Willow Beach Field Naturalists News


Common Gull

Mew/Common Gull, Cobourg Harbour. Photo© Bruce Parker


Last Updated: March 31st 2011





The inclement weather of March 23 2011 brought in a rare gull to Cobourg Harbour. The gull was first discovered by local birder Sarah Petrasek who immediately alerted a number of WBFN members as to its' presence. Initial observations suggested it was another Mew Gull - the second to be found in the harbour this winter. Upon closer examination of photos taken by several individuals of the wing patterns, other experienced gull observers have suggested it could be a Common Gull. However, at this point the identification of the gull is still being ascertained.


The following report was written by Jean Iron about this unique species.


Common Gull

In North America, Common Gull is a subspecies of Mew Gull. However, other authorities treat Common and Mew as separate species. They could be split in North America in the future. See http://www.jeaniron.ca/2010/CommonGull.htm.

Kevin McLaughlin, Dean DiTommaso and I saw a Common Gull Larus canus canus on the Niagara River on 6 January 2010, which has been submitted to the Ontario Bird Records Committee (ORBC). If accepted this will be the first record for Ontario. There's a link on the bottom of the page to Common Gulls I saw in summer in Scandinavia: http://www.jeaniron.ca/Gulls/2008/commongulls.htm

Common Gull is regular in Newfoundland in winter and is rare but the expected subspecies on the East Coast. So far, Ontario records were of Mew Gull from the West Coast, Larus canus brachyhrynchus, or were not assigned to subspecies. I will be submitting a report on the Cobourg Mew/Common Gull to the OBRC with photos, which show the pattern on P8 and the white trailing edge of the primaries and secondaries - very wide on the secondaries, narrowing on the primaries. The Cobourg Mew/Common Gull will be very well documented, but I can't tell you what the OBRC outcome will be.

..... Jean Iron



common gull

Mew/Common Gull with Ring-billed Gulls, Cobourg Harbour. Photo© Bruce Parker


Common Gull

Mew/Common Gull, Cobourg Harbour. Photo© Bruce Parker


To view more pictures of the Cobourg Gull from Jean's website click here.




Polar Bear




On Friday, March 25, WBFN Member Richard Pope gave a presentation on Arctic birds accompanied by many colour photographs of rare and common northern birds. This was based on a two-week trip last august up the west coast of Greenland and across the Canadian Arctic through the northwest passage. He covered land and sea birds and included shots of glaciers, icebergs, and wildflowers as well as animals like polar bears and muskoxen. Pope says one should go to the arctic soon if one wants to find it unspoiled.








Photo© Richard Pope


Sabine's Gull












Sabine's Gull. Photo© Richard Pope






pesqu'ile Bay

A large flock of ducks on the move at Presqu'ile. Photo© Bruce Parker

On Sunday, March 13, 2011, Roger Frost and Elizabeth Kellogg. led 14 people on a migrant Waterfowl field trip to Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Viewing conditions were excellent for trip participants and Elizabeth said the day was successful with most of the usual duck species present. Severl lucky people also saw the Boreal Chickadee which has been frequenting the spruce trees near the government dock on Bayshore Road for the past two months.



Canvasbacks are one of the species of ducks that stopover at Presqu'ile. Photo© Bruce Parker




WBFN logo


¬ Peter's Woods is opening on Saturday, April 23rd at 9:00 am until November 6th.

¬ Monarch butterflies making a comeback. Watch a CBS news item on how monarch fared this year in Mexico.

¬ March 2011 Issue of the Curlew is now posted on the Curlew Page. Those members who do not want to receive a paper copy of the Curlew please leave a message by going to the Contact Us Page or indicating it on the Membership Renewal Form.

¬ Monarch butterflies. There will be an airing of a documentary about the amazing migration of the monarch butterfly on PBS WNED (Buffalo and Toronto - cable 61 on Rogers Cable Toronto) on Wed, March 30th at 9 pm and Thursday, March 31st at 11:30 pm. The documentary is now also readily available from Ontario public libraries. Check your local listings to confirm the airing times, as individual PBS stations set their own program schedules.

Monarch Butterfly¬ Monarch Teacher Network Canada - Castleton Workshop
In partnership with Toronto Region Conservation Authority,  Monarch Teacher Network Canada will be hosting a 2-day workshop entitled ‘Teaching and Learning with Monarch Butterflies” on Wednesday, August 3rd & Thursday, August 4th, 2011 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day.
Location: Northumberland Hills Public School, 2246 Spring St., Castleton, Ontario  K0K 1M0


Website describing all seven Canadian workshhops: http://tinyurl.com/4q6v432
To register for the Castleton workshop, go to: http://tinyurl.com/6apr6gz




American Woodcock found in the Pebble Beach area of Cobourg Photo© Ken Whitney



¬ Check out the News and Events Page for more of the latest.



Brighton Constructed Wetland Permit 2011


Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt, Brighton Constructed Wetland.
Photo © Bruce Parker


The Brighton Constructed Wetland was completed in September 1999 as a solution for polishing treated wastewater from the Town of Brighton. It was only the second municipal wastewater treatment wetland in Ontario to receive a Certificate of Approval from the Ministry of the Environment.

In 2007 Keith Lee (Tiny) an employee of the Town of Brighton, Public Works Department approached Brighton Town Engineer Jim Phillips in the hopes of offering access to the Brighton Constructed Wetland to birdwatchers. Permission was granted and Keith made himself available to open the wetland to visitors. In 2007 Keith Lee was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) for his efforts.

Maureen Campeau assisted Keith during 2007 and suggested to increase the number of visitors sightings at the wetland should be posted to Ontbirds, OFO's electronic mailing listserv that notifies birders of interesting Ontario bird sightings. The idea was successful and in 2009 about 1,000 people visited the wetlands. Maureen was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by OFO for her contributions. Maureen prepared a report to the Town of Brighton for a permit system which was approved in 2010.

2011 Permit Application

The request for a 2011 permit is available by clicking here for a printable PDF form. Fill out the form and return it to the Public Works Department, 67 Sharp Road, Brighton, ON K0K 1H0 along with the $5.00 fee and a self-addressed stamped envelope. You will receive your permit along with a laminated, wallet size card to carry with you. Entry Rules and Regulations for using the wetland can be read here.

The Brighton Constructed Wetland is located exactly 7.2 kilometres south of the 401 at exit 509 Highway 30. As you come into Brighton the street name changes from George to Young to Prince Edward (same street just various names). You follow the road out of town, the constructed wetland will appear on the south side of the road. You can't miss it as you come out of the sweeping curve on County Road 64.

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis, Brighton Constructed Wetland. Photo © Bruce Parker


To view a list of bird species, flowering plants, butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies and mammals seen at the wetland click here.



Ontario Nature LogoONTARIO NATURE- "Advocates for Nature"

ONTARIO NATURE's website has a number of important links to get you involved in protecting our natural world:

• Read about the latest Action Alert issue. Click here for more information.


Ontario Nature's 20/20 Vision

A Biodiversity Charter for Ontario

Short-eared Owl

Click here to read our biodiversity charter.

United Nations International Year of Biodiversity logo

The United Nations declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. We are very concerned that when 2010 ended, the momentum and attention of this year gave way to other issues leaving the importance of biological diversity in the shadows once again.

Ontario Nature has been protecting and advocating for biodiversity for close to 80 years. We believe that the loss of biological diversity is one of the most important issues facing us today and in the future. That is why we ended 2010 with a special campaign, a 20/20 vision for biodiversity in Ontario.

On May 22, 2011, the International Day for Biological Diversity, we will submit this charter with your signature and thousands of others to the Premier of Ontario and the Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment and Northern Development, Mines and Forestry. We’ve outlined exactly what the Province needs to do to stop the loss of biodiversity by 2020.


For further details Click Here.


Rare Sighting in Niagara


Birders including some members from WBFN made the journey to the Stoney Creek area to see a rare early spring visitor that was present from March 19 to March 24. A first year female Mountain Bluebird was discovered behind a winery by some members of the Hamilton Naturalists Club. While tasting wine at Ridge Road Winery at 1205 Ridge Road near 10th Road East, Cheryl Edgecombe, Barb Charlton, Dave Don, and Rob Dobos noticed a bluebird in the vineyard behind which upon closer inspection was a female Mountain Bluebird. It seemed to be catching insects and quite happy in the field behind the building. The bird was observed at times with a male Eastern Bluebird. The last time it was seen was on March 24th.


Mountain Bluebird


Mountain Bluebird

First year female Mountain Bluebird, Niagara. Photos© Bruce Parker





Cobourg Harbour continues to have a number of ever changing waterfowl species dropping in.



King Eider

First winter male King Eider. Photos© Bruce Parker


Red-headed Ducks

Redhead ducks. Photo© Bruce Parker


American Coot


American Coot. This species has lobed feet. Photo©Sherwood McLernon





A Spectacular Number of Gulls appeared at Cobourg Harbour on February 13th and 14th

Photos© Jean Iron


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February 13th and14th were spectacular days with a large influx of at least 8 species of white-headed gulls and one BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE. The number of gulls on the 14th was estimated at 5000+ according to WBFN member Margaret Bain. The number on the 14th had dropped to about 3000+ according to WBFN member Richard Pope. The highlight on the 13th was the appearance of a MEW GULL found by WBFN member Doug McCrae.

MEW GULLS are rare in Ontario. According to Jean Iron there were 21 MEW GULLS accepted by Ontario Bird Records Committee to 31 December 2009 and published in its Annual Report in the August 2010 issue of Ontario Birds. This number represents all the MEW GULLS seen in Ontario from past accepted records. This is the second MEW GULL seen in Cobourg Harbour. WBFN member Roger Frost found the first one on January 26th 1999 - the 13th record of a MEW GULL in Ontario. Roger was with Doug McCrae when he spotted the second one in Cobourg Harbour as were several other WBFN members.

The BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE had been seen a few days earlier but re-appeared on the 13th. According to The Birds of Northumberland County 22 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES have been seen in the area since 1969.



slaty-backed gull

An excellent Gull Watching Guide has been prepared by Jean Iron and Ron Pittaway for Ontario Field Ornithologists and is available by clicking here.




Mew Gull

Mew gull found by Doug McCrae at Cobourg Harbour on February 13th. Photo© Bruce Parker


Mew Gull

Notice the darker mantle of the Mew Gull and the broad white crescent near the tail. Photo© Bruce Parker


Click here to check out Jean Iron's Website for some more great photos of the gulls at Cobourg harbour.


black-legged kittiwake

Juvenile/first winter Black-legged Kittiwake at Cobourg Harbour on February 13th. Photo© Bruce Parker


kiittiwake and ring-billed gulls

Black-legged Kittiwake with Ring-billed gulls at Cobourg Harbour on February 14th. Photo© Jean Iron


For more information and excellent photos about gulls click here to visit Jean Iron's Website.





A large crowd was in attendance for the February Monthly Meeting that featured guest speaker Geoff Carpentier. Photo© Bruce Parker

The annual AGM was held on February 25th at Cobourg Public Library. President Louise Schmidt reviewed the past year's activiities carried out by members of the WBFN as well as the club's finances. Past President Michael Biggar dealt with the nominations and the presentation of this year's Executive and committee members. Following the business portion of the meeting Geoff Carpentier took the audience on a tour of Antarctica including side trips to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Geoff's frequent visits as a tour guide and extensive knowledge of the area resulted in the publication of a book entitled Antarctica - First Journey The Traveller's Resource Guide. Geoff shared his many experiences and photos of some of the rare species that one might encounter on a trip to this beautiful and remote area.

Carpentier Talk

WBFN Vice-President Ben Walters thanked guest speaker Geoff Carpentier for his excellent presentation.

Photo© Bruce Parker


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