[Ontbirds]California Gull at Rainy River - 9 July
glenn_coady at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 10 10:50:55 EDT 2005
Yesterday, July 9th, while atlassing in the Rainy River area, I discovered
an adult California Gull on Byrnes Rd. It was among 400+ Ring-billed Gulls
and 150+ Franklin's Gulls which were feeding in a freshly cut hay field.
To reach this field, proceed 1.65 km north from the corner of Hwy 11 and
Government Rd. (corner with the Roadrunner Motel and the Rainy River Curling
Club on it) to the corner of Government Rd. and Byrnes Rd. Turn right (east)
and proceed 1.97 km along Byrnes Rd. Many observers will remember this as
the same farm property where John Lamey discovered a singing Baird's Sparrow
Many of the Ring-billed Gulls were following a tractor cutting hay on the
north side of the road. The California Gull was loafing with large numbers
of Ring-billed Gulls and Franklin's Gulls on the south side of the road near
the area with the large rolls of newly cut hay.
The western part of Rainy River district has received an enormous amount of
rain this spring and summer (much like nearby southern Manitoba) with the
very hot and humid spell of the past week (persistent 32-34C) being the
first long break from precipitation. Consequently, the water levels on
Lake-of-the-Woods are very high (Windy Point is now a small island - most of
it now being under water) and most poorly drained hay fields across the
entire area have effectively become nice facsimiles of wet sedge fens.
The result is that Le Conte's Sparrows, Sedge Wrens and Yellow Rails are
present in astounding numbers, much higher than I have ever experienced in
the area (although I'm sure such occurrences are periodic). Le Conte's
Sparrows are not only to be found in EVERY sizeable hay field, but fields in
which I am used to hearing or seeing 1-2 birds often have 10 or more, and
those which normally have 5-10 birds often have 20-30. On many point counts
Le Conte's Sparrow outnumbers Savannah Sparrow.
Similarly, the number of sites for Sedge Wrens has increased dramatically,
with more birds per site than usual.
In driving the area at night, the number of Yellow Rails is truly
remarkable. The traditional area sometimes suitable for them along Wilson
Creek Rd. has at least 50-60 birds. In addition, most of the large flooded
hay fields have Yellow Rails. I have found Yellow Rails ticking at flooded
hay fields along Hwy 600, River Rd., Colonization Rd., Acree Rd.,
Worthington Rd. 2, Worthington Rd. 3, Blue Rd. 2, Blue Rd. 3, etc. I have
found them in flooded hay fields as far east as Pinewood and Stratton as
well. An estimate of about 200+ birds would be quite conservative. How many
additional birds already incubating full clutches are already fallen silent?
Unfortunately, many of these ephemeral territories are in hay fields that
are right now being cut, meaning many of these Le Conte's Sparrows, Sedge
Wrens and Yellow Rails will undoubtedly meet with nest failures.
Bird song in the area is still quite good, the one noticeable exception
being Connecticut Warbler, which is sometimes found by pishing or use of
playback, but I found few that were still singing in the aspen stands.
On July 5th, I found an adult Red-shouldered Hawk off Hwy 621 south of
Gameland - presumably a wandering individual, but I did see it fly into a
swampy mixed forest on private land which I could not obtain permission to
Other atlassing highlights have included a nest with young of Red-bellied
Woodpeckers (yes, you read that correctly!) found south of the Oak Grove
Camp on July 8th, a long-sought Yellow Rail nest, fledged young Marbled
Godwits in squares 15UQ90 and 15UP99, and several Connecticut Warblers
carrying food (presumably to already fledged young, as this nest has
regretfully eluded me yet again).
Black-billed Magpies continue to proliferate in this area, with many more
active sites each time I visit, and used nests being simply ubiquitous now.
On one point count I had 28 Black-billed Magpies! The good fortune of fine
weather enabled me to do 150+ point counts in 5 squares in western Rainy
Good luck to all with your own final atlassing push in your area,
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