Friday, 5 July 2013

Southern Ontario shenanigans for Canada Day (part 3: Point Pelee)

I arrived in the Pelee area late on Saturday night, though I had just enough light to check out Ridgetown and Blenheim on the way down. No one seems to check these lagoons this time of year, and for good reason. There was nothing interesting at either. It was in the first half of July last year that I found an American Avocet at Blenheim, but that was not the case this time!

I slept in my car Saturday night at my "usual spot", and despite an interesting interaction with a local police officer, I was not forced to relocate to a new area. Thanks for not making me leave! :)

I met up with some Lame Leamington Birders and we walked down the west beach to the tip. The birds were scarce, though we did find a few cool insects. Pauline pointed out this Giant Swallowtail caterpillar resting on a Hop Tree, one of its foodplants. Most people (including me) would just pass it off as bird shit.

Giant Swallowtail - Point Pelee (June 30, 2013)

We arrived at the tip around 10:00 AM, though unfortunately the tourists had flushed all of the gulls and terns off the tip by the time we had arrived. Ah, the joys of birding at a National Park on Canada Day weekend. Later at the Visitor's Center we heard about a probably ROYAL TERN that was reported at the tip first thing in the morning by some visiting birders from Quebec. If accepted, that would only be the 2nd ever record for Ontario. Oh well, that's how she goes sometimes...All what we could turn up was a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

We stopped at the Visitor's Center to check out the Book of Lies (a.k.a. sightings book). While we were standing outside, we heard a distant buzz which sounded like a Northern Parula. We followed the sound to behind the VC, and sure enough it was a Parula singing away! They don't breed in southwestern Ontario, however the odd individual is sometimes seen migration hotspots like Pelee. This is almost certainly an unmated male who did not make the trip far enough to reach the breeding grounds.

The Point Pelee Book of Lies (a.k.a. sightings book) has had some doozies over the years. Apparently some of the recent reptile and amphibian sightings in the park included a Queen Snake and Jesus. Which do you think is more likely to actually show up at Pelee? Under the "Jesus" entry, the comment put was "Majestic".

recent Jesus and Queen Snake sightings

A check of Towle Harbour produced over 200 Forster's Terns, certainly the most I've seen here before. An adult Great Black-backed Gull with a broken wing was looking slightly forlorn.

Great Black-backed Gull - Towle harbour (June 30, 2013)

After a great meal at the Big Red Bus across from Pelee Wings, we headed back into the park to drink refreshments and look for insects. I've been getting into dragonflies a bit lately, and even common species are new for me. I believe this is a female Eastern Pondhawk.

Eastern Pondhawk - Point Pelee (June 30, 2013)

Female Common Whitetail

Common Whitetail - Point Pelee (June 30, 2013)

Before I left the Pelee area, we checked the shorebird cell at Hillman Marsh where I had heard a few Dickcissels singing earlier in the day. Sure enough, one male was singing non-stop and his lady-friend was nearby. I'll post some more photos in a subsequent blog post, but here is one for now.

Dickcissel - Hillman Marsh (June 30, 2013)


  1. Great posting Josh. Now I know what LLB stands for!

  2. Dwayne: you still don't know what LLB stands for, since Josh provided a variation of its true meaning! And by the way, those initials were invented by yours truly.

  3. The second dragonfly is a Common Whitetail based on the short streaks instead of one long stripe along the abodomen.

    1. Thanks Reuven. I'm relatively new at the game - dragonflies are tough!

  4. Josh, a great photo of the Dickcissel!
    I can't find any up my way this summer (yet).
    I think some of the laid-back Leamington birders (LLB's) are in summer hibernation. LOL.

    1. Thanks Blake. Seems like its only a matter of time until more start showing up in southern Ontario! I'm hoping to find one up here.