Monday, February 20, 2017

Goderich Birding and More River Ducks

Sunday, I got away from the usual weekend haunts and headed north as far as Goderich.  It was a nice day for a drive.  I stopped by Naftel's Creek CA south of the village.  It is a neat little place I always stop for a break when I am in that area.  Some decent breeding birds can be seen here in season, but it is a nice place to walk through during winter as well.  It was rather quiet on this visit though!

Ice was packed along the shoreline at Goderich with very few open spots.  The Maitland River was open though and held quite a few ducks, mostly Mallards.

A good place to walk is across the old railway bridge at the north part of the village. You get a fabulous view of the harbour and river.

Once across, there is a trail through the woods on the slope on the west side which leads out to the marina area.  I found a number of birds here yesterday.
Sun was in the wrong direction for taking photos to the south, as I looked at the two Algoma ships in winter layup.  The Algorail and Algosteel are on their last legs and will likely be retired this year.



Near home, I swung out to the St. Clair River and checked out Cathcart Park where there was a load of waterfowl.  Lighting conditions were excellent.  The eight Cackling Geese were still present among a good variety of ducks.

The Harlequin Duck has not been seen since early Saturday morning, but one gets the feeling it could still be nearby.
Regarding the hybrid Redhead X Ring-necked, it was still around.  To add to the confusion, Mike Bouman found a second one in the same raft!  It is quite similar, but has some subtle differences.

With all the spring migrant waterfowl showing up along Lake Erie, I was tempted to head down that way today.  However, conditions were far too good to pass up along the St. Clair River today!  The skies were clear and the river was as calm as glass first thing this morning.

Many Ring-billed Gulls have arrived with this warm weather, while many of the Herring Gulls have departed.  Ducks have thinned out and moved to the lakes, but still lots are to be seen.

This has been an excellent winter for White-winged Scoters in many areas.  Today, I saw the most I have ever seen on the river, including a count of 49 off Courtright alone.

I also picked out one male Black Scoter there.  Riding an ice floe was one of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls off Courtright.  There is a public dock which is good for setting up a scope and checking out the river.  This spot used to be the dock for the rail ferry that crossed the river at one point in time.

There was little to be seen farther upriver, so I headed back down river.  Mike Bouman sent a note that one of the hybrids was off Cundick Park, so I checked that out.  Sure enough, hybrid #1 was with a raft of mostly Redhead.  They were sleeping most of the time though!

In this raft was a female Black Scoter, that blended in well with the female Redheads.

I noticed that more scaup were on the river today as well.

After an hour there, it was time to head home as the sun was high.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Spring Arrivals and Winter Leftovers

Rondeau Park was the first stop today on this warm, spring-like day.  It was cool to start, but by mid-day it was up to 17 C!  As a result, many "spring" birds such as waterfowl, gulls, blackbirds and shorebirds arrived.
Rondeau was rather quiet, but several Red-winged Blackbirds were already singing atop trees.

Not many birds were encountered on south point trail.

Brown Creeper

White-breasted Nuthatch

The campground was somewhat quiet except for the wintering sapsucker and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

I later headed over to Erieau and checked out the rail trail.  Some ducks were on the Bay including at least 3 American Wigeon which were obviously fresh arrivals.
Just before getting back to the car, I saw a small bird darting around and chipping.  I had thoughts of Orange-crowned Warbler for some reason, and sure enough it was!  It was just as flighty as it was last December.  Amazingly, it has survived all this time, last being seen about January 13.

As usual, it refused to let me get a good photo.

Last weekend, an Orange-crowned was seen at Rondeau Park (south point trail) by Jim Burk.  There was speculation that the Erieau bird moved over there, but that is certainly a long-shot.  Although possible, I would assume that these are two different birds.  The first February records for the Rondeau birding area!
While there, the first Killdeer of the year flew overhead.

There was virtually nothing at Erieau waterfront, so I headed west.  I stopped at Wheatley Harbour, and another Killdeer was goofing around.

Knowing that much waterfowl would be around, I headed over to Hillman Marsh shorebird cell.  I met up with Kory Renaud and we picked out lots of spring arrivals.  The lighting was horrible from the viewing hut though.

Northern Pintail

After Kory left, I decided to walk all the way around where the light was much better on the other side.  Indeed, I could get a good handle on the number and types of birds present.

There were at least 50 American Wigeon, 50 Gadwall, 4 Northern Shoveler, at least two dozen Northern Pintail, 7 Green-winged Teal, 4 Ring-necked Ducks, a Redhead plus Mallards and Blacks.

Well over 100 Ring-billed Gulls were present as well. It is a good time for Mew Gull in these parts, so we will have to keep an eye out!

While walking on the dike, I nearly stepped on a Garter Snake!  First of the year no less.

I sat on the bench on the far side for some time while two birders arrived to look at the spectacle. These turned out to be none other than Steve Pike and Jeff Skevington.

They had already seen a couple of Killdeer as well, so spring is certainly arriving!
After some good conversation, we started walking back and met up with Jeremy Bensette.
I then headed home.

This evening I went out to Stewart Wetland to watch the sun set behind Walpole Island.  It was a calm and clear.  Several Red-winged Blackbirds were on the move.