September is one of my favourite months to get out birding. With cooler temperatures and fall migration in full swing it is the perfect time to head out with a camera and binoculars. This past week I birded some of my favourite locations within the Forest City and was treated to some excellent views.
During both spring and fall migration Westminster Ponds ESA is the area I visit most. Nearly 200 hectares of mixed habitat make it the perfect place to find a wide variety of birds including waterfowl, songbirds, shorebirds, and birds of prey. Early in the week I arrived one morning just as the fog cleared. As fog gave way to sun, I observed a Coyote at the far edge of a meadow. After capturing several images, the Coyote slowly retreated to the safety of the adjacent tree cover. Often misunderstood and unnecessarily feared these mammals are an incredibly important part of our ecosystem as they keep mice, rats, and other rodent populations under control.
As I made way towards the forest there was a plethora of bird activity coming from a row of sumac trees to the north. Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, and Red-eyed Vireos were all abundant feeding on the fresh fruit produced by the sumacs. A Baltimore Oriole and Northern Flicker were observed high up in a large deciduous tree. Much lower to the ground within the dense thicket several Gray Cat Birds and House Wrens were located. Within the forest water levels on Spettigue Pond were low exposing a large mud flat near the floating dock. Several Killdeer were observed foraging in the mud along with a two Mallards but otherwise activity on this pond was rather quiet.
Exiting the forest I headed west over to Saunders Ponds where an Olive Sided Flycatcher perched atop a dead tree. These birds are currently listed as special concern on Ontario’s Species at Risk list so are always a pleasant sighting. Following the trail on the north side of Saunders Pond several warblers could be observed including Magnolia, Pine, and Common Yellowthroat. The thick leaf cover prevented me from capturing any images of these birds as they flitted through the branches grabbing insects as they moved along. As always I was more than happy to watch their activity and not worry about obtaining photos.
Coming to the west side of Saunders Ponds I scanned across the many fallen tress and branches to discover four Green Herons that seemed unaware of my presence. I enjoyed great looks of these birds from only about 20 feet away watching as they slowly moved across the logs then quickly stabbing their beaks into the water. At such a close distance I could see that their prey was large tadpoles presumably those of either bull or green frogs. These were by far the best views I have ever experienced of Green Herons in my lifetime and was the highlight of my visit to Westminster Ponds.
Great Egrets are readily observed throughout the city during August and September with one of the best locations to observe them being The Coves in south London. On a visit to The Coves this past week I observed a single Great Egret feeding on small fish on the south side of Springbank Drive. After photographing the bird for several minutes it took flight circling overhead before landing in almost the exact location it was previously.
Happy with my observation, I decided to make may way into Greenway Park. As I entered the park, I watched the trees for any movement. In one particular wooded area, I photographed a White-tailed buck that still had a bit of velvet on the tips of his antlers.
Walking along the Thames River within the park a dead Elm tree provided the perfect perch for an Osprey. Adjusting my camera settings to compensate for the blue sky and cloud cover, I managed several photos of this large raptor before something in the river caught its eye and it plunged down into the water. Due to the tree cover on the near bank, I was unable to see if the bird made a successful catch. Within Greenway Park I also had great views of Great Blue Herons and many songbirds.
Stormwater management ponds are great places to see a variety of birds anytime of year but especially during spring and fall migration. Herons, egrets, shorebirds, and other water birds are readily found at these human made habitats. One of my preferred storm water management ponds to bird at is located behind the Canadian Tire store on Wonderland Road South. A visit here this past week yielded a Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, roughly twenty Double-crested Cormorants, and particularly nice views of a Caspian Term.
Watching the tern circle the pond repeatedly, I increased my shutter speed and captured several images of it in flight as it made its way around the pond. I have photographed Caspian Terns many times in the past, but what I liked so much about this view was that by standing in the parking lot the bird was at eye level with the far bank providing a unique backdrop something I found a little more interesting than a typical plain blue sky.
If you get the opportunity this month give some of these aforementioned areas a try. Many of the species I observed this past week will remain in our area for at least a few more weeks. As the month progresses look for migration to increase with raptor numbers spiking mid-September and warblers and other species continue to move through. September often provides some of the nicest weather we could ask for so be sure to make the most of it and enjoy the wonder of fall migration.