08 August 2017
Judy had been following the birding reports from West Perth Wetland and let us know that the conditions were nigh on perfect for shorebirds in some of the ponds. It seemed like a logical destination for our weekly ramble and we were not disappointed.
Over several years this location has been one of our preferred destinations. It is less than an hour from home and from time to time has yielded some extraordinary rarities. Numerous ponds tend to hold distinct suites of birds and varying water levels and trophic resources encourage birds to linger for a while before continuing with their migration.
It didn't take long to have a few Pectoral Sandpipers (Calidris melanotos) in view. a species we see spring and fall as the bird wends its way to and from its arctic breeding grounds.
I find that among shorebird enthusiasts snipe always seem to have a certain cachet and we counted ourselves fortunate to find four Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata); concealed in aquatic vegetation, they were, however, unwilling to come out and put on a real show.
We meandered along the berms, searching all the while for hidden gems, enjoying warm sunshine on a beautiful August day.
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) was far and away the most common species and there were many juveniles attesting to a successful breeding year for this familiar plover. A baby Killdeer is the epitome of cuteness and even the most detached observer would be hard pressed not to utter a silent "aah!" upon seeing one.
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) is ubiquitous in suitable habitat as it pauses to take on fuel for the long journey south, and its familiar call was seldom out of earshot.
By my count we saw only four Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca), a species usually found in small numbers only on mudflats and sandbars in southern Ontario.
As you can judge from the images above Franc is a master of the flight shot, and this capture of a sub adult Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) proves the point.
When I spotted this Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) I vacillated between a young male evolving into adult plumage, and a female. Having checked various references I am opting in favour of a female; one thing we can be certain of - it is a Wood Duck!
Our find of the day, without a doubt, was an American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) hidden in the reeds, barely visible at times. This species is far more often heard than seen, although it is almost certainly present in suitable habitat from spring through fall. At this time of the year it tends to be silent.
Franc is always determined to do what he needs to, to try to get the perfect shot. Here I think he was trying to replicate the bittern's skill at camouflage!
Several times we saw birds explode into flight, often telltale behaviour when a raptor is on patrol looking for a meal. This Merlin (Falco columbarius) did not make a kill as far as I know, but these Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and an American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) seem to be playing a foolhardy game in chasing after the Merlin, given its superb maneuverability in flight. They are certainly risking becoming Merlin lunch du jour!
We saw several Green Herons (Butorides virescens), a species that has become more common in recent years at West Perth Wetland.
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is always to be found on any suitable body of water, at ponds, rivers, creeks, marshes and estuaries throughout the continent.
We were very happy to see four Grey (Black-bellied) Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola) fly in to one of the cells, with enough vestige of breeding plumage remaining to please everyone.
A couple of Short-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus griseus) were fairly far off and there was no way to get into a position for really good photographs, but the following shots serve to record the presence of this species.
It seems that on every walk Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) is our constant companion and today was no exception.
A Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) stayed in the same spot for thirty or forty seconds, enabling Miriam to get this shot.
Right at the end of our walk a small flock of White-rumped Sandpipers (Calidris fuscicollis) flew overhead, but we did not see them land. Perhaps others have discovered them in the days that followed.
As we were about to leave we ran into Dave Brown, the resident birder who lives very close by, and who has a hand in regulating the water levels, and it was pleasant to chat to him for a while.
Judy had kindly invited us back to her farm for lunch and we were very happy to accept. Mary had visited the farm before, but it was a first time for the rest of us.
After lunch Judy presented me with a wonderful pair of wine glasses, which I will treasure always, and use very carefully, especially the hummingbird whose bill could easily be broken off. I think I had better confine my imbibing to one glass when using this stemware!
Ross, Judy's husband, is an avid old car enthusiast and he has the most amazing collection of vehicles and automotive memorabilia you could possibly imagine. He visits the farm almost daily and immerses himself in whatever his current project is, the time going by unnoticed as he indulges his passion.
Jim was an auto mechanic when he worked, no doubt he has more appreciation than most for some of these antique cars.
I think the rest of the pictures speak for themselves!
Miriam couldn't resist imaging that she was going for a ride in style!
The visit to the farm, and the chance to chat with Ross, was a fitting end to a great day of birding. I can't wait to do it all again.
All species: Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Turkey Vulture, Western Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Grey Plover, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Snipe, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Chimney Swift, Merlin, Barn Swallow, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird. Total: 30 species.