Monday 19 October 2015

Niagara-on-the-Lake to Marathon - October 1 and 2, 2015

October 1-2, 2015 - Niagara-on-the-Lake to Marathon
October 3, 2015 - Marathon to Rossport
October 4, 2015 - Rossport to Hurkett Cove
October 5, 2015 - Sibley Peninsula to Thunder Bay
October 6, 2015 - Thunder Bay to Rossport
October 7, 2015 - Rossport to Wawa
October 8, 2015 - Wawa to Manitoulin Island
October 9, 2015 - Nelson's Sparrow in Oliphant
October 9-10, 2015 - Manitoulin Island to Tobermory, Tobermory to Niagara-on-the-Lake

This is a trip report from my 10-day drive along the north shore of Lake Superior from October 1 to 10, 2015. I began in Sault Ste Marie and worked my way north and west to Thunder Bay, before retracing my steps back south towards Sault Ste. Marie. From I there I headed then south through Manitoulin Island, across to Tobermory, and south through southern Ontario to get back home to Niagara-on-the-Lake. The links above will bring you to that particular day of the trip. Any links in the text below brings you to the eBird checklist corresponding with that location.


I began my trip to the north shore of Lake Superior on Thursday, October 1. After finishing up my first week at the new office in St. Catharines, I headed westbound along the QEW. After a brief stop at Van Wagner's Beach to scan for jaegers with Tim Lucas in the strong winds (we saw one jaeger in an hour of watching, which was most likely a Pomarine), I made a few stops for supplies and was on my way north around sunset. I made good progress that evening and finally decided to pull off the highway and find a car-camping spot around 1:30 in the morning, somewhere past the turnoff for Elliot Lake.

My goal for Friday was to make it all the way to Marathon, birding some of the hotspots along the way. I was mainly hoping to cover a lot of ground, though. The Bruce Mines sewage lagoons shortly after dawn provided a good variety of ducks, dozens of sparrows (mostly White-crowned) and a few warblers including the first Orange-crowned of the trip. A juvenile Northern Harrier perched beside the lagoons in the morning sun was a worthwhile study for a few minutes, while a few Pine Siskins and a Purple Finch called as they flew over; these two finches would be seen at nearly every stop I made throughout the trip.

While I spent most of Friday driving, the beautiful scenery prevented the drive from being monotonous. Due to the relatively warm autumn up to this point, the leaves were far from peak colour intensity. Even still, the aspens and tamaracks were turning yellow, contrasting with the dark green of the spruces with a bit of orange from the maples sprinkled in. One species that had reached peak colour was Staghorn Sumac. The scarlet foliage lined the roadsides in many areas.

Several raptors were migrating south with the light north winds, mostly Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures but also a few Bald Eagles, a Sharp-shinned Hawk and an American Kestrel. American Pipits and Horned Larks were occasionally seen on the shoulder of the Trans-Canada as well. I birded the Michipicoten River area, turning up an Eastern Bluebird, some Red-necked Grebes and the first Lincoln's Sparrow of the trip. Lincoln's ended up being quite common throughout the trip and many weedy patches had one or two.

Lincoln's Sparrow

The Wawa lagoons were pretty slow, though most of the expected ducks were accounted for. After another two hours of driving I finally arrived in Marathon by mid-afternoon. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and I took my time birding some of the hotspots around town. The birding was very slow, though I found a late Gray Catbird mewing from some alders near the harbour. I also added my first American Tree Sparrow and Chipping Sparrows of the trip, bringing me up to 9 sparrow species so far.

Peninsula Harbour, Marathon

That evening I set up camp along a gravel road heading to the middle of nowhere, just north of Marathon.

campsite near Marathon

As I was taking this photo I was being serenaded by a Northern Saw-whet Owl, singing away nearly continuously for 10 minutes. Some late evening owling turned up a calling Long-eared Owl as well, but I could not dig up any boreal owls.


Alan Wormington said...

Best not to offend the location of your new office -- its in St. Catharines, not St. Catherines LOL!

Michael said...

I love the black spruce skyline in the last photo!

Michael said...

I love the black spruce skyline in the last photo!

Josh Vandermeulen said...

Me too, Michael! I love it up on the north shore...