Over the past week, birding was quite typical of what we expect across the region in late May. Migration activity has slowed considerably, but great birding opportunities are still available to those who head out. Resident species, and those that have returned to breed in our area, are plentiful and provide birders with some great views.
I decided early in the week to visit Medway Valley ESA in the northwest end of town. Access to this ESA is available at various locations, but I chose the entrance behind the Elsie Perrin Williams Estate. Immediately, I was treated to the sights and sounds of Red-eyed Vireos. Heading down the narrow dirt trail towards the creek revealed two Indigo Buntings, both beautiful males. Further down the trail, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Chipping Sparrows, and a Gray Catbird were observed. Once I reached the creek, Barn Swallows could be seen swooping over the water as they fed on insects. A single Belted Kingfisher was perched on a dead limb extending over the creek. As has been the case everywhere I have birded this spring, Yellow Warblers were abundant. A lone Great Blue Heron made its way over the creek with slow but powerful wing beats.
Hoping to see some shorebirds, particularly Whimbrel, I made my way down to Port Stanley, Ontario on the north shore of Lake Erie. My first stop when arriving in town is always the sewage lagoons. As I turned onto Lake Line, an Eastern Bluebird could be seen on a wire overhead. This particular area is a great place to observe these colourful birds. Arriving at the lagoons, both Bank and Barn Swallows could be observed circling the four ponds. The water on the lagoons was quite high, which is less desirable for shorebirds, and only a few Least Sandpipers were observed. Waterfowl species observed on the four lagoons were: Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, and Ruddy Ducks.
My next stop in Port Stanley was to check the rock break wall, south of Little Beach. Here I found Common Terns, Double Crested Cormorants, and more Least Sandpipers, but unfortunately no Whimbrel. Finally, I headed over to the main beach to see what was present there. No shorebird activity, but several Great Black-backed Gulls, both adults and immatures were observed. While scanning the large flock of Herring and Ring-billed Gulls on the beach, I noticed a large, mostly white gull land. Its immense size and white wing tips indicated it was a Glaucous Gull. These birds are not as common as other gulls in our area as they breed on the high Arctic, but juveniles especially, are known to overwinter on the Great Lakes. I was quite excited by this observation as this was a life bird for me.
Over the week I made multiple visits to the Westminster Ponds ESA, another one of my favourite locations close to home. One notable sighting was a Common Loon observed on Saunders Pond Monday evening. Brown Thrashers, Great Crested Flycatchers, Pileated Woodpeckers, and an Osprey were all observed within the ESA. It was here that I observed my first Mallard ducklings of the season, as a female with four young slipped through the duckweed on the surface of the pond. Shorebirds including Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers were observed around the small drainage pond behind Parkwood Hospital.
Great birding opportunities exist around Southwestern Ontario despite the fact that we are past the prime of spring migration. Avoid the mid day heat and plan your outings either in the morning or evening to yield best results. Experts are warning of a bad tick season, and mosquito activity definitely picked up this past week, so remember to apply a bug repellant with deet before you make your way into the great outdoors. So often I hear people complain that birding is slow throughout the late spring and summer months. Nothing could be further from the truth. Southwestern Ontario falls well within the year round range or breeding range of hundreds of species, making anytime the perfect time to go birding.