Saturday 7 November 2015

Cave Swallow and other birds at Point Pelee

For the past two days I have birded at Point Pelee with Jeremy Bensette, as well as various other birders at times including Ken Burrell, Jeremy Hatt, Kory Renaud and Kevin McLaughlin. The birding has actually been pretty good with several highlights.

Yesterday morning the waterbird flight was quite good on fairly strong WSW winds. Birding from the sheltered east side of the tip, we watched thousands of Red-breasted Mergansers and other ducks, as well as hundreds of Common Loons and Horned Grebes. Ken got on an Eared Grebe at one point, but it landed in the choppy waters before the rest of us could see it. Eared Grebes have seemingly become more common in recent years and individuals can occasionally be found with large groups of Horned Grebes in the autumn. We ended up with 13,300 Red-breasted Mergansers as a steady stream of them continued south along the east side of the tip all morning. At one point a large feeding frenzy of grebes, loons, and mergansers fed just offshore; always fun to watch. A few Dunlins flew by, as did about 830 Bonaparte's Gulls.

Ken Burrell, Jeremy Bensette and I walked around a fair bit in the afternoon, checking out Sparrow Field, Cactus Field, and the area around DeLaurier and Anders Footpath. Two Golden Eagles flew over us at a low altitude, providing some excitement. Jeremy happened to be carrying his camera and took some good photos of one. Here is a photo of the back of his camera:

Golden Eagle (original photo taken by Jeremy Bensette) - Point Pelee National Park

We had a few other migrating raptors (including some nice looks at Red-shouldered Hawks), flushed two American Woodcocks, and came across a late Eastern Phoebe. It was my first November phoebe in Ontario, though considering the unseasonably warm temperatures this year it was not too surprising.

We also checked some fields near Hillman Marsh, finishing up at dusk at Wheatley harbour. At a field just north of Hillman some Killdeer and other shorebirds were gathering. We counted 238 Killdeer, 4 Dunlin and 1 White-rumped Sandpiper.

This morning, the lake watch was a little less exciting but Horned Grebe numbers were much higher. We were more interested in the large flocks of blackbirds heading south, along with various other songbirds. Purple Finch, American Pipit, Lapland Longspur, Pine Siskin and Common Redpoll were all tallied, some more common than others. About 100,000 blackbirds were observed with the majority being Common Grackle and Red-winged Blackbird. Quite the sight to see!

Raptors were also quite common, taking advantage of the moderate winds and clear skies. We ended up with 11 species of diurnal raptors including Golden Eagle, a dozen Red-shouldered Hawks and a light morph Rough-legged Hawk, the first of fall for several observers.

We had Cave Swallow on the mind as several individuals had recently been seen in New York on Lake Ontario. This southern species is not seen in Ontario every year, but certain weather conditions can line up to bring individuals northward in late October through November. Before leaving the park all of us except for Ken checked Sanctuary Pond at the north end of the park, as it has hosted Cave Swallows in the past.

Cave Swallow watch

As Jeremy Bensette was photographing American Crows a swallow appeared through his camera's lens. It ended up flying right over us and I called it out as a Cave Swallow. We had awesome looks at the individual, including seeing its pale throat, orange forehead, tawny rump and short square tail. Luckily Jeremy photographed it well before it continued on! A photo of his camera's display screen...

Cave Swallow (original photo taken by Jeremy Bensette) - Point Pelee National Park

Apart from a single individual at the tip of Long Point in 2013, this was the first Cave Swallow reported in Ontario since 2012. It was a new Ontario bird for both Kory and Jeremy, so high-fives all around! Ken came back to help us try to find more swallows, but unfortunately that would be the only one of the day for us.

Kory spotted an Orange-crowned Warbler, and we also had a Dunlin and White-rumped Sandpiper winging over the marsh, rounding out the interesting sightings. It was a great morning in the park!

This afternoon Jeremy and I drove to our favorite hawk-watching spot in Leamington to meet up with Jeremy Hatt and Chris Gaffan. The flight line was right overhead for the few hours we were there, and even though the winds were more westerly than northerly the hawks were still trying to power through. Two more Golden Eagles and another Rough-legged Hawk were the highlights here, while Red-tailed Hawks dominated the flight. We also were treated to a brief double-rainbow an hour before dusk.

rainbow - Leamington

1 comment:

Allen Woodliffe said...

Obviously an excellent couple of days birding, Josh. And congrats on the Cave Swallow. I've been looking around the Rondeau/Erieau area these past few days for one, but so far I haven't found any swallow species.