Thursday, March 19, 2009

Long Point OFO Trip

There was no sleeping in on Saturday March 14. Jean and I had planned to attend the OFO trip of the Long Point area and the meeting time was 9:00 am. I was glad for that. We didn't have to wake up at such an ungodly hour with Long Point less than two hours away. Coffee was brewed, mugs and thermos filled, scope loaded into the car, and the vcr set to tape the Liverpool versus Manchester United match. We travelled along Hwy. 3 and observed many Red-tail Hawks surveying the rural farmland of Haldimand and Norfolk counties. Arriving in Simcoe we continued our drive along Regional Road 24 in order to reach the trip's meeting spot, the St. Williams Forestry Station, the oldest provincial forestry station in Canada. As we approached St. Williams, 2 Wild Turkeys flew across the road, a sign to the start of a great day of birding.

We arrived at the forestry station with time to spare and joined a group of birders enjoying views of at least a half dozen Pine Siskin flying from tree top to tree top. The 40 birders assembled together and our trip leader Jim Heslop (along with Bob Stamp and John Olmsted) informed the group of the spots that were on the itinerary. With such a large group car pooling was suggested and I believe Jean and I, besides the trip leaders, were the only ones willing to car pool. Two sisters, Bev and Annie, asked if we would car pool with them. This would turn out to be a sound decision. In addition to getting along very well with our newly found birding friends, Bev also resides in nearby Port Ryerse and knew the area we would be travelling.

The group's first stop was the marina in St. Williams. Most waterfowl were distant and space was limited for scopes but we had some good views of Redhead and Hooded Merganser. A Song Sparrow sang its famous song as we viewed the ducks and Jean and I recorded our first observation of Red-winged Blackbird (#60) and Common Grackle (#61) for 2009. With too many vehicles on this trip, a visit to Booth's Marina was scrubbed and we continued on to the marina in Port Rowan. Port Rowan is a small town, overlooking Long Point, our future destination.

The amount of waterfowl encountered was staggering. This was our first visit ("No way!" "Way!") to Long Point to observe spring migrants at this time of year. We have seen Tundra Swan on the Niagara River, small flocks of 30 to 40 totalling 200, as we travelled along the Niagara Parkway from Fort Erie to Chippawa but the numbers here were amazing. There were over 1500 Tundra Swans (#62)! Within the small bay near where we stood, a good number of American Wigeon, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck (#63), were observed. 3 Canvasback (#64) were spotted amongst the larger number of various waterfowl. Along with smaller numbers of Gadwall, Bufflehead and Common Merganser were many American Coots. During our time here a small flock of Canada Geese flew in but what attracted the attention of the birders was the 11 Snow Geese (#65), blue and white morph, that accompanied them. Jean and I had only observed one Snow Goose, a white morph, on the Niagara River prior to this trip. This was an excellent opportunity to observe both morphs not only on the water but in flight as well. After our fill of waterfowl, content we had observed all there was to see, we moved on to the next point of interest.

Big Creek and its flood plain are known to produce some good observations so the first stop along the creek was on a closed section of Concession Road A. When Bev informed me the road was called "A Road" I thought she was simply saying "a road". I'm not sure how long it took me to realize that it was in fact the name of the road. We parked our cars and strolled along the closed road, crossing 2 bridges blocked with concrete barriers to prevent vehicular traffic. During the short walk, flocks of Tundra Swan flew overhead in what seemed an endless aerial show. What an amazing sight!

Images courtesy of Annie Goulden

A scan of the Wood Duck houses for screech owl proved unsuccessful but an immature Bald Eagle (#66) flew through the trees to the delight of the group. Shortly after that observation a Great Blue Heron, another first for 2009 (#67) was seen flying above our location.

Our next stop was the Lee Brown Waterfowl Management Area. Upon entering the parking area we observed a woman waving at us. She was from another group and was attempting to inform us of a bird sighting, as she stated, "I'm trying to tell everyone there's Sandhill Cranes across the road and no one is paying attention to me". Well we did, along with a few other OFO birders. Jean, Bev, Annie, and I crossed the road to the area the woman described and found the cranes with no problem.

Image courtesy of Annie Goulden
We watched 2 Sandhill Cranes (#68) for a few minutes and then the appearance of third crane convinced them to join it in the field next to the waterfowl management area. We would observe a total of 6 Sandhill Cranes during our stop here, our new viewing position downwind of a dead skunk.

Images courtesy of Annie Goulden

After viewing the cranes, our attention was drawn to the gulls that other members of the group were observing. Many thanks to Steve Thorpe for finding the Glaucous Gull (#69), amongst the Ring-billed Gulls, through the heat haze on a flooded field. In addition, 2 Killdeer (#70) were observed during our time at Lee Brown's.

We proceeded to 1st Concession Road to look for waterfowl on the same creek visited earlier in the morning. No new species observed here. It was time for lunch, so the group headed for the Old Cut Banding Station on the point. Bird Studies Canada had kindly opened the station to allow the OFO group a spot to have lunch.

After eating and a quick review of the species tallied so far, we walked the trails adjacent to the banding station. Walking the trails our gang of four observed, Black-capped Chickadee, Mourning Dove, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Cardinal, American Robin, Common Grackle, American Crow, American Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco. Unfortunately for us we did not see the Golden-crowned Kinglet observed by a few other OFO birders. The remains of a large avian carcass was found on the trail and it appeared to be that of a Great Blue Heron. Before returning to the mainland our group stopped at a viewing stand on the causeway to view the waterfowl on the inner bay. Room was limited on the viewing stand so a small group of us stood on the shoreline to obtain this view of the inner bay.

Image courtesy of Annie Goulden

Behind the waterfowl, 8 immature Bald Eagles played and provided the afternoon's entertainment to some OFO members. The large amount of Tundra Swans took flight and revealed approximately 50 Snow Geese. The sight was pretty cool.

Image Courtesy of Annie Goulden

The last stop for our carload was on Concession Road #3 along Big Creek. Green-winged Teal (#71), our last species to add to the year list, were observed with Northern Pintail, American Wigeon and Ring-necked Duck. The train of cars continued along more concession roads in search of Golden Eagle but we decided to call it a day, visiting Booth's Marina before returning to our car at the forestry station. No waterfowl were observed at the marina. No Golden Eagle either as per Jim's trip report on the listserve. We missed the Eastern Bluebirds listed on the report but I can tick them later. We have promised to take Jean's mum to search for Eastern Bluebird. We have a couple of spots lined up that should produce positive results.

Overall, Jean and I had a great field trip, adding 12 species to the year list. Thanks to Annie and Bev for inviting us along for the drive through the Long Point area. We enjoyed their company and appreciated their knowledge of the area. We have promised to return the favour if they decide to attend the Niagara River OFO trip even though it is in December and will be much colder (especially at Adam Beck). Additional thanks to Annie are in order for providing the images appearing on this post. Glad to see she captured one of Jean and I in our designer rubber boots. This was our first visit to Long Point and it will not be our last, perhaps a future visit to observe warblers will occur.

Oh and for those interested, Liverpool FC 4-Man. Utd. 1. Nuff said!


  1. I love watching Tundra Swans flying. They're so huge they don't seem air-worthy, and yet, there they go.

  2. I had a great time, loved the blog- a much better remebrance of the day as I didn't take any notes. By the way- I now have scope envy! Hope to see you again ! Annie