Another suggestion by Sara comes up trumps. We have been to Cranberry Marsh a few times, but invariably we tend to only pass through as an after-thought following a visit to Lynde Shores which is right next door. A bad night of sleep meant a later than usual start, and considering how popular this place is with photographers, it was unsurprising that when we arrived at 7:30am, there were more lenses and cameras in attendance than there were birds.
The water in the marsh remains quite low and so there were large numbers of Great Blue Herons and, despite their imperilled status in Ontario, a few Great Egrets were taking advantage of the meals on offer.
There is a sandbar running along the south of the marsh that separates it from Lake Ontario, and it is this that you walk along to view the marsh. Preening on this sandbar was a Mute Swan and two Trumpeter Swans. Mute Swans are an introduced species, but Trumpeter Swans are native to Canada. They were expatriated (made extinct in Ontario), but were reintroduced in the 1980s and many of them have yellow tags on their wings so that they can be identified by researchers from distance – without disturbing them. Amongst the researchers, many of the swans have been given first names which you can sometimes find with a little online sleuthing. The two we saw today were siblings tagged T61 and T62 and they are named “Pepper” and “Caramel”.
We weaved in and out of probably a couple-of-dozen wide-lensed photographers along the sandbar and found a quiet spot, resigned to it probably being a bad location since nobody else was around. Suddenly Sara spotted a Wilson’s Snipe with its amusingly long bill. New Lifer, number 191!
Way off in the distance, a raptor flew along the western edge of the marsh. Too far for a photo worthy of posting here, but it had a white band across the top of the tail, which marks it out as a Northern Harrier. Another bird that initially looked like a raptor flew a similar path. It was a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron. The juveniles have brown and off-white pattening that somewhat resembles that of a raptor. Well, kind of. From a distance. Through haze. When you’re poor sighted. Those are my excuses.
Dotted around amongst the Lilypads were a few Lesser Yellowlegs that we’ve seen a few times on our travels to different marsh habitats in the last few weeks. These ones are used to posing for photos and getting close to them was not too much of a problem.
Regular readers will recall that I had heard reports of Virginia Rails being spotted here, but that we hadn’t enjoyed any success spotting them ourselves. We were about to leave the site when there was a commotion amongst some photographers. I was able to create a little space for myself and take a few shots of an adult Virginia Rail, with a couple of offspring in tow. I got a couple of good shots before giving the bird some space and enjoying watching the bird for a few moments. A couple of other photographers continued to blast away. I’m not sure where they find the time to go through a machine-gunned memory card full of photos of the same bird!
We were to have one last good sighting on our way out of the marsh. There were a few Red-winged Blackbirds congregating, with a couple of Cowbirds begging for food around them. Another bird close by initially looked similar, but upon inspection, it had a more appealing speckling to its breast and a neater light coloured eye-line. Another new lifer. Two in one trip and we’d only travelled just down the road! Bird number 192 is a Northern Waterthrush.
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