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.


  1. That is an incredible shot of the heron and the rattlesnake!!

  2. I took a trip to the Bruce in April with Martin Parker's group. My wife and I scored a few lifers -- Ruff, Eared Grebe and Lesser Black-backed Woodpecker. Also Wall-rue. On the home to North Bay, my wife and I scored another lifer -- a pair of rather angry Northern Goshawks in Simcoe county. I definitely want to take another trip to the Bruce.

    1. The Bruce truly is a special place, and to see so many rare/uncommon birds must have quite a treat. It's no wonder why they call it the northern Point Pelee!

    2. The Parker's knowledge of the area helped greatly. The Ruff was a twitch and the Eared Grebe and Lesser Black-backed Gull were found along the road to Cabot's Head. Getting new species locally is getting harder, although I self-found a Orange-crowned Warbler a few weeks ago and just this Tuesday a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in a Black Spruce bog. The only relatively easy lifers (people say I should have these by now) locally for me still to get are Brewer's Blackbird and Spruce Grouse. Perhaps another ten species can be found though targeted searches and the rest depend on extreme weather, luck or twitches. One lucky bird I got two years ago was a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

    3. Finding new species only gets harder the longer you are birding. I saw 18 lifers in the Bruce last year, while this year I saw none.

  3. You saw a good variety of things! The Bruce is such a great place for nature.