PAUL ROEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

Wildlife and Nature Photography

The West Perth Wetlands: A Must Destination For Shorebird Enthusiasts

Lesser Yelllowlegs wading in shallow water covered in duckweed with bullrushes in background.

Among the shorebirds I observed this past week at the West Perth Wetlands, Lesser Yellowlegs were the most abundant.

With shorebird migration now underway, I decided to make a trip this past week to the West Perth Wetlands located in Mitchell, Ontario. These wetlands are a well known stopover for shorebirds looking to rest and feed as they move across Southwestern Ontario. After checking the recent sightings reported to eBird, and hearing from a blog subscriber who was there the previous week, I was quite confident there would be a nice mix of shorebirds present.

Least Sandpiper standing on a mud flat covered in duckweed.

The Least Sandpiper is the smallest of the shorebirds, and was one of ten shorebird species I observed on a recent visit to the West Perth Wetlands.

Upon arriving at the wetlands, I looked out over the first pond and immediately saw hundreds of shorebirds. I knew at that moment it was going to be a great day. Glancing along the near shore I was instantly treated to excellent views of several Lesser Yellowlegs and Killdeer as they foraged close to the bank. I caught the movement of a smaller sandpiper out of the corner of my eye, so I raised my binoculars to get a better look. This bird was much smaller than the adjacent Killdeer and displayed yellowish legs indicating it was a  Least Sandpiper, the smallest of the “peeps”. As I scanned across the pond I could see two Wilson’s Snipe, a Short-billed Dowitcher, and a Stilt Sandpiper feeding in the shallow water along the far bank. After circling halfway around the first pond I quickly added more shorebirds to my count, including a Solitary Sandpiper feeding on what appeared to be a large tadpole. I counted 10 species of shorebird in total on this trip to the West Perth Wetlands. A complete list of the shorebirds I observed is as follows:

  • Least Sandpiper
  • Pectoral Sandpiper
  • Stilt Sandpiper
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • Short-billed Dowitcher
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Semipalmated Plover
  • Killdeer
Bright yellow Bobolink perched in the lush green foliage at the West Perth Wetlands in Mitchell, Ontario.

Bobolinks were among the many songbirds present at the West Perth Wetlands.

Several waterfowl species were observed on the various ponds throughout the wetland. Mallards were the most prevalent, but other notable species recorded were Blue and Green-winged Teal, Wood Ducks, and Northern Shoveler. Songbirds were also abundant, with the highlight for me being several Bobolinks. In total, I observed 43 bird species including the 10 shorebirds on my visit.

Viceroy Butterfly perched on wild meadow grass.

Viceroy Butterfly.

Painted and Snapping Turtles were present throughout the network of ponds, as well as three species of frog: Bull, Green, and Northern Leopard. Monarch, Viceroy, and Red-spotted Purple Butterflies could be seen nectaring on the variety of wildflowers surrounding the ponds. Dragon and Damselflies circled the ponds with Green Darner, Widow and Twelve-spotted Skimmers the most abundant. Mammal species I observed included Groundhogs and Muskrats.

Killdeer sets its wings as it prepares to land on the muddy bank covered in duckweed and grasses.

Killdeer setting its wings as it prepares to land on the muddy bank.

What makes the West Perth Wetlands such an amazing place for birding is not only how many shorebirds it attracts, but how close you can view them; this not only provides excellent views, but is perfect for those like me who wish to photograph these beautiful birds. With a pair of binoculars you can easily scan the far banks and still have great views of the distant birds. To make things even better, the network of trails completely circles each pond, which allows you to stealthily approach birds that were previously viewed from a distance. The mowed grass trails are incredibly easy to walk on (with the exception of a few Groundhog holes you must watch for) and the slight rise in elevation offers the perfect vantage point across each of the ponds. A picnic table in the parking lot provides a perfect place to rest or break for lunch.

Lesser Yellowlegs preparing to land at the West Perth Wetlands with the town of Mitchell in the background.

Birds at the West Perth Wetlands are always moving around, making it a great place to photograph birds in flight.

Birds are constantly on the move at the wetlands, both coming and going as well as aggressively defending their feeding spots, making it perfect for flight photography. The West Perth Wetlands is the best location near London I know of that provides not only quantity, but variety of shorebirds with the opportunity to view and photograph them from a close distance.

Great Blue Heron standing in the shallow water surrounded by marsh grass.

Great Blue Heron foraging in the shallow water at the West Perth Wetlands.

To get to the West Perth Wetlands from London, take Highway 23 north to the town of Mitchell, Ontario. Once in Mitchell, turn right on Frank Street (the first street on your right as you enter town). Proceed down Frank Street a few hundred yards where you will see a baseball diamond. Turn right at the diamond and follow the road to the end where you will find the parking lot.

Muskrat carrying mouth full of leaves swimming in an extremely shallow and narrow cut of water, surrounded by mud and grass banks.

The diverse wetland habitat is home to a variety of wildlife, including this Muskrat.

Shorebird identification can be tough, so I recommend taking a field guide and a pair of binoculars. Remember to pay close attention to the subtle differences in each bird. Making note of the size and leg colour can help distinguish many of the smaller sandpipers. With such an incredible variety and quantity of shorebirds at the West Perth Wetlands, it is the perfect place to practice shorebird identification. In many instances you can do side by side comparisons of the various birds. If you have never visited the West Perth Wetlands before, I highly recommend checking it out this migration season. I know I will be returning a few more times before the end of the season.

Good birding,
Paul

 

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2 Responses to “The West Perth Wetlands: A Must Destination For Shorebird Enthusiasts”

  1. Faye Slatter

    Paul – I really look forward to your photos appearing on facebook. I was kayaking in the Pinery Park and saw a bald eagle. Your camera magic would have done it a lot more justice!

    • Paul Roedding

      Thanks Faye. I am really glad to hear that you look forward to my photos I post on Facebook. Bald Eagles are one of my favourite birds to photograph. I am hoping to make it up to the Pinery this fall, so I will keep an eye out for eagles.

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