Thursday, 21 May 2015

Point Pelee and area- May 9, 2015

It has been a while since my last post due to a combination of work (its getting to be that busy time of year for us biologists!) as well as the fact that it is the month of May and I've been birding during every spare opportunity. This past weekend I was in the Point Pelee area for four full days during one of the best rarity weekends of the year so far, so needless to say I have a few photos and stories that will come out of that at some point. But for now, I'm going to try to keep things going chronologically and so will post the rest of the photos from the weekend before, also spent at Pelee of course.

The morning dawned clear with a light south wind, prompting a moderate reverse migration to take place at the tip. I stationed myself there with the group of regulars to watch the flight. Indigo Buntings made up a good percentage of the birds, while oriole numbers were down (they had dominated the previous day's flight). Tanagers were making a good showing and I eventually spotted this Summer Tanager going over. Some of the key ID features which separate this individual from a female Scarlet Tanager include the overall body colouration (Scarlet often appears more lemon-yellow, even in the warm morning light), only moderate contrast in colour between the body and wings, olive/yellow underside to the tail (vs gray in Scarlet Tanager), larger bill size, and hint of an eye-line.

female Summer Tanager - Point Pelee National Park

A few other interesting birds were seen around the tip, including an Olive-sided Flycatcher that Bill Lamond and I watched circle out over the lake twice.  This Northern Mockingbird also vacated the tip several times, returning back to the mainland after flying out over the lake for several hundred meters. This was surprisingly my first mockingbird in Ontario so far this year! For some reason they can be somewhat hard to come by in the Point Pelee area, and it is a bird that I rarely see within the boundaries of the national park. Northern Mockingbirds are not abundant anywhere in Ontario, though they are frequently encountered in the Niagara-Hamilton-Toronto corridor.

Northern Mockingbird - Point Pelee National Park

No mid-May visit to the tip of Point Pelee is complete without a few sightings of Red-headed Woodpeckers flying around. Despite multiple sightings of these striking birds it is likely that only two or three individuals were involved. Red-headed Woodpecker is another species that seems to frequently take part in this faux reverse migration, continually flying out over the lake and looping back. It is not entirely known why some birds do this.

Red-headed Woodpecker - Point Pelee National Park

I ended up birding for most of the day with Daniel Riley, David Szmyr and Josh Mandell. It was a beautiful day to be out which made the hiking quite enjoyable. The birding however was a bit slow, but I'll take a slow day in May over a great day in February any time! We had to work hard for warblers, but by the end of the day we had tallied 18 species, most in ones and twos. Our best warbler was a Kentucky that Marianne Balkwill had discovered near The Dunes picnic area, which after some time gave reasonable views as it skulked in the undergrowth. We also found a nice male Hooded Warbler along the seasonal trail to the beach just north of here, a bird which even serenaded us with a few renditions of its loud, clear song.

birding near The Tip

Philadelphia Vireo is one species that seems to regularly elude my camera lens; likely due to their tendency to often perch fairly high in the treetops. This one however was fairly low, and we enjoyed great views as it flitted around, catching insects just above the trail.

Philadelphia Vireo - Point Pelee National Park

While Point Pelee can often be extremely busy with other birders during May, one side benefit is that even on slow days someone usually finds something rare. Today it was Adam Pinch's turn, and during that mid afternoon lull he discovered a Pacific Loon offshore, just north of Northwest Beach. We stopped by to check out the bird, and while it was too far for photos, it was close enough for a great look. This is the best I could muster with my 300mm lens, a lens that is great with close birds but not exactly suited to photographing a loon half a km away. I need to get my hands on one of those superzoom point and shoot cameras for that one of these days. Regardless, it was a fantastic bird to finish off a pretty good day at Pelee!

Pacific Loon - Point Pelee National Park

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