Outing Report: Grimston Flats for Spring Migrants

Saugeen Nature members and friends met at the Scone school house on the morning of April 22nd to embark on an outing with the intention of finding the spring migrant water-loving birds which might be in the area. The preceding few days had brought heavy rains, which increased the flooded areas of fields but, paradoxically, reduced the number of species of water-loving birds seen on the day; they may have moved on or dispersed because of the abundance of water. Whatever the reasons were for bird numbers, the humans enjoyed a beautiful morning and found a good selection of migrant species.

The outing route consisted of simply working slowly north from Scone along the Grey-Bruce line and stopping at any likely spot such as, a mill pond, a river crossing, or a flooded field. The mill pond mentioned was the one right at Scone and it held several species of duck (hooded merganser, ring- necked duck, and American widgeon) plus Canada geese and stately mute swans. Lesser yellow- legs, one of the shore birds in the area in spring, patrolled the margins of the pond while other returnees, such as tree swallow and barn swallow, hunted flying insects in graceful swooping flight above the water. Red-winged blackbirds, starling, common grackles, robins and brown-headed cowbirds populated the surrounding fields, while turkey vulture and red-tailed hawk soared overhead.

Farther north the caravan made several stops in the Grimston flats, a clay plain where the Sauble River follows the county line for several kilometres and many fields are flooded in the spring time. More ducks were spotted (northern pin tail, blue-winged teal, wood ducks, and mallards), along with more yellowlegs, kill-deer guarding a nest full of eggs, a kingfisher, great blue heron, and some field-nesting birds (savannah sparrow and song spar-row). In a forested section of the river one of the highlights of the trip was a new bald eagle’s nest with one of the pair visible on the nest and the other guarding the area, chasing away a crow as the group watched.

At the north end of the trip, still along the Sauble River and in the Grimston flats, several cars and a small crowd of bird enthusiasts had stopped to watch a flooded field which contained not only an array of duck species and more yellowlegs, but also a very rare visitor from Eurasia called a ruff. It is a shore bird like a yellowlegs but with a collection of long feathers along its neck. These feathers can be held in close to the bird’s body or fluffed out into the decorative ruff of its name. With the ruff as a “lifer” for everyone involved the group stayed at the site to eat lunch and allow everyone to have as much viewing time as they wished before returning to the starting point at Scone.

Submitted by Angus Inksetter

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