Thursday 1 October 2015

Birding trip to Thunder Bay

On Tuesday I moved to my place in Niagara-on-the-Lake (thanks for the help, mom!), and after two days in the new office, I am on the road for a birding trip.

Over the last three autumns I ventured north to the southern James Bay coast, where I enjoyed over two solid weeks on each trip doing nothing but looking for birds and enjoying the rugged beauty of the area. Unfortunately I won't be returning again this year, in part due to the expense, amount of time I would have to take off work, and a lack of people who wanted to come with. I still wanted to do a birding trip this fall so after some thought I decided that I would do a solo camping trip along the north shore of Lake Superior. It's been a while since I've done a solo trip - this should be a good way to relax and unwind a little, as well as get in some awesome birding. I'm really looking forward to camping in picturesque locations during the peak of autumn colors!

By the time this gets posted I will be on the road, with a tentative plan to return sometime on the Thanksgiving weekend. But why the north shore of Lake Superior, you may ask?

Simply put, the birding up there from late September to mid October is superior (see what I did there?) to most other places in the province. A relatively large amount of very rare species have been found along the north shore during this magic window in the autumn, despite the lack of coverage that the area receives.

Lake Superior is a massive body of water that concentrates migrants along its shores. Additionally, the vast expanse of thick boreal forest to the north is rather uninviting for species that tend to spend their time in open areas, such as prairie species from the west. The shoreline of Lake Superior is dotted with little towns which attracts migrants,often attract these western species. Fortunately there are few enough towns that most good areas can be checked pretty easily.

Hawk-watching can be incredible in some areas, particularly in Marathon, where it is possible to see hundreds of Rough-legged Hawks in a single day if the conditions line up perfectly.

Anyways, here is a taste of some of the species that have shown up along the north shore of Lake Superior in late September or October:

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Band-tailed Pigeon
Common Ground-Dove
Groove-billed Ani
Burrowing Owl
Dusky Flycatcher
Say's Phoebe
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
Tropical/Couch's Kingbird
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Clark's Nutcracker
Violet-green Swallow
Sage Thrasher
Kentucky Warbler
Cassin's Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Green-tailed Towhee

My head is starting to spin after reading that list so I'll stop there...

I'll be posting updates as the trip goes along, if internet is available. Alan Wormington will also be along the north shore during the same time and perhaps we will meet up occasionally as well. He has birded in this under-appreciated part of Ontario dozens of times, and with the two of us out looking I'm sure something interesting will be found. Let's just hope that nothing too crazy is found during the Ontario Field Ornithologists annual convention at Point Pelee that might tempt me to cut my trip short!


Alan Wormington said...

I can't get Acorn Woodpecker out of my head!

Tyler said...

If you do not pull up at least One Harris Sparrow I would be surprised.... Also a Clark's nutcracker and Lewis's Woodpecker is acceptable

Michael said...

I'm very envious/happy for you. What a great time for a road trip! Keep your bear spray on your hip! Michael and Martha.