Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Home Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet home!

I just got back from a great trip home. It was really the perfect weekend and a much-needed break from the city. Fortunately, this time I planned ahead so that I was able to fit in an equal amount of birding, visiting, and relaxing. Saturday night was wonderful as I was able to get out birding with Marianne around the onion fields north of Point Pelee. We decided to skip Hillman Marsh as the water is significantly higher than other years (apparently they didn't drain the marsh this season). Due to higher waters, there are less mudflats and less areas for shorebirds to feed so the onion fields were the best bet. Things started off a little slow when we searched a decent-sized flock of gulls for any unusual species but to no prevail. Not even a Bonaparte's. We weren't seeing any shorebirds besides Killdeer (and the humidity/heat waves were still pretty intense) so we decided to try some fields farther south. Here, we almost immediately spotted some goodies: a few solitary Black-bellied Plovers, each at different stages of molt between breeding and nonbreeding plumages, a few small groups of peeps (which we determined to be Leasts), some Pectoral Sandpipers, and a spattering of Semipalmated Plovers as well. Both of us really wanted to get Buff-breasted Sandpiper, but no such luck. I also wanted to get either Yellowlegs but the fields aren't really the ideal habitat (there was no standing water).

All of these sightings obviously made me wish I could spend every evening of the next couple months searching the fields but I'll have to find a suitable place for shorebird migration in Toronto. I'm also looking forward to seeing some of the early migrant passerines in High Park in the next few weekends (a trip to Center Island is also in the works).

In other birding news from Essex County, I was able to study some swallow juveniles over the coruse of my stay. Astonishingly, the most abundant swallow on my farm was the Bank Swallow, with hundreds of birds feeding above the hay fields and pastures and perching on the hydro wires along the road. It was fairly difficult to judge the subtle differences between adults and juveniles of this species, particularly under extremely bright conditions (no cloud cover to block the sun). However, at the east end of the onion fields, Marianne and I observed an enormous flock of juvenile Tree Swallows (similar to Bank Swallows with their gray-brown back, but lacking the bold breastband). Also in the same area was a group of juvenile Purple Martins.

I wish we had more time to search the area as it was great to be back in the Point Pelee Birding Circle again, even if only for a brief period. For now, I'm going to continue searching out hotspots in Toronto to prepare for fall migration while studying the potential species I will possibly see in Florida and Southeast Arizona.

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