This guest post by Mike Lepage is adapted by permission from a recent note to the Wellington County birding email hotline. I took the above photo yesterday.
The Paisley Road/Elmira Road area of Guelph has been under progressive urbanization for many years. This area was formerly a very impressive natural area with woodlots and retired gravel pits that had developed into small wetlands and ponds. It now has two arterial roads, a recreation centre and a shopping complex, with another section of arterial road and big-box style commercial to come (including a Costco). It has been sad to see the natural areas disappear over the years.
The flooded field on Paisley Road, west of Elmira Road, has been a reasonably good place to find waterfowl during migration and over the past few years has also been a reasonably good spot for shorebirds. This spring, at least 11 species of shorebirds, 10 species of waterfowl, and 4 species of gulls were found at this location during the migration, along with great-blue herons and one sighting of a sandhill crane.
It is currently being fenced off, and I was told it will become a storm water management pond for the commercial developments to the east of it.
This seems like a good time to mention that this location is near the centre of a 16 km2 area that has been the subject of a kind of Big Year that I have been undertaking since last August. I call it a “3 mile diet” of birding, in which I cover some areas that are walking distance from my home. My coverage has extended from the Speed River northward to approximately Woodlawn Road and from the Hanlon Expressway to this flooded field. As I am on foot or bicycle, I use only binoculars and have not used my scope.
Since last August, I have managed to find 160 species of birds within the area. The good mix of shorebirds and waterfowl this spring was one of the pleasant surprises of my 3 mile diet. An extremely good turnout of flycatchers (8 species) and warblers (approx. 23 species) last fall was another pleasant surprise. So, in spite of all the urbanization, I am still able to find good birds during migration periods. However, the range of breeding bird species and their numbers in this little area have dropped considerably since the 1990s.
I may need to come up with a different birding spot next year.
Mike Lepage grew up in the Montreal area, attended both McGill University and Texas Tech University, and has lived in Guelph since 1981. He has practiced as a consulting meteorologist for 32 years. He has been a birder on and off since 1965 (they were called bird watchers in those days, spotters in the UK), and has birded in his neighbourhood on west side of Guelph since 1992. Hopefully I can post a report on his Big Year in August.