Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Day at Pelee and Surrounding Area

Today, Marianne and I did a tour of the Point Pelee Birding Circle almost from one end to the other. We started at the Tip at 8am to try for jaegers, gulls, and anything else that might fly by (was it too much to ask for a Cave Swallow before November?). Shortly after we arrived at the Tip, we were joined by Kory Renaud who was at 249 for his Essex County Big Year and hoping to get his 250th bird.

There were a decent number of Bonaparte's migrating by and lots of Herring and Ring-billed Gulls flying around at the Tip and we examined everything closely for a late Sabine's Gull or a jaeger flying through but no luck this morning. Lots of Red-breasted Merganser are at the Tip now and an assortment of ducks are flying by. We saw Gadwall, Mallard, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Surf Scoter, and Ruddy Duck.

A few raptors were turning back over the Tip including Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, and 2 Peregrine Falcons. One of the falcons, a juvenile, had caught a Blue Jay and was actually eating it mid-flight!

In the shorebird department, we saw the most southern Least Sandpiper in mainland Canada struggling against the wind, walking on a 45 degree angle. When we first arrived, we also had a single Sanderling on the sandbar island off the Tip. A single Killdeer flew over.

One of the highlights was a gull that we first thought could have been the Vega Gull but after examining it closer, realized it was a hybrid of some kind. It appeared slightly larger and definitely taller (long-legged) than surrounding Herring Gulls with a dark grey mantle. Its legs were the same pink colour of a Great Black-backed Gull and the bill was larger than surrounding Herring Gulls. From our distance, the eye appeared dark and Marianne and Kory noted that its head appeared quite flat. I'm leaning toward Great Black-backed X Herring Gull due to bill size and leg colour.

Here's an iScoped photo (centre bird):

Once we moved on from the gull and started scanning the lake again, our best bird of the morning flew by, a Red-throated Loon. I spotted the approaching loon flying in from the east and noted that its head was held quite low in flight so I wanted to get Marianne and Kory on the bird. Once it got closer, Marianne noted the low head as well and upturned bill. This was Kory's 250th Essex County bird for the year and it was great to share that experience w/ him!

Other birds of note at the Tip were 3 Chimney Swifts, 9 Northern Rough-winged Swallows, 32 Tree Swallows, and 1 Barn Swallow (possibly my last for the year?).

After checking out Delaurier and Ander's Footpath (siskins, kinglets, goldfinches, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Phoebes, Purple Finch, Chipping Sparrows, juncos, Red-breasted Nuthatch, creeper, and Blackpoll Warbler), we went for lunch and then decided to check out behind Pelee Days Inn.

Sturgeon Creek's waters are very low right now so there are lots of mudflats for small groups of shorebirds. The set of shorebirds was almost identical to the birds I had a couple evenings ago at the same location: 40 Dunlin, a handful of Lesser Yellowlegs, 6 Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, a good number of Black-bellied Plover w/ a single American Golden-Plover, a couple Pectoral Sandpipers, and 2 Semipalmated Plovers.

I also noticed 6 interesting Canada Geese that were in an obvious group separate from the rest of the ~200 geese in the creek. They were all noticeably buffier at the base of the black neck and shorter-necked than the rest of the flock. I know there is much variation across Canada Goose subspecies so I want to be careful about calling them anything but they were definitely staying together as a group in the larger overall flock and stood out as distinct birds.

 Here are the group of 6. The far left and right birds show the buffy base of neck w/ no white.

Comparing the two birds in the water, the goose on the left has a shorter neck, buffier front, smaller size, and slightly smaller bill.

We ended the day taking a quick drive around the Onion Fields and finishing up at the southeast end of Hillman Marsh. Not too much to note besides a Spotted Sandpiper found by Marianne on the beach at Hillman. Great day overall.


Blake A. Mann said...

I spent the entire day in the Rondeau circle. You saw 'better' birds than I! That sandpiper Marianne 'spotted' was pretty good. LOL.

Jeremy Hatt said...

lol. Read your post. Decent day on your end, Blake.

Any opinion on the Canada Geese? Are they just within variation of our regular subspecies around here?