Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Yellow Crowned Night Heron - Eating Crayfish

A Yellow crowned night heron was recently photographed by an Amhurstburg woman who posted it on a facebook group wondering what it was. Amazingly, a few local birders caught wind of the photo and identified it as a  Juvie YC Night Heron.

To see it eating crayfish was pretty amazing. It would catch the fish, bring it over to the grass, rip off its two claws, then swallow the body whole. In one hour, it must have caught 5 crayfish. Amazing. Its hard to think that all those crayfish could fit in its abdomen!

A local photographer (Dennis Dupuis) has a gallery here on facebook featuring this bird catching and eating a spiny softshell turtle. Click here to see his facebook gallery.

Here are some photos taken recently. 
Good Birding!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Late August Botany Walk with the Essex County Field Naturalists' Club

This morning on Aug 26th, 2017 the Essex County Field Naturalists had two event offerings within the Ojibway Complex. One was a hummingbird banding demonstration at the visitor center, and the second option was to tour some of the botany features of the Chappus St. Ojibway Prairie fragment area (as well as the Spring Garden Study Area). I opted for the botany tour! Our tour leader was Russ Jones who is a botany expert that works in the natural areas surrounding the new DRIC (Detroit River International Crossing) bridge corridor.

The Chappus Street (Prairie remnant) area was adjacent to the DRIC project and was just starting to be developed into a residential neighborhood. The MTO bought the few houses that were just recently built and the surrounding land to compensate for the environmental destruction the DRIC highway caused on the Ojibway Complex. Had a proper environmental assessment been completed, no development should have been allowed in an area filled with endangered species. One interesting point that Russ made was that even though the DRIC bridge project had a huge environmental impact on the Ojibway complex, the fact that the Chappus street area was preserved and restored hints that there was a net positive effect on the area. This Prairie is arguably as biodiverse and filled with rare plants as the Provincial Ojibway tallgrass prairie, Tallgrass prairie preserve, or the Spring garden area.

Our group of about 12 nature enthusiasts walked through some amazing tallgrass prairie habitat. Some plants noted in the first few minutes were Willow leaf Aster, Purple Gerardia, Boneset and Tall Boneset, Ironweed, Seedbox, Colicroot, and countless goldenrod species.

At one point we entered a gated portion of the area and were lucky enough to see one of the rarest plants in Canada. Tall green Milkweed! Other excellent plants were Blood red Milkwort, Three awned grass, (cudplant?), Round headed bush clover, Tall Coreopsis,  Foxgrape, Hairy Pinweed as well many species of sedges and rushes that are rare in Canada. 

Later on in another area of the prairie we saw a few other rare plants including Narrow leafed Mountain mint (as opposed to the more common Virginia Mountain Mint), Winged Loosestrife, Culver's Root and others. One area was restored from a perfectly manicured lawn that was being maintained by someone who was extending their back yard onto this property.

One last point that Russ showed the group was the hibernaculum that were setup from basements that were developed along that road. The concrete and wood left over from the few demolished homes acted as a perfect backfill for basement foundations that would make great wintering habitat for then local endemic snakes (Fox and Butler's).

Later, we moved toward the Oakwood forest section of Ojibway and took note of the new bio-crossing passage that connects Oakwood with Spring-garden. This passage allows snakes, mammals and herps cross the 401 highway that has divided the two areas for decades. The genetic exchange that can take place with a passage way will increase the chance for the animal communities to be healthier and thrive. Some radio tagged snakes have used the corridor which proves its usefulness. 

We then were allowed to go to the spring garden study area which used to be a small (Reddock?) street with houses, but because of the DRIC project, needed to be expropriated. Indigo Buntings, Carolina and House Wrens were present as we looked at Tall Sunflower, Silky Dogwood, Flowering Dogwood, Whorled Milkweed, and American Chestnut.

Overall, I think the 12 participants to this field trip were amazed by the biodiversity of the sites that we visited and were very appreciative of Russ's time and expertise. It would be nice to have more botany walks at different times in the spring and summer to appreciate the botanical bounty that the Ojibway Prairie Complex has to offer. 

Good birding & botanizing,
Dwayne Murphy

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fantastic, Phenomenal Phalarope Flocks

Most people in southwestern Ontario probably know about the long-staying Phalaropes at the East Essex S.L. The funny thing about this sighting was that day by day, it seemed more Phalaropes incrementally appeared. I had gone on one occasion and I had not seen any. Then on my second try, I was able to see 5 Red-necked Phalaropes and 2 Wilson's! I also had a Kory and Jeremy H sighting!

At Ojibway, I have not been too active recently due to the fact that I've taken four university night courses this summer. The occasional walk has revealed some decent sightings though. I had seen a small family of four Eastern Bluebirds (both parents and two juveniles).  Back in early August, Dense Blazingstar was at peak bloom. I made it out occasionally just to appreciate how cool they are. I also noted my first square stemmed Monkeflower (Mimulus ringens).

I've come across a few good birding related articles over rhe last few days and thought i would share. Great reading!

Rise of the Millenial Birder

Birdwatchers Behaving Like Paparazzi

Great website devoted to TICK AWARENESS

How to avoid bone-headed birding mistakes

The Birdist's top 100 rules for Birding

Good Birding!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Birding in ... New Brunswick? v2

For the last two days, I've been in new Brunswick. My dad was there for a summer vacation, and I wanted to help him drive back to Windsor.

I did some quick research before I left about what were some ideal life bird opportunities and my research came up with the following 5 birds:

  • Nelson's Sparrow
  • Black Guillemot
  • Razorbill
  • Common Eider
  • Northern Gannet
I'm sure there were more, but this was my list.

I flew into Moncton in the southeast corner of the province and was picked up to go towards the northeast corner of the province. Northumberland county.

The main point of the trip was not birding related, and it was hard to go where I wanted to go because other people were driving and I didn't want to burden anyone with my own interests in seeing the ocean birds the area had to offer.

At Val-Comeau beach, I had two target birds: Northern Gannet & Common Eider. I was surprised to get both immediately, I would have been happy with "eider" one! A few terns were present along with Osprey. Black Scoter as well.

In Rivier du Portage, at my relative's cottage, we had gone for a walk in the back field, when I noticed a very fringy flower along the recently mowed path through the knee high grasses. Of course, I knew it was a fringed orchid, but Allen Woodliffe, identified this as a Ragged Fringed Orchid! I've had some good luck this year with three fringed orchid species.

Ragged Fringed Orchid 

Ragged Fringed Orchid

My cousin had purchased a pair of kayaks and I couldn't help but go out for a quick tour of the river. Belted Kingfishers, Osprey, Great Egret, Yellowlegs, Mallards, Song Sparrow & Crows were all seen.

Later on, I was staying in a small town called Paquetville, and I took a quick drive out to Pokeshaw New Brunswick. According to ebird, a Black Guillemot and a Razorbill were seen there in late June of this year!

Luckily, both were still present! Actually, the Razorbill was not noticed on my first effort, and on a chance second visit, I was finally able to see it.

Razorbill at Pokeshaw Rock

A trip to Miscou Island - gave nice views of Bog Habitat! Cotton grass, Huckleberries, Cranberries, Pitcher Plants, Sundew were all seen. There was a bird observation area near the lighthouse which gave looks at distant shorebirds. A little too far to ID, but there seemed to be Dowitcher, Yellowlegs, and Black bellied Plover present.

On the way home, we took a highway that cut through the middle of the province. It was gorgeous!
While driving along, I couldn't help but notice some Gray Jays along the side of the road. This is only my second time seeing them so I had to stop to take a second look.

Good Birding!



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