Treasures of Late Summer
Throughout August, birds are becoming restless, readying themselves for travel, and preparing their young for migration. August is also the time when we sometimes see birds that we would not normally find in our area. Rare sightings are exciting for us as observers, but troubling for the off-course, out-of-range travellers.
Beginning in the backyard.... in early August, the Baltimore Orioles bring their young to the grape jelly feeder, where the little ones watch Mom eat, and beg her to put some sweet jelly into their bills.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed constantly in the yard, in preparation for their long flights South. Their preferred food sources are Bee Balm, Lantana, and the giant garden Zinnias.
We banded some lovely Fall migrants at SpruceHaven near St. Agatha in mid-August .
The Least Flycatcher has 2 white wing bars, a white eye ring, and a yellow lower bill (mandible). It is our smallest Flycatcher.
This Nashville Warbler, with its white eye rings and rust-coloured cap, doesn’t look as “ flashy" or fresh as it did in the Spring, but has retained quite a bit of its distinctive colour.
The Gray Catbird has a rusty patch under the tail. This is a juvenile bird, with the soft, sparse patch.
Cedar Waxwings were passing through, and singing their quiet, whispery songs. This one has no red tips on the wings; it is another young bird.
American Goldfinches will be staying around for the Winter, and nest in late Summer, when the Thistles offer up downy "seed parachutes" that are used by the Goldfinches for nesting material. Feathers will continue to be bright yellow and dark black (on the Males) for another month or so.
On August 28th, a few of us headed up to Oliphant to see if we could find the Reddish Egret that had been sighted over the previous days. We made a stop at the Tim Horton’s in Southampton, and spotted a Merlin in the tree at the edge of the parking lot. Some Goldfinches in the area were agitated by the Merlin’s presence; at least this predator wasn’t down by the lake eating shorebirds!
Driving along the shoreline at Oliphant we saw a few cars pulled over, and the famous young Egret was foraging in the water out beyond a marshy area. The Reddish Egret is a saltwater bird, usually found along the southern coastlines of the U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico. It is hard to know how a freshwater diet will affect this wanderer.
This gray/brown/white, slightly “scruffy-looking” bird is a Juvenile.
It seemed to be checking out the Pitcher Plants....
The Egret moved around a fair bit, and alternated between an area North of the Marina, and a swampy area further North along the shore.
Although the Reddish Egret was very active, it did not do a great deal of the “dancing” for which this species is noted. It did hide behind trees quite often as it foraged, making photos difficult!
The next 3 pictures were taken in Cozumel a few years ago, and demonstrate the differences between the adult and the juvenile Reddish Egret. Note the reddish neck and head for which the bird is named, and the dark gray body and plumes. The adult’s bill is pinkish, with a black tip.
Feeding behaviours are amazing to watch. The Reddish Egret chases fish through the shallow water, running and prancing and twisting itself around....
While at Oliphant, we drove into the picnic/beach area and watched an Osprey as it delivered fish to its nest. It was late in the season for Osprey to have young in the nest, but there was certainly some feeding going on.
After speaking with some birders who had come from Wasaga Beach, we decided to drive over to see if we could find the Swallow-tailed Kite that had been seen a few hours before. The 2-hour drive was completely worthwhile! We were treated to views of the elegant Kite swooping and soaring overhead.
Apparently, the Swallow-tailed Kite grabs lizards, insects and even other birds’ young from treetops as it flies over. The Kite also uses its talons to snatch insects in midair, then transfers them to its bill -- all while soaring through the air! When I looked through photos on my computer at home, I was thrilled to see that there were a few that show this behaviour. The Kite was very high in the sky when these pictures were taken, and quite a bit of cropping was done, but we can see what is happening...
The Swallow-tailed Kite is usually found in the Southern U.S. (Florida), but shows up sporadically throughout the States and Southern Canada. Hopefully this bird has found its way back to familiar territory.
Another rarity for Ontario is the Yellow-crowned Night Heron. I did not see the one that was being sighted around Hespeler, but was able to photograph the young Night Heron that was along the Millrace in St. Jacobs in 2017.
While we rarely find the Yellow-crowned Night Heron in Central Ontario, we do enjoy annual visits from Black-crowned Night Herons. Pairs have nested in Floradale for many years, and can usually be seen along the Woolwich Dam trail on August evenings. These two were hunting along the water’s edge on a misty, rainy evening.
On the same evening, when the sun appeared for a few minutes, there was a Great Blue Heron in the mudflats,
and a Green Heron well camouflaged in the Willows.
Cormorants gather in the dead trees along the edge of the trail.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Summer was a tiny bird that showed up on the lawn one evening when we were sitting outside.
It ran toward us, peeping, and wanted to climb onto a lap or hand.
Where on earth did a Spotted Sandpiper come from?? Fields surround the lawn, and although we searched carefully, we could find no sign of parents or nest. We took the little one to a Wildlife Rehabilitator, and she tried for 2 days to raise it, but sadly, our Spotted Sandpiper chick did not survive.
It has been quite a Summer, full of interesting sightings. I think this Hummingbird Clearwing Moth might be my favourite:
But it isn’t a Bird, so doesn’t really belong in this blog! Stay tuned for the "Butterfly and Moth” blog, coming soon.....