Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sarnia Grassland Birds and More Hairstreaks

On Tuesday, an outing was scheduled to tour the Sarnia solar farm, something I could not pass up.  It was not to look at solar panels, but to look at bird life!  There are extensive grasslands that have attracted many species of birds--some of which are rare for our area.

Larry Cornelis led the field trip through the blocks of solar panels and open areas.  Larry has a contract to survey for birds on the Enbridge-owned site.  The people at Enbridge were more than happy to have people come in and see what was going on with regards to the natural features within the property.  Besides the grassland, there is a woodlot, a couple of ponds and prairie plantings.
The Sarnia solar farm was once the largest in North America.  On an average day it can power the city of Sarnia (excluding Chemical Valley).

With several hundred acres of grassland type habitat, many birds are attracted to the area. Last week during a survey, Larry found Clay-colored Sparrows in two separate locations, Dickcissels along the old landfill, and a healthy number of Grasshopper Sparrows among countless Savannah Sparrows and others.

Grasshopper Sparrow

We took more than three hours touring the sites on both sides of Blackwell Road.   Our first stop found one or two Clay-colored Sparrows.  There are small spruce trees in the one area which this species likes.  I attempted a digiscope photo, but it was just too windy to hold camera still!
Grasshopper Sparrows were all around.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Our next stop was along the border of the old Blackwell Landfill.  Here, Larry found 3 Dickcissels last week.  Upon our arrival we could hear a male singing, but it remained unseen.  I soon found it perched atop thistle.  In fact I think there were up to three birds there.  It soon came closer for good views perched in a dead ash tree.  I attempted a digiscope photo.  (I only had my Canon G16 on hand).

It was a lifer for some (as was the Clay), so all were happy.

Garter Snake with full crop

We went over to the west side of the road and found another spot where Clay-colored was likely nesting.
With so little grassland left in the area, this site is very important.  It would likely be farmland if not for the solar farm.

Today, I see a report of at least 4 Dickcissels by J.B. at the old landfill.  Not surprising, as there is suitable habitat and it was only a few years ago that several nested there.

Today after work I stopped at Reid CA.  It is certainly a good year for hairstreaks (it appears they like dry weather!), as they were all over the place.  In short order I found 5 Southern (Northern Oak) Hairstreaks (one being very dead!).

Shy Oak Hairstreak

There were numerous Banded, several Edwards' and one Hickory.  There are lots of Hickory trees at Reid, but Hickory is in fact difficult to find there.

Edwards' Hairstreak
Banded Hairstreak

No sign of any Dukes' Skippers yet, but perhaps the dry year has some bearing.

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