October 3, 2015 - Marathon to Rossport
October 4, 2015 - Rossport to Hurkett Cove
October 5, 2015 - Sibley Peninsula to Thunder Bay
October 6, 2015 - Thunder Bay to Rossport
October 7, 2015 - Rossport to Wawa
October 8, 2015 - Wawa to Manitoulin Island
October 9, 2015 - Nelson's Sparrow in Oliphant
October 9-10, 2015 - Manitoulin Island to Tobermory, Tobermory to Niagara-on-the-Lake
This is a trip report from my 10-day drive along the north shore of Lake Superior from October 1 to 10, 2015. I began in Sault Ste Marie and worked my way north and west to Thunder Bay, before retracing my steps back south towards Sault Ste. Marie. From I there I headed then south through Manitoulin Island, across to Tobermory, and south through southern Ontario to get back home to Niagara-on-the-Lake. The links above will bring you to that particular day of the trip. Any links in the text below brings you to the eBird checklist corresponding with that location.
On October 5, I began the day by driving down the Sibley Peninsula through Sleeping Giant Provincial Park to the picturesque town of Silver Islet. Silver Islet is well known for the rare birds it has attracted over the years. This is partly due to its location at the very end of the peninsula, but also because the grassy fields and yards provide the only open, disturbed habitats around.
As I was approaching the town I came across a small flock of songbirds feeding on mountain-ash and whatever they could scrounge up along the roadside. American Robins dominated the flock, though kinglets, Purple Finches, White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos also were rather numerous. I was surprised to come across this Clay-colored Sparrow in the flock, a pretty late date for the species in Thunder Bay district.
|Clay-colored Sparrow - Sleeping Giant Provincial Park|
A few Ruffed Grouse were also easily seen, either flying across the road in front of my car, or foraging along the roadside. This male puffed out his ruff, a behavior more often associated with breeding displays, though it is much more dramatic then, with the tail fanned and the ruff fully exposed.
|Ruffed Grouse - Sleeping Giant Provincial Park|
The town of Silver Islet was hosting quite a few birds and I came up with eight other species of sparrows. I was fortunate to come across two late warblers - first a Tennessee, then later a Blackpoll. An Orange-crowned and a few flocks of Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers providing a five warbler morning.
|Silver Islet store|
A Swainson's Thrush was also associating with the large, roaming flock of American Robins, but the Northern Mockingbird (rare in northern Ontario) that Reuven Martin had found earlier was nowhere to be seen. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers worked over some of the dead trees in the town. Despite being a common species in forests throughout eastern North America, the Pileated Woodpecker is an impressive species, and one that I always enjoy encountering.
|Pileated Woodpecker - Silver Islet|
I eventually forced myself to leave the birds of Silver Islet as other places were beckoning. I had a quick stop for lunch at the side of the road near Pickerel Lake, which happened to be chock-full of waterfowl. Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal and Pied-billed Grebe were new to my Thunder Bay District list, as was a Belted Kingfisher that rattled away from the far side of the water body.
I made few stops the rest of the day until I made it to Thunder Bay, the furthest west that I was planning on visiting on this trip. I decided that I would drop in at Chippewa; a reclaimed, former industrial area that included fields, woodlands and wetlands near Fort William First Nation.. The view was actually quite stunning, looking west to the south of Thunder Bay.
|view to the west from Chippewa|
I was really hoping to find a Harris's Sparrow here, as several had been reported in recent days. This species migrates primarily to the west of Thunder Bay, though a handful are seen every spring and autumn. It had been several years since I had laid eyes on one.
Unfortunately, no Harris's Sparrows materialized during my visit, but I did encounter another very late Tennessee Warbler. This one I even managed a very distant photo of as it flew - not award winning, but better than nothing I suppose.
|Tennessee Warbler - Chippewa|
A Peregrine Falcon flew overhead at one point, and I carefully scanned through the hundreds of ducks present in the lagoons. Redhead and American Wigeon formed the majority of the flock, while I saw my first Gadwall of the trip and quite a few American Coots. I finished my time at Chippewa with 46 bird species tallied - not a bad total given the date.
|waterfowl at Chippewa|
That night I grabbed a hotel in Thunder Bay for the night and was able to enjoy my first shower in four days! A welcome treat after spending three of the past four nights in the front seat of my car.