Sunday, December 1, 2013

Awesome day at Long Point

I headed down to Long Point today, and it was a really great day. The main reason I went down was to help out with the Long Point Christmas Bird Count For Kids. We spent a few hours birding around the base of Long Point, and had a great time, seeing, among other things, a pair of Peregrine Falcons among various other raptors, hundreds of Sandhill Cranes and Tundra Swans and good numbers of blackbirds (Rusty, Red-winged, Grackle and Cowbird were all present). The best bird was a Cackling Goose. I'm pretty proud of this one - we were driving slowly along Lakeshore Rd. scanning a goose flock with the naked eye, when I was able to instantly pick out this bird.

A tiny, stubby-billed, cold grayish Canada Goose is actually a Cackling Goose

I normally think of Tundra Swans as a harbringer of spring, but in the Long Point area, where temperatures are warmer and snow rarely lasts long, they'll stick around through the winter.

I had never seen more than 30 or so Sandhill Cranes in a day before, so seeing about 1000 today was a real treat.

For the rest of the afternoon, I did some more birding around the area. The first highlight came while scanning the ice of the inner bay near the Old Cut banding station.

You can totally tell what that is, right? Neither could I at first, but I had strong suspicions, and sure enough after about 15 minutes it took off, revealing the rounded white wings of a Snowy Owl! I came back about an hour and a half after my first sighting in hopes it would be closer, but as you can see from the picture (actually taken on my second visit), it was still offering rather unsatisfying looks. Still, no day with a Snowy Owl is a bad day!

Also on the ice here was this raccoon acting very oddly as it picked lethargically around the edge of the open water. When I returned later in the afternoon, it was laying, apparently dead, on the ice. Not really sure what the story is here.

Luckily, I had several sightings of much healthier mammals, including great looks at Short-tailed Shrew, Mink and White-tailed Deer.

Shortly after, I headed to Old Cut, where the Vesper Sparrow first seen and banded a few days ago was hopping around under the feeder with Juncos, American Tree and White-throated Sparrows.

I found it very odd to see this open-country species in the brushy woods. Vesper Sparrows are not common at feeders at any time of year, and are very uncommonly found anywhere in Ontario in winter.

 The rest of the day was uneventful in anything of note from a rarity perspective, but I was never bored. Snow Bunting, Cooper's Hawk, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird and several Northern Harrier all provided great looks in the provincial park.

As dusk fell, I headed down the causeway to the lookout over Big Creek Marsh, for what would be one of my favorite experiences this year. Huge numbers of Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans, Canada Geese and ducks (likely almost entirely Mallard and American Black Duck) were flying around to roost in the marsh. I estimated about 1000 Sandhill Cranes, 1000 Tundra Swan, 500 Canada Goose and 2000 ducks, although I really wasn't focused on the counting. As the flocks flew back and forth across the setting sun and directly overhead, the voices of the cranes and swans mingled to make one of the most incredible sounds I've ever heard. One of those moments that makes me feel incredibly lucky, and happy to be alive. The title of the post is literally true - I was in awe this evening.


  1. Thanks for this post. We decided to take a drive over to Long Point last Friday to see if we could spot any of the Sandhill Cranes and there were hundreds still there. A most amazing spectacle! Thanks again.

    1. Congrats on seeing them. They really are a spectacular sight!