around in that weather. The cranes alone would have made the day for me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sandhill Cranes and Bald Eagles were our target birds for the day, Marie, and we did well with both species.

      Delete
  14. Hi David,
    marvelous you could come so close to the cranes. It are impressive birds.
    As allways, I enjoy reading the reports on your outings. In my head I walk along.

    Best regards, Corrie

    ReplyDelete
  15. 2000 cranes.... oh I would like to see that. (and I like the covid-crane-sign).
    Lisbeth

    ReplyDelete
  16. I've been admiring your ability and willingness to get out in the cold, but looking at these photos, I've finally come to the point where I'm no longer thinking, "I wish I could be there!" On the other hand: those cranes! Clearly, I've not understood their habits as well as I should. Because some come here in the winter, I'd assumed most come south in the winter, and that clearly isn't so. It's time for me to do some reading and re-reading! What an experience you had.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cranes are pretty hardy birds, Linda. You may have seen one of the many documentaries showing Red-crowned Cranes dancing in the snow of a Hokkaido winter.

      Delete
    2. I hadn't, but now I have. Thank you for the tip! What glorious birds -- and the scenery is equally lovely.

      Delete
  17. Hello David, Very good shots... It´s cold... Ufff!!!

    ReplyDelete
  18. That was a great trip. We haven't been out as a group since Nov. 2020. Sandhill cranes are one of my favorites.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. COVID has interfered in so many ways, Red. There are many in our naturalists club who are still reluctant to join an outing.

      Delete
  19. Hello David,:=) What a special day that was, wonderful company, and you saw what you set out to see, and found thousands of Sandhill Cranes. It's certainly an impressive sight, and one I would love to see, it would make my day. I often wonder what they find to eat under those conditions, being large birds they need more nourishment than most.

    ReplyDelete
  20. ...fabulous images!\, I will stay one crane apart!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Another nice outing, David. It's wonderful that people still want to participate and enjoy nature in the great outdoors.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Les grues sont très jolies, il est original le panneau! Bonne soirée

    ReplyDelete
  23. What a fabulous outing, David! I cannot even imagine what it would be like to see all those Sandhills. I would be breathless, stunned, in awe. And then the eagles and all the others. This had to be a walk to remember and a remarkable day. All that and good fellow bird fans, too! I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Seeing those cranes (again) is amazing. And 4 bald eagles on one tree is exciting. You had a good birding day. And on my blog you mentioned your best margarita.The one(s) I had were pretty good too! hugs-Erika

    ReplyDelete
  25. What beautiful pictures you took of the trip.
    The nature is beautiful there, the cranes are my favorite.
    Greetings Irma

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi David - the photos are still brilliant to see ... and Miriam has given us a great selection ... love them. Lake Erie does look extraordinarily hostile. So pleased you're still able to have delightful outings despite that weather ... while the Covid notice made me laugh, so clever and appropriate too ... thanks once again a wonderful post from you both - cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi David,
    Despite the cold, it was a rewarding trip with a lot to see and capture in photos. I particularly loved the photo of the Northern Cardinal, its beautiful red color stands out from the rest.
    Nature is wonderful in all seasons.

    ReplyDelete
  28. You must be so happy getting out and about. I'm getting heebee jeebies around people.
    Thank you for sharing your trip. What a success.
    I cannot go back to Amherst. There are too many rotten birders amongst the ethical ones. We just didn't have a good time there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's too bad that you had this bad experience at Amherst Island. As someone who has birded all my life (I was already out in the field every day at eight years of age), I have run into a few jerks, but mostly people have been kind, respectful and decent. Seems like all the miscreants were at Amherst the day you were there. In my experience fanatical photographers are more of a problem than birders, when they will do just about anything to get a perfect shot.

      Delete
  29. You got a lot of great shots of so many different birds. I remember one year we parked at a gas station in Florida and two cranes were happy crazy only 2 feet from our car!

    ReplyDelete
  30. I am always amazed how ubiquitous the red cardinals are. I see them here in Hawaii. The other birds you show are not present in Hawaii at all.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Uhh yeah I'm done with that kind of weather so you just have fun out there. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  32. Wow, what an amazing day you had in Long Point David! If you are there again, keep an eye out for a Snowy Owl. My sister Betty has had the good fortune to see it there recently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We did look Carol, but may well have missed it. Miriam and I were out today and saw one near Milverton.

      Delete
  33. Great birds. Those cranes are so wonderful.
    I have been enjoying getting out with my niece while she has been visiting us here in Belize. We were in one park with a sign suggesting we stay a jaguar's length apart. It will feature in an upcoming blog. :)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Don't suppose you can find a warmer place to visit David you are making me very cold. Interesting post though.
    Mike.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Warm is not an option in Ontario in the winter, Mike.

      Delete
  35. You and your hardy group certainly had lots of sightings, David. We have not been on many outdoor walks this winter so it's so enjoyable to read about your own and see the results. I have seen flocks of snow geese but never sandhill cranes. Their red masked faces are so distinctive.

    ReplyDelete
  36. David - one of the first new birds we experienced in Montana was the Sandhill Crane, and through hearing it before seeing it! Like you, I revel in its haunting call. We had a seven plus hour drive from Idaho Falls to home today, and we lost count at over 50 raptors along the way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you visit the World Center for Birds of Prey by any chance?

      Delete
  37. Victoria and I missed out on the flock of sandhill cranes (antigone canadensis) in the field !. Around April last year, we were so excited to see just one flying gracefully in the air over the marshes at Long Point. But then it wasn't that cold.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I plan to run this outing again on a weekend, Selwyn, so perhaps we can have a repeat experience.

      Delete
  38. Replies
    1. If we are out birding together we ate always happy.

      Delete
  39. Hello David,
    What a nice group outing, everyone does look warmly dressed. I would be happy just seeing all the Sandhill Cranes, the Eagles are a bonus. Love the Cute Red-breasted Nuthatch. Great report and I enjoyed Miriam's photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend! PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Beautiful excursion in the snow and with cold, well wrapped up, no problem! and it is true that it is more difficult to withstand extreme heat.
    I really liked the ride.
    Hugs and kisses.

    ReplyDelete
  41. The Muskrat sure is cute! Glad you handled it and got it safely on it's way. Love seeing the Sandhill Cranes....hundreds of them are here in Florida now. And you know...I don't HAVE that many clothes but if I came up there, I'm sure you could tell me what I need. Take care and enjoy the weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I enjoyed seeing your photos!
    Lots of wonderful birds! Cute muskrat!
    Great Covid-19 sign

    ReplyDelete
  43. Thanks for the hawk ID David. I didn't know that red tailed hawks don't get the red tail until they are older. I looked for the red tail, but not seeing one I suspected something else. Hawks are so difficult to ID, and now they'll be even harder. What do you look for when you ID them? Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The answer to that question is not simple, Erika, and would be quite lengthy. What I would look for when identifying a buteo like a Red-tail Hawk, as opposed to an accipiter like a Cooper's Hawk, as compared with a kite like a Mississippi Kite, or a harrier like a Northern Harrier, etc are different shape and size, flight pattern, habitat, hunting strategy, diagnostic field marks, and other factors. If you really want to know send me an email so that I will have an email address for you, and I will reply in stages!

      Delete
  44. Querido amigo hoy de nuevo tenemos el placer de disfrutar con vosotros de un estupendo paseo y me admira la cantidad de aves que hay con tanto frío. Aquí estamos con menos cuatro y se ven muy pocas. Las fotos son preciosas. Un fuerte abrazo para ti y para Miriam.

    ReplyDelete
  45. You certainly did have a great day of birding, and I certainly enjoyed seeing all of your photographs.

    All the best Jan

    ReplyDelete
  46. Nice trip report as usual. Great sightings and loved seeing the beautiful photos.

    ReplyDelete
  47. hello David
    I experienced such a crane spectacle myself, on vacation in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania I was out and about before sunrise and heard some horns... gradually it became louder and then they rose... countless cranes flew out of the reeds towards the corn fields. .. Deafening noise but a highlight in my life as a photographer... back then you didn't have to keep your distance as far as a crane..;-)) Greetings Frank

    ReplyDelete
  48. I am a big wuss. I can't stay warm in that cold air, even is I grew up in the Colorado Rockies. Gimme hot, humid, even if I complain.
    LOVE seeing so many cranes...as you say, their calling is just as thrilling as seeing them.

    As always, enjoyed your photos and narrative...thanks for linking in this week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cold invigorates me. Hot, steamy weather saps my energy.

      Delete
  49. Beautiful photos David, Nice trip in the snow. I like the cranes. The muskusrat is looking cute and soft. Nice day birding.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Good heavens David, that price is very hard to envisage. I had absolutely no idea that it was worth anything remotely resembling that figure. I had better let the family know so that they realise that they need to take good care of it one day. Thank you for letting me know, I really do appreciate the trouble that you have taken in finding that out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure entirely, Rosemary. Thank you for letting me see this exquisite piece of art, so fundamental to our Canadian identity. I am happy to know that it is in good hands.

      Delete
  51. Looks like another successful outing! Although all of the sightings would be exciting to me, mostly, I'd be over the moon to see all those bald eagles! It's an extremely rare thing to see here in NJ, and my only real experiences were in Alaska, and outside of Vancouver.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Even though it is so cold, it is worth going out for the birds and wonderful companionship.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Awesome photo's but even looking at them made me cold. Enjoyed looking at your efforts, that way I can stay warm and indoors. I would be one with the huge hat for sure, can't stand not having my head covered. Sorry to hear one of your group has Covid. Hope all stay well. Seems we take two steps forward and then 3 back........sigh
    Sandy's Space

    ReplyDelete
  54. A nice frigid hike that I enjoyed viewing from inside my home :) It would have been nice to have view the sandhill cranes and tundra swans in person once again, but I'm glad you all had a successful hike.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Great people, enthusiasts, surround you David. The two sisters are very friendly. Beautiful photos despite poor lighting. I see that there is little snow on the field, which helps the cranes and geese to feed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of the great pleasures of leading these walks, Nadezda, is the wonderful people who join them. Lisa and Tina are a great example.

      Delete
  56. Cranes are such mystical creatures, especially is Asian mythology.

    Love the variety of birds you share with us every time.

    Happy Tuesday, David!

    ReplyDelete
  57. Hi David,
    You cannot complain about the abundance of birds. It must have been amazing to see so many cranes. But to see so many different kinds of birds must have been a great experience for your group. Winter can be an attractive season, despite of the cold.
    Greetings, Kees

    ReplyDelete
  58. I'll always agree on the cold over the heat any day! A good outing made better by the people that joined you :) How wonderful to see so many Cranes they are beautiful birds.

    ReplyDelete
  59. It hasn't snowed much, but the field looks pretty powdery.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Una gran caminata, viendo a las grullas y águilas sería feliz. Un abrazo.

    ReplyDelete