Thursday, 17 May 2018

Pelee Big Day

Last Saturday I joined up with some friends and we did a Point Pelee Area big day. I thought it was a huge success! Due to the rain/cold/lots of action, I didn't take too many photos, so visuals may be lacking, but I'll try to get into as much detail as I can!

We started around 5:30 am. At the Visitor Centre we picked up a few early birds, including American Woodcock, a target of ours for the VC.

Our first stop was the Tip of Point Pelee. It was quite miserable at first, especially with the wind, rain, and lack of birds, but soon it picked up. One of our first highlights of the morning were the groups of terns flying by. While the majority were Common Terns, early on we managed to pick out four Black Terns in with the Commons. Certainly a nice bird to "get out of the way".

We managed to pick out both Common and Red-throated Loon. The Red-throated in particular was a nice surprise, and personally my first bird that I have seen in the spring.

Red-throated Loon

Plenty of small birds, especially warblers, were around. There was actually what some people were calling a mini-fallout. I didn't take any photos, but we managed to see probably close to 12 species of warblers, including Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Bay-breasted, Black-and-white, and Wilson's. Plenty of Baltimore Orioles and a female Scarlet Tanager also made an appearance.

After spending some time at the Tip, we made our back to the VC via some trails through Sparrow Field and Post Woods. We came across a few birds of note, including Warbling Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Lincoln's Sparrow, and Spotted Sandpipers. Plenty of warblers and Least Flycatchers were around as well.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

We walked a little bit of Woodland Nature Trail on our way back, and were rewarded with a flyover Great Egret and a roosting Common Nighthawk.

After a quick stop for a break at the VC, and quickly tallying our total thus far (90 species or so in the first few hours!) we went back out to Woodland to have a look for Prothonotary Warblers. Although we missed the Prothons (in fact, despite trying again later, we missed them for the day!) we managed to see a few new birds for the day list. There was a Northern Waterthrush singing, as well as our first and only Red-headed Woodpecker of the day. It is a miracle we even saw the Red-headed, as I had been looking at a Black-and-white Warbler, and in behind the warbler I managed to spot the woodpecker through a tiny opening in the branches!

Horrible picture of a Northern Parula

There was a nice Canada Warbler on Redbud trail.

 There was also a very cooperative Chestnut-sided Warbler, which entertained us for a bit.

Despite the pouring rain, we did a quick run of Tilden's, where we managed to pick up a Solitary Sandpiper. We also found an active Carolina Wren nest with four young birds.

We got a message about a cooperative Hooded Warbler behind the VC, so we went over to check it out. There was no crowd (very strange for Pelee), so we almost walked right past her. She was all wet, and the lighting was horrible, but thankfully the white outer tail feathers were obvious, which sealed the identification.

Just as we were about to leave the park for Wheatley, we got another message about a cooperative Mourning Warbler on Woodland, so we took a little jog for it. Unfortunately, by the time we got there it had hunkered down, but we managed to see a White-eyed Vireo and a Cooper's Hawk, which were decent consolation prize.

I saw my 100th species for the day, Field Sparrow, behind the Visitor Centre. Pretty convenient to go and claim my 100 species challenge pin!

We headed out to Wheatley, picking up Red-tailed Hawk, Short-billed Dowitcher, American Golden Plover, and Black-bellied Plover along the way. When we arrived in Wheatley we were soaked to the skin, but happy, because as soon as we pulled up the Dickcissel, the rare bird we had driven to see, was singing.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Satisfied, we moved on to the harbour, which was just down the road. There were a few birds, including Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, and Chipping Sparrow. Just as we were about to leave, a Whimbrel flew by, definitely a highlight of the day.

We took a drive down Mersea Road 21, where we managed to find a few good things. Highlights included Short-billed Dowitcher, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Savannah Sparrow, American Pipit, Horned Lark, and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Short-billed Dowitchers

Semipalmated Plovers

Great Black-backed Gull

Hillman was pretty quiet, but we managed to find Forster's and Caspian Terns. Just outside the marsh, as couple of us managed to pick up Trumpeter Swans and a Green Heron.

We returned to the park, where a couple of us managed to find Indigo Bunting and Yellow-throated Vireo. Also a few more warblers were around.

Northern Parula

Our last trail of the day was Woodland Nature Trail. The highlight here was definitely seeing a Mourning Warbler (we'll just disregard the whole "is that a Connecticut?!?!" thing) This was the first time I have been able to get some photos of this elusive warbler.

And with the light fading, we called it a day. As a group we saw just over 130 species, myself personally seeing 127 of them. It was certainly a big day!

It is going to be another busy weekend...I will be birding the Bruce Peninsula!

eBird checklists:

Point Pelee National Park (morning)

Onion Fields

Wheatley Harbour

Mersea Road 21

Hillman Conservation Area

Point Pelee National Park (evening)

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Early May Big Day

Yesterday was the eBird Global Big Day, and I had a jam packed day of birding planned!

I awoke (sort of) at five in the morning, and then went out and scoured my neighborhood for some birds. My first stop was to a spot where American Woodcocks are known to perform their "dance". Unfortunately when I arrived, they weren't peenting, but I managed to catch one flying from the display grounds back into the forest. Also seen was a flyover Wood Duck.

Next stop was a patch of forest and wetland. Quite a few birds to sort through! There were a few warblers, including Orange-crowned, Blackburnian, Yellow, Palm, Magnolia, and Nashville.

Palm Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

There were a couple vireo species as well, Blue-headed, and a White-eyed Vireo. White-eyed Vireos are quite rare in London, so I was very happy, and surprised, to find this individual a few days ago. thankfully it stuck around for yesterday, and it was still there this morning!

Blue-headed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo (photo from May 4th)

I made a couple more quick stops, and I managed to pick up Warbling Vireo, my first one of the year.

Next up, Rondeau!

I started with the maintenance loop, where I found a few more things such as Swainson's Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Black-throated Green Warbler, Gray Catbird, and Northern Waterthrush.

Swainson's Thrush

Gray Catbird

I got word of a female Cerulean Warbler not too far away, so I walked over. She allowed for some close up looks!

I was about to go to the Pony Barn when I got a text from Blake about a Summer Tanager in the campground, which I just so happened to be driving through! It sure wasn't hard to find, as there were almost a dozen people looking at it! I think that may have been one of the highest concentrations of birders I have ever seen in Rondeau :-)

Next I went to check out a reported Kentucky Warbler on Water Street. I missed it by about two minutes! We spent about an hour looking to no avail. I did manage to see a few other birds, including some more thrushes, warblers, and a Tufted Titmouse.

Gray-cheeked Thrush

The Pony Barn was mostly quiet, but I did mange to come across a few things.

Baltimore Oriole

Wood Thrush

Next stop was the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons. My intention was just to quickly run in to get Savannah Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark, but I noticed a crowd back by the sprinkler cell. I ran over to investigate, where I was told there were three Long-billed Dowitchers! They were a lifer for me, so I ran back to the car to grab my camera. Thankfully, they were very cooperative!

There were a few other shorebirds in the sprinkler cell as well.

Least Sandpiper

Greater Yellowlegs

Dunlin and Lesser Yellowlegs

My next stop was the Pelee area, where I was going to meet up with a few friends. We first checked out Hillman. There were a few shorebirds to be found, including Black-bellied Plover, American Golden Plover, Dunlin, yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone and 27 Long-billed Dowitchers.

Long-billed Dowitchers

Next up was Pelee. My friends went to get something to eat, so I got a head start on Tilden's. I managed to come across a few things, including a Blue-winged Warbler, Hermit Thrush, and a singing Louisiana Waterthrush.

Blue-winged Warbler

Carolina Wren

Wood Duck

I did the trail a second time once my friends showed up. We manged to find a Northern Waterthrush near where the Louisiana was.

We decided to try our luck with the Kentucky Warbler which had been spotted on Tilden's. As it usually is by 7pm, the trail was more or less deserted, so we'd have to find it ourselves! We had almost given up when my friend spotted it practically on the path! It flew to a tangle just off the trail, where it sat, allowing us to have some great looks!

After our success, and my fourth lifer of the day, we continued on, managing to find a Dark-eyed Junco and a Solitary Sandpiper on Tilden's, and a few Wild Turkeys on Woodland Nature Trail.

Solitary Sandpiper

Dark-eyed Junco

I said good-bye to my friends (I'll see them again next weekend!) and then started to head home. Last stop of the day was Hillman, where I found some woodcocks, and my last two new birds for the day list, Trumpeter Swan and Great Horned Owl.

It was an amazing day, and I finished with a total of 126 species, completely obliterating my previous personal big day record of 108.

Stay tuned...I'll be tackling Point Pelee next Saturday!

Monday, 30 April 2018

Rondeau Roundup

Yesterday I went to Rondeau with a group from Nature London. Despite it being a "slow" day, I don't think anybody was disappointed!

We started the day with a quick drive down Lakeshore Road, looking for the White-winged Dove, a bird that has somehow evaded me for the past four years. No luck!

We met up with the group, and then went and explored Tulip Tree Trail. Some highlights included Common Loon (flyover), Hermit Thrush, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Tufted Titmouse and Winter Wren.

Hermit Thrush

After about an hour on the trail, I took my group on a little walk down Lakeshore Road. There were plenty of Brown Thrashers.

I stopped to talk to the owner of the "pink house", who said the White-winged Dove had just taken off, but was likely at the "yellow house", a little bit down the road. I lost a lot of my group, as they didn't want to walk down the road all that way, but I kept treking (sprinting)...I had to see that bird!

Eventually I got to the "yellow house" and....nothing. Darn. But just as I was about to turn around I spotted a dove fly up from the ground behind the house. A dove with a rounded tail and white on the tip of the tail. Could it be? It all happened so fast, but it definitely warranted a closer look. It wasn't on the stovepipe, and it wasn't on the roof, so where did it go?


Ahhh!!! It was the White-winged Dove!!! I quickly found it in a tree not too far from the house, where it offered great views. After a little while it flew north, where I refound it high in a tree.

After the dove excitement, the group went to South Point Trail (they tried and failed at seeing the White-winged...good thing I went when I did!). Plenty of small woodland birds were around.

Hermit Thrush

White-throated Sparrow

House Wren

Eastern Towhee

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Most of the group turned around where the path was really flooded, but three of us kept going, seeing what we could find. There were a few sparrows near the beacon.

Field Sparrow

We managed to find our first (!) warblers of the trip...a distant singing Yellow-rumped and at least three Pine Warblers.

Pine Warbler

Not too much of interest was out near the washout except for a Horned Grebe and an Eastern Bluebird.

After South Point, we went up to the campground to check out a Snowy Owl which my friend had texted about. It didn't take too long to find it up in a tree. Kind of a bizarre place for it!

Maintenance was fairly quiet, but we did see a Carolina Wren and my first Spring Azure of the year.

Carolina Wren

Spring Azure

Marsh Trail was the last stop for the group. Not much of note except for a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Blake notified me of a Wilson's Phalarope over at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons, so I made a stop there after Rondeau.

It didn't take long to find her in the sprinkler cell. Female phalaropes are more brightly coloured than the males, and this female was no exception. Quite the bird!

There were some other shorebirds around, such as both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.

Lesser Yellowlegs

I found a group of Pectoral Sandpipers and a Wilson's Snipe in a wet spot to the north of the sprinkler cell.

Pectoral Sandpiper

A few other birds around the lagoons as well, including Purple Martins, Savannah Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks, gulls, ducks, and blackbirds.

Bonaparte's and Ring-billed Gulls

Wood Ducks

Eastern Meadowlarks

All in all a super great day in the Rondeau area!

On a side note, I saw this stunner in London today. Not often we get a Prothonotary Warbler up this way! This is day three for this bird...I wonder how long he'll stay.