Byways of Bentinck

By Clarke Birchard

This outing was planned for 2 Wednesday evenings because there are so many interesting back roads that still have wooded fence lines, marshes, swamps and river crossings.

When part of this township was in my breeding bird atlas square I would go out early in the morning a couple of times a week during May and June, park the car at a corner and walk or bike around that 8 km block. Except for the occasional aggressive farm dog those were delightful outings. I wanted to share some of the rural beauty and serenity of this lovely township with club members on a couple of evening outings.

Part 1 was held on the evening of May 18. At only our second or third stop along a roadside beside a marsh a Virginia Rail answered a recorded call as did an American Bittern. A sharp-eyed observer in the group spotted the bittern some distance away and for what seemed like 15 minutes we were able to watch as it filled its throat sack with air and “burped out” its distinctive pump-like call. That was the birding highlight of the evening although there were other good sights and sounds including snipe displaying overhead and a scarlet tanager singing from a treetop.

The following birds were seen and/or heard. Thanks to Jerry for keeping the list. Redwing Blackbird, American Bittern, Common Snipe, Virginia Rail, Common Grackle, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Brown-headed Cowbird, Eastern Bluebird, Song Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Kingbird, Olive-sided Flycatcher or Eastern Wood-peewee (*see note below), Wild Turkey, Robin, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Hooded Merganser, Killdeer, American Kestrel, American Crow, White-throated Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Ruffed Grouse.

* Note: In the fading light we stood on the bridge on Sideroad # 30 where it crosses the Styx River debating whether we were watching an Olive-sided Flycatcher or Eastern Wood Peewee. I returned to that location a few evenings later and there was a pair of Phoebes making repeated trips in and out from under the bridge.

A list of plants would take many pages and no-one kept a list. However, a few notable discoveries were Leatherleaf and Pitcher Plants in flower on the floating sphagnum mat at North Louise Lake, Royal Fern and Cinnamon Fern seen from the car is several places.

Part 2 of the outing, to have been held on June 8, was cancelled at 5:45 p.m. under a dark sky with thunder and lightning. By 6:30 when we would have been just underway the cold front had passed, the temperature had dropped 6 degrees, the sky was clearing from the west and the evening turned out to be quite nice. Oh well – maybe next year.

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