Sunday, 27 April 2014

Pelee weekend!

I had Friday off of work, so I took advantage and headed down to Pelee. On Friday morning, I spent my birthday by paying for the new tires and brakes (fun!), but by early afternoon I was driving down to Pelee. Some of my stops:

Ridgetown lagoons
-usual "lagoon ducks"
-adult Common Loon in spanking new plumage! Just chilling in the middle of a pond...

Blenheim lagoons
-first 30 Pectoral Sandpipers of the year
-good assortment of other shorebirds (Dunlin, Spotted, both Yellowlegs)
-lots of Bonaparte's Gulls (but no Littles)
-continuing Eared Grebe that was found almost a week prior by Blake Mann.

Erieau pier
-big white Glaucous Gull! A few are still kicking around southern Ontario...

-nothing else. Nothing in the Lark Sparrow spot (though I was a day late)

Hillman Marsh
-shorebirds!! Lots of Dunlin, both yellowlegs, Pecs, but nothing else
-nothing rare, but lots of the usual ducks and terns/gulls

Jeremy Bensette and I birded together for the whole day, meeting up with other birders at various points. Nice to see so many familiar faces! Steve Pike, Kory Renaud, and the Hunters joined us for good chunks of time. The weather was cool with strong northeast winds, but the sun was out most of the day. Some highlights:

-year birds! Cliff Swallow, Eastern Kingbird,
-6 warblers, including Northern Waterthrush, a stunning male Hooded, and an Eastern (Yellow) Palm Warbler, my first one that I've seen. The streaking was rather sparse but the bird had an extensive red crown and was bright yellow from the chin to the undertail coverts, really standing out from the other nearby Western Palms.

-chased a dozen Marbled Godwits at Hillman and watched them from the road!
-raptor flight in the afternoon, including 3 Bald Eagles, 1 Osprey, 12ish Turkey Vultures, 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 1 Cooper's Hawk, 2 Red-tailed Hawks

-braving the winds by checking the tip at dusk with Jeremy Bensette and Steve Pike, finding a miserable looking female Orchard Oriole

A bit of a late start to the morning, but Jeremy and I were in the park by 8 AM and birded the tip area. Again we ran into many familiar birders, though the majority of the morning was spent with Steve Pike, Chris Law, and Tom Preney. The birding was slow but as is always the case at Pelee in the spring, there were a few things to keep us interested

-a large flock (50+) of warblers along the main road north of Sparrow Field, mainly composed of Yellow-rumped but also with my first of year Black-and-white and Yellow
-Fish Crow reported by Steve and Chris, and subsequently seen by several groups of birders. My looks weren't ideal as I saw it briefly twice
-great looks at all 3 scoter species off of the West Beach

I swung out to Mitchell's Bay as I made my way towards home in the early afternoon. The area came through with a few sweet birds, including a Green Heron, Common Gallinule (my first ever for April), a ton of Forster's Terns, a calling Sora, and a male Yellow-headed Blackbird. This is perhaps the last remaining area that Yellow-headeds regularly can still be found at. The terns were actively hunting near where I was standing, so I tried to take a few action shots. I failed at that, but did manage a few typical flight shots; my first decent photos for the species.

While the weekend did not come through with any mega finds and the birding was pretty slow for the most part, I still had an awesome time with a few good birds and about 20 year birds...gotta keep those big year birders looking in their rear-view mirrors a little! ;)

Recent rarities found in Ontario include a nice male Painted Bunting that has been attending a feeder in Huntsville for the past two days. Painted Buntings average about 1 sighting a year in the province...I have seen two previously but never the rainbow-colored adult male. This week may be busy as I move to a new place, but I may be able to squeeze in an evening searching for it, if it continues to be seen. At any rate, the next two weeks are probably the heaviest for the sheer number of rare birds that are typically found. Get out there and find them, the birding will be awesome...

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