Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Rondeau Provincial Park

Made the bold decision to go straight to Rondeau Provincial Park, just over an hours drive in the heavy rain. My decision didn’t seem that good as the first trails we tried were very quiet as the weather was damp, overcast and pretty cold but we persevered and at the South Point Trail  we found an Ovenbird skulking at the edge of a muddy pool inside a dense cover of bushes. It wasn’t easy viewing and a couple of people failed to connect with it but I had reasonably high hopes we’d find another. With things still slow we drove to the Visitor Centre to see what news had come in and to grab a nice hot coffee. Then we walked the Tulip Tree Trail from the car park which took us through great woodland and we connected with a number of regular warblers, but also a fine Philadelphia Vireo, female Bay-breasted Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, several Prothonotary Warblers,  and others.

More Prothonotary Warbler sightings today

A hot bowl of soup at the VC and news reached us of a roosting Whip-Poor-Will back at the South Point Trail so we headed down there, stopping along the way to photograph a few Spotted Sandpipers on a garden lawn. 

Spotted Sandpiper 

We eventually found the roosting site after a bit of a search and what a cracking bird. It was roosting 8 metres up at the top of some bushes close to the trail and was oblivious to us. 


Walking further along the trail we found lots of Blackburnian Warblers, as well as Blackpoll and Tennessee Warblers that were also much appreciated. 

Tennessee Warbler

Then we drove back to the VC and walked the Tulip tree Trail again getting good looks at Veery and Wood Thrush before bumping into another Ovenbird – this one in more open woodland and allowing great views for around twenty minutes. 


Wood Thrush

Back at the VC and we had our best views yet of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird that had been visiting the feeders. 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

So overall not a bad haul of birds and some cool sightings making my decision to ditch a rainy Pelee the correct one. I'd have been gutted to have missed a big fall like some other groups from the UK did last week - ouch!!

Driving back to Leamington at 6pm and we had a flyover Broad-winged Hawk.

Eastern Towhee

Another Cape May Warbler today

Other species seen today included Snowy Egret, Great Black-backed Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, Red-headed and Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, Eastern Kingbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Towhee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue Warblers, etc etc.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Point Pelee

After heavy thunderstorms overnight I was hopeful of some new migrants at Point Pelee. So once we reached the tip and found the wind had also swung round to the north-east we headed to the leeward side and sure enough encountered a large group of birders watching an immature male Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

What a stunning bird and although much commoner further south in the USA it’s quite a rarity up here in Canada. Most of the birders were walking along the beach as the sun was hitting the eastern side of the promontory and as we stood close to the tip there were lots of blackbirds, grackles, kingbirds and jays in flocks heading south, with Cliff Swallow and Chimney Swifts mixed in. We did a few circuits of the trails before returning to the beach and this time a cracking male Cerulean Warbler was putting on a show to an admiring crowd. There were also Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Northern Parula and other regularly seen species, but also much appreciated.

We returned to the Visitor Centre for coffee and snacks and whilst sitting in the warm sunshine we got word of a Worm-eating Warbler showing well in Tilden Wood. So we raced across the car park and into the woods only to find we were literally two minutes too late. However after a bit of a wait, during which a Mourning Warbler flew across the path next to us, the biggie was refound and everyone enjoyed stunning views. Surprisingly it was feeding high up in a tree in ‘nuthatch’ fashion. We also got better looks at the Rufous-morph Eastern Screech Owl that was right out in the open at the same roost spot.  

Eastern Screech Owl - rufous morph

From here we birded the Marsh Boardwalk Trail through nice open forest and had nice looks at many regular species including this Common Yellowthroat, whilst I got the briefest of looks at a waterthrush. There was also a flyover American Black Tern, Green Heron, Eastern Wood Pewee and other warblers.

Common Yellowthroat

We went for lunch at Freddy’s restaurant just outside the park entrance and enjoyed a leisurely rest and good meal before heading to the Route 33 wader pools. This time Short-billed Dowitchers were in attendance and feeding close to our cars (what amazing birds), plus a Pectoral Sandpiper was new, as was a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, whilst the Semi-palmated Sandpiper was still there. 

Short-Billed Dowitchers

Leaving here we returned to Point Pelee and Tilden Woods where the Worm-eating Warbler was seen again but this time we well and truly nailed a Mourning Warbler that came into view on a  couple of occasions right in front of us - wow!

This Veery showed well along Tilden Trail

A confiding Chestnut-sided Warbler this afternoon

I loved the early evening light on this Swainson's Thrush

After this we retuned to the motel having had another exciting day, stopping along the way when Julie spotted something in a roadside field so we checked it out and discovered a lovely Northern Harrier on a kill surrounded by a flock of 25 Killdeers.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Going Cuckoo at Point Pelee....

It was always going to be quieter at Point Pelee this morning and with overcast conditions and a glassy calm lake it sure looked like it. First bird of the day was a Western Osprey on the drive in. However, you can never foretell what will happen in migration time and an initial search around the point revealed very little except for a confiding Red-eyed Vireo motionless in a bush. 

Red-eyed Vireo

Then all of a sudden a Black-billed Cuckoo flew through and set the pulses racing and we had a reasonable view of it perched before it disappeared. Then we followed this with a male Cerulean Warbler hanging around some bushes along the beach and although the light was quite gloomy it showed quite well overhead. 

Cerulean Warbler

There were other previously seen warblers around but nothing new, then all of a sudden a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was called but flew away just before anyone could get on it. So we returned to the Visitor Centre for a coffee and cookie before hopping back on the tram and returning to the point as we had heard the Yellow-billed Cuckoo was apparently sitting motionless along a trail. 

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

As we pulled in to the tram stop area we could see people taking photographs of something and walked over and sure enough there was the Cuckoo sat on the top of a tree. Wow. We spent a few minutes watching it before it flew away and then everyone split up for a quick check of the point. I managed to get a few shots of a Black-billed Cuckoo posing nicely during this period but there wasn’t much else around apart from Greater Scaup and Slavonian Grebe.

Black-billed Cuckoo

Afterwards we took the tram to the mid-point and checked out West Beach for another reported Kirtland’s Warbler without success before walking the Woodland Trail. Our target was Yellow-breasted Chat and sure enough we connected with a very obliging individual that began feeding along a creek before shooting up into the large tree overhead. Just a few metres away was a very large downy immature Great Horned Owl sat on a nest as well and further along the trail Lee scoped a Common Nighthawk perched in a bare tree quite some distance away. 

Common Nighthawk by Lee Collins

After that we staked out a singing Blackpoll Warbler that had taken residence in an area of pine trees by the Botham Loop near the Visitor Centre and was very hard to see well, although we did see it singing overhead. 

Blackpoll Warbler

Whilst in this area a cracking Philadelphia Vireo was seen well, and we also had Cape May, Chestnut-sided, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue, Magnolia, Pine, Yellow and Myrtle Warblers…!

Lunch at the Visitor Centre was followed by a fruitless check of the point before we drove to some pools in a housing development that we had heard was good for shorebirds. Just a few small pools and stubble field held 100+ Dunlin, Grey Plovers, 3 Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers and a Semipalmated Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

In the fields a Horned Lark and American Pipit were seen. Nearby Hillman Marsh was a little quiet with highlights being 8 species of duck including Canvasback, Redhead, Wood Duck and Green-winged Teal but they were all on the far side of the lagoon and too far for a photo.

Lesser Yellowlegs

A few Short-billed Dowitchers and a Lesser Yellowlegs were nice, and a Merlin did its best to mess up proceedings. And that was our day. 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Big Fall at Point Pelee

Well, we can say that we were there on the day of The Big Fall. It really did happen and looking back I still can’t quite believe it. An epic day of 25 species of warbler on the tip of Point Pelee and it was literally raining birds that dropped into every conceivable sheltered spot to rest and feed, most of them within arm’s length. Even on the tram ride to the tip I could see that the treetops were alive with birds and one can only imagine how many thousands of individual birds were involved today. It was non-stop action from dawn to dusk and I can’t ever remember my arms aching so much from the constant raising of binocular and camera. It was absolutely awesome and we were truly lucky to witness one of nature’s most amazing spectacles - it was indeed the miracle of migration happening right in front of us. To be honest you can use every superlative imaginable and it still wouldn’t relate the excitement, fervour and sheer good fun to be here on a day like this. I must admit I was  bit stunned really as everywhere you looked there was another brightly coloured sprite to look at and you never knew what was coming next. We spent the whole day here and you always felt like there was something new just around the corner. I think the collection of photos I took today sum the event up better than any prose that my still fuzzy brain can cobble together… 

American Redstart (male)

American Redstart (male)

American Redstart (female)

Just two Bay-breasted Warblers were seen today

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Green Warblers were everywhere today

Blackburnian Warbler - my personal favourite

Just the one Blue-winged Warbler was found today.

Canada Warbler was a good sighting today.

Cape May Warblers arrived en-masse today - never seen so many...

Chestnut-sided Warbler was very common

Magnolia Warbler was also common

Lots of Northern Parula today as well

Birds were landing on the beach - Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler was very common today

Pine Warbler is quite unusual here

Scarlet Tanagers were everywhere

The commonest of them all - Yellow Warbler