Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Pelee and area - May 15

I picked Dominic up in Guelph and I made the familiar drive southwest towards Windsor, Ontario. We got off the highway at Ridgetown, checking out the lagoons (always worth a check, especially in the height of migration!). The water levels were fairly high, but warbler song drew our attention to the woodlot west of the building. There was a flurry of songbird activity, including 9 species of warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles, and a Gray-cheeked Thrush. We had high hopes that Point Pelee had similar numbers of birds!

The Blenheim lagoons were next on the agenda, though they were largely devoid of shorebirds and only contained a few common duck species (though we did not check the back lagoon). This flock of Ruddy Ducks at the water treatment building had seen better days...we figured they had been sucked up through a pipe or something.

former Ruddy Ducks - Blenheim lagoons

We briefly checked the Erieau pier, carefully sorting through all the birds. Of course in the next few days both a Franklin's Gull and Neotropic Cormorant would be found here, though both were not present for us...

We arrived in the Pelee area in the mid afternoon and immediately towards the park. As we were nearing Hillman Marsh I noticed an Ontbirds message about a Cattle Egret just west of the shorebird cell. We stopped by and ran into Ken Burrell who had seen the birds earlier. Apparently they had left right before we arrived! Oh well, can't get them all...

We continued driving to the park and headed down to the main lot. Do to the threat of rain I left my camera in the car as Dominic and I walked south from the Visitor's Centre along the main park road. Quite a few birds were down low in the woods, and the numbers increased towards the tip. In the cold weather and with the lack of insects in the canopy, neotropical migrants were feeding down low, allowing close approach by birders and photographers. Highlights included our only Orange-crowned Warbler of the trip and great looks at 18 other warbler species including my first Cape May Warblers of the year. 

Swainson's Thrush - Point Pelee

For the last couple of days a Franklin's Gull and Laughing Gull had turned up. They had found each other and I guess they figured that they looked similar enough to warrant hanging out in the unfamiliar landscape of Ontario. Dominic and I birded the onion fields north of the park and came across the birds in a field close to where the Smith's Longspurs had been seen earlier in the month. I picked out the Laugher to Dom in my scope, then he took a turn and promptly found Frank sitting about 10 feet to the left. Pretty sweet to see those two species side by side! 

Our final stop was Wheatley harbour. The first few Whimbrels of the season had been seen in the area, and we arrived to see 3 Whimbrels standing on top of the rock island, with one Jean Iron standing on the pier, digiscoping them. We ventured out to join Jean and I snapped a few photos of them as well. Whimbrels are unique in that the majority of their population that passes through the Great Lakes do so over a span of about a week - one of the more narrow windows out of any North American species. These were my earliest Whimbrels for Ontario, surprising since my latest spring migrant is only a few weeks later! We finished the day by downing a cold brew or two and camping out while American Woodcocks peented away. One day down, four more to go.

Whimbrels - Wheatley harbour

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