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London's mid-fall migrants

Rough-legged Hawks are among the birds that return to the London area in mid-fall. Watch for them hunting over the fields just outside of the city. Photo by Paul Nicholson

September is now behind us. It brought a great variety of the expected warbler migrants to the London area along with some outstanding surprises such as Swallow-tailed Kite and Hudsonian Godwit. Although September was the heart of fall migration, there is still much for London birders to look forward to as we move further into the fall.

Common Merganser and Ruddy Duck sightings are among the early waterfowl sightings that have already been posted to eBird. We can fully expect to see the arrival of lots of other ducks, geese, and swans through October and November. Fly-through species will include Snow Goose, Cackling Goose, Tundra Swan, American Wigeon, Shoveler, Pintail, both scaups, Gadwall, and Ring-necked Duck. Common Loons and Coots as well as Horned and Red-necked Grebes will be some of the other fly-through waterfowl in October and November.

Other species will be arriving to overwinter in the London area. These include more Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, American Black Duck, Bufflehead, and Common Goldeneye. Good spots to find these birds include Fanshawe Lake on the east side of the city, Greenway and Springbank Parks in the city, and Komoka Ponds to the west of the city.

In terms of raptors, the arrival of Rough-legged Hawks in November will be a welcome highlight. You are most likely to find these birds hunting over open fields just outside the city. Key in on black wrists and a dark belly band for a positive identification. If you head out looking for raptor arrivals, keep an eye out for Northern Shrikes along hedgerows or perched atop hawthorns. They return to area fields in mid-fall.

The keenest birders rise to the challenge of gull identification, so later fall is on there birders’ calendars. Since London is landlocked, we have only Ring-billed and Herring Gulls through most of the year with the occasional Bonaparte’s Gull thrown in for good measure. November can however yield more gull species including Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, and some white-winged gulls. Without doubt, the best place in London for gull watching is around the Manning Dr. landfill site south of the 401 just west of Wellington Rd.

Although many of our songbirds have now left, there are some such as House Wren and Yellow-rumped Warbler that head south a bit later. A handful of songbirds are mid-fall fly-through species. These include American Pipit and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Golden-crowned Kinglets will arrive in good numbers in early October and this species will stay in the London area through the winter. We will have plenty of opportunities to observe these tiny and pretty birds in a wide variety of habitats.

Some of the sparrows that we can look forward to seeing in October and November include Fox Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, and Dark-eyed Junco. Brown Creepers and some winter finches will also be moving in.

One insider’s tip to bear in mind is that between Thanksgiving and Easter, there has been no day use fee at the Fanshawe Conservation Area. (Confirm before heading out.) The birding here can be excellent through the fall, and the Tamarack Trailhead is one of London’s classic spots for bird photo ops.

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