Saturday, 31 May 2014

Birding on the other side of the pond - Bronte Creek Provincial Park and more Patch Birding - May 2014

With my trip rapidly drawing to a close I am now based back in Oakville for the few days that are left. As such my birding will consist of walking the trails in the local vicinity and visiting other nearby sites. On Thursday 29th May I started early and headed over to Bronte Creek Provincial Park, before heading south to Riverview Park and Bronte Beach.

Bronte Creek Provincial Park
Bronte Creek Provincial Park consists of large areas of open grassland, with patches of scrub, mature woodland and of course the river that flows through Bronte Creek. I arrived just after 8am and headed for Car Park F, which is located over the back of the park, and near to the Half Moon Valley and the Trillium Trails.

There were the usual species present in the vicinity of the car, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Robins and American Goldfinch’s as well as a couple of Eastern Kingbirds. The latter species has become very common of late and in recent days has been present at every site I have visited.

Eastern Kingbird

Northern Flicker and Song Sparrow were both species I have seen in good numbers on previous visits but not so on this trip, although I did see a few Song Sparrows at The Carden Plain. A Northern Flicker at Bronte was only my fourth of the trip, which was surprising and three Song Sparrows was the most I had seen in one place. I have to say that bird wise Bronte Creek Park was fairly uninspiring with highlights other than the flicker being Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-pewee and Great-crested Flycatchers

Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-pewee

There were of course other species groups to keep me occupied and as it happened mammals stole the show this time. My first mammal was a raccoon which I picked up from its tail hanging out of a large hole in a tree - I presume that is what you call a ‘tell-‘tail’ sign! I continued on along the Half Moon Valley Trail and had a surprise encounter with a female White-tailed Deer and her young fawn. I was stood watching a Common Yellowthroat at the time and so they were both unaware of me, and after a while I passed on by without disturbing them. Further on along the trail, and whilst watching an Eastern Wood-pewee the or another fawn came creeping through the undergrowth towards me. The pair had obviously been spooked and rather that sit tight, the fawn had run and become separated from its mother. It continued to creep towards me and so I began taking photos, until it was within about three metres of me. On hearing the camera it froze and stared at me, but appeared unable to see me as I wasn’t moving. After a while it turned and ran off in the direction from where it had come; I did briefly see it again but it was deep in the vegetation.

Young White-tailed Deer

As I exited the trail I headed towards the Spruce Farm complex while being shadowed by an American Red Squirrel. This species is easily identified from other tree squirrels by its smaller size, reddish fur and white underbelly.

American Red Squirrel

When I arrived at the farm I noticed two bat boxes on the end of two of the barns. My first instinct was to look under the boxes and see if there was any evidence of bats, and sure enough there was. There were very fresh large droppings, which in size and shape appeared to be similar to a European bat, the serotine Eptesicus serotinus, therefore I presumed that they were most likely from a bat called the Big Brown Bat Eptesicus fuscus. 

Bat box on building
Bat droppings and dead bat underneath box
Dead Big Brown Bat Eptesicus fuscus

This is a species I have encountered before when in Ontario, and was probably the species I had seen earlier in my trip near Pelee. I had another quick look under one of the boxes for any other evidence and found a dead bat, which superficially, in size and identification features, looked the same as a serotine bat, thereby confirming my suspicions.

Riverview Park
After Bronte Creek Provincial Park I headed south to the lake and Riverview Park. On my last visit the highlight had been the pair of Red-necked Grebes nest building. On this visit the nest had gone and a lone Red-necked Grebe was sat on the water. I had a look around for the nest, and the other grebe, but could not find it, I wonder what has happened. An adult Common Tern was feeding over the water but there was not much else to report.

Adult Common Tern

I wandered over to the other side of the park a nearly trod on a basking Northern Watersnake, fortunately this is a harmless species, nonetheless it wouldn’t have done the snake much good had I trod on it. This species can be mistaken for several other species and therefore you need to look out for its dark brown colouration and faint banding.

Northern Watersnake

I scanned the distant trees overhanging the river and picked up five roosting Black-crowned Night-herons, which was a new species for the trip but one that I have encountered before at the site.

Bronte Beach Park
I timed my arrival at Bronte Beach Park wrong, as just as I arrived so did the landscape team to mow the grass. There was again the same mix of species as my previous visit although the Raccoon had gone and there were now over 50 Canada Geese present. The Killdeer chick was still doing well, its attentive parents were seeing off any presumed threat, including me this time and the Spotted Sandpiper gave more prolonged views. 

Summer Plumaged Spotted Sandpiper

Being a week day there were also less fisherman around so the gulls and terns were back roosting on the spit. Ring-billed Gull was the most numerous with 49 birds present, followed by Caspian Tern with 15, four Common Terns and a single American Herring Gull.

2nd Calendar year Ring-billed Gull

Once again the Caspian Terns provided the ideal opportunity for photography and not seeing this species very often back home I took the opportunity for some more shots.

Caspian Terns and Ring-billed Gulls - note the larger size of the terns
In flight Caspian Tern

It is unlikely that I will get to do much more birding for the rest of my trip and so this will probably be my last post. I hope you have enjoyed my posts and that you may find them useful if you ever visit Ontario, Canada.

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