Hawk Cliff weekends wrapping up


Immature sharp-shinned hawk ready to depart after brief rest.

The weather on Saturdays was wet to say the least. Last Sunday saw about 150 people attend the Raptor Bander and Monarch Watch demonstrations. This year saw the addition of a parking lot on the recently acquired Hawk Cliff Woods property by Thames Talbot Land Trust.
The trust had a large tent set up for the talks, which really worked well for the rainy days.
The Land Trust will be having their dedication and official opening of Hawk Cliff Woods at 12:30 on Sept 19th. All are welcome.

Birds of Elgin County

Birds of Elgin County A Century of Change

This book has 44 colour plates of birds and their nests in Elgin, many photos with chicks taken by Ron Kingswood and William Rayner. There are 335 species reported as of writing of this book in Elgin and the book covers each bird over the 100 years, including Frank Farley’s observations in 1891 and Ron Broomans second edition in 1954. Each report has interesting tidbits about that bird as seen in the county. There are over 40 pages of Christmas Bird Count statistics for the two county nature clubs in existence at time of writing. Sketches of birds by our local artists including Candy McManiman, Pat Hartwell McLean and Diane Dobson.
There are a limited number of the 2004 book Birds of Elgin County A Century of Change still available
They are $25 for hard cover and $10 for soft cover. They can be picked up at any of the club meetings while supplies last. Shipping in Ontario will add $15 to the cost of either book. To purchase email asharpe@distributel.net
The book was written and compiled by the naturalists of Elgin County.

Hawk Cliff 2015 HawkWatch Summary

Red-tail Hawk --- photo by Mark Yurek

Red-tailed Hawk — photo by Mark Yurek

A few Hawk Cliff volunteers headed to the hawkwatch on August 21 to kick off the 2015 Hawk Cliff Hawkwatch season. Joined by many more in September, these volunteers eventually provided coverage until December 13, for a total of 117 count days, including 21 no-count days all of which were the result of inclement weather. In 2015, “inclement weather” usually meant rain, at times heavy, accompanied by strong southerly, (S, SW, SE) winds. Little snow was recorded during this hawk watch season, but observers did enjoy the unusually mild temperatures. Volunteers contributed a total of 518.25 hours, the highest number of hours’ coverage since the 2011 season. Again this year, our volunteers deserve a big thank-you for their dedication to the hawkwatch.

We’ve looked at the Birds per Hour (BPH) again for this summary which gives a truer feel for whether bird numbers were up or down compared to previous multi-year averages. This keeps the counts from being skewed by the assumption that the longer you spend on watch the more birds you see. This season we proved that assumption to be false. Compared to previous years, the 518.25 total hours for 2015 was only slightly below the past ten years’ average (539.20) so in terms of an average number of hours per day, we spent 4.47 hours per day for 117 days. Despite all those hours of observation, the total count in 2015 was only 53,559, far below the 15-year average of 67,246. Thus the total BPH was 103 for the season, much less than the 15-year average of 201 (2000-2014 inclusive).

The primary cause was the lack of a major Broadwing flight within range of observation from the hawkwatch. Our total for Broadwings was only 13,000 or only 10% of the highest count ever back in 2000 and well below the multi-year average of 33,400. Other species were also noticeably missing with our lowest ever count of Northern Goshawk (8) and nearly the lowest of Rough-legged (13). We did see our highest 1-day count ever though for Turkey Vultures (5,578) on Oct. 18, clearly a species that is not at risk in Ontario. All other species had lower BPH for 2015, many less than half the multi-year average. Let’s hope for bigger, better flights in 2016!

Great Canadian Birdathon results

Yellow-throated Warbler --- photo by Mark Yurek

Yellow-throated Warbler — photo by Mark Yurek

The day started early with coffee for the road from Tim’s. A quick stop at the Port Stanley lagoons logged Dunlin, Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Shoveler and Ruddy Duck. By the time we left the bobolink field on highway 3 we had over 30 species including the Bobolink and Savannah Sparrow.

At the out skirts of Rondeau it was extremely windy and people started to arrive. Due to the winds it was decided to start inside the park and headed for visitor centre. We were not even to the first bridge at Tulip trail when Ron Ridout heard a Canada Warbler, we were unable to see that one but there was more to see. The Prothonotary was putting on a great show at post 7 and seemed to be nesting in a box at water level. Everyone got to see and photograph it. The Swainson’s and Wood Thrush were seen there.

After lunch everyone headed out to South Point Trail and everyone got to see a Whip-poor-will in a bush about 8 feet above the ground. It seemed to not be concerned about the people. Ron Kingswood spotted a Yellow-throated Warbler with its distinctive lemon yellow throat and black border moving slowly along a branch. Many in the group got to see it. Jackie spotted a Red-headed Woodpecker. On the way out of this trail Eva spotted a Lincoln Sparrow.

We made several trips to the visitor centre and the Pine Siskin and White-crowned Sparrows that were at the feeders earlier in the day never showed for our group, but we did get the Ruby-throated Hummingbird there. We had Bob, Hugh, Dave and Melanie join us for the first time and hope they all enjoyed the remarkable day of birding with 22 different warblers seen. Total count for day was 96 species. Thanks to all who supported us this year.

Nine members from our club finished the day off by going to the 70th anniversary dinner for the West Elgin Nature Club in Rodney. The food and fellowship was great and George Prieksaitis gave a nice roundup of the clubs many events over the years. Paul Nichelson was the guest speaker and gave a funny roundup of the different versions of birders over the years. Kudos to all the volunteers who made there anniversary dinner such a success.

Great Canadian Birdathon, Saturday May 14th, 2016

Once again Al Sharpe and Al Hurst are doing the birdathon for the club. This is a fundraiser for Bird Studies Canada with a portion of donations coming back to the STFN. This has been traditionally a club outing to Rondeau Provincial Park. Those wishing to join can meet us outside the park at 9 am, the corner of Rose Beach Line and Kent Bridge Road.
We will do a walk around the block that takes about 1- 1.5 hrs. This is not a hike. We are looking for birds trying to spot as many species as possible so the pace is leisurely with lots of opportunity to socialize and a great opportunity to pick up bird ID tips. After this walk we go into the park ( there is a park fee ) with some of the group breaking off and going their own way.
Al and I try to hit a trail or two before going to the visitor centre for our picnic lunch. After lunch more trails and possibly a sidetrip to the Blenheim Lagoons for shore birds. Which trail is usually decided after talking to other birders to find out where the birds are. Often the hot trail yesterday is quiet today but we try to walk at least most of the trails in the park.
In the past we have had supper at Rondeau Joes just outside the park but this year Al and I will be attending West Elgin Nature Clubs 70th Anniversary dinner at the Rodney Legion. Guest speaker is Paul Nicholson who writes a column for the London Free Press on nature for Saturday’s edition. Doors open at 5:30 pm dinner at 6 pm, you must have tickets ahead. This is a fun day so come alone or fill your car, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the spring migration. Donations will be collected at the May meeting and even on the day. Tax receipt will be issued by BSC.

Any questions please call my cell 519 494 8396
Al Hurst

Duck Rally 2016

Pied-billed Grebe
We scheduled one week earlier this year to avoid Easter and were blessed with good weather. We started at 8 am at Aylmer WMA with clear skies, north winds of about 15 km/h and temperature of -five. It did warm up to just above zero so the weather was pretty mild with no mud. There was still some ice on the pond but mostly open water. No ice at the rest of the stops. Highlights here were the Tundra Swans, Eastern Meadowlark and Eastern Bluebird.
At the Aylmer lagoons we saw several duck species including an Eurasian Wigeon. There was some discussion as the bird’s head was lighter and more tan than others I had seen before. It may have been a hybrid or just the way the sun was hitting it across the pond. Another highlight here was Dave d’Entremont sighting of a Rusty Blackbird. He first identified it by sound then we had a good look at it through the scope.
A few people took a detour on the way to coffee to get the Red-headed Woodpecker on Helkaa Line just west of Springwater Road. Our stop at Lake Margaret added both Pied-billed and Horned Grebes.  At Corner’s Corner we added Belted Kingfisher and Wood Duck.
Lunch was once again at the Buccaneer in Port Stanley and even though there were 26 of us, service was fast and tasty. Due to construction at harbour in Port we went on to the Port Stanley lagoons where we picked up several duck species, Cooper’s Hawk and Tufted Titmouse calling from the woods.
On to the Fingal WMA for a stop at the feeders. We found several feeder birds including Purple Finch and Pine Siskin. As the group broke up some travelled back to St Thomas with a stop at the heronry at Bush Line and Mill Road. We had several good views of Great Blue Herons, especially as a Red-tailed Hawk lazily harassed them and they had to keep jumping off their nests. Overall we had 28 people join us for all or part of the day. Gord Longhurst helped compile the list of birds. A total of 57 species were seen.

Thanks to all
Al Hurst
List of birds seen on STFN 2016 Duck Rally.

Annual Duck Rally next week.

Pair of Redhead in St Thomas.

Pair of Redhead in St Thomas.

The annual Duck Rally is next Saturday, March 19th starting at Aylmer WMA at 8 am. You can call the Tundra Swan Line at 519-773-7926 for daily count of Tundra Swans. Three days with over 2000 swans have already been reported this month. We will then visit the Aylmer Lagoons around 8:45 am. Stop for coffee at Tim Horton’s in St Thomas at Talbot and Manor Road at 10 am. Click here for rest of itinerary.
The weather is quite mild and many birds are showing up earlier this year. Currently there have been 20 species of ducks seen in Elgin County since the beginning of the year. Should be a great day. If any questions please call Al Hurst 519-633-4235. Hope to see you there.