Friday, October 19, 2012

Holiday Beach Raptors and Kingsville area birding

I only had to help out w/ the Holiday Beach Hawk Count on Wednesday this week so I decided on Thursday to head out and do some birding around Essex County.

First off, the raptor count has been great. I agreed to help count 2 days/week during the duration of the counting season right after I got back from James Bay. Although I've missed the only 2 Swainson's Hawks that have flown over by one day this fall (the species would be an Ontario Year Bird and lifer), I've had a lot of good sightings there and it's certainly giving me a new appreciation for Official Counters. There are times when so many Turkey Vultures, Blue Jays, blackbirds, crows, and finches are flying over that you have up to 4 tickers in hand clicking away and trying to get an accurate count! A few highlights have been the huge numbers of Blue Jays (my highest day so far was 37,380 birds), likely one of my highest count of Tree Swallows I've ever had in an hour span (1,032 streaming by the tower), and the large numbers of ducks to sort through each day on the marsh adjacent to the tower. Another highlight at the beginning of the raptor season was the number of Soras that would start screaming in the marsh each time hunters' guns went off. In my time counting I've only had one juvenile Golden Eagle (I expect more), a few Red-shouldered Hawks (definitely expect more!) and not nearly the numbers of Red-tailed Hawks that will eventually fly over.

Back to Thursday. Andrew Keaveney and I checked out a few spots along the Lake Erie shoreline once the storms cleared, starting w/ Leamington Marina. Literally nothing interesting there so we tried Kingsville Marina where it was closed off due to construction! We then tried a couple places I've never birded before despite growing up in the area (slaps wrist dutifully). The stops included Lakeside Park, which has a very interesting beach with sandbars reaching well out into the lake along the shoreline where large groups of loafing gulls were sitting, and Cedar Island, another good spot for gulls. The only birds of note were a single Lesser Black-backed Gull, a good number of Great Black-backed Gulls, 2 Sanderlings, and a 90% sure Semipalmated Sandpiper, that was distant but showed most of the field marks we needed to safely say it wasn't any of the other peeps (well, except maybe Western but I won't go there....). I'll certainly be birding these areas again in the future having now been introduced to them.

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