Monday 29 May 2017

Birding the Bruce

On Saturday, my dad and I headed up to the Bruce Peninsula to join the group from Nature London. They had gotten up there on Friday, but we were unable to get up until the following evening. Despite missing out a couple good birds (they had a beautiful Golden-winged Warbler), it was still worth the trip.

Driving up, we came across a Red Fox den with some fairly young cubs.

Then, a couple hours later, we came across this...

That's right, a Black Bear! This was a lifer for me, and I was excited to be able to see one.

We soon arrived at Little Cove road were a couple of the group members were waiting. Around eleven Common Nighthawks made an appearance, which were nice to see. Note the white bars under the wings.

Grasshopper Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, and Black-billed Cuckoo were also seen. Coyotes were heard giving some weird vocalizations, and at first we thought they were a loon.

BB Cuckoo

We managed to hear and see American Woodcocks and Eastern Whip-poor-wills. The whips were quite close to the road, and at one point we actually saw two of them jump up and sort of attack each other. We counted five, but there very well could have been more. It would be interesting to return in late June and see if there are any successful nests.

The next morning the two of us hit Dyer's Bay and Crane Rd. before joining the group.

American Bitterns, Ring-necked Pheasant, and a Sora were calling. The bitterns in particular were quite cool as I've never heard them before this trip.

American Bittern

A few Sandhill Cranes, as usual, were found.

I'm sure we would have heard more had it not been for the cows making a racket.

Grasshopper and Swamp Sparrows were present, along with Yellow Warbler and some Eastern Kingbirds.

Eastern Kingbird

We met up with the group in Tobermory. We walked around a bit and ate some breakfast, stopping to look at birds when we found them.

Double-crested Cormorant

Black-and-white Warbler

Ring-billed Gull

Hooded Merganser

There wasn't really all to much to be seen...except....American Redstarts.

The Bruce seems to be the place to get redstarts, and it isn't uncommon to hear someone exclaim "oh, it's a.....(discouraged noises) redstart"

After breakfast, it was off to Cape Hurd road. There was a bit of excitement as we first turned onto it, with a small group of warblers containing Chestnut-sided, Wilson's, and, of course, redstarts.

American Redstart

Some more excitement when we found a nice low kettle of Broad-winged Hawks and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the first and only of the trip. Winter Wrens created a stir as well.

Broad-winged Hawk

We stopped into Sunset Park. This is a great spot for Indian Paintbrush.

You can get some great looks at Common Yellowthroats here as well.

Moving onward to the dump, we quickly located a few Common Ravens, the target species.

Distinguishing Field Mark: Wedge Shaped Tail

Also seen were Eastern Pheobe, American Kestrel, Black Bear, Ruby-throated Hum-, wait a BLACK BEAR?!?!? My second one of the weekend and the first for the rest of the group. It ambled out of the forest into the field then commenced to head toward us.

It soon broke out in a run...but not before a few of the group members had already gotten back into their cars a couple hundred meters away.

We were (mostly) calmly returning to our vehicles when we heard the loud bang of one of the garbage bin lids. After a couple explosive obscenities, we realized that it was just the wind.

Continuing on to Warner Bay road, we came across an Alder Flycatcher, Eastern Bluebird, and a Clay-colored Sparrow.

Eastern Bluebird

Then came another lifer...a Massasauga Rattlesnake. Only thing was that it was being eaten by a Great Blue was still alive so it technically counts, right?

The rattlesnake had somehow wrapped it's way around the heron's head, and the bird soon flew away with the snake still tangled up in it's bill. We can only wonder who won (my money is on the heron).

Singing Sands revealed our first terns of the trip.

Common Tern

It was quite nice to be able to take a little break from hiking and walk in the water.

While in the woods, we came across a nice little grouping of warblers including Nashville, Canada, and a Blackpoll.

There were a couple other flowers around, including the Dwarf Lake Iris, which is only reliably found in this part of Ontario.

Fringed Polygala (Gaywings)

Dwarf Lake Iris

Star-flowered Solomon's Seal

Indian Paintbrush

After Singing Sands, we headed toward Sky Lake, but not before checking out a spot known for Brewer's Blackbirds. It was here we found numerous Savannah Sparrows, Bobolinks, and our first Warbling Vireos.

Savannah Sparrow

Warbling Vireo

We did eventually find a couple Brewer's Blackbirds. The distinguishing white eye is visible.

The lake was not as busy as we would have liked, but a few Great Egrets and Marsh Wrens kept us more or less entertained.

A few Bullfrogs and fish as well.

Rock Bass

Isaac Lake was next on the agenda, but this cow didn't really want us to go.

Blue-winged Teal was quickly found, as were Caspian Tern, Tree Swallow, and American Wigeon.

BW Teal

Caspian Tern

Tree Swallow

The star of the show was a Sedge Wren that appeared to be building a nest. It took me awhile, but I eventually scored some decent photos of it. Photos of this bird are nearly impossible to get at they seem to never come out into the open. I got lucky and the bird came out for about 20 seconds.

A few new birds were added to the trip list here including Wilson's Snipe, Mute Swan, and Common Loon. The swans were new for my county list.

The last stop of the Nature London trip was the Wiarton Sewage Lagoons. Here we saw our first Spotted Sandpiper, Northern Shovelers, and Lesser Scaup. According to eBird, the Lesser Scaup are uncommon/rare at this time of the year in the Bruce.

After breaking off from the group, we headed down to Sauble Beach for the Piping Plovers. We found a pair, including an unbanded male, which I thought was interesting. Hopefully their nest succeeds this year.

It was a pretty good trip, and I can't wait until my next excursion northward.

Friday 26 May 2017

Point Pelee on Sunday

This past Sunday I travelled down to Point Pelee to try for the 150 species challenge. To do so, I would have to find 43 new species, but I was up for it.

The day started around 5:25 am, when we arrived in the park. Just driving along the road produced Swainson's Thrush, which was 108.

I chose to go to the tip first thing, hoping that I would maybe catch a "fallout". It was a mistake, as there was no tip, and the only way to really go anywhere past the washout was by hopping over a couple rocks and logs to stand on a small patch of sand.

I added a few new birds to the list, including Wilson's Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Surf Scoter, Willow Flycatcher, and, surprisingly, Rock Pigeon.

Others observed include orioles, mergansers, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warblers, and a Blue-winged Warbler.

Tilden's was next. It was pretty slow, but we still turned up a few birds. FOY Magnolia Warblers were nice, as were some great looks at Wilson's Warbler, Canada Warbler, and a Yellow Warbler on a nest. A Great-crested Flycatcher was my first visual of the year.

Magnolia Warbler

Wilson's Warbler

By this point it was raining steadily, so we decided to get out of the park and explore the areas to the north, stopping by the Marsh Boardwalk first. The target in the marsh were the Black Terns, which I did end up seeing and getting some great photos of.

We headed through the Onion Fields, where we picked up a Ring-necked Pheasant.

Heading into Hillman, the rain was pretty bad, and by this point I had given up on keeping my equipment dry.

The shorebird cell was productive with a number of Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, Lesser Yellowlegs and Whimbrel.


Woodland birds included Alder Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

After Hillman, we went to the Wheatley harbour. Here we found numerous shorebirds such as Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Dunlin.


Least Sandpiper


Ruddy Turnstone

There were a couple gulls and terns too.

Herring Gull

By the time we headed back into the park, it had stopped raining. We decided to check out Woodland Nature Trail next. Here we were greeted by birds like Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes.

Swainson's Thrush

Also seen was a single male Prothonotary Warbler.

A hike down Redbud produced a FOY Monarch Butterfly.

Many other birds were seen, including a Black-billed Cuckoo that was calling somewhere off to the side of the trail. Baltimore Orioles were abundant.

I decided to walk to Sparrow Field, and as soon as I got there, a small brown bird flew up from the brush out into the open on a branch. Here is what I saw:

My heart was pumping, I had just seen a Henslow's Sparrow, and had gotten some great photos to boot. I high-tailed it back to the VC to alert everyone of my find. It wasn't until I was half way there that I finally clued in...

It was a female Bobolink. Still a decent bird that many birders miss while down in Pelee, but it's not a Henslow's Sparrow.

There were a couple nice flowers along the pathways.

Wild Columbine


Cactus Field didn't produce the Eastern Bluebirds I was hoping for, but we did get some great looks at some Indigo Buntings and nesting Yellow Warblers.

Since the sun had come out, I wanted to have another go at photographing the Black Terns. Unfortunately, there were just too many tourists, and the Marsh Boardwalk was very busy, so the terns weren't coming to close. I did get a couple shots that I'm happy with.

The last stop of the day was Hillman Marsh. It was much drier now, so scoping out the shorebird cell was a bit more enjoyable than earlier. It's a good thing that I took the time to scope, because I soon found two White-rumped Sandpipers. It seems to be a good year for them. I attempted photos, but I'm not sure how they turned out. I'm thinking this is one of the WRSA, but I could very well be one of the SESA.

There were a few White-tailed Deer hanging around.

I headed out toward the marsh, and began to listen for rails and herons. It wasn't long before I found about five or so Marsh Wrens.

Soon, I saw a Least Bittern, which was a lifer, flying over the cattails, then started calling. Not long after that another one came in and perched where is was visible.

An immature Black-crowned Night-heron joined in too.

It wasn't long before an American Bittern was found as well. A great ending to a great day.

While I never did reach 150 species (I still had 9 species to go), I surprisingly did better species wise this trip than last trip, as I finished with 108 species. Considering the conditions, and that almost all of my 141 species were "self found" I'm proud of my accomplishment.

I'll be heading up to the Bruce Saturday evening for the night, so hopefully I can at least get my month list up to 150 species. More on that, and part two of my Pelee Big Day, later.

Good birding!