This past week temperatures plummeted to the lowest we have experienced so far this winter. As avid birders in the London area know, when temperatures decrease, waterfowl on the Thames River increases. Frigid daytime highs and nighttime lows have made for greater ice coverage on Lake Superior and Lake Huron, leaving the Thames River as a viable option for many diving ducks looking for open water.
Along with the usual Buffleheads, Common Goldeneye, Common and Hooded Mergansers that routinely overwinter on the Thames, several other species appeared this week on the river. Greater Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked and Horned Grebes, and a Canvasback were all observed this past week. Other notable species were Redheads, Northern Pintails, and Great Black-backed Gulls. Perhaps the most notable, and one that eluded me all week, was a male Harlequin Duck. This bird has been reported multiple times in various locations between Springbank and Greenway Parks. As mentioned in previous posts, this section of river is my favourite for observing winter waterfowl. Not only does it offer the most open water and a high concentration of ducks, geese and gulls; the pathways are kept clear of snow and ice, making for easy walking.
Bald Eagles are still very much visible along river, with daily sightings of both adults and juveniles still occurring. Other raptor species observed along the river this past week were: Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s and Red-tailed Hawks. Great Blue Herons could also be observed along the ice and in shallow open sections of the river.
Songbirds are always present in the trees and shrubs that line the banks of the Thames River. Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Northern Cardinals were all recorded in good numbers. Three species of woodpecker: Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied were all observed. Several finch species were visible including: American Goldfinches, Common Redpolls, and Pine Siskins.
Temperatures for the coming week are supposed to remain cold, but be more bearable for outdoor activities. If you get the opportunity, I recommend heading down to the Thames River in search of some of these species. It is likely that many of these waterfowl species will be present on the river until temperatures warm up, but there are no guarantees so heading out sooner than later is advised. If you are looking to add one or more of these species to your year or life list, than the Thames River presents the best and closest option for those in the London area to do so. We may run into each other as I will be continuing my search for the Harlequin Duck to add to my own life list.