Migrants Arrive at Mud Lake

Green Heron

On August 7th I decided to return to Mud Lake, a place I hadn’t visited in a few weeks. First, however, I stopped in at the storm water ponds to check if anything new had arrived. I saw two Northern Flickers flying over, a species I occasionally observe here, though not on every visit. Only two herons were present, a Great Blue Heron and a Black-crowned Night Heron. Three Barn Swallows were swooping over the water, and I found a young Common Yellowthroat lurking in the vegetation close to the water. Best of all, there were some new shorebirds present – two Solitary Sandpipers and a single Least Sandpiper!

One of the Solitary Sandpipers was perching on a rock in the central pond. This was the best photo I could manage:

Solitary Sandpiper

I also noticed two kingfishers in the area, including one perching on a rock in the southern pond. Kingfishers are skittish and difficult to photograph, so I was hid behind a screen of shrubs in order to get a few photos. They would have turned out better if the sun had been shining, but I guess that would have taken more luck than I was allotted for that encounter.

Belted Kingfisher

The sun emerged just as I was arriving at Mud Lake, and I parked along Rowatt Street and entered the conservation area via the sumac field. As usual, there were plenty of Yellow Warblers in the area. They will be leaving by the end of the month.

Yellow Warbler

I saw a couple of sparrows flitting among the sumacs, and was surprised to identify them as juvenile Chipping Sparrows. I only occasionally encounter this species at Mud Lake, where they are more often found in the spruce trees near the filtration plant.

Chipping Sparrow (juvenile)

My best dragonfly find also occurred in the sumac field when I saw a Common Green Darner zip by and land on the red sumac berries. I love photographing dragonflies on flowers, autumn leaves, and other colourful items, so this was a great opportunity to photograph a darner on something other than a stalk of vegetation!

Common Green Darner on sumac

Several flycatchers were in evidence, indicating that these insect-eating songbirds are on the move. I counted two Eastern Kingbirds, four Eastern Phoebes, a Great Crested Flycatcher, and a Least Flycatcher. The Least Flycatcher was sitting in a tree on the ridge, and it confused me and another birder at first because the sides of the breast were yellow.

Least Flycatcher

Two small empidonax flycatchers with strong white eye-rings are common in the late summer: Least and Yellow-bellied. While it was still a bit early for Yellow-bellied, I had never seen a Least Flycatcher with such bright splashes of colour on its breast, but I was assured that that was what it was.

Least Flycatcher

A Great Crested Flycatcher was also on the ridge. I have started to appreciate these birds more since my travels to Mexico and Costa Rica where they may be confused with similar-looking flycatchers in the same genus (Myiarchus), such as Brown-crested Flycatcher, Nutting’s Flycatcher, and Dusky-capped Flycatcher. Here in Ontario we only get the one species, so there is no difficulty with identification!

Great Crested Flycatcher

A couple of Chimney Swifts and about 50 Tree Swallows flying above the ridge were surely migrants, as were four Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Black-and-white Warbler. Although it was only the end of the first week of August, it seemed early for all these migrants to be present, but it sure made for some fun birding! I found Warbling Vireos, Gray Catbirds, a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak and Baltimore Orioles, some of my favourite species which I tend to see mostly only in the fall and spring.

I was also surprised to see a Green Heron hunting along the shore right next to the road. Normally I see them in the quieter bays in the back of the conservation area. Someone had thrown whole apples into the pond, making me wonder what they were trying to feed – it seems to me they should have been cut into smaller pieces to feed the ducks, with the seeds removed as they contain small amounts of cyanide that may be harmful to animals.

Green Heron

One of the wonderful things about Green Herons is their ability to stretch their necks. It had taken me some time to edge quietly to the shore so as not to startle the heron, but when someone walked up noisily beside me, the heron became alarmed and elongated its neck in order to see and assess the threat. The scientific and biological name for this ability is “zoop“. (Not really!)

Green Heron

A huge flock of Cedar Waxwings and starlings, two Red-eyed Vireos, a Belted Kingfisher, and three Red-winged Blackbirds – a species hard to find at Mud Lake once they finish breeding there – rounded out the morning walk.

I was happy to see so many new arrivals at Mud Lake. The beginning of migration is such an exciting time of year, especially in the fall when migration starts with the arrival of the colourful warblers, flycatchers, grosbeaks, vireos and other wonderful birds!

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