Monday 15 May 2017

Point Pelee Big Day! (Part 1)

On Saturday May 13th, I embarked on one of my most daring birding endeavours that I've ever done so far in my birding career...a big day in the Point Pelee Birding Area. My mission was to complete the 100 species challenge in less than a day. I had not completed the challenge in years past, so I was determined to make this the year that I succeeded. My hard work paid off, and by 10:30 pm, I had reached a total of 107 species. Mission complete!

It all started at 1:15 am on Saturday, when the bleeping of my alarm woke me up. We spent the next hour packing and getting everything in place before taking off around 2:30. For the next two and a half hours we drove (almost) non-stop to Point Pelee. Although it is the smallest national park in Canada, it probably is one of the most biodiverse ones!

Upon arrival, we quickly added American Robin, Chipping Sparrow (surprisingly the only one of the day), Common Yellowthroat, and Red-winged Blackbird. I also heard a flyover Ovenbird, which turned out to be the 150th species on my Weekend Big Year. At the VC, White-crowned Sparrow, American Woodcock, Common Grackles, Tree Swallow and Yellow Warblers were picked up. Around this point we had just over a dozen species...and it was only 5:20 am!

I didn't go to the tip first thing, which as it turned out wasn't a bad decision, as the tip was pretty quiet that morning, except for a couple good birds. Instead, I opted for Tilden's. It was a good decision, as I found some decent birds there. Although I missed the Least Bittern (which would have been a lifer), I did find a Peregrine Falcon, which was my only one for the day.

And hey, the sunrise wasn't too bad from the east beach.

I also turned up a Lincoln's Sparrow within a group of White-crowned Sparrows.

Warblers on Tilden's first thing included Yellow, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped, Bay-breasted, Northern Parula, Nashville, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Cape May, Palm, American Redstart, and Blackburnian. Not a bad start to the day!


Common Yellowthroat



Quite a few other birds could be found as well on Tilden's.

Baltimore Oriole

Wood Thrush

After Tilden's, it was off to Woodland Nature Trail. My main target there was Prothonotary Warbler, which would not only be a good bird for the park, but also a lifer.

Bird life was abundant along the trail.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Least Flycatcher

Gray Catbird

Yellow Warblers

As I neared bridge A, I started to see why the Prothonotary liked this part of the trail. The sloughs (pronounced "slew") were filled with more water than usual, creating the perfect habitat for Prothonotary Warblers.

I was a bit discouraged that there was nothing where it was supposed to be, so I kept going up the trail to see if the bird would appear. I was beginning to lose hope, but then I spotted a male singing in a tree! Nemesis bird no more!

The female and another male eventually showed up, so the chances of breeding are high. However, the one nest box the Prothonotarys seemed to like and were using had been apparently taken over by a Tree Swallow pair.

The female wasn't happy, and was repeatedly diving at and scolding the swallows.

After waiting awhile, one male finally came close enough for some decent photos. I'm quite happy with them, and within the span of no more than 2 minutes I used up a sixth of my memory card snapping photos of this exciting lifer.

After tearing myself away from the Prothonotary Warblers, I continued down the trail.

Nashville Warbler

American Robins

White-crowned Sparrow

At bridge F, the Tree Swallows had taken over another Prothonotary box which I was told was trying to be used by it's intended occupant. Of all the boxes, the swallows had to choose those ones!

I heard another singing male, which brought the count up to 4...3 males and 1 female. 

After the WNT, I decided to head down Shuster. There were many birders there when I got there looking for a Golden-winged Warbler, but it seemed that no one was able to find it!

I caught up with some birders whom I met at the unsuccessful Little Blue Heron twitch, and I hung out with them for the next couple hours. It was with this group that I was told some depressing news...there was a freaking WILLOW PTARMIGAN in TORONTO of all places!!!! I was also told it was in full winter plumage and giving POINT BLANK views. I'm sure that day was the first time in history that birders wished they were in Toronto instead of Point Pelee in the middle of May.

Just to show how crazy this is, here is the range map of the bird. The red dot is roughly the bird's location. Quite far off course!

It turned out that it was the Tommy Thompson Bird Festival, so there was a conspiracy theory going around that the park planted the ptarmigan to give Point Pelee a run for it's money.

We heard that the Golden-winged and a Hooded Warbler had been found on the seasonal trail, so that is where we went. However, they were nowhere to be seen.

Continuing down the trail, I added a few more birds to the list, including FOY Red-eyed Vireo and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Gray Catbird

Red-headed Woodpecker

Blackburnian Warbler

Soon we ran into a birder who informed us that the Hooded and Golden-winged had not been seen on the seasonal trail we had just walked, but the one that was another 100 meters up the trail, so that is where we ended up.

But....we were told that the Hooded and Golden-winged had been lost! At least we got to see a Hairy Woodpecker, which was a park first for members of the group, and my third or fourth for Point Pelee. Hairys, along with Pileateds, are surprisingly rare in the park.

We heard reports of Orange-crowned and Tennessee Warblers along the boardwalk, so we went to check it out. In almost no time flat we got on the birds. Orange-crowned Warblers are one of the harder warblers to come across in spring.

Orange-crowned Warbler

While we were soaking up the warblers mentioned above, we heard that the Hooded and Golden-winged were being viewed on the trail of which we had just walked less then 5 minutes ago. The birder informed us that as we spoke, they were being seen. We wasted no time getting to the location, where there were probably already 30 people.

After some difficultly, we located both warblers...FOY Hooded and lifer Golden-winged.

Hooded Warbler

I also found a first of trip Raccoon :-)

Well, this concludes part one of this epic birding saga. Part two will cover all the birdy (and scaly) happenings after consuming my egg salad sandwich.

1 comment:

  1. What a fun day! 🐦 Congratulations on reaching your goal of 100 species...and finally catching up to the Prothonotary Warbler! 😀