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14 September 2009 @ 07:55 am
Migration continues  
When I woke up on Saturday I was delighted to see sunshine and blue skies; it appeared our summer-like weather had not yet ended. It was still a bit on the cool side when I left, but there was a warmth to the sun that hinted of the hot afternoon to come.

I decided to spend the morning at some of my favourite areas in the west end. At Andrew Haydon Park, I encountered the Green Heron, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, two Killdeer, and the lone Brant which I had seen there previously; a few warblers calling in the trees overhead were difficult to see and identify. I did see a Common Yellowthroat along the eastern creek together with a few White-throated Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, and Spotted Sandpiper along the shore of the creek. I decided not to linger at the park, however, given how crowded it gets later in the day.


This is one of the Killdeer seen on the developing mudflats of the river:



Killdeer


On my way back I stopped in at the Rideau Trail for a quick look. There wasn't much along the trail itself, but along the hydro right-of-way I found a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers and my first Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Winter Wren of the fall. There were also lots of spider webs shining with dew in the morning sunlight, and I found a couple of different orbweavers, including these two different argiopes.



Banded Argiope


I liked how both the web and the spider were covered in the early-morning dew. This spider was also interesting as it was the first of this species that I had seen.



Black and Yellow Argiope


From there I went to the Beaver Trail. I didn't see much there - it still hadn't fully warmed up yet - but at the little look-out I was surprised when a bird which flew into the evergreens above the small deck turned out to be a Brown Thrasher. This was the first one I'd seen since spring! He was just passing through, and didn't stay long enough for any photo opportunities. Nevertheless, I stayed at the look-out for a while, enjoying the sun and the calm, still water of the beaver pond beyond. A few turtles were visible basking on logs, and the quiet of the morning was quite peaceful.

Then when a couple came along and mentioned that there was a hawk on the beaver lodge at the next boardwalk, I decided that my moment of peace had ended and it was time to go search for a hawk! I fully expected it to be gone by the time I arrived, and so I approached the boardwalk carefully, taking a few photos of the autumn trees.



Beaver Trail boardwalk


To my surprise, the hawk was still there! It was brownish, with a long, striped tail and long wings that indicated that it was not a hawk at all, but a falcon. At first I thought it was a juvenile Peregrine Falcon, as it seemed quite large from a distance, but a closer review of my photos and some discussion on Birdforum.net convinced me that it is in fact a merlin.



Merlin


This is one situation where it definitely would have been beneficial to have my scope with me, for size is very difficult to judge from a distance. What is interesting about this encounter is that while the merlin was sitting on the beaver lodge, another one was perching in the tree above it. I didn't realize it was there until it flew out of the tree and landed on a branch in the open. Although the second bird was even further away, the shape of the wings confirmed that it was indeed a falcon, and possibly a male given the smaller size.

Quite content with my sightings at the Beaver Trail, I thought I would stop in at Jack Pine Trail before I went home. I didn't see many migrant songbirds other than a thrush which disappeared quickly out of sight, but there was plenty of activity at the first (northern-most) boardwalk just past the OFNC feeder (which is not up yet). Several dabbling ducks were probing the muck, mostly Green-winged Teals and Mallards; the female Gadwall was at the back with the teals. The water level is still low, and there were quite a few shorebirds present including at least two Killdeer, a Lesser Yellowlegs, and two Solitary Sandpipers, one of which was foraging along the water's edge quite close to the boardwalk.





Solitary Sandpiper


I didn't see the two Least Sandpipers at first, given that they are very small and were quite far away at first. I first noticed them in my binoculars, but wasn't sure of their identity until they flew in closer. Then the yellowish legs became visible.



Least Sandpiper


While I was watching the shorebirds, I noticed that, in addition to a large number of meadowhawks, a few large dragonflies were zipping around the boardwalk area. A couple of mosaic darners and a probable Twelve-spotted Skimmer were patrolling the area above the pond, and then I noticed an emerald fly by. The bright green eyes and black body were unmistakable, and I tried to follow it with my binoculars. However, it flew quite close to the trees and disappeared quite high up, so if it landed anywhere I couldn't see it.

There wasn't much else to see elsewhere along the trail, either at the meadow or along the other boardwalks. I was somewhat surprised to realize that it was well after lunch, the day was very warm and sunny, and yet I hadn't seen a single butterfly on my outing. I was pondering this on my way back to the car when this small guy hopped out of my path. Although it wasn't a butterfly, it was probably one of the more interesting non-avian wildlife species seen on my excursion.



American Toad


It wasn't until I was driving home that I finally saw a few butterflies fluttering along the roadside, a couple of whites and one sulphur. Still, I had a fabulous outing. Although it is now mid-September, it still feels like summer, which makes up for the cool, rainy July we had. It is great to go out and see all the fall migrants and still be able to enjoy the warm sunshine!