Tuesday 14 June 2016

Bruce Birding Weekend: Part One

On May 20-22, I went on a Nature London field trip with my father up to the Bruce Peninsula. I have so much to talk about, that I decided to split the story into 2 blog posts. Part one will highlight Friday Evening and Saturday up to lunch, while part two will be about Saturday afternoon until our departure late Sunday afternoon. I saw a total of 116 bird species, and all my life birds will be in bold print. Hope you enjoy!

Friday was a lot of driving. What was supposed to be a 4 hour trip turned out to be closer to 6! The best birds on the way up were a pair of Sandhill Cranes near Wiarton.

As soon as we got to our campsite, I instantly saw and heard Blackburnian, Northern Parula, Black-and-white, and Magnolia Warblers. American Redstart was the last warbler species I saw before departing.

Northern Parula


American Redstart


We met up with the group and the leader briefed us, I left it to my dad to get the info, and began to wander around. I noticed movement in a cedar, and bam! The first Cape May Warbler of the trip was observed. A few others managed to see this pretty bird.

The Sunset was beautiful.

After the briefing, we got into the car and drove over to Little Cove road to listen for the American Woodcocks. By this point, it was too dark for photos. When we pulled up, Ovenbirds were singing. A White-throated Sparrow gave one of the most beautiful oh sweet Canada Canada Canada I've ever heard. Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Common Yellowthroat was observed as well.

The woodcocks started peenting, and soon enough there were four of them along the short stretch of road. While enjoying the aerial display of our target bird, someone called out "Whip-poor-wills!" I tuned out of Woodcock Radio, and into the Whip-poor-will talk show. Finally, it was faint, but I heard the Eastern Whip-poor-will. Even better, it wasn't only one...but three! Since this bird is s threatened species in both Ontario and Canada, hearing all of them was pretty cool. As we moved up the road toward our cars, their song grew much louder. It was around 9:45 pm when we were talking about what the plan was tomorrow morning when an American Bittern flew over. There was a moment of confusion when this silhouette went overhead, as I said "Green Heron" (it sounded like one), and another said "Night Heron". But, as the bins went up, bittern was agreed upon.

To top the night off, just a minute or two after the bittern, a pack of Eastern Coyotes started making a racket. This is apparently the first time they've had Coyotes (or Whip-poor-wills!) on this trip. We decided to meet at 7:00 am the next day for a hike.

That night the campground was quite quiet, both human-wise and bird-wise. The only recognizable bird that night was a woodcock.

The next morning, we woke at around 5:00 am to the sound of  various Warblers, Robins and a lone Veery (species of thrush). We walked down to the beach around 5:30 am to catch the sunrise. Nothing much except for a couple Mallards. A lone Common Loon was spotted way out on the lake (bay?). I didn't have the camera on me as I had just given to my dad. I always seem to give him the camera right before a good shot! In Point Pelee, I'd just given him the camera, and an Ovenbird flies right in front of me and perched! Anyway, the sunrise was nice (Photo Credit: Dad)

A quick stop at Light House Point yielded a Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorants, and a few American Redstarts.

GB Heron

DC Cormorant


Blast off!
This sign was a nice thing to see at 6:30 in the morning!

We met up for a hike, and the first warbler I saw was a male Chestnut-sided. The second bird I found was a male Blackburnian Warbler, which a few members of the group managed to see.



Starting down the road, we saw may Barn Swallows and Blue Jays. The first warbler that gave good views was a Cape May.

The next warbler to do the same was American Redstart. American Redstart became the joke of the weekend, as it was the most common warbler by far. It was easy to get over three dozen in a single hike! I pointed out that most days in Pelee we say "It's just a yellow", while here we were all saying "It's just a redstart". "It's a Redstart" was the Bruce Birding Weekend 2016 motto!

Most of the Redstarts seen would have moved further north in search of breeding territory. In Ontario, this species northern limit is around James Bay.

A Snowshoe Hare allowed us to get quite close, making for great photos.

Bird-wise, warblers were everywhere (but not as many as the next day, highlighted in part 2!). Chestnut-sided, Black-and-white, Yellow-rumped, and Palm, and American Redstart were seen the most. Ovenbird was heard, and I got my eyes on one Bay-breasted Warbler. Surprisingly, there was only one Yellow Warbler! Myself and one or two others saw it.

Female Cape May

Palm Warbler

Pine Siskins, the first of the trip, were seen along with a female Cape May.

Cape May

Pine Siskin

Afterword, we had breakfast. I walked around outside, and found the first two Common Terns of the trip. Solitary Sandpiper was also heard. I had no luck finding any other swallows with the barn, but I'm sure there were some tree or cliff in there somewhere. A single Eastern Kingbird was seen on top of a tree, but flew before others could see it.

Ring-billed Gull

Red-winged Blackbird

Eastern Kingbird

Barn Swallow

Next stop, Mermaid Cove. The first bird seen here was a Hermit Thrush. As we went along the trail, Yellow-rumped, Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Redstart, Black-and-white, Black-throated Greenn, and Chestnut-sided Warblers were quite common. A Female Pine Warbler was seen for a couple seconds, then flew off.


Butter butt

Female Yellow-rumped

At the cove, a single male Mallard was swimming, and a few Common Mergansers flew over. I got bored, so I started to climb across the rocks, where I stumbled upon Spotted Sandpiper, Common Tern, and four Black-throated Blue Warblers. The group got to view the first two, but the Warblers didn't want to come out into the open (luckily, an adult male was seen later).

Common Tern

The way back was pretty quiet, until we hit this "hotspot". Four or Five species of warbler were seen here, including that male Black-throated blue, which in my opinion, was the best out of the others.

Black-throated Blue

Black-and-white Warbler

We then drove around the backroads. This kettle of raptors was quite nice. You might need to click on the image for a better view!

Turkey Vultures, Broad-winged, and Red-tailed Hawks

We stopped by a little marsh by the road side, where three of us heard some Common Loons. We tried for a Sora, but no luck.

We came to this park-type area, and walked into it. The first birds heard/seen were Common Yellowthroats, Redstarts, and Magnolia Warblers.

Common Yellowthroat

I accidently flushed a Great Blue Heron before the rest of the group saw it, but made up for it by finding a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (only one all weekend). Baltimore Oriole was seen along with some Song Sparrows.

Baltimore Oriole

This Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) was quite pretty. It was only seen on two occasions that I can remember that weekend. Indian Paintbrush isn't too rare in Ontario, but it sure is uncommon.

Next up, and the last stop before lunch, was the Tobermory Landfill. There were a whole bunch of Herring Gulls, but we couldn't find any other species.

A couple Common Ravens and about a dozen American Crows were milling around.

Common Raven

We noticed a buteo (hawk) sitting in a tree, and after training almost every scope the group had (including mine), called it a Broad-winged Hawk.

Away form the garbage there were some other nice birds as well. Cedar Waxwings, Red-eyed Vireos, and Great-crested Flycatcher to name a few.


After the dump, we headed to lunch. I saw a Warbling Vireo and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which was first of the year (FOY). Other than that, the meal was fairly quiet.

As stated before, part one covers up until lunch, so this is it for now.

To read part two, click here.

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