Black-crowned Night-heron at Dusk

Black-crowned Night-heron

Black-crowned Night-heron

On Friday night I decided to make a quick stop at the ponds after dinner. There was a nice mix of shorebirds foraging in the muck on the other side of the channel, and I began to regret not taking the car over so I could bring my scope. About 10 Killdeer were present, as usual, but one Greater Yellowlegs, one Semipalmated Plover, one Semipalmated Sandpiper, and about five Least Sandpipers were spread out along the water’s edge. Another small shorebird caught my attention, a little bit larger than the peeps with a light brown head contrasting with the neat scalloped pattern of its grayish-brown back. It had dark legs, a straight, dark bill, and the barest hint of a pale supercilium. It was the contrasting light brown head that made me think “Baird’s Sandpiper”, and despite the low light and the distance I took enough photos to confirm one of the key field marks: the wingtips were longer than its tail. This was the first Baird’s Sandpiper I had seen here – an amazing find!

There were other birds around, too: two Great Egrets, a Great Blue Heron, a Green Heron, and three Black-crowned Night-herons were hunting for fish, while several Double-crested Cormorants were swimming in the pond or sitting on the rocks further out. I saw a Belted Kingfisher fly down the channel toward the larger pond, several Barn Swallows hawking for insects in the evening sky, and heard a Northern Flicker calling from somewhere just out of view.

One of the Black-crowned Night-herons – a juvenile – was fishing right near the concrete wall right near where I was standing. Although the sun had disappeared behind a bank of clouds, casting a gloomy light over the water, the bird was close enough to get a few decent photos. I like how the red eye provides a spot of colour in this image:

Black-crowned Night-heron

Black-crowned Night-heron

From there it jumped up onto the wall, where I was able to photograph it against the colourful wildflowers on the opposite side of the bank:

Black-crowned Night-heron

Black-crowned Night-heron

A bit of sunlight began to shine through the clouds, reflecting off the water, and I moved around the pond so that the heron was positioned right in front of the orange reflection. I think this photo of the heron’s silhouette is my favourite from that evening:

Black-crowned Night-heron

Black-crowned Night-heron

I usually don’t go for walks so close to dusk, but I was really glad I did this time. There was much more activity than I had expected, with several birds looking to catch their last meal of the day or find a spot to spend the night. It was great to see the juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron out in the open, too, for they usually aren’t as conspicuous as the other heron species. After all the construction during the past year or so, it’s wonderful to see all the birds there this summer!

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