August 30th, 2019: A quick visit to Iona in the light rain
I had a little time this morning and hadn’t been to Iona Island in a while. So off I went! It was threatening rain, but I only ever got a light drizzle.
A started with a long scan of the line of foraging birds, very distant on the mudflats at a low tide. Hundreds of Ring-billed and Glaucous-winged Gulls congregated on the flats. And a smattering of Caspian Tern and several wading Great Blue Heron added some variety in their small groups here and there. A did see a distant group of peeps in flight, but it was tough to see far enough to make out any shorebird IDs. The highlight of the flats, however, was a single flock of 19 Greater White-fronted Geese. I heard them depart as I was leaving the area.
Turning toward the outer ponds it was impossible to miss the Barn Swallows. I estimated upwards of 600 today. They blanketed the pond waters, covered reeds when perched, and roiled through the sky nabbing bugs left and right (see video below). After scanning the ponds, reeds, and skies, I was amazed not to find another swallow species anywhere! There were just that many Barn Swallows! And a single Vaux’s Swift.
There was lots of activity at the edge of the small woodlot too. A few mixed flocks of passerines were busily feeding. I saw mostly Yellow Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Warbling Vireo, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-capped Chickadee, and a flock of Bushtit. But I was happy to turn up a Black-throated Gray Warbler in a mix of the 40 or so passerines. I had no luck with the American Redstart or the MacGillivray’s Warbler that had been seen recently. But I was pleased nonetheless.
Looking into the inner ponds from outside the fence (they’re currently closed off), there was no sign of the Red-necked Phalarope that had been recently reported. Instead, there was a large flock of Northern Shoveler and lots of Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, and American Wigeon in particular.
The highlight was a pair of Cinnamon Teal. They weren’t in breeding plumage of course, but I noticed several features that confirmed their ID over the slightly more common Blue-winged Teal.
I digiscoped the photo below a few weeks ago (today’s birds looked very similar). You can see the shoveler-like bill, absent white under the chin (and weak light patch at base of bill), dark eye, and warmer, darker tones that are all indicative of Cinnamon over Blue-winged Teal.
On my way out, I happened across a bonus Bewick’s Wren: not a bird I see at Iona often (eBird list). Then I hopped back on my bike in the rain and looked forward to a warm lunch.