Ontario ~ Fallout @ Pelee

May 14 – This cloudy, drizzly Wednesday turned out to be one of my best days of birding ever at Point Pelee and environs. Along with my small group of 4, we made our way to the tip of Point Pelee, where upon disembarking the tram we knew immediately it was going to be a splendid day! From the tram dropoff to the tip is at most a half a kilometer. This walk took us about 3 hours, stopping every few feet to check another bird. Trees were literally dripping with warblers of 23 species! Most common were Yellow Warblers, of course, with Yellow-rumped and Magnolia warblers close runners up.

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‘Myrtle’ Yellow-rumped Warblers are one of the most common wood warblers at Lake Erie migrant traps in early May! Point Pelee, Ont. May 2014.

There were good numbers of such beauties as Bay-breasted, Chestnut-sided, American Redstart, Wilson’s, Nashville and Tennessee warblers. Smaller numbers of Cape May, Northern Parula, Black-and-white, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green and even one Connecticut Warbler was present. The latter had drawn a crowd of about 100 onlookers, a very few of which actually saw the bird. I heard it sing many times and saw it dash through the undergrowth once. Black-billed Cuckoos, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Scarlet Tanagers, Orchard Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Philadelphia Vireos, and much more were also in attendance. Out at the tip I was scanning a flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls when I spotted an immature Little Gull amongst them!

The afternoon was spent at Hillman Marsh where the great birding continued. As we drove towards the marsh rain fell, and the roadside had Ovenbirds,Palm Warblers, Northern Parula, Swainson’s Thrush, Horned Lark, and Eastern Kingbirds. We paused to view a Great Horned Owl nest, where one large fluffy chick had outgrown its nest. At the marsh there were many shorebirds with Dunlin, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Semipalmated and Least sandpipers, a female Red-necked Phalarope, Short-billed Dowitchers and Solitary Sandpiper. Scanning through the flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls, I picked out a basic adult Franklin’s Gull which caused a ‘twitch’ to begin. A twitch, of course, of course being when a rare bird shows up and birders flock to the area to see the bird.

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Bad digiscope shot of adult basic Franklin’s Gull at Hillman Marsh, Ont. May 2014. Chris Charlesworth.

Waterfowl included several new species for our now bulging trip list; Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail and Ruddy Duck. At the end of the day I had assembled a list of 120 species! Not too shabby.

May 15 – We traveled from Leamington to Niagara Falls today, but spent a few hours along the way birding the Rondeau Provincial Park area. Weather was horrific for most of the day with heavy rains and driving winds, but for the 2 hours or so we explored Rondeau, the rain let up. Birds were everywhere, with the usual suite of warblers present, and we did manage to add one new warbler to the trip list, Orange-crowned Warbler. Another nice new bird we added this morning was a very confiding Gray-cheeked Thrush. Otherwise, we enjoyed watching over half a dozen male Scarlet Tanagers hopping about almost at our feet.

Later on in the afternoon, once we arrived at Niagara Falls, we had a low-key evening, enjoying a view of the raging falls from our hotel windows as the rain fell.

May 16 – There wasn’t much time for birding today as we traveled from Niagara Falls to Toronto where my crew caught their flights home. We did stop for a couple of hours along the western shores of Lake Ontario at Burlington. Here, for about the 6th year in a row, a pair of Northern Mockingbirds were seen and most likely tending to a nest. Out on the lake were a dozen or so Long-tailed Ducks, also a new species for the tour. A group of 5 Redhead on the lake was quite a surprise for me. An adult Peregrine Falcon, our first, was seen sitting on the lift span of a large bridge here. The trees along the Lakeshore Path did have some migrants as well, with American Redstart, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Warbling Vireo and numerous Baltimore Orioles. It was hard to say goodbye to the group as usual, after getting to know these four people quite well. Our bird list ended with 185 species. On to Arizona now!

Chris Charlesworth

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