Sunday, December 3, 2023

A Mouse-Gray Coloured Bird at Pelee and a New Book

 The last few days have been uneventful with dismal weather and very few birds to see.  (looks like a quiet winter!).  Today, Sunday, was the most dismal with fog and later rain.  But I did get a highlight at Point Pelee to brighten things up.

Point Pelee National Park was closed all this past week for deer herd management, but opened back up on Saturday.  Paul Pratt's group managed to spot a Townsend's Solitaire at De Laurier yesterday.  Obviously it was the continuing bird that was found back on November 20 at that location.

With nothing else to do today, I made my way through the fog to Point Pelee and first stopped at De Laurier.  I lurked around the parking lot and homestead area for some time, and even walked the trail without detecting the subject thrush.

After walking the trail, I stood just into the start of the trail at the north end.  I heard a high-pitched whistle which I instantly recognized as the call of a Townsend's Solitaire.  I changed my position and found the bird atop at tree along the driveway.  Lighting was poor and I did not get satisfactory photos, but mission accomplished!

I moved on and checked out the Tip and Sparrow Field area.  It was too foggy to see any distance, and birds were scarce.

Horned Grebe in fog

I then walked the cemetery and cactus field area before moving on.

I thought one more try for the solitaire was in order.  Upon arrival, the said thrush was right at the parking lot!  It was eating hackberries and cedar berries, but came down right in front of me at one point.

This time, I got decent photos!

Point Pelee has had several records of Townsend's Solitaire, mainly in the cold months.  Several are in the De Laurier area, which is quite ideally suited with berry trees and the open area.  There are at least eight other records in the park, and this was my third for the park.  (First was in the middle of May, 2002).

Later, I stopped by Hillman Marsh for a short walk, but did not see much.  The dense fog did not help matters!


Recently, a new book was published on North American Flycatchers.  This volume was the second in the series covering Empidonax (or "empids") and Peewees.  With the recent event at Rondeau, I had to order one!  It came Friday evening.

The book looks very simple, but is actually packed full of information on each species; everything you want to know.  Each species is shown, with descriptions, range maps and sonograms.  As well, comparisons are made to similar-looking species.

This has come in handy with the recent Western Flycatcher at Rondeau.  The Rondeau bird fits Western to a 'T' when one checks out the features covered in this book.  There is no doubt we had a Western Flycatcher at Rondeau in my opinion!

Thursday, November 30, 2023

November Closes, and a Different Warbler at Rondeau

 Birding this week was rather uneventful, at least until today.  Could not find anything of note!  With the cold weather, some bodies of water froze over the last couple of days.  However, today ended up quite warm, and was a nice day to be out birding.

Dryad's Saddle

I went to Rondeau Park this morning.  Birds have become few and far between now, except places like the campground where one might find a roaming group of birds.

South point trail was very quiet today, as it has been all week.  After Sunday's sighting of the Western Flycatcher (when I saw it), that was the very last time if was ever seen.  Despite many dedicated birders looking, the flycatcher simply vanished.

As usual per this time of year, I checked the campground.  I often park at the playground, then walk in, and today was no exception.  Just after walking in, I heard the familiar 'chup' notes of Yellow-rumped Warblers.  I always check them out, as there could be something with them, or even one of them could be an "Audubon's" type.

Today, it paid off.  I noticed one with a yellowish throat!  As well, the 'chup' note was a bit different than the usual.  And another feature is the plain-looking face and head.

It could likely be a female, as it is very pale.

I have seen two at Point Pelee, but this was my first for Rondeau.

I continued on through the campground and spent an hour there.  A good flock of sparrow types was around the north washroom, but nothing unusual.

Getting back to the south end, the warblers were still working the area.  Along with Jeremy Bensette, I watched them for about a half hour.  They moved around quite a bit, but stayed in the general area, as there seems to be lots of berries for them.

After getting my fill at Rondeau, I headed over to Erieau to check out the marsh trail.  There is a lot of mud there now, so any shorebird would be happy.

At least six Killdeer were there, and the lingering Pectoral Sandpiper.

Weather looks crappy the next few days, and Rondeau is closed on the weekend anyway, so we will see what happens.

Monday, November 27, 2023

An Apparent New Bird Species For Rondeau (and Ontario!)

 Saturday was clear and sunny and many of us were out birding.  Among other places, I checked out the south shore trail at Mitchell's Bay.  An Eastern Screech-Owl was soaking up some early morning sun.

Down at Rondeau, Steve Charbonneau was checking out south point trail and came across a flycatcher.  Any flycatcher this time of year (other than perhaps Eastern Phoebe) is worthy of close scrutiny.

It was a yellowy-green bird, much like a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  It was assumed to be that species initially (which would be incredible).  The only other possibility was Western Flycatcher!  

Western Flycatcher has a history.  Way back when, it was separated into Pacific-slope Flycatcher  and Cordilleran Flycatcher.  Just in the last year, the two were lumped again into Western Flycatcher!

There are practically no records of this critter in the east, let alone Ontario.  It is a look-alike to Yellow-bellied, but subtle differences can be seen.

Steve's photos were examined by some Ontario birders, and it was suggested that this may in fact be a Western Flycatcher.  Uh-oh, better get some better looks and re-evaluate the situation!

Sunday morning, Steve and other birders were on site and found the subject bird once again.  It was quite co-operative and Josh Vandermuelen managed some excellent photos.  See here 📷:

Several birders saw his photos and were quite convinced that this was indeed a Western Flycatcher.  Of course final ruling will be by the OBRC next spring.

Meanwhile, I was at Rondeau Sunday morning, but was well out marsh trail.  It was a calm, clear and crisp morning, and I simply wanted to go for a long walk.  Some ice had formed overnight.

There were birds to look at along the way, but nothing unusual.

A couple of tardy Gray Catbirds were taking advantage of some berries.

I went as far as Long Pond, but the walk back was quite quick.  It was quiet anyway, and I wanted to take a chance on seeing this flycatcher.  I arrived at the site around 10:25, and saw Josh pointing to the bird along the trail.  It was moving towards me and I got a look.  After it went past me, I got some excellent looks, but my poor old camera was not quick enough to get photos. 😞

I was indeed thankful that I arrived to the site just in time, as it eventually disappeared and was not seen again.  Weather actually changed quickly at that time as the sun disappeared and the wind picked up, so maybe that had some bearing.  It was not seen at all today, despite a thorough search by many intrepid birders.  The weather was not all that great to boot. 🌬

Perhaps it is hunkered down somewhere, but the weather today and tomorrow is certainly not a walk in the park (pun intended) for a flycatcher.

Vagrant flycatchers this time of year are in a fight for survival.  Somewhere along the line, they made a wrong turn!  

More times than not, they end up perishing.  For example, the Cassin's Kingbird that Allen Woodliffe found off south point trail a few years ago was already deceased. ⚰

The Vermilion Flycatcher north of Wallaceburg back in 2015 (18 December-1 January) we assumed perished.  We observed the bird on New Year's Day in snowy conditions.  It was flying erratically that morning.  It was never seen subsequently.  Here is my photo of the unhappy bird:

Hopefully this Western Flycatcher can be refound for others to enjoy.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Recent Lakewatches and Things In Between

 This week I attempted some lakewatches at different locations.  It was not a good week with the camera, as I could not get on things to photograph, or the camera simply did not co-operate, lol. Hence, some photos here are from the past!

Tuesday was a rainy day, so the only option was to go to Erieau and stand under the pavilion at Laverne Kelly Memorial Park.  It is an excellent spot on a rainy day when winds are from the east.  One is somewhat protected from the wind and rain!  And there are picnic tables for convenience.

A look at the pier area showed it was not a good place to hang around.

Erieau Pier Area

There were lots of ducks moving, but no standouts.  Highlight was when Steve spotted a Red Phalarope heading east, low at the surf line.  We had good looks to  determine the species.  Perhaps it ended up at the pier area.  It is always nice to see the rarest of our phalaropes. It seems to be a good year for them, as there have been quite a few in southern Ontario reported this past week.

Pelee Bird

Wednesday I did not go too far.  The annual showing of Sandhill Cranes west of Wallaceburg continues.  It is interesting that these creatures come from Michigan every morning, then depart later in the day for the night.  We have had over 100 at times.

The St. Clair River has been extremely quiet this fall any time I have been out there.  One of the few classic lakers left went by Port Lambton one morning.

CSL Tadoussac

Thursday looked good for a lakewatch at Rondeau's dog beach.  Nothing spectacular though.......once again.  Hopefully it will be a decent day on December 17, when the Blenheim/Rondeau CBC takes place.

Checking the campground afterwards, there were quite a few sparrow types and others.  A Blue-grey Gnatcatcher seems to be stuck in the campground, working the north end mostly. We usually get a late one here every year.

I attempted to photograph it, but for whatever reason, the camera would not focus.  Just one of those days!

Ruddy Ducks are hanging out on the east side as they usually do this time of year.  There were close to 1000 when I looked on Thursday.

After leaving the park, I stopped by Keith McLean C. L.  Some Dunlin were still kicking around, and a lone Black-bellied Plover was prancing around the little island.

In the afternoon, I went for a walk at a local property.

Screech owl poking out of this box!

Today, there was a strong NNW wind, so you guessed it, I headed up to Ipperwash.  Upon arrival, the sky was littered with Ring-billed Gulls, perhaps numbering close to 3000!  I attempted a photo with my cell phone, but it is difficult to see the gulls here.

The lakewatch was quite lame with low numbers of ducks moving and not a lot of gulls after the initial movement.  At times, there was nothing to look at!  Difficult to figure out sometimes.

Afterwards, I ventured up to Pinery P.P.  I do not go there that often anymore.  It is just not the same as it used to be, as there are very few birds anymore, or so it seems.  Looking at other's eBird lists, it is the same thing.

I was on the hunt for waxwings, especially Bohemian.  I finally found a big group in Dunes campground.  I only had a brief period of time to sort through, but I did find a couple of Bohemians.  Before I could get a good look, a Sharp-shinned Hawk came through and the flock took off.  Just my typical luck.

At Erieau a few years ago

Other than that, there were very few birds to be found.

I stopped by McKeough CA for a short walk just before getting home.  It too was rather quiet today.  A few juncos were kicking around.