Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Friday, 19 May 2017

May is.....

A) A month too busy to post blogs!

B) Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Many of you will be aware of the challenges of dealing with Lyme Disease which I have shared over several posts. If you haven't seen them, you can check some of them out here, here, and here.

Black-legged (a.k.a. Deer) Tick

I periodically get questions about LD testing and such. In my opinion, current LD testing in Canada is hardly worth going through, since the spirochete which causes LD can move around, and isn't always detected in the blood, therefore giving a potentially false result. If you find a Black-legged Tick (a.k.a. Deer Tick) embedded in you, carefully remove the tick and keep it in a hard plastic container. An old film cassette container works well. (I have had ticks chew their way out of a zip lock bag!) Take the tick in to your local health unit to be sent away for testing, but keep in mind that it can take five weeks or more before you get the results back. In the mean time, carefully monitor the tick bite site to see if any rash appears (that may take a week or more) and also monitor yourself to determine if you experience other first stage symptoms such as chills, fever, aches and pains that you might normally associate with getting the flu. If those occur, see a doctor asap, and hope that the doctor is Lyme Literate enough to give you an antibiotic.

Also keep in mind that not all Black-legged Ticks carry LD....some experts suggest that fewer than 40% even if you are bitten, you might escape contracting LD. The best advice is to be aware and be cautious, which I have outlined in some of those previously written posts.

C) A great time for birding. I haven't been out as often as I would like for birding.....what birder has :-).....due to energy levels related to Lyme Disease, as well as other commitments which unfortunately coincided with days when birds were most plentiful. But I have been out to enjoy some great times with birds, and other birders.

I noted this sub-adult Lesser Black-backed Gull during a recent visit to Wheatley Harbour.

On one of my times checking out the Erieau waterfront, I came across this Red-throated Loon. It was quite cooperative, at times popping up from a dive too close to focus! As I was processing the photos on the computer at the end of the day, I noted that one of its eyes seemed to have been injured, which may have explained it being so approachable.
One time along the Erieau Rail Trail, I saw a Sora. Often when one encounters a Sora, the best view you get, if any, might be like this:
 Or this:
 But on this occasion, the bird was quite willing to come out in the open. I watched and photographed it for the better part of an hour, and when I left, it was still out. These images are hardly cropped at all.

Songbirds, and warblers in particular, are a highlight of the spring migration. I've been able to catch up to most of the usual warbler migrants, but not all that many have provided the kind of photo op that a photographer would like, since the birds are often high up in the trees searching for insects to replenish their energy so they can go on the next leg of their journey.
Blackburnian Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler

Cape May Warbler
Of course it is always a highlight to see nesting Prothonotary Warbler, an endangered species in Canada which has its Canadian stronghold at Rondeau.

The most common warbler by far is Yellow Warbler.

Colourful non-warbler highlights include:
Scarlet Tanager

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
 Just yesterday, I managed to catch up to both Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Black-billed Cuckoo, although the former was the only one I got decent photos of. Note the distinctive yellow bill, the rusty patch on the wing, and the bold black and white pattern on the undertail, none of which occur on the Black-billed.

D) Nesting season. Some species have been underway for weeks, as this recently hatched Killdeer would indicate.
 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are busily nesting. This one below was building its nest when I caught this adult heading off for some more nesting material.
 On a recent hike along Spicebush Trail, I noted a peculiar lump on the branch of an American Beech tree. It is a Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest, barely 4 cm in diameter. Hopefully I will be posting some nest action photos in the near future.
Birds aren't the only types of wildlife nesting. When you see a large Snapping Turtle out crossing roads, well away from water, you know it is a female looking for a place to lay her eggs.

E) Orchid season. One of the first orchids to appear is now out. This is Showy Orchid (Galearis spectabilis), an uncommon orchid of rich woodlands. I keep an eye on a small colony of them at Rondeau, and normally they begin to flower on about May 21. However the exceptionally warm weather earlier in the week brought this one to flowering a bit ahead of schedule.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

C-K hotspot action and a migrant magnet

These last few days have been interesting, with lots of spring migrants putting in an appearance. The cold, rainy windy weather of last week is all but forgotten.

Visits to Rondeau (of course!) as well as Mitchell's Bay area, Wheatley Provincial Park and Paxton's Bush have all been productive. In looking at the number of entries on ebird, it is clear that there are a lot of birders, too, and checking out parking lots at the usual hotspots have proven that. At times if the birds aren't abundant, it is a great time to visit with folks along the trail that you sometimes see only at this time of year.

At the tail end of the windy weather, Great Egrets were seen well away from the waterways, and in some cases, they had to hunker down and face the wind like this one below, just to keep from being buffeted by the wind.

 Some Bald Eagles were not bothered by the windy weather, as at least 4 were noted soaring overhead along the Mitchell's Bay trails. The wind must have kept the Yellow-headed Blackbirds under cover, as they were not seen by the dozens of intrepid birders who were searching for them. Perhaps they have moved out to their preferred stand of cattails, which isn't in a highly visible location, ready to get the nesting season underway.
Rusty Blackbirds still linger, as a few persist in the wet woods of Rondeau. In many years, they have moved out of southern Ontario by about this time. They appear in various plumages, making one look carefully to see if a rarer species is mixed in. Some appear relatively glossy compared to their winter attire.

Red-breasted Nuthatches are still moving through.
Hairy Woodpeckers are permanent residents, but seem to be less common than they used to be. Two males were vying for territory along Rondeau's Tuliptree Trail.
The always popular Prothonotary Warbler has been cooperating for most viewers, and some of the time for photographers as they are setting up their territory. The bird spends a lot of time popping in and out of the branches and debris at the water's edge, making getting a photo rather challenging.
 A bit of patience rewards the watcher, and the photographer, with less obstructed views.

 On several occasions, the male has been observed taking moss to one of the nesting boxes.

Yellow Warblers are likely the most common warbler around these days, and will remain so for the entire breeding season.
 Black-throated Blue Warblers have arrived in good numbers. It is not uncommon to see a dozen or more in an outing.
There have been many other warblers appear, but as the weather warms and the insect activity is greatest higher up in the trees, getting a decent photo is next to impossible. But things like Blackburnian, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, American Redstart, Blue-winged, etc have all arrived much to the satisfaction of birders. Species like Yellow-breasted Chat, Golden-winged and Hooded are all present as well, but getting a glimpse rather than a photograph is about the best most people can hope for.

While searching the tree-tops for warblers, one might miss an intriguing item at ground level. This is the season for morels, and they blend in well.

On the outskirts of Blenheim there is a grassy industrial lot along with a low wet spot which has sometimes attracted a few shorebirds. The grassy area has a few Bobolinks....

.....and Savannah Sparrows.
On a recent visit, there were two Solitary Sandpipers. Which begs the question, if you see two close by, are they not really Solitary anymore? And if so, what would they be?
A not-so Solitary Sandpiper

 Earlier today I decided not to drive off somewhere else to look for birds, but to visit Paxton's Bush, a 20 acre or so woodlot on the north side of Chatham and only a 10 minute walk from home. Turns out it was a great idea. With so little forest cover in this part of Chatham-Kent, a woodlot this size can sometimes be a magnet for migrants. Along a trail no more than a kilometre long, I tallied 19 species of warblers, including First of Year Magnolia, Orange-crowned and Golden-winged. There were also lots of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, several Veerys, FOY Swainson's Thrushes and FOY Scarlet Tanagers,  well as FOY Philadelphia Vireo and FOY Alder/Willow Flycatcher.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Enjoy the spring migration....the fall migration will be starting in about a month!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Celebrating 123 years

No, it is not my birthday, although there are some days when I may feel close to this age (I think).

No, May 5 is the birthday of Rondeau Provincial Park. It was on this day in 1894 when an Act to establish a Provincial Park at Rondeau was assented. And technically, Rondeau is the oldest provincial park in Ontario. While Algonquin normally gets credit as being the oldest provincial park, it was originally established in 1893 as a National Park under The Algonquin National Park Act. It was superseded by the Provincial Parks Act in 1913, so has been a legislated national/provincial park since 1893. But Rondeau has been a provincial park since 1894.

If one really wants to get technical, the first provincial park in Ontario was Queen Victoria Provincial Park, established at Niagara in 1885. However it was transferred to the Niagara Parks Commission a number of decades ago. So Rondeau is technically the longest lived provincial park in Ontario.

So here is to Rondeau....the grand old lady of the Ontario Provincial Park system!
East Beach

Rondeau Road south (now the South Point Trail)

Harrison Trail

Rondeau Road