Opinion Column

BIRDWATCH: Where have all the rare birds gone?

Ken Hooles

By Ken Hooles, Daily Observer

Doug Fraser of Pembroke snapped this photo of a Greater Yellowlegs in flight taken at a lake near Barry’s Bay.

Doug Fraser of Pembroke snapped this photo of a Greater Yellowlegs in flight taken at a lake near Barry’s Bay.

It has been a dismal bird migration this fall in Eastern Ontario in terms of rare bird sightings. Last year, Eastern Ontario experienced a plethora of rare birds that included such rarities as a Little Egret, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron, a variety of Jaegers, a Pink-footed Goose, and a Bullock’s Oriole. This fall, there has not been one rare bird sighting of any significance in our area.


In this context, Rob Cunningham, Vince Agnesi, and I travelled south on Oct. 11 to the Brighton area. It was our hope that we find a rare bird, or at least complete our year list with a few additions that are not normally seen in Renfrew County.

Our first stop was the Brighton Constructed Wetlands. This stop was somewhat disappointing as most of the wetlands were overgrown with high weeds. Never-the-less, we were able to find five bird species. This included Starlings, late Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall Ducks, a Lesser Yellowlegs, and a beautiful Cooper’s Hawk.

From here, we spent the rest of the day at our favourite bird haunt, Presqu’ile Provincial Park. We chose Tuesday to visit this area as waterfowl hunting is permitted in the park on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

In the park, we were able to observe seven waterfowl species: Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Double-crested Cormorants, Mallards, Black Ducks, Green-winged Teal, and the main highlight of the trip, Trumpeter Swans.

Elsewhere, on the park shorelines, we located Greater Yellowlegs, Sanderling, and some of my favourite shorebirds, Black-bellied Plovers. There were also three types of Gulls: Herring, Ring-billed, and Great Black-backed Gulls.

The highlights of our Presqu’ile excursion were the Trumpeter Swans, both Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Merlin, White-crowned Sparrows, and a small flock of Palm Warblers.

Other notable birds included a late Great Blue Heron, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Dark-eyed Junco, and a Pileated Woodpecker.

In all, we located a respectable 31 bird species at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. At the end of the day, like in the rest of Eastern Ontario, we did not find any rare birds, but we were able to add two or three birds to our year list. Perhaps when the winter winds start blowing, they may bring in the rare birds that we seek.

On the local scene, the fall migration continues mainly on our lakes, rivers, and fields. In the next two weeks, there should be Red-necked and Horned Grebes, Scoters, Scaup, and possibly Red-breasted Mergansers, on Lake Dore. Many of these should be found on the upcoming Lake Dore Excursion. There are also thousands of Canada Geese still passing through our area, and the odd Snowy Goose has been spotted among them. Along our shorelines and muddy fields, there are still some late shorebirds, especially Sanderlings and Black-bellied Plovers. If lucky, you might spot some White-rumped Sandpipers.

The most recent bird arrivals are the Horned Larks and American Pipits that can be found along our shorelines and in our ploughed fields. These birds will soon be accompanied by a few Lapland Longspurs and migrating Rough-legged Hawks. In terms of northern winter migrants, the warm weather this past week delayed the arrival of Snow Buntings and Pine Siskin.

At your feeders, look for more Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned and Fox Sparrows among our regular winter birds such as Cardinals, Blue Jays, Nuthatches, Chickadees, and hopefully, Evening Grosbeaks. It is still a good time for bird watching!

On Oct. 14, Don Krantz informed me that he appears to have an ill or diseased Wild Turkey in his neighbourhood. The bird appears quite blind and is constantly being pecked at by the others in the flock. I suspect it is either an injured or aged bird, and in both cases, will not be tolerated by the flock. In nature, it is, indeed, survival of the fittest, and the others will not keep any member that exposes them to predator risk or limited food supply.

On Oct. 15, Trudy List-Radke of McGregor’s Bay area observed the Golden Eagle that has been spotted at several areas along the Ottawa River. It seems that this bird likes to sit on high rocks on the river.

Finally, on Oct. 18, Doug Fraser of Pembroke spotted a lone Greater Yellowlegs wading along the shore of a lake near Barry’s Bay. Nice photo, Doug!

Please call me with your sightings at 613-735-4430, or email me at hooles@bell.net . For more information on nature and upcoming nature events, just Google the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists website, or ‘like’ us on Facebook. 

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