Saturday 21 November 2015

Bronte Birding Bonanza! Red Phalarope, Cave Swallows and Snowy Owl

This morning I dropped Caitlyn off at a dentist appointment in Guelph, and when she got out, I read the reports coming in from Bronte Harbour of a Red Phalarope and Cave Swallows.  We decided to get some lunch from Mucho Burrito and make the short drive down to the lake shore.  Immediately upon arriving at the marina we saw birders looking into the water, and quickly spotted the Red Phalarope right on the shore, seemingly oblivious to the birders and photographers (some within 6-8ft!).  I decided that approximately 25ft was close enough, no need to stress a bird or risk scaring it away.

Red Phalarope is a species of shorebird that breeds in the high arctic and passes through Ontario on its way to wintering grounds in the ocean off of South America and occasionally as far north as North America.  You may not be able to tell, but this is a tiny bird, weighing only 2 ounces!  Nonetheless, it is remarkably hardy and is a pelagic species that spends most of its time far out on the open ocean!

Red Phalarope

I asked some birders where the Cave Swallows had been seen, and someone said they were in the marina right behind me! We quickly walked over there and immediately saw two of them foraging for invisible flies in the sheltered side of the marina.  This is the first time I have seen Cave Swallow in Ontario!  What a treat to have two flying literally within feet of the birders present, right over our heads!  They are too fast to get good photos with my point and shoot, but that didn't stop me from trying. 

Cave Swallows are typically found in Texas and Mexico, but the past few weeks of warm south winds have facilitated their movement far to the north!  As much as I love seeing this rare bird, I can't help but wonder how much longer they can survive.  The insect populations are dwindling (it was snowing in Fergus today)!

Cave Swallow

In Bronte Harbour, a bonus Snowy Owl was perched on the breakwall.  This is a good spot for them, it is likely that they are feeding on the abundant waterfowl which are often present here.

What a day, the Cave Swallows were my 260th bird species for me in Ontario this year!

Sunday 15 November 2015

Yellow-throated Warbler and Fish Crows in Fort Erie

This weekend I went home to Stevensville with Caitlyn to visit family and had a great time! I spent a great deal of Saturday morning and afternoon birding the Niagara River from Fort Erie up to around Queenston.  I was having a pretty good day with good numbers of ducks and gulls including an adult Little Gull at Adam Beck with several hundred Bonaparte's Gulls.  At that point I got Ken's text that a Yellow-throated Warbler had been found by Barb Charlton at the foot of Kraft Road in Fort Erie, a spot I check for birds occasionally when I am down.  I jumped on the QEW and made tracks to the location and searched with several other local birders for nearly an hour.  We were just about to leave when I spotted the bird among a flock of juncos close to the water!  I was able to get a few record shots with my trusty point and shoot.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Several other highlights of the day included this adult Peregrine Falcon that I spooked from a tree along the river.  The bird then flew to and perched on the rail bridge where I snapped a few shots.

Peregrine Falcon
 I saw several Bald Eagles, which are common along the river and lake, especially at this time of the year.  This adult bird was flying really low along the surface and I thought for sure it was going to try to grab for one of the Bufflehead, but it kept right on going.

Bald Eagle
The Bufflehead were the most abundant duck on the river by far.  They could be found all over the place, often in huge rafts like this one.

 Bonaparte's Gulls were found in good numbers but have still not built up too much.  I expect there will be lots more coming to the river in the next few weeks.

Bonaparte's Gulls
This morning, I checked the river quickly and then drove through Fort Erie to see if I could find any Fish Crows!  This has been a great spot to find them the past few years.  On Bowen Road I saw a large flock of crows and stopped to listen.  Sure enough, I quickly heard the nasal calls of at least one far out in a field.  Unfortunately it was too far away to photograph or videotape.

There is a Fish Crow in there somewhere!

I've said it before and I will say it again, the Niagara River always delivers some surprise!