Monday, 26 May 2014

Birding the other side of the pond - Patch Birding - May 2014

One of the advantages of coming to the same destination for holidays is that you get familiar with the area and get to find local sites that become regular haunts for birding, my own local patch abroad. The nearest that I have to a local patch near Oakville, other than the trails around the house, is the lake shore and creek around Bronte. My patch consists of a network of parks, Riverview Park, Bronte Harbour Park, Bronte Bluffs Park and Bronte Beach Park, they are all interlinked so I can walk between each one. In typical years Riverview Park has been my preferred spot since it is a wetland habitat that has produced a good mix of waders including Short-billed Dowitcher, Spotted, Solitary and Least Sandpiper, Sora and good numbers of Caspian Terns. 

Unfortunately this year, due to the long cold winter and wet spring, the water levels on Lake Ontario are high, and therefore there are no marginal areas for waders. In fact the best birds on RiverView Park were two pairs of breeding Red-necked Grebes. One pair was actually on the the creek but the other pair was in the process of building a nest fairly close to the shore on the main pool. I watched them building the nest for a while, it was like synchronised nest building as they visited the shore collected a beak full of weed and returned to the nest site, all in perfect time together. In previous years this area has been mud so they will have to get to work quickly if they are going to successfully raise their young before the water levels subside.

Red-necked Grebe - Riverview Park, Bronte
Red-necked Grebe - Riverview Park, Bronte
Red-necked Grebe - Synchronised nest building

The reedbed is also a breeding site for Red-winged Blackbirds. I have resisted taking photos of them before, as my attention is usually on something else, but when a male bird landed in front of me it was too good an opportunity to miss. 

Male Red-winged Blackbird - Riverview Park, Bronte

As I stood watching the Red-necked Grebes, several Chimney Swifts and Cliff Swallows came into the pool to drink. They were more distant than most of the other birds but I managed to get a couple of record shots. 

Chimney Swift - Riverview Park, Bronte
Cliff Swallow - Riverview Park, Bronte

By contrast a Caspian Tern flew past almost overhead giving some excellent views. When I have been over in May before there have been large numbers of Caspian Terns feeding around the harbour, the most I have seen so far this trip is seven. They usually roost on the various piers, but today these were all full of fishermen, so I presume they have moved off elsewhere.

Caspian Tern - Riverview Park, Bronte

I left the pool and headed to the beach area I noticed a small flock of Cedar Waxwings feeding. As usual with this species they were very approachable and gave excellent views. Being from the UK I associate waxwings with winter, so it still does strike me as slightly odd to see so many in the spring sun.

Cedar Waxwing - Riverview Park, Bronte

There was nothing of note at Bronte Bluffs or Harbour Parks but at the Beach Park there was a summer plumaged Spotted Sandpiper and three Killdeers. The Killdeers were a breeding pair with a fairly recently hatched chick. The adults were being very trusting of the people as they passed by, and allowed them to walk right past the chick, although they were alarm calling much of the time. 

Killdeer Chick - Bronte Beach Park

The adults even seemed unconcerned by a Raccoon that was curled up asleep in the middle of the grass. It was the strangest place that I have seen for a Racoon to choose to sleep, and it too was very trusting of people who were approaching it for a closer look. 

Raccoon - Bronte Beach Park

Occasionally it would wake up, have a quick wash and brush up, and then go back to sleep. I would have thought that this Raccoon would have taken the opportunity to grab the Killdeer chick had it passed too close, but the parents did not seem to recognise it as a threat.


  1. Fascinating and educational blog as usual Trev plus some fine images. What kit in the way of lenses are you using these days?

    1. Thanks David, as you can see, having a great trip and the birds are performing well on occasions! The main kit that I am using is a Canon 7D with a 400mm f5.6L. Not the fastest lens but light and portable.


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