Monday, August 13, 2012

Blenheim Sewage Lagoons / Laughing Gull / and bird #294

Although I had a breeding Laughing Gull earlier this year near Rock Point Provincial Park, a good bird is a good bird, and I wanted to check out the nonbreeding Laughing Gull that was reported from Leamington Harbour by Alan Wormington (thanks for getting me on this one!). So, on the 11th, I went down to the boat ramp in the afternoon when gulls are loafing on the docks nearby, or looking for handouts from children with bread crumbs.

It didn't take me long as I scanned a large group of Ring-billed and Bonaparte's Gulls to pick out the darker mantle of the Laughing Gull. It had its head tucked but the dark gray feathers behind the eye were also obvious. Eventually the bird stood up and gave me decent enough views to iScope it for a record shot.

For some reason, I thought this species was OBRC-reportable but I see only records from pre-1994 require documentation. I just filled out a report for the Little Blue Heron at Holiday Beach Conservation Area Mark Field and I drove down from Toronto to see earlier in the summer and was in Rare Bird Report mode but I guess I don't have to do one. Oh, and yes, I have tampered w/ the photo a bit. This is post-Instagram to bring out the mantle colour a bit more.

Yesterday evening (August 12th), I had great luck at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons. There were fewer shorebirds than the last time I visited but the variety was decent. The Red-necked Phalarope hanging out there that had many, including me, confuzzled (man, I wish it had been a Red!) was absent.

Tangent: I went for that bird the day after it had been reported and when I found it, something just didn't feel right. Its bill was just a bit too long and thin for me to feel comfortable. I went back and forth with my opinion, but ultimately decided to send my iScoped photos around to see what people thought (I was able to snap one that showed a long, pointed bill). After more discussion on the bird and better subsequent photos, the conclusion was made: Red-necked Phalarope. A good bird, but not a year bird.

Back to yesterday evening: Amongst the shorebirds present included a White-rumped Sandpiper (I think I've seen more of these this year than any other year), a couple Short-billed Dowitchers, and a dowitcher that had me quite interested (black barring in the tail feathers thicker than the white bars, completely reddish underbelly, and some barring that didn't fit Short-billed. It also had a different structure when foraging: rounded, hunched back, and looked plumper than the nearby Short-billeds). I studied the darn thing for some time and wanting to make sure I was making the correct identification (just to be safe), sent off my iScoped photos to confirm my ID. I was right and the Long-billed Dowitcher took me to #294 for my Big Year. Just 6 away from my 300 goal!

On this photo, you can see that the black barring in the tail is wider than the white barring. Short-billed Dowitchers have white bars that are, on average, as wide or wider than the black bars. On the upper photo, you can see the extent of red on the bird.
Some other birds of interest included a juvenile or female Ring-necked Duck, one of the long-staying Greater Scaups, a few Redhead, and a good number of Blue-winged Teal. I love these lagoons.

My next target species is the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. I imagine one will be showing up in the Onion Fields pretty soon. Other shorebirds on my radar include the aforementioned Red Phalarope, Red Knot (this one is a guarantee in James Bay), Hudsonian Godwit, and Willet (a boy can dream...since I ain't driving all the way to Presqu'ile).

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