Monday, 23 May 2016

Point Pelee and area - May 7-8, 2016

Dave Szmyr and Josh Mandell, two birders and friends of mine that live in Barrie came down for their much anticipated weekend at Pelee on Thursday evening, and we spent most of the day on Friday birding together.

I birded the Chinquapin Oak trail, Cactus Field, and Tilden's Woods on my own first thing in the morning - a good decision as word from the Tip was that there were few birds around. I had about a dozen warbler species, including several first of years - Chestnut-sided, Northern Parula, Cape May, and American Redstart. A Yellow-throated Vireo was a welcome addition!

This red-morph Eastern Screech Owl had been found roosting in Tilden's Woods, so Josh, Dave and I took a look as we passed by the area. Gorgeous bird!

Eastern Screech-Owl - Point Pelee National Park

It was a great day of birding and hanging out with the guys, though birds were generally fairly scarce throughout the park. A few new things were in however, and we enjoyed the beautiful day and the colorful spring migrants.

Orchard Orioles are a conspicuous resident of Point Pelee from May through the early summer. The numbers were fairly high on this day, as local nesting birds as well as some likely migrants were scattered throughout the park.
Orchard Oriole - Point Pelee National Park

This Veery paused briefly before flying deeper into the undergrowth, allowing a couple of semi-obscured photos.

Veery - Point Pelee National Park
We walked along some of the lesser-used trails along the west side of park. Josh spotted this nice Yellow-throated Vireo in a hackberry along the beach.

Yellow-throated Vireo - Point Pelee National Park

A little further along, I heard the distinctive song of a Hooded Warbler - always a welcome species to come across! We eventually spotted the bird, though it remained a bit too far for good photos. Hooded Warblers used to be quite scarce in Ontario but they have been expanding their range northward in recent years and they are much more regular at Point Pelee nowadays. I usually encounter three or four a spring down there.
Hooded Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

Eastern Kingbirds had finally arrived in the park, though their numbers were lower than what we would be seeing in a week's time. This particular individual was quite photogenic!

Eastern Kingbird - Point Pelee National Park

Eastern Kingbird - Point Pelee National Park

The following morning was bright and sunny and I birded with Dave, Josh, and at times with Dan Riley and his girlfriend Nikki.

Late in the morning, I noticed this Clay-colored Sparrow near the bathrooms at White Pine - a somewhat rare migrant at Point Pelee that I don't see every spring. Dave, Josh and I watched it for a few minutes, but it remained out of site when others came to search for it later that morning.

Clay-colored Sparrow - Point Pelee National Park

Clay-colored Sparrow - Point Pelee National Park

I took my first ever photos of a Wood Thrush while walking with Dan and Nikki - this species is more often seen than heard as it skulks about in the darkest parts of the forest. It was a nice surprise to have such great views of one out in the open along one of the trails!

Wood Thrush - Point Pelee National Park

The most memorable bird of the weekend for me was this Lawrence's Warbler that I discovered near Sleepy Hollow - a first for Dave, Josh and I. This is a hybrid between Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warbler, two species that frequently interbreed where their ranges intersect. While there is a wide range in the physical appearance that the hybrid offspring can exhibit, the hybrids fall into two categories, which, during the early days of ornithology, were considered two different species. The genetically dominant hybrids are called Brewster's Warblers, while the much rarer recessive birds are referred to as Lawrence's Warbler. Lawrence's have the facial pattern of a Golden-winged Warbler, though the rest of the bird looks more like a Blue-winged. While I have seen dozens of Brewster's Warblers in the past, this was my first Lawrence's! Ken Burrell was in the area and came by to twitch this bird, as he had never seen one either. It was pretty fun to observe this rare bird, even if it doesn't count as any species! I had left my camera behind for this walk, though Josh Mandell took some photos of the bird.

"Lawrence's" Warbler - Point Pelee National Park (original photo by Josh Mandell)

It was a great five days of birding in the Pelee area, but by Sunday we had to return home for another work week. I had planned on visiting the park again the following weekend, during what is often the peak of spring migration.

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