Sunday, 22 June 2014

BioBlitz at Big Sandy Bay, Wolfe Island

Friday 13th - Saturday 14th June, 2014

Last weekend saw Kingston Field Naturalists hold their 16th BioBlitz in the Kingston area, with naturalists from an array of fields congregating on the 404 hectare Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) for 24 hours of fun-filled survey work. Of course, I was there for the birds but still learnt a lot along the way, particularly with regard to some of Canada's dragonflies - do I see a new hobby on the way?

This year, I have been working at surpassing 200 species (of birds) in Frontenac County. With a late start last year, I managed 202 species with a lot of help from local birders; Paul Mackenzie and Bud Rowe in particular. So, reaching 200 again shouldn't really be a problem but having missed most of the Spring shorebird passage and already entering the summer, I was at 198 before heading over to the island for the weekend.

Ring-necked Pheasant (male) - Wolfe Island, ON
#199 - With a slight diversion, I immediately started adding to my tally with this unexpected male Ring-necked Pheasant. I know they have been seen on the island but, personally, I have never recorded one there. I assume this population is supplemented by released birds but will have to check the records.

#200 - Yay! Just around the corner, I then came across the 'big one', the one to crack 200. This Upland Sandpiper was doing just what Upland Sandpipers are supposed to do - sitting on a post. It was so relaxed, it even had one leg tucked away. I've not had too much luck with Upland Sandpiper this year, though the Napanee Plains have usually been reliable when I've been up there. This too was a new bird for my county life list - so a double bonus...

Upland Sandpiper - Wolfe Island, ON
Shortly after arriving at Big Sandy Bay, I actually saw a lifer - and an exciting one too. This Blanding's Turtle, a species listed as 'Threatened' under Ontario's Endangered Species Act, was calmly walking past the car park allowing cracking views for all those present. The second picture is of another Blanding's Turtle, though as this one is beginning to excavate a nest, it is a little more tricky to identify. It was seen further along the 'beach' in the dunes near Black Lake.

Blanding's Turtle - Big Sandy Bay, Wolfe Island, ON
Blanding's Turtle (nesting) - Big Sandy Bay, Wolfe Island, ON
And on to Bear Point, reached after a long hike along the shoreline of Lake Ontario where I was checking out the grassland for the slim possibility of Henslow's Sparrow. No sparrows unfortunately but plenty of breeding Bobolinks were seen. The highlight at the point though was this solitary, and rather lonesome, Brant, right at the tip. Last year, one bird stayed for much of the summer on Amherst Island, though that bird didn't appear to be in such fine condition as this one. Note, however, the drooping wing.

Brant (Atlantic) - Bear Point, Wolfe Island, ON
#201 - Back at camp, James Barber showed up after work having just seen a Northern Mockingbird less than 1km down the road. Deftly packing two extra birders into his already full car, we trundled back to Reed's Bay where, sure enough, the bird was performing well right beside the road. Northern Mockingbird is seen yearly in the Kingston area, though is by no means common. Needless to say, this was another double tick for me.

Northern Mockingbird - Reed's Bay, Wolfe Island, ON
#202 - Another uncommon bird in these parts is Least Bittern. It is sometimes heard from the region's marshlands but it is rarely seen, let alone photographed so I'm quite pleased to have captured this next shot, even if it is not that great. This was, once again, my first sighting for the county; however, I'd already seen one 'across the border' at Moscow Marsh in late May.

Least Bittern - Big Sandy Bay, Wolfe Island, ON
So, the weekend brought me 4 Frontenac ticks, and all of them counted to both my year and 'life' lists. Yesterday, I added #203, a Common Tern, so I've already beaten last year's total. Perhaps I can reach 210 this year, maybe even 215. My Frontenac Life List is only 221 so that needs some work too...

To wrap up here are some of the Odonata I was introduced to over the weekend. Definitely something I could get in to. Please let me know if I've got any of these incorrect (thanks David Bree for correctly identifying the bluet for me as Taiga).

Dot-tailed Whiteface - Big Sandy Bay, Wolfe Island, ON

Eastern Pondhawk (female) - Big Sandy Bay, Wolfe Island, ON

Four-spotted Skimmer - Big Sandy Bay, Wolfe Island, ON

Taiga Bluet - Big Sandy Bay, Wolfe Island, ON
'Till next time,


  1. Hi Mark,

    Very nice account and great images.
    Regarding RN Pheasant on Wolfe Is. Yes, definitely introduced - in large numbers. I talked to Dr. George Merry a few days ago and he told me that he raised 5000 a year some while ago. He no longer raises them but we have them on our property here N end of 12th Line Road.


    Barrie Gilbert

    1. Thanks Barrie. Didn't realise quite so many RN Pheasants were being released. They must really struggle during winters like the last one...