[Ontbirds]Shorebirds at Holland Landing Sewage Lagoons

Jean Iron jeaniron at sympatico.ca
Thu Jul 20 17:15:59 EDT 2006

I birded the lagoons for 1.5 hours this morning before noon. I had many of 
the species reported yesterday by Dave Wornington with a few changes in 
numbers. These lagoons remind me of the Port Perry "Nonquon" Sewage Lagoons 
in their former glory days before they were "improved" for waste water 
treatment. It's just a matter of time until the Holland Landing Lagoons 
produce rare shorebirds given the excellent habitat there now. In fact this 
is the best time to look for mega rarities from the Old World such as adult 
Little Stint and adult Spotted Redshank and other adult shorebirds which 
are still mostly in alternate (breeding) plumage now.

Today's birds at Holland Landing Sewage Lagoons included:

Short-billed Dowitcher: One adult. Dave reported a "brightly plumaged" 
individual yesterday. Today it was still there I presume. It's a good 
example of the 'hendersoni' subspecies in alternate plumage which breeds 
west of Hudson Bay to northeastern British Columbia. It is by far the 
commoner of the two subspecies (griseus and hendersoni) in southern 
Ontario, particularly for southbound migrants. The two subspecies are best 
illustrated in the 3rd and 4th editions of the National Geographic Field 
Guide. These editions of the NGG also best show the differences between 
Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers. Adult Long-billed are very rare 
here in late July and August into September). First juvenile Short-billed 
expected during first week of August. First juvenile Long-billed expected 
about mid-September, but I saw one the last day of August years ago.

81 Least Sandpipers: These included two fresh juveniles which were my first 
of the year. The percentage of juveniles will increase daily. The reddish 
juveniles contrast well among the worn darker adults.

Semipalmated Sandpiper: Only one!  Adult numbers seem very low so far this 
year. First juveniles expected about 1 August or a little earlier.

19 Lesser Yellowlegs: all adults in worn alternate plumage showing early 
stages of prebasic body molt with contrasting new grey basic (winter) 
feathers scattered above. Expect to see "brand new" spangled juveniles any 
day now. They stick out among the worn and patchy adults.

10 Solitary Sandpipers: All adults in worn alternate plumage with most the 
white feather tips worn off. First juveniles expected in a week to 10 days. 
These juveniles with numerous buffy-white spots above will contrast with 
the worn adults, which have lost much of their pale spotting above.

Spotted Sandpiper: Many adults (spotted) and juveniles (no spots). Adults 
do not molt until they reach the wintering grounds so adults and juveniles 
are easily told apart all summer into early fall. We normally do not see 
adults here in winter plumage - the unspotted ones are juveniles not winter 

Killdeer: Many full grown juveniles still with attached downy tail 
streamers. Juveniles are also much greyer above whereas adults are a worn 
reddish brown.

Bonaparte's Gulls: About a dozen birds including one with almost a full 
hood. They all were year-old nonbreeding birds molting to basic (winter) 
plumage. These year-old birds begin and complete their molting before the 
breeding adults and juveniles. Gaps in their flight feathers indicated that 
they were in wing molt. The first adults from the boreal nesting grounds 
should arrive soon followed shortly by the first juveniles. These adults 
and juveniles will molt mainly during August into September. Watch the 
stages of the molt.

Small flock of about 20 mixed Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal in basic 
(eclipse/winter) plumage. Numbers of mid-summer Blue-winged Teal are way 
down from 25 years ago. Why?

Osprey: While there an adult Osprey flew in from the north and dived down 
out of my sight into a lagoon and came up with a bunch of weeds hanging 
from its feet (no fish in ponds). It quickly flew off trailing the 
vegetation and presumed prey which I couldn't see. I figure it caught a 
Green Frog because they were calling loudly from that lagoon. A week ago I 
saw an Osprey do exactly the same thing there.

Before you go shorebirding you might want to buy the newest shorebird book 
titled "The Shorebird Guide" by Michael O'Brien, Richard Grossely and Kevin 
Karlson, published in 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Great photos of 
juveniles and adults, molting birds, etc. Excellent text. It's only $33.95 
at Open Air Books in Toronto. I'll be reviewing it fully in the August 
issue of Ontario Birds.

I recommend a tour of the Holland Landing Sewage Lagoons. Directions from 
Toronto: Go north on DVP - 404 to end at Green Lane. Turn left going 
several km to Yonge Street. Turn right on Yonge and go about 2 km and exit 
right to Holland Landing (well signed). You'll be on Old Yonge Street so 
keep going north several km through town. You will go by a curve in the 
road where there are pine stands on both sides, then you will pass Doane 
Rd. on the right. About another km you will see two white wagon wheels and 
a Max 60 sign at Cedar St. Turn right (east) and follow it 1 km to a dead 
end. The lagoons are straight ahead.

Get out and look at shorebirds - they're fascinating.

Ron Pittaway
Minden and Toronto
jeaniron at sympatico.ca

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