Thursday, August 12, 2010

In Search of an Orchard Oriole

August 1

Once again, birds listed on the Hamilton Naturalists Club birding report caught my attention. A female Orchard Oriole with young was seen on the Dofasco Trail. The report also stated this species will soon disappear from the area. What? I can't let another species slip through my fingers. But is it justified to travel to the area atop the Niagara Escarpment to add only one species to the year list? There was no guarantee it would be there when Jean and I hiked the trail. The week before, a Common Moorhen was spotted at the sewage lagoons in Grimsby. That's better. So a plan was set into place. Travel west to Grimsby, stop at the sewage lagoons to search for the Common Moorhen then climb the escarpment for a return visit to the Dofasco Trail. The fact that we did not tick any first of the years our last visit did not even enter my mind.

Water levels in the north lagoon were high for shorebirds. At first, all we found were Killdeer (2) and Spotted Sandpiper (2) on the edges of the small rocky islands in the lagoon but a relentless Eastern Kingbird chasing a larger shorebird had me hoping we had a first of the year. Though the kingbird chased the bird from one end of the lagoon to the other, Jean and I were able to view long yellow legs and a white rump as it flew in a panic-like motion. So we did not find a Common Moorhen but we left the lagoons with a Lesser Yellowlegs added to the year list. On to the Dofasco Trail to look for an Orchard Oriole.

Well, once again we could not find the reported bird. But east of 10th Road, we added two more species to the year list. In a bush at the side of the trail, we found 2 Field Sparrows, a species that Jean and I attempted to view on July 1. The forest edge was full of activity. Indigo Bunting, Yellow Warbler, House Wren, Northern Cardinal and Gray Catbird jumped from branch to branch right in front of us. Then finally, a species I was afraid I might miss this year. 2 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers joined the mix.

From the shoulder of 10th Road, we scanned the shorebirds found in the shallow pool south of the trail. No new ticks amongst the 45 Killdeer and 1 Lesser Yellowlegs.

Some time was left before heading home so we checked out the boardwalk section of the trail. A few birds but again nothing special or new. Possibly a spring visit to the Vinemount Swamp will yield some good results.

August 2

On the holiday Monday, Jean and I continued our search for an Orchard Oriole at the Glenridge Quarry Naturalization Site. Based on a previous observation of a pair of Orchard Orioles (the female was seen weaving a nest) in 2007, we thought it was worth a try. It was very hot the Civic holiday so we did not hike the former quarry/landfill until late in the afternoon. The Niagara Region has done an excellent job restoring the property into a naturalization site and the success of the transformation was discussed in a recent article in the St. Catharines Standard.

We walked the Loop and Meadow Trails searching the different environments of the site for the bird that will soon leave for its winter home.

27 species were ticked and the only oriole found was a male Baltimore Oriole on the eastern edge of the site that borders with farmland and remnants of an orchard. Has it really been 25 years since I conducted quadrats and transects for a first year biology lab in the nearby field?

So the long weekend ended without an observation of an Icterus spurius. It's looking like I will miss this species of blackbird. The Field Sparrow and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher ticks were a relief though. There are only so many species that I can afford to not encounter. Shorebirds are next on the agenda. Let's hope species seen last year are repeated during the OFO trip to Rock Point. Is it too much to ask for a lifer Buff-breasted Sandpiper?


  1. Good luck the orchard, don't you find that when you leaast expect something...
    Love the photo of the swallows Jean- . hope to see you at OFO annual( it'll be my first) Anne

  2. Thanks Anne. We'll see you at the convention.