Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Good Friday birding at Rondeau and Point Pelee

Early on Friday morning I loaded up my car and began the long drive south and west towards Point Pelee, where I was planning on spending the long weekend. With Laura having arranged to fly home to Nova Scotia for Easter, I decided to take Monday off of work. This gave me a solid four days of early spring birding in one of my favorite parts of the province.

I decided on visiting Rondeau Provincial Park first and after a quick stop at Ridgetown Lagoons I entered the park. The White-winged Dove was one of the birds  that I was hoping to see here, and after a short search I found it perched in a tree opposite the address #17168 Lakeshore, where Steve Charbonneau and Blake Mann had observed it building a nest on top of the chimney here earlier in the day. 

White-winged Dove - Rondeau Provincial Park

The dove sang a few times while I was watching it, and eventually made its way over to the "nest" to contribute a few loose sticks, some of which promptly rolled off the uneven platform it had chosen to nest on. Eventually the bird flew north, where I later found it on the ground near the bird feeder at #17272 Lakeshore, its usual spot.

White-winged Dove - Rondeau Provincial Park

White-winged Dove - Rondeau Provincial Park

I explored the Spicebush Trail afterwards, enjoying the new migrants that had evidently recently arrived. It had turned into a beautiful sunny day with only a slight breeze deep in the forest, adding up to an enjoyable hike. No waterthrushes appeared for me, though I saw a couple of Eastern Gartersnakes, a number of Eastern Commas and Red Admirals, and my first Yellow-rumped Warblers and Rusty Blackbirds of the year. 

Red Admiral - Rondeau Provincial Park

For a few hours in the late morning/early afternoon I went for a long walk out the Marsh Trail. The winds had picked up at this point and not as many birds were active due to the time of the day. A Brown Thrasher skulked in a thicket, and on the walk back my first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher of the season buzzed from along side the path. I took a minute or two to soak in the views of the bird which brightened up the dead tree it was flitting around in.

Out in the marsh I did see a handful of Eastern Gartersnakes and a few Painted Turtles, but none of my hoped for turtle species!

Midland Painted Turtles - Rondeau Provincial Park

Eastern Gartersnake - Rondeau Provincial Park

Field Sparrow - Rondeau Provincial Park

I left Rondeau around 3:30 PM and continued west, making a few stops on my way to Point Pelee. On account of the strong winds I decided to avoid the Blenheim lagoons, often hailed as the windiest spot in Chatham-Kent! 

Red Fox - north of Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

It was early evening by the time I pulled up to the shorebird cell at Hillman Marsh. Shorebird numbers were about as expected, with 150+ Dunlins as well as a few Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. A good diversity of ducks was present including about 160 Green-winged Teal and 250 Northern Shovelers. My interest was piqued by two swans swimming in the back of the cell. They were a little distant and the haze was not helping matters, but they appeared to be Trumpeter Swans. While still a rare bird at Pelee, sightings have increased in the last couple of years, and these two birds had been in the area all spring. The first record of Trumpeter Swan for the Point Pelee circle wasn't until 2010!

The Trumpeters eventually flew out of the cell shortly after Jeremy Bensette and Emma Buck had arrived. The swans appeared to be flying south so I drove some of the onion fields south of Hillman Marsh to see if I could turn them up. Sure enough, two big white birds were near the roadside at Concession B and Mersea Road 19. The lighting was not the greatest but the two swans were very close to the road, enabling decent enough photos.

Trumpeter Swan - Leamington onion fields, Essex County

Trumpeter Swans - Leamington onion fields, Essex County

Trumpeter Swans - Leamington onion fields, Essex County

I entered the park with about an hour and a half before dusk. A walk around the Dunes area produced a few handfuls of sparrows, while literally thousands of swallows caught midges all up and down the coast. The vast majority were Tree Swallows though a few Barn Swallows were scattered among them. It had been a great day and the forecast looked phenomenal for the next morning - a good push of birds seemed inevitable. The only question would be whether the forecasted front (and associated rain) would pass through early enough in the day to encourage migration throughout the day. 

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