Saturday 12 December 2015

October 9 and 10 - Manitoulin Island to Tobermory, Tobermory to Niagara-on-the-Lake

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.


Last post from the northern trip!

On October 9 I birded Manitoulin Island for the entire day, slowly making my way west before turning south, finishing at the ferry docks in South Baymouth for an evening crossing to Tobermory.

Most of my birding was concentrated around Gore Bay, including the sewage lagoons, airportwaterfront, nearby Barrie Island, Ice Lake, and the causeway along HWY 540. The long 100 km stretch to South Baymouth I drove late in the day once the sun was setting, so I had all the daylight hours to thoroughly bird the Gore Bay area.

The Gore Bay sewage lagoons were quite birdy and I even ran into Gerry Binsfeld here! Ducks were nothing unusual (just the regular Sewage Lagoons Ducks) but there were several hundred sparrows in the weedy areas. Most were White-crowned but with a lot else mixed in. Of note were 1 Orange-crowned and 1 Palm Warbler, both working the dead tansy stalks with the Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

I came across a Vesper Sparrow along a hay field on Barrie Island. The white outer tail feathers as it flushed from the road keyed me off to it, and as it landed on the fence and turned, it showed a white eye ring and the distinctive breast pattern. I took some photos through my windshield - hardly worth posting! By the time I could open my window and try for some real shots it took off further into the field. The Vesper was my 14th sparrow of the trip.

Vesper Sparrow - Barrie Island, Manitoulin

Sandhill Cranes were quite common on the island. They amass here in numbers each fall before departing for the south.

Sandhill Cranes - near Gore Bay, Manitoulin

Sandhill Cranes - near Gore Bay, Manitoulin

Other odds and ends seen included Merlin, loads of Red-necked Grebes, Horned Grebes, Surf Scoter, Eastern Meadowlark, Bonaparte's Gulls and a good variety of late autumn migrants. I finished with 57 bird species for the day according to eBird.

After the evening ferry crossing, I was a guest at Michael and Martha's place near Tobermory, then birded the Bruce Peninsula the next morning. I discovered a Nelson's Sparrow at Oliphant in the late morning, which you can read about here.

The rest of the day was spent hitting up as many sewage lagoons, harbours, and other hotspots I could on my way south through Bruce, Huron, and Middlesex Counties.

A quick rundown of some of the places I visited throughout the day . As always, highlighted text links to the corresponding eBird checklist.

Ferndale Flats, Bruce Peninsula
-Cackling Goose (first of trip)

-Nelson's Sparrow (first record for Bruce County)
-several more first of trips...LEYE, GRYE, WRSA, etc...
-7 Lapland Lonspurs
-Ruffed Grouse (nearby edge of town)

Oliphant Docks
-American Golden-Plover and Black-bellied Plover (first of trip)

Southampton, Horseshoe Bay
-continuing Hudsonian Godwit (my first of year)
-hundreds of diving ducks offshore
-Pied-billed Grebe, 3 Horned Grebe
-more Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Plover etc

Saugeen Shores - Pond by Independent (grocery store)
-hundreds of waterfowl, including 8 Northern Pintail, 2 Green-winged Teal, 2 American Wigeon, 2 Common Goldeneye
-2 Dunlin, 7 White-rumped Sandpiper, 1 Greater Yellowlegs

Ripley sewage lagoons
-Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Pintail, Wood Duck, Redhead etc
-4 White-rumped Sandpipers, 2 Pectoral Sandpipers (first of trip!), 2 Killdeer (ditto) and 1 Dunlin

Exeter sewage lagoons
-1400 Canada Geese, which I found a Greater White-fronted trying to hide among (see photo)
-2 Blue-winged Teal, 350 Ruddy Duck etc
-lots of shorebirds. many of these had been seen by Mike Burrell on October 7
-2 Black-bellied and 1 American Golden-Plover, 2 Killdeer
-90 White-rumped Sandpipers (numbers down from 310 on October 7)
-2 Least, 1 Pectoral, 1 Semipalmated Sandpipers

Greater White-fronted Goose - Exeter sewage lagoons

Strathroy sewage lagoons
-12 species of ducks including 4 Blue-winged Teal (no Cinnamon Teal!)
-26 White-rumped Sandpipers and 4 Pectoral Sandpipers
-an Eastern Towhee in a shrub tangle (my 16th sparrow of the trip)

The sun set as I finished at Strathroy, and I made one last dinner of eggs on toast with my portable camp stove. I continued onwards to my place in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the final stop of the trip.

It was a worthwhile trip, even if the numbers of birds (and rare birds in particular) was somewhat low. Overall I saw around 130 species, including 16 species of sparrows and a wide variety of fall migrants. Several interesting mammal sightings, the varied habitats of the north shore, and the freedom to explore the entire area over 10 days made for an excellent trip. I would certainly do a trip like this again in the near future, though hopefully in a year with a few more western and southern birds around.

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