Monday, 11 May 2015

Point Pelee - Friday, May 8

Thursday evening saw warm weather and moderate south winds throughout Ontario, causing a large amount of migrant songbirds to steadily push northward. I had arrived for another weekend at Pelee, and by dawn on Friday I was stationed at the tip along with David Szmyr, Josh Mandell, Daniel Riley and many other birders, anticipating a great morning of birding.

As expected, a steady "reverse migration" was underway, dominated by Baltimore Orioles but with good numbers of other migrant songbirds such as Orchard Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and various warblers. Bobolinks put in a good showing with around 30 individuals seen - a decent amount for the date.

Bobolink - Point Pelee National Park (May 8, 2015)

Large groups of Blue Jays would appear overhead and fly out several hundred meters over the lake before looping back and landing north of the tip area. Occasionally one would fly close enough for good photos. Compared to a lot of the smaller songbirds, Blue Jays are much easier to photograph in flight as they present a larger, slower, less erratic target.

Blue Jay - Point Pelee National Park (May 8, 2015)

While Mourning Doves race by at fast speeds, they also are a large target that moves in a consistent manner, meaning they too are not too difficult to photograph, as long as you get on the bird as soon as it appears over the trees.

Mourning Dove - Point Pelee National Park (May 8, 2015)

Without a doubt the highlight of the morning (and the weekend) came around 7:00 AM. As we were standing there, a small pale sparrow flew over which about a dozen of us managed to see. Brandon Holden happened to be ready with his camera and fired away a series of photos of the suspicious songbird. It was a Eurasian Tree Sparrow! We were all surprised to say the least, but his photos held the proof. The bird had circled out over the water and eventually returned, landing somewhere north of the tip. A minute later it suddenly appeared at the top of a nearby tree, allowing decent looks for most of the 50 or so birders that were in the area. The sounds of camera shutters clicked from all around before the sparrow disappeared from view once more.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Point Pelee National Park (May 8, 2015)

Eurasian Tree Sparrows were introduced from Eurasia to parts of the midwest United States, and currently form a stable population in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois, primarily. Vagrant birds have shown up in Ontario before, and this sighting represents a potential 9th provincial record, and third Point Pelee record. One of these previous Ontario records came last year as a bird regularly attended a feeder in Niagara-on-the-Lake for parts of the late autumn and winter. The potential for some of these birds to have been released/escaped cage birds always should be considered, and the fact that five of these nine records have been in the last 13 months is a bit strange. It will be interesting to see how the OBRC votes on this and other recent records, as Eurasian Tree Sparrow has never been rejected on basis of origin yet (I have yet to see the results of the 2014 voting however).

The rest of the morning provided a few more nice birds, though nothing could really top the sparrow as far as I was concerned! I spotted a Prothonotary Warbler overhead, while a Clay-colored Sparrow lingered at the tip for a few seconds as well.

Prothonotary Warbler - Point Pelee National Park (May 8, 2015)

At one point Brandon called out a 1st summer Little Gull as it whipped around the point with a flock of Bonaparte's. This Merlin also made a couple of brief appearance; always a nice bird to see in the spring at Pelee.

Merlin - Point Pelee National Park (May 8, 2015)

Dave, Josh, Daniel and I eventually left the tip area, choosing to walk north through Loop Woods and Post Woods back to the Visitor's Centre. Birding was pretty good along the entire route and we saw a Mourning Warbler pointed out to us in Loop Woods and a Hooded Warbler near the Botham Trail, singing its heart out. We also stopped to photograph this Rose-breasted Grosbeak, perched low down in the vegetation with a nice backdrop, providing decent eye-level photos.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Point Pelee National Park (May 8, 2015)

We ended up birding in the park for most of the day, coming up with 109 species in the park including 23 warblers - not a bad day at Pelee.  It was great to finally have a day where a decent number and variety of songbirds were found on most trails, and many first-of-year species were seen. Some of the later migrants were in such as Red-eyed and Philadelphia Vireo, Traill's Flycatcher, Swainson's Thrush, and Canada, Mourning, and Wilson's Warblers, mixed in with some earlier ones, such as Pine Siskin, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-throated Sparrow and Blue-headed Vireo.

In the evening, Jeremy Bensette and Emma Buck relocated the female Prairie Warbler that the Rileys had found earlier in the day, so I stopped by to check it out. Dave and Josh arrived around dusk and we finished the day by watching an American Woodcock peenting and displaying at Northwest Beach.

American Woodcock - Point Pelee National Park (May 8, 2015)

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