Monday, 20 May 2013

Time to go!

Our last day in Canada and with an evening flight we still had a few hours to get some goodies this morning. I was wondering how it would pan out to be honest, as we decided not to go to the tip as the weather was hot and still and I thought some of the commoner breeding species we hadn’t seen yet might just have arrived. So we kick-started things at the Marsh Boardwalk which was actuall pretty dead apart from some American Black Terns flying over. 

Solitary Sandpiper

But as we returned to the car park Keith saw some movement below the tower and it turned out to be a Solitary Sandpiper – nice! And how about this? Right in front of our car was an immature male Blue Grosbeak -  a true rarity here and oh how good it felt to finally find something of note here!!!

Blue Grosbeak

 So we went down to the Visitor Centre to relay our find and then walked along the Woodland Trail where Eastern Wood Pewee and Great Crested Flycatcher were new for our list, and we had a roosting Eastern Screech-owl and bucket-loads of warblers. With reports of a Grey-cheeked Thrush in Tilden Woods, just across the car park we decided on one final bash before leaving, but only found this Wood Thrush.

Wood Thrush

 So with an hour to spare we drove up to Hillman Marsh and enjoyed a nice, easy session looking at the waders before it was time to head back to Toronto and our flight home. I must say we’d had a great time here in Canada and it really was great fun just to go out birding without the pressure of having to find this or that for a change.

Anyway, next on the agenda is Sichuan….

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Day of the Kirtland's

This morning we found ourselves stood on the tip of Pelee Point (the southernmost point of Canada) witness to an amazing reverse migration. Literally thousands of birds were heading south across Lake Erie this morning in a mind-boggling display of mass movement that, I must admit, I find hard to comprehend. The bulk of the species were Baltimore Orioles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and Brown-headed Cowbirds. There were smaller numbers of many passerines including Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Yellow and Black-throated Blue Warblers. Many Indigo Buntings were caught up in the frenzy, along with 200+ Cedar Waxwings, House Finches, Bobolinks and an Eastern Meadowlark. It truly was a sight to behold and the passage took maybe two hours to run its course. So coupled with that was a huge arrival of regular spring migrants all across the peninsula, no doubt due to the warm weather and south-westerly wind.

Canada Warbler

 Walking around the point itself produced a confiding Canada Warbler, which gave point-blank views, along with Blackburnian, several Parulas, the first Scarlet Tanagers for days, Clay-coloured Sparrow, and others. It was late morning by now so we caught the tram back to the Visitors Centre for an early lunch, and boy was it hot right now! Then we began walking along the Woodland Trail when it became apparent to us that there were far more birds around than we’d experienced here so far. Immediately we had another Bay-breasted Warbler, followed by a Blackpoll Warbler and even a Worm-eating Warbler. 

Kirtland's Warbler

Just then a bunch of guys began running along the path to the car park – a Kirtland’s Warbler had been sighted further up the peninsula. So we joined in and drove up to the northwest beach car park where a big crowd of birders were gathered, and sure enough there it was. An awesome Kirtland’s Warbler feeding along the main park road and we had great views as it fed reasonably high up in the trees bordering the marsh. A fine male Cape May Warbler also appeared whilst we were here.

Worm-eating Warbler

 So it was all downhill from now and on returning to the Woodland Trail, the Worm-eating Warbler showed even better, but I couldn’t help thinking we should be elsewhere. When news came in of a Prothonotary Warbler back where we’d just been it was decision made and we drove back up the road and called into the Sleepy Hollow and then Blue Heron Trails. Quite a few warblers were around and I particularly enjoyed a pair of American Redstarts

Kirtland's Warbler

We walked up the road to see the Kirtland’s Warbler again and got even better views than before – but no Prothonotary. I have to say the behaviour of the birders here was disgusting and not an ounce of common sense or respect for the bird was shown. I mean talking in extremely loud voices about total crap when the bird is in the tree right in front of you isn’t the way to do things. And don’t get me started on their dress sense – but more of that in a later post. Anyway, when we first arrived the Kirtland’s was feeding low down because the few birders present were quiet, but as the crowd got bigger so did the corresponding noise level and the bird retreated to the high canopy again. Not rocket science is it?

Short-billed Dowitchers

 Leaving here we had an early dinner before getting to Hillman’s Marsh to view 700+ Short-billed Dowitchers, 2 White-rumped Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Wilson's Phalarope etc. Only wish we'd got here an hour earlier, as the spectacle of all these waders was very impressive. A roding American Woodcock at dusk was a fine way to end a great day.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Cape May Love-Fest

Got down to the tip and was full of optimism as the temperature had risen to a mighty nine degrees Celsius and was due to rise to fourteen later today – and we had a moderate southerly wind with an overcast sky. However, there was nothing doing until several Blackburnian Warblers suddenly appeared, then a Nashville, a couple of Parulas, Red-eyed Vireo, and best of all a stonking male Cape May Warbler dropped out of the sky.

Loved this male Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

It was buzzing for a little while, as several Warbling Vireos appeared along with quite a few other commoner migrants and I really thought we were going to experience a big fall. 

Warbling Vireo

But that was it and everything petered out. So we went up to the Visitor Centre and had some soup before driving up to Hillman Marsh – seeing a close Song Sparrow and more Wood Ducks en-route. But the marsh was pretty quiet and things were brought to an abrupt end shortly after our arrival by a Peregrine dive-bombing the waders.

Song Sparrow

 Back at Pelee we got the Northern Mockingbird at one of the car parks and a Clay-coloured Sparrow at another. 

Clay-coloured Sparrow

We also checked out our favourite spot at the Blue Heron Trail, where Magnolia Warbler and an American Redstart were the highlights. So then it was once again on the tram down to the tip and we had more of the same warblers as earlier with at least 3 Parula Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers and others. 

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

American Redstart

An unsuccessful search for the reported Nelson’s Sparrow along West Beach ended our day and another great meal at Ray’s Ribhouse was the icing on the cake. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Twitching Rondeau

Another freezing cold day but only a light breeze rather than a howling gale like yesterday, but this meant that after a clear night a lot of birds seemed to have departed. The Blue Heron area was quieter than yesterday evening but we still had lots of Common Yellowthroats, Northern Waterthrush, American Redstart, Black-and-white and Magnolia  Warblers

Magnolia Warbler

Also called into Sleepy Hollow on the way down and this was quite birdy but I would have liked to see the calling Pileated Woodpecker. So, once down at the Visitor Centre it was apparent that there wasn’t a huge amount of new birds around so I made the decision to drive over to Rondeau and twitch a couple of reported goodies. As I drove there I did wonder what the heck I was doing! But things went fairly according to plan as we got our only Hooded Warbler of the trip after a short search – result!

Hooded Warbler

 We then spent some time at the feeders, drinking coffee and relaxing before walking the Tulip Tree trail. We all commented on the fact it was more like a dry winter’s day than Spring. But with nothing doing we drove back up to Spice Bush Trail, stopping to look at a pair of Wood Ducks swimming at the back of a slough. The trail was quiet although along the road we had a fine Parula Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler and a few other things. 

Swainson's Thrush
Red-breasted Nuthatch
But with time passing all too quickly, I wanted to have another crack at the Maintenance Loop Trail where most of the good birds had been seen recently. Sure enough we managed to find the male Cerrulean Warbler, which was actually skulking on the forest floor under the short grass and weeds on a bank beside the path.

Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler

It was incredible to be able to look down on this bird which is normally found high up in the canopy. There was also Cooper’s Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk flying over the wood, Black-capped Chickadee, Grey Catbird, plus a Brewster’s Warbler (hybrid Blue-winged x Golden-winged) to finish the day off in style.

Brewster's Warbler