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Larry Cornelis giving introductory talk

If you plant it, they will come…

LWI members were privileged to be invited to visit the Enbridge Solar Farm, in Sarnia, on June 21st to observe how the restored tall grass prairie habitat has attracted rare bird species.  Resident expert Larry Cornelis led this 3-hour outing.  28 members, including Larry, participated. The group included novice through to very experienced birders.  Weather was ideal: clear, sunny but not too hot.

Savannah Sparrow

The Enbridge Solar farm is the largest in Canada and has a total of 257 hectares covered with 1,300,000 solar panels, enough to power 12,000 homes on a sunny day.  Due to electrical grid limitations there will be no more panels installed on this site.  The remaining 188 hectares of the Enbridge property have been designated for conversion to tall grass prairie and these areas were the subject of our visit.  The very secure property is normally inaccessible to visitors so this was a unique opportunity to see these large grassland areas close-up.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

The highlights of the outing were multiple sightings of Grasshopper and Clay-colored Sparrows. Both rare species were observed in the tallgrass prairie rehabilitated areas and these birds are evidence that restoring habitat does have the positive outcomes expected.  Other bird species observed were: Killdeer, Brown-headed Cow Bird, Willow Flycatcher, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Savannah Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Eastern Kingbird, Turkey Vulture, Cedar Waxwing, Meadowlark, American Crow, Yellow Warbler, Field Sparrow, Hairy Woodpecker, Great Blue Heron, Grasshopper Sparrow (3), Clay-coloured Sparrow (7), Mourning Dove, Common Yellowthroat, Starling, Common Grackle, Northern Flicker, Catbird, Indigo Bunting, Red-tailed Hawk, Robin, Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Clay-coloured Sparrow

Clay-coloured Sparrow on cup plant

Kudos to Larry for organizing and leading this activity, it really was an awesome day!  A special thank you to Enbridge for allowing us to visit the property and for planting this habitat.  Indeed it is encouraging for all naturalists to see the relatively short term effects of planting tall grass prairie.  Imagine what might be possible when other land areas are restored in this manner.

Goldfinch enjoying the natural habitat

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There are some wonderful nature trails near Port Franks that are worth a visit.  The trails wind through the large Lambton Heritage Forest and there are a couple of ways of accessing them.  The first trail we explored starts out from Outer Drive.  There is a 911 address sign for the trail, number 7101, and the trail access is located on the north side of the road just before the road curves sharply to the right.  At the time of year that we walked this trail (early June), there were plenty of mosquitoes, so apply repellent generously before heading out. Consider using one  which also helps to protect against ticks.  The trail is easy to moderate, with a few slopes, and forms a loop that’s perhaps 1.5 kilometers long.  Most of the wildlife we sighted was on the first half of the loop, the section to the left.  There is a nice bench to sit and relax on at the midpoint.  The trail also connects to another trail that we didn’t fully explore. (more…)

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After seeing multiple e-Bird alerts for the Dickcissel, we headed out in the morning on Friday for a short drive south to try and find this rare bird.  We found the birds on McCallum Line just a bit west of Brigden Road.  (more…)

On Tuesday May 9, 2017 I went hiking and paddling at the Pinery Provincial Park.

I hiked the Carolinian Trail and then I paddled along the river (south of the store and canoe rentals).  While there I was able to see a Muskrat, Pileated Woodpecker, Green Heron, Sandpiper (not sure what species) and the highlight of the day was spending time observing a pair of Sandhill Cranes with two chicks.  It was a great day to be in the park and enjoy my first paddle of the season!

For those who might be concerned please know that I shot these pictures with telephoto lens and I was careful not to get too close or disturb the Sandhill Cranes.

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A large flock estimated at 500 of Lapland Longspurs was observed on Moore Line in Lambton County on April 26.  The birds were foraging in the stubble of agricultural land.  The number of birds is more evident when they fly up together.  These birds should be well on their way to the far north by now.

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Who’s back? Well the birds- at least some of them. The warm weather and longer days has me wishing I could go out everyday.!

This last week I managed to get out to Wawanosh, Perch Creek , Hiawatha Park , Dow Wetlands and a car tour of Lambton County.

Insert meadowlark here            

I was lucky enough to find Meadowlarks at Dow Wetlands and Kettle Point. I’ve heard they had been seen elsewhere too!

Cedar waxwings are also back- filling the air with their trilling calls.

The Killdeers are calling, the bald eagles nest sitting and the hawks are paired off!

This is just the best time of year…each day may bring a new bird…let the chasing begin!

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Spotted at the end of March, 2017.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Eastern Comma Butterfly

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

Chorus Frog

Last spring I purchased a 600mm lens and headed out to Canatara Park to see what birds I could spot, and to see if I could actually photograph any of them. To be honest, I wanted to see whether or not I was going to enjoy a longer lens.

I’m not a birder, although I love them and wish I could identify more species than I can. I have often captured the birds visiting my feeders in the winter, but that’s always been for fun and to document the species.

Here are some of the shots I took on April 20th, 2016. Other than basic editing I didn’t do any major cropping to make the birds appear larger in the frame, which is always an option, if I have captured a sharp enough image.

I thought it was a pretty decent first try with a new lens, especially since I took them all handheld. Do yourself a favour, if you are shooting with a long lens, use a tripod or at least a monopod to get the sharpest images. Having some support will also save your arm some strain because long lenses are quite heavy and somewhat awkward!

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One of the things that the LWI blog posts can be used for is to share Lambton County wildlife sightings with other LWI members.  The LWI community is always yearning to know as much as possible about nature in Lambton County, and when you see something interesting it might be nice to write a brief post.  Of course providing information on the exact location of nests or vulnerable things should be avoided.

Here is an example short post based on a sighting that we experienced back in September:

Yesterday, while on our way to Hawk Cliff, we spotted two fox kits sunning themselves in the grass along the side of highway 80 near Alvinston.  We stopped the car and turned around and were able to snap some photos, before one of the pair trotted off, while the other paid little notice to us.  Their behavior suggested that they may have been orphaned or separated from their mother. 

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Pair of Fox Kits

Looking at their coats they weren’t as luxurious as we would have expected an adult fox to be and they look a bit skinny, but perhaps this is consistent with being adolescents and the season.  Maybe some other LWI members will spot this pair too.  If you are in the area of highway 79 and highway 80 intersection, keep a look out!

fox kit near Alvinston

Fox kit near Alvinston

If you want to post a Lambton County wildlife sighting, please send it with any photos attached by e-mail to sightings@lambtonwildlife.com

The Eastern Hog-nosed snake is a threatened species in Ontario. During a fall hike recently in the Pinery, we spotted this young one lying in the leaves along the edge of a trail. We photographed it and then showed it to the Naturalists at the Visitor’s Centre. They asked us to fill out a ‘Species At Risk’ form and to upload an image to their site.

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