Ontario ~ Migration Madness!

May 11 – We left Simcoe this morning under blue skies, and drove about 2 hours to Rondeau Provincial Park. Upon entry to the park we scanned Rondeau Bay, picking up Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Red-breasted Merganser, Lesser Scaup, Great Egret and several Forster’s Terns. Next, we made our way to the ‘maintenance loop’ and the ‘pony barn’, two of Rondeau’s better warbler watching locations. There was a crowd of birders at the ponds near the pony barn, so we knew there must be something interesting there. Indeed there was, with a lovely Canada Warbler showing off and a stunning male Prothonotary Warbler putting on a great show.

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Prothonotary Warbler at Rondeau Prov. Park, Ontario. May 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

Also at this pond were Northern Parula, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Chestnut-sided, Tennessee, Magnolia, Yellow, Black-and-white and Nashville warblers. I was very happy to pick up the Prothonotary and Canada warblers, as these can prove somewhat difficult to ‘nail down’ some years. We had lunch at the Rondeau Visitor’s Center where the feeders were hopping, as usual. There were Chipping and White-crowned sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatch, Blue Jay, Baltimore Oriole, Brown-headed Cowbird, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and several lovely Rose-breasted Grosbeaks patronizing the feeders this afternoon.

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Rondeau Park, Ont. May 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

After lunch we birded along the South Point Trail. The birding was a little slow, but there was just enough to keep us occupied. Up to three male Cape May Warblers were a real treat to see, as was a female Cerulean Warbler! Flowers were just beginning to pop up with Bloodroot, Dutchmen’s Breeches and the odd Trillium keeping the ‘botanists’ going.

May 12 -Before we left the hotel, I spotted one of our best birds of the day; a pair of adult Parasitic Jaegers flying over the parking lot! Good start! Next, we headed to Point Pelee, for our first morning at the park. We arrived at the visitor’s center, and caught the shuttle to the tip where we spent an hour or so. It was a bit slow here, but still we saw quite a lot. Birds flying out over the tip were fairly numerous with Indigo Buntings, Blue Jays, Cedar Waxwings, Northern Cardinal, Scarlet Tanager, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Warbling Vireo, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Baltimore Oriole and more.

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Baltimore Oriole is numerous at Point Pelee, Ont! May, 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

Out over Lake Erie it was quite misty so visibility wasn’t very good. The walk back towards the visitor’s center was pretty good and produced stunning views of Scarlet Tanager, as well as a couple of female Cape May Warblers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks right in front of us. Wood Thrushes, Ovenbirds and Carolina Wren could be heard, but remained out of sight.

We had lunch at the visitors center just as the sky opened up with rain and thunder. Just as we finished lunch, the storm had passed so we made our way to the ‘cactus field’, where I saw no cactus at all. We searched for a short while, and easily found a previously reported first year male Summer Tanager here! Feeling luck was now on our side, we made our way to N.W. Beach where a Kentucky Warbler had been seen. Sure enough as soon as we got to the spot, the bird was singing. A crowd of other birders had been searching for an hour or so and had not yet seen it. There were happy when I spotted it, sitting in the open for about 10 seconds. Unfortunately not everyone in my tour group got to see this Canadian rarity, and once it disappeared it didn’t even sing again.

Final stop of the day was at Hillman Marsh. An ominous thunderstorm loomed overhead so we made our visit rather quick. Still, we saw some nice shorebirds including Dunlin, Semipalmated Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Greater and Lesser yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper and Killdeer. A group of Ring-billed and Herring gulls had a couple of Bonaparte’s Gulls, and a dozen or so Forster’s Terns mixed in. Waterfowl included Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard and Bufflehead. Unfortunately for me today I left my memory card stuck in my computer so I missed a few good photo ops. I won’t make the same mistake tomorrow. We finished today with nearly 100 species!

May 13 -Another day that was supposed to produce rain, turned out very nice for us in the end, with warm temperatures and blue skies. We began by checking the Blue Heron area at Pelee where the Kentucky Warbler was heard singing, but not seen. New for the trip list here was a nice Yellow-billed Cuckoo however. At the Dunes we looked for a previously reported Yellow-breasted Chat with no luck. Good numbers of birds were here though with several Philadelphia Vireos, Blackburnian Warbler, American Redstart and singing Wood Thrush. At the visitor’s center we caught the tram out to the tip where it was moderately busy, but our only new species was a Wilson’s Warbler.

After lunch we headed off along the Tilden’s Woods Trail which was again quite busy. There were good numbers of warblers about,  but nothing too unusual. We had nice views of a Blanding’s Turtle along the trail however.

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Blanding’s Turtle at Tilden’s Woods, Point Pelee, Ont. May 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

The Woodland Trail provided us with a roosting Eastern Screech-Owl as well as great looks at several warblers low down in front of us; Black-throated Blue, Magnolia, and Chestnut-sided included. A roosting Common Nighthawk was a bonus to pick up here as well.  On our way back to Leamington we stopped and checked out a Bald Eagle nest with both adults and a fairly large chick present. Gotta love spring birding on Lake Erie!

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American Woodcock along trail at Tilden’s Woods at Point Pelee, Ont. May 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

Chris Charlesworth

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