Saugeen Nature Outing, April 21, 2018

What a difference a year makes! In April of 2017 our trip up the Grey-Bruce line to the Grimston Flats, north of Scone, revealed many returning birds, including a rare Eurasian ruff, in the extensive floods along the Sauble River. This year, in the week before the outing, a massive winter storm dumped ice and snow on the area, freezing the flooded areas and delaying migration of birds.

By the time of the outing the floods were partly thawed again and the migratory birds were using the warming weather to hasten north. The first of the lesser yellowlegs and Wilson’s snipe made an appearance, along with the hardy killdeer which had shown up a few weeks earlier. Ducks, which seem able to cope with cold and snow better than most of the song birds, normally start their northward movements in March. We counted ten species among the assortment available including wood ducks, northern shoveller, blue-winged teal, and ring-necked duck. One special sighting was a pair of mute swans in an area of flooded forest; the elegant birds, usually seen on more open water, seemed magical among the tree trunks which were perfectly reflected in the water below.

Another highlight of the morning was the eagle’s nest near the Sauble River. The nest was a new one last year and the pair, who will use the same nest as long as it is available, are using it for a second time. The nest itself is a massive pile of coarse sticks like an inverted pyramid. A big white eagle’s head pokes up from the tope of the pile, keeping an eye on all that goes on around her as she incubates her eggs. The nest, unfortunately, is constructed in a dead silver maple, which does not auger well for its long-term stability.

Other very recent arrivals, savannah sparrows, song sparrows, and the tree swallows, belted king- fishers and northern harriers, crossed paths with two lingering winter birds, a snowy owl and a rough -legged hawk. These latter two will be gone very soon, back to their far northern summer grounds.

Submitted by Angus Inksetter

Mute Swan

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