July 13, 2014

Mainly on the Carden Plain

A Black-billed Cuckoo sits quietly in the early-morning light
I've been a neglectful blogger. We're now cruising into mid-July and I haven't done much writing here and I haven't done much birdwatching out there. Now the birds are getting quiet for the summer and I feel like I missed so many opportunities to get out there during the migration and breeding seasons. But life gets in the way of birds and blogs sometimes. The important thing is to make the most of the opportunities you do get, which is what I did back on June 21st -- Mark's and my second-annual trip to the Carden Plain.

(As always, you can click on the pics to enlarge)

It was one of those mornings for which the blog is named. Insanely up before 5am to drive out to Mark's place then up to Carden by 7am. We started on Wylie Road and almost immediately got our first good bird of the day. As we stopped to check out a Savannah Sparrow singing on a fence post, a Grasshopper Sparrow popped up onto the fence before being chased away by the Savannah. When the more rare birds show themselves to me for less than five seconds, I pretty much never get a shot. Except this time.

Eastern Kingbird with breakfast

We made our way up to the marsh end of Wylie Road, where there had been reports of a Yellow Rail a week or so earlier. I'd never seen any rail so I wasn't too optimistic about that, but hey, you never know.

Turns out we did hear a rail and even got some fleeting glimpses of it. My first ever Virginia Rail! Sure, its the more common rail, but still a great one to see.


We also got a decent look at a Sedge Wren there and a cooperative male Common Yellowthroat, but also the female who in my experience are not so easy to see and she put on a very nice show for us - one of the real highlights of the day for me.

She might not have wanted me to photograph this moment

It was around this time in our day that I suggested we heat things up by setting a target number of species for the day. I think we were somewhere around twenty-five species at this point and I didn't want to wuss out by setting it too low so I suggested Seventy-five - a pretty big number for a primarily grassland habitat in non-migration. Mark accepted the challenge, it was still only 9:30 in the morning, after all. I was extremely doubtful, but it gave us something to shoot for. Here are some of the other birds we got in the morning:

Top Row: Female American Redstart calling; The best look I've had at a Vesper Sparrow.
Bottom Row: Badass Savannah Sparrow; Why it pays to look closely at every distant bird: Provincially-endangered Loggerhead Shrike (#49 on the day).

After lunch we were back at it. The early-afternoon was predictably a bit slow, but there were some nice moments, including this American Woodcock walking along the bank of the canal below the Kirkfield Liftlock.


At about 5:45 pm, we were driving down Cranberry Lake Road when Mark gently eased the car to a halt thinking he had seen either a deer or a cow. Either one of those would have been quite exciting, but we had to settle for these guys (#68 on the day and a lifer for me).

Sandhill Cranes! And with young!!

From there we went looking for Upland Sandpipers (...and successfully: #69) and also found a Blue-winged Teal (#71, below) in a small pond with some Mallards.
We finished the day where we began, back at Sedge Wren Marsh on Wylie Road, after finding an unexpected Trumpeter Swan (#72) in Mitchell Lake and a Kestrel (#73) on a telephone wire along the way. Walking the marsh trail, we heard and then saw three Common Nighthawks (#74) flying overhead and though my ears could barely make them out at first, we did hear two Ruffed Grouse drumming to end the day bang on Seventy-five!
A great number and a great day. I can't believe it took me so long to write about it.


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