Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Colourful Afternoon

When looking over the daily listserve reports I always open the e-mails titled "Mud Lake". The majority of the time, well actually pretty well all the time, the reports are for the Mud Lake in the Ottawa area, a six hour drive from St. Catharines. On Saturday afternoon, Jean and I visited the other Mud Lake, a mere 25 minute drive away.

We have birded the man-made lake a number of times, including in April of last year after receiving a listserve report (the only recent report for the Port Colborne Mud Lake?). The report included the observation of 2 Rusty Blackbirds. We found 1, our lifer and only sighting so far, with little difficulty. The only other lifer listed for Mud Lake is Ring-necked Duck in late March of 2006.

Upon reaching Mud Lake Conservation Area we were welcomed to a drop in temperature of 5+ degrees Celsius and a strong south-west wind. Luckily we would be sheltered by the surrounding trees and dike while looking at the waterfowl on the lake. St. Catharines was sunny and 20 degrees when we left. It is amazing how much the weather differs from spot to spot in the region.

While setting up the scope, Tree Swallows (#84 for the year list) were flying back and forth along the edge of the bullrushes and male Red-winged Blackbirds were preparing for the arrival of a potential mate. The view of the lake from this vantage point will be totally obscured with bullrushes come summer time. Of the waterfowl present, a few Blue-winged Teal (#85) were close enough that the scope was not required. Further out on the lake, 30 American Wigeon were counted. The remaining waterfowl included the ubiquitous Canada Goose and Mallard, though their numbers were quite low in comparison to the wigeons.

There are trails in the conservation area and with spotting by the lake side done, Jean and I walked a short distance on the section atop the dike. The trail is surrounded by brush and trees but observing birds is not difficult at this time of year. 6 Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitted from tree to tree, so close sometimes that the binoculars remained pointed to the ground. The small birds could not contain their excitement on returning to Ontario, for unlike the Ruby-crowned Kinglet observed from my yard, these birds were revealing their ruby crowns proudly. It was quite the display and one I have not viewed too often. A Blue Jay and Northern Cardinal were heard but not seen as a Black-capped Chickadee jumped among the fallen tree limbs.

Retracing our steps on the trail, Jean spotted 1 Brown-headed Cowbird (#86) at the top of a tree. Our birding done at Mud Lake, we would head to our next destination, the purpose of our visit to the Port Colborne/Wainfleet area.

Friends of ours own property in the area that is suitable for American Woodcock and had informed me that they saw the species earlier in the week. Last year the friend had observed the courtship display. We needed to add the bird to the year list so a visit was planned for Saturday afternoon. Walking around the wet and mixed growth lot we observed Northern Flicker, Song Sparrow and Fox Sparrow. We would eventually flush not 1 but 2 American Woodcock (#87). I had taken the scope hoping to use for viewing the secretive bird but we would only view while they were in flight, a cool sight none-the-less.

With the American Woodcock added to the 2009 list, our day of birding was completed. Additions to the year list should continue at a steady pace for the next few weeks now that the migratory birds are arriving.

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