Friday, 18 April 2014

Long weekend Pelee birding

This weekend I made the decision to drive down to Point Pelee for my first visit of the spring. On Thursday afternoon, after finishing my bird surveys in Lindsay for work I headed down into southwestern Ontario.

My first stop was at a hotspot for amphibians in Waterloo Region, at a location where I have seen 25 species of herps. I met up with a bunch of Guelphites (Todd, Reuven, Beverly, Mark, Matt, and Steven) and we scoured the woodlands and ponds for amphibians. While the main pulse of salamanders had likely finished by now, we did come across a few things. Eastern Newts numbered probably close to 100, definitely the highest one time count for me at this site. I found a little Four-toed Salamander under a log later on, my first for the spring.

Later that evening I made the long drive to Pelee, arriving at 2:30 AM. My first bird for Pelee was an American Woodcock peenting away in the middle of the night.

I started the day by chasing a Henslow's Sparrow that Chris Gaffan had found the following evening. Henslow's used to be fairly widespread in pastures in southern Ontario, but they have declined and now only a few pairs are hanging on. They do, however, show up annually at Point Pelee (in fact, all five Henslow's I have seen have all been at Pelee). I ran into several other birders there including  local birder Rick and Mike, Ken and Jim Burrell.

After a few minutes the Burrell's got on the bird while I was down the path. By the time I arrived the bird had ducked into some undergrowth, though we waited it out and eventually the bird appeared in view!

It was a very bright Henslow's and it was awesome obtaining such good looks at one!

Later that morning, while walking the Woodland Nature Trail, I ran into Alan Wormington and Richard Carr. Alan proclaimed that he had a record earlier bird with him. He pulled this out of a tissue.

The Scarlet Tanager must have arrived with the warm spell last weekend, and likely perished in the cold snap the following few days. Around the same time there was also a Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated Warbler in the Pelee Circle.

A finished the Woodland Nature Trail, photographing this Mink along the south end. Louisiana Waterthrushes proved elusive though!

I walked up the west beach footpath and had my progress impeded by 2-3 foot high snow drifts. I guess the drifts were so high back in February that they are only just melting now!

Birds were fairly numerous and I saw kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Brown Thrashers, and a few sparrows of four species. This Chipping Sparrow posed nicely for photos.

A Hermit Thrush along the west beach footpath...

A drive of the onion fields and a check of Hillman Marsh was next. Things were fairly slow though there were still good numbers of ducks at Hillman, and my first Forster's Terns, Common Terns, Dunlins, and Lesser Yellowlegs made appearances. By late afternoon I headed back in to the park, checking Dunes where I ran into a nice little mixed flock of kinglets, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Black-capped Chickadees. I found my first towhees of the year and several Field and Chipping Sparrows were singing.

Around 6:00 PM I drove back down to the main parking lot and walked into Tilden's Woods. By this point the wind was almost non-existent and the sun was shining, making birding still productive until late in the evening. As I passed a slough near the Chinquapin Trail, a sharp chip caught my attention. It was a Louisiana Waterthrush, bobbing along the edges.

My last stop was De Laurier, where once again the Henslow's Sparrow was being photographed by birders. I met Rick there again, and the bird crawled out into the open, allowing me a clean shot at it.

It was a pretty good day of birding, and I added about 13 species to my Ontario year list. I think I saw about 90 species for the day. What will tomorrow bring?

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