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04 September 2010 @ 07:14 pm
Shorebirds and Flycatchers  

After a terrific outing the previous weekend, it was back to Shirley's Bay on the first day of the Labour Day long weekend. This time I went directly to the dyke as the mudflats there continue to provide the best shorebirding along the river. I called the Range Control office for permission to bird the dyke (required, as the dyke is on DND-owned property) and set off down the road with my spotting scope over my shoulder. Along the way I tallied an American Redstart, a pair of Common Yellowthroats, a cardinal, a Pileated Woodpecker, and a family of Northern Flickers in the woods.

Pectoral Sandpiper

Once I reached the dyke I noticed a couple of egrets and Great Blue Herons feeding in the shallow waters of the bay, and a Peregrine Falcon perched in a tree watching the shorebirds scattered across the mudflats. Of shorebirds there were plenty: I observed several Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, a couple of Semipalmated Plovers, three Baird's Sandpipers, two Spotted Sandpipers, many yellowlegs of both species, and at least one Pectoral Sandpiper. Several Green-winged Teals were feeding in the water near the marsh with the resident mallards.

Pectoral Sandpiper

The Pectoral Sandpiper and a couple of yellowlegs were feeding in the water right next to the dyke. With the exception of the Baird's Sandpipers, which were much further out, the Pectoral Sandpiper was the least common species among those present, and I spent most of my time photographing the one by the dyke. It is a mid-sized sandpiper, larger than the "peeps" but smaller than a Lesser Yellowlegs. Its most notable features are the dense streaking on the chest, the chunky build, the moderately long, slightly drooping bill, and the reddish-brown back with two thin white lines extending its length.

Pectoral Sandpiper with yellowlegs

The Pectoral Sandpiper breeds in the high Arctic and winters in South America. It has one of the longest annual migration routes of any shorebird and is one of the earliest shorebirds to return in the spring.

Pectoral Sandpiper

Once the Pectoral Sandpiper moved out of camera range I took a few photos of the Greater Yellowlegs foraging close by. These shorebirds are quite common during migration, and often quite numerous.

Greater Yellowlegs

Upon leaving the dyke, I came across a small pocket of migrants near the edge of the edge of the woods. These included a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers, a Black-and-white Warbler, and this Palm Warbler foraging by itself in the vegetation along the rocky shore. It has a yellow rump and yellow beneath the tail (the undertail coverts) and a distinctive habit of flicking its tail like an Eastern Phoebe.

Palm Warbler

A family of Eastern Wood-pewees was also present at the edge of the woods. There were at least four of them, chipping and calling to each other as they flew from branch to branch. These weren't migrants, however, but rather a pair of breeding adults with their young. This member of the flycatcher family is common in Ottawa's woodlands during the summer, though it is more often heard than seen as it prefers to forage in the tree tops.

Eastern Wood-pewee

Walking along the shoreline, I came across this bluet perching on a rock. It surprised me to see him here, as I thought that the bluet season had ended. The deep blue colour suggested either a Tule or a Familiar Bluet, both of which are very common & widespread in late summer and early fall in areas with a sandy substrate. However, without a close-up photo showing the shape of the claspers it is impossible to identify the bluet to species level. I think maybe next year I will spend more time catching these damselflies and learning how to identify them.

Bluet sp.

After leaving Shirley's Bay I stopped briefly at Andrew Haydon Park on my way to Mud Lake. A few Blue-winged Teals were foraging in the shallow water near the western mudflats, but I didn't see any shorebirds. A pair of Hooded Mergansers in the western pond made the stop worthwhile.

Hooded Mergansers

The Hooded Merganser is the smallest of three merganser species found in Ontario. It prefers wooded ponds where it nests in tree cavities. It is frequently seen on shallow waters where its only waterfowl companion is the Wood Duck. Mud Lake is a good place to find these small, fish-eating ducks during the fall.

Hooded Mergansers

Mud Lake was the next, and final, stop of my outing. There were plenty of warblers on the Ridge and behind it, including Yellow-rumped, Nashville, Yellow, Magnolia, and Blackpoll Warblers and an American Redstart. I also saw a couple of phoebes, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Cedar Waxwings, a couple of Red-eyed Vireos and even a Turkey Vulture soaring overhead! The best part of the stop at Mud Lake was watching a young Eastern Phoebe preening in a shrub for several minutes. Here are a couple of photos from his preening session:

Eastern Phoebe

The only other bird which posed for the camera was this Northern Cardinal, which was still an awesome experince. Cardinals are normally shy, skittish birds which are difficult to get close enough to photograph them.

Northern Cardinal

It was a great day to be out, and a wonderful start to the month of September. This is one of my favourite times of the year - the days are still warm, the leaves are beginning to change colour, and so many different birds stop to rest in places like Mud Lake and Shirley's Bay on their journey south. With two days left in the long weekend, I planned to spend as much time as possible outdoors to see what other species I could find!