Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lifer at Mud Bridge

The last Sunday in May, Jean and I had stopped at a spot on 15 Mile Creek in search of herons, specifically Green and Black-crowned Night-heron. No herons but a brief glimpse of a swallow disappearing under the bridge that crosses the creek led me to believe we had a possible lifer Cliff Swallow. We could see mud nests under the bridge but no further observations of the swallow occurred.

We returned a week later, late in the afternoon, to attempt another observation of the swallows living under the bridge. We surveyed the area from the bridge and along the road while we waited for a family to finish their day of fishing from the creek's bank. From the bridge, we would again have a quick glimpse of the fast moving birds but we needed to stand on the bank of 15 Mile Creek to improve our view of the swallows as they were leaving and returning to their nests.

We would identify 2 other species of swallow, Tree and Barn flying overhead. During the quick view of the "bridge swallows" I did not see the long forked tail found on Barn Swallows. Chances were this was a Cliff Swallow, despite their name, they do nest under bridges.

While we patiently waited for the family to leave, we spotted a small accipiter flying above the tree line. It would return and we would observe the hawk's short, squared tail as it flew directly above us. It was a Sharp-shinned Hawk, #154 for the year list.

After catching their quota of sunfish, the family left and Jean and I would take their spot beside the creek.

15 Mile Creek separates St. Catharines from the Town of Lincoln and empties into Lake Ontario. Travelling upstream, the creek immediately turns right south of the bridge and continues to meander through a wide expanse of bullrushes.

3 swallows would emerge from underneath the bridge while standing by the creek and we noted the pale forehead, buffy rump, and squarish tail on each one. They were Cliff Swallows for sure, lifer #261.

Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus) on the banks of 15 Mile Creek

A total of 19 species were seen on this day, including a lifer and an addition to the year list. We'll return to this spot every year to ensure adding Cliff Swallow to future year lists.

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