Thursday, November 14, 2013

A few local waterfowl

There's not much birding you can do in November in Guelph in an hour or two, so I've had to take what I can get. There's still always something to see, and I've been making the most of the opportunities I have.

Whenever the weather's been right I've been taking a bit of time to hawkwatch from campus. There is no lakeshore or ridge to concentrate birds here, so it's usually a bust, but every once in a while conditions are right and raptors will stream by for a few hours. This fall I've seen every local raptor except Peregrine Falcon and Golden Eagle here, with some very good days (e.g. 700+ Broad-winged Hawks on September 16, 1 Northern Goshawk, 5 Red-shouldered Hawk, 2 Rough-legged Hawk and 3 Sandhill Crane on October 28). Still, most days this isn't even worth trying, so if I want to spend a hour or two looking at birds, I can either go wander through the woods and fields in search of late migrants or interesting over-wintering birds, or I can head to the local fishing ponds and baseball diamonds.

This spot in Guelph (called the "correctional ponds" by birders due to the former prison here) is rather unassuming but is actually a great spot to spend a little time seeing what waterbirds have dropped in. This year, the first sight I see when I arrive is this:

Due to high water levels this year, the baseball diamonds have been largely under shallow water and unmaintained. I've seen some interesting birds in this rather surprising location this year including Caspian Tern, Wilson's Snipe and Greater Yellowlegs in April, Savannah Sparrow in June and Dunlin in November, and the latest addition came today in the form of these lovely visitors from the arctic:

A Snow Goose was seen at Riverside Park in the north end of Guelph at the end of the October, and then on November 11th what seems to be the same bird was refound at these ponds. Despite visits on the 9th, 11th and 13th I never managed to be here at the same time as the bird, but finally today I made the short bus trip again to see not one but two Snow Geese in the flooded field among over 400 Canada Goose. Hopefully these geese stick the winter in the city somewhere, like Greater White-fronted and Cackling Goose have recently.

Also present recently was this goose: 

"Y3J1" has been visiting Guelph each winter since at least 2011. A local birder sent in his information and came back with some somewhat surprising information - he was banded in August 2002 on Akimiski Island, Nunavut. At the time he was already an adult, so is at least 12 years old. That neck band sure looks uncomfortable, but the fact that this goose has survived so long, presumably shuttling back and forth from James Bay to Guelph twice a year, shows that it probably has minimal effect.

A few other waterfowl are also present at the Correctional Ponds. This male Wood Duck has been swimming with the local mallards since at least October 27.

 The permanent ponds here are stocked with fish, and so are very attractive to loons, grebes, terns, Osprey, and in particular mergansers. Common Mergansers are usually present, sometimes as many as 80, and smaller numbers of Hooded Mergansers often join them.

These males were getting an early start on their bizarre courtship rituals. 

They aren't anything rare, and it's nothing compared to what I'd be seeing along Lake Ontario right now, but there's always something to see, and I'm certainly not disappointed.

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