Thursday 17 May 2018

Pelee Big Day

Last Saturday I joined up with some friends and we did a Point Pelee Area big day. I thought it was a huge success! Due to the rain/cold/lots of action, I didn't take too many photos, so visuals may be lacking, but I'll try to get into as much detail as I can!

We started around 5:30 am. At the Visitor Centre we picked up a few early birds, including American Woodcock, a target of ours for the VC.

Our first stop was the Tip of Point Pelee. It was quite miserable at first, especially with the wind, rain, and lack of birds, but soon it picked up. One of our first highlights of the morning were the groups of terns flying by. While the majority were Common Terns, early on we managed to pick out four Black Terns in with the Commons. Certainly a nice bird to "get out of the way".

We managed to pick out both Common and Red-throated Loon. The Red-throated in particular was a nice surprise, and personally my first bird that I have seen in the spring.

Red-throated Loon

Plenty of small birds, especially warblers, were around. There was actually what some people were calling a mini-fallout. I didn't take any photos, but we managed to see probably close to 12 species of warblers, including Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Bay-breasted, Black-and-white, and Wilson's. Plenty of Baltimore Orioles and a female Scarlet Tanager also made an appearance.

After spending some time at the Tip, we made our back to the VC via some trails through Sparrow Field and Post Woods. We came across a few birds of note, including Warbling Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Lincoln's Sparrow, and Spotted Sandpipers. Plenty of warblers and Least Flycatchers were around as well.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

We walked a little bit of Woodland Nature Trail on our way back, and were rewarded with a flyover Great Egret and a roosting Common Nighthawk.

After a quick stop for a break at the VC, and quickly tallying our total thus far (90 species or so in the first few hours!) we went back out to Woodland to have a look for Prothonotary Warblers. Although we missed the Prothons (in fact, despite trying again later, we missed them for the day!) we managed to see a few new birds for the day list. There was a Northern Waterthrush singing, as well as our first and only Red-headed Woodpecker of the day. It is a miracle we even saw the Red-headed, as I had been looking at a Black-and-white Warbler, and in behind the warbler I managed to spot the woodpecker through a tiny opening in the branches!

Horrible picture of a Northern Parula

There was a nice Canada Warbler on Redbud trail.

 There was also a very cooperative Chestnut-sided Warbler, which entertained us for a bit.

Despite the pouring rain, we did a quick run of Tilden's, where we managed to pick up a Solitary Sandpiper. We also found an active Carolina Wren nest with four young birds.

We got a message about a cooperative Hooded Warbler behind the VC, so we went over to check it out. There was no crowd (very strange for Pelee), so we almost walked right past her. She was all wet, and the lighting was horrible, but thankfully the white outer tail feathers were obvious, which sealed the identification.

Just as we were about to leave the park for Wheatley, we got another message about a cooperative Mourning Warbler on Woodland, so we took a little jog for it. Unfortunately, by the time we got there it had hunkered down, but we managed to see a White-eyed Vireo and a Cooper's Hawk, which were decent consolation prize.

I saw my 100th species for the day, Field Sparrow, behind the Visitor Centre. Pretty convenient to go and claim my 100 species challenge pin!

We headed out to Wheatley, picking up Red-tailed Hawk, Short-billed Dowitcher, American Golden Plover, and Black-bellied Plover along the way. When we arrived in Wheatley we were soaked to the skin, but happy, because as soon as we pulled up the Dickcissel, the rare bird we had driven to see, was singing.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Satisfied, we moved on to the harbour, which was just down the road. There were a few birds, including Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, and Chipping Sparrow. Just as we were about to leave, a Whimbrel flew by, definitely a highlight of the day.

We took a drive down Mersea Road 21, where we managed to find a few good things. Highlights included Short-billed Dowitcher, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Savannah Sparrow, American Pipit, Horned Lark, and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Short-billed Dowitchers

Semipalmated Plovers

Great Black-backed Gull

Hillman was pretty quiet, but we managed to find Forster's and Caspian Terns. Just outside the marsh, as couple of us managed to pick up Trumpeter Swans and a Green Heron.

We returned to the park, where a couple of us managed to find Indigo Bunting and Yellow-throated Vireo. Also a few more warblers were around.

Northern Parula

Our last trail of the day was Woodland Nature Trail. The highlight here was definitely seeing a Mourning Warbler (we'll just disregard the whole "is that a Connecticut?!?!" thing) This was the first time I have been able to get some photos of this elusive warbler.

And with the light fading, we called it a day. As a group we saw just over 130 species, myself personally seeing 127 of them. It was certainly a big day!

It is going to be another busy weekend...I will be birding the Bruce Peninsula!

eBird checklists:

Point Pelee National Park (morning)

Onion Fields

Wheatley Harbour

Mersea Road 21

Hillman Conservation Area

Point Pelee National Park (evening)

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