Today started the same way many of my Sundays do, with a call from my Dad. Most weekends, my Dad and I try to meet for a walk somewhere and enjoy the various sights and sounds of nature while we catch up on each other’s week. This morning we decided on walking along the Thames River in Springbank Park. Those of you that have followed my blog for a while will know that this is one of my favourite locations to bird during the winter months. With an abundance of waterfowl, songbirds, and birds of prey, there is always something to see.
Our walk started out with us observing many of the usual species including Mallards, Canada Geese and a few American Black Ducks. Among the diving ducks present were small numbers of Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and Common Merganser. Some of the more abundant songbirds present were Northern Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, and a large flock of American Robins calling from the trees along the near bank of the river. Many of these birds could also be observed foraging on the ground in area where melting snow was running down the bank into the river. A lone Red-tailed Hawk was observed as it left its perch from high in a tree and soared out over the river.
All in all it was a pretty typical walk for us along the Thames River with a nice variety of birds, ones that we would expect to see at this time of year. As we made our way further through the park, just upstream from the old pump house, a large bird in the middle of the river caught my eye. After stopping to take a closer look, I could identify the bird as a Common Loon in winter plumage. This bird sat motionless as we watched it for several minutes. The whole time we watched, it never dove, and spent periods of time with its head under its wing.
Common Loons typically overwinter along the Atlantic Seaboard, with some birds overwintering on the Great Lakes, This is not a bird we would regularly see inland on the Thames River at this time of year. Common Loons; however, are known to make brief stops on inland bodies of water in our area during migration, so this particular bird may be late making its way south or early making its way north. Another possibility is that with the cold weather this past week, the area in which this Common Loon came from may have recently iced up.
I don’t imagine this bird will remain in the area for very long, so if you are interested in viewing it, I would try to get to the river as soon as you can. The closest access to this bird is from the park’s easternmost parking lot (the one nearest Wonderland Road). From the parking lot there is a set of stairs leading to the pathway adjacent the river. These stairs are not maintained during winter months, so exercise caution if using them. After reaching the path, walk slightly downstream towards the old pump house. When I left the park, this bird was still visible at this location in the middle of the river.