Wallaceburg is in Chatham-Kent, but Lambton County is just a ten-minute drive away from my mother’s house. I didn’t realize this when Mom suggested we go birding north along the St. Clair River; although I am not a huge county lister, the new eBird profile pages are great incentive for birding across county lines. The profile pages provide you with a coloured map of all the countries, provinces, states and counties where you have birded, the colours shading from yellow to red depending on the number of species seen, and there is something about seeing all those empty white spaces (much like a Sudoku puzzle) that creates a festering need to fill them in.
The St. Clair River connects the upper and lower Great Lakes and separates Ontario from Michigan. There are numerous small parks and lookouts along the river that can be used for picnicking, camping, or river-watching. Although most of the parks consist of manicured lawns with a few trees here and there, the chief attraction here for birders is the thousands of ducks, gulls and other migratory waterfowl that congregate here in the winter and during migration, in particular Common Goldeneyes, Redheads, and Canvasbacks. We took a drive from Port Lambton up past Sombra on my first morning in southern Ontario, crossing over into Lambton County as we stopped at some of these parks and giving me the opportunity to fill in one more county on my eBird profile page.
On September 27th, a rare Western Kingbird was found at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. Although it was found on a Sunday, I didn’t feel like making the drive out there (it’s a good half hour away from me through the city) and joining a mob of people surrounding the bird. The Fletcher Wildlife Garden, although beautiful, is also one of my least favourite places to go birding in Ottawa as it’s usually full of off-leash dogs. However, as the week wore on, the kingbird continued to be reported every day. It was still there on Friday, so I began planning an early morning visit to the FWG the following day. I left just after it had gotten light enough to see, and arrived at the FWG at about 8:15 am. There was a cold, blustery wind blowing, and this change in the weather made my heart sink as I realized that the kingbird might have blown out with the winds.
After returning from Naples we cooled off in the pool, and then I spent some time photographing the birds and dragonflies around the property. The Common Grackles and Northern Mockingbirds were around, as usual, and when I walked over the marina I saw a few Purple Martins flying over the water. There are a couple of Purple Martin houses on the opposite shore of the marina where they nest; we saw them bringing food to their young.
I was quite taken with the pretty blue dragonflies perching on the vegetation. The Seaside Dragonlet is the only dragonfly in North America that breeds in salt water, spending the larval stage of its life in the tropical mangrove swamps, saltwater marshes, and some brackish areas further inland.
After leaving Paurotis Pond, our next stop was Nine Mile Pond, and the difference between the two couldn’t have been greater. As soon as we arrived we found about 20 Black Vultures sitting on the ground. I didn’t see a single heron or egret on the water – in fact, I don’t recall any other birds present. Then, when I got out of the car I was swarmed immediately by mosquitoes and some sort of mutant deer flies. Needless to say, I didn’t stay there very long. I got back in the car and we kept driving to our destination, the Flamingo Visitor Center and Eco Pond.
The following morning we headed back to Everglades National Park after getting a good night’s sleep. When we went out to the car we saw the Muscovy Duck hanging around the parking lot. It liked to drink from the puddles formed by the sprinklers, and snooze in the shade of the cars parked outside of the motel. However, it appeared that the main attraction was the food – some sort of cereal or cracked corn – that someone had left out in a parking space right outside one of the motel rooms. It was certainly neat to see the duck hanging around like an unofficial motel guest, and, as we weren’t returning to Florida City after our return trip to Everglades National Park, we said goodbye to the Muscovy Duck one last time before we left.
After leaving the Visitor Center we headed to the Anhinga Trail because I’d heard it was a great spot for both birds and alligators, and because it was close by – the other trails I wanted to see, such as Eco Pond, were an hour’s drive away. As we drove through the park the landscape appeared very flat and grassy; we were only a few feet above sea level. There were some trees scattered about, but overall we didn’t see much wildlife, unless you counted the giant grasshoppers on the road, and the crows and Red-winged Blackbirds foraging along the shoulder – presumably feasting on the road-killed grasshoppers.
After Doran got up and ate some breakfast we headed out to spend some time in Everglades National Park. First, though, we needed to stock up on snacks and bottled water as I understood that there were no places to buy food or drinks in the park in the off-season. We headed over to the Wal-mart in Homestead to buy food and some other items we had forgotten, and as we were driving there, only about two blocks from the motel a bright white bird standing on a chain link fence caught my attention. I asked Doran to stop in the parking lot next to the fence so I could get a look, and to my amazement the bird was a pristine White Ibis (number 300 on my life list)!