Saturday, September 12, 2015

Rondeau Fauna

It's been a while since I've been able to post, and it might be a while again as I'm spending the next three weeks in Northwestern Ontario! I've got a few posts lined up for when I'm gone. 

More from my summer at Algonquin eventually, but the next couple posts will be about what I've been doing since I got back. I had a spectacularly successful few days in Southwestern Ontario, mostly at Rondeau. This post will focus on a few of the animal highlights, and the next will have a more botanical focus.

The two biggest highlights of my trip were not photographed, both in the woodlands at Rondeau. On my first day there I flushed a warbler from some brush, and put my binoculars up on a Connecticut Warbler! This species is not only fairly rare but also ridiculously secretive, and I had never set eyes on one before, so getting good looks at this individual was fantastic. The following day, I had a split-second view of what was probably another Connecticut but, typically, I never saw it again.

The second highlight was a long-awaited mammal lifer: Long-tailed Weasel! A pretty large individual popped out of the brush and looked at me for a few seconds. Many predators, and especially weasel relatives, can be easily enticed closer with some high-pitched squeaking, and with this method I managed quite extended looks at this rarely seen animal.

Shorebirds were another highlight of the trip with 19 species overall. The definite highlight was this Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons, a lifer for me. Buff-breasted is most often found in upland areas away from water, and this juvenile stuck to the driest parts of the mud.

Also at the lagoons was this Willet, dwarfing the other shorebirds present. In all plumages, Willet is most plain grey, but is easily recognised by its long thick bill.


Other shorebirds highlights included American Golden-plover, Baird's and Stilt Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone and Sanderling. 

I came across this dismembered Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the middle of Spicebush Trail a Rondeau - clear evidence of hawk activity in the area! I did see two live Yellow-billed Cuckoos the next day.

The gorgeous Ailanthus Webworm Moth (Atteva aurea) has greatly expanded its range due to spread of both planted and invasive Ailanthus (Tree of Heaven).

The dragonfly activity along Lake Erie at this time of year is dominated by several species of Meadowhawk as well as the various migratory dragonflies (mostly Green Darner, Black Saddlebags and Twelve-spotted Skimmer). Still, there are a few other resident species that can be found mixed in, such as this female Eastern Pondhawk. Pondhawks often take insect prey as large as themselves.

Both Pondhawks and Blue Dashers like this female are abundant earlier in the summer, but linger in only small numbers into mid-September.

This Assassin Bug was lurking on the railing of one of Rondeau's boardwalks. These insect predators can deliver a nasty bite if handled.

The trip ended on an excellent note, as we watched some 2-300 migrant raptors of nine species moving low along the north shore of Lake Erie in under an hour. There was a period with Sharp-shinned Hawks and Kestrels flying by at a rate of at least one per 10 seconds!

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