8th May 1982 - 22nd May 1982
Leading a small group on a Wingspan Bird Tour to Southern Ontario, the majority of our stay was spent in Point Pelee National Park which is situated on the northern shore of Lake Erie, the most southerly point in Canada. The park has a wide diversity of habitats including extensive shorelines, beach dunes, cattail marshes, both wet and dry woodlands, overgrown fields and orchards, plus an area of low-lying fields which were formerly marsh, all culminating in a long sandy spur which shares the same latitude as Northern California.
Three days were used to visit Rondeau Provincial Park, also a peninsula on the shore of Lake Erie, but without a narrow spit and therefore migration tends to be on a broader front. Rondeau's forest is one of its outstanding features, the trees are older and larger than those at Pelee and most of the woodland is damp, with many marshy pools. A system of trails with their small boardwalks enables most areas to be reached, to the west is a large cattail marsh and to the north parkland and a recreation area. Other areas visited were Blenheim Lagoons and the sewage lagoons at Tilbury and Harrow, and on our last day a visit to Niagara Falls.
During our stay the weather was warm and sunny, hot at times, which prevented any of the massive 'falls of birds' that Pelee is famous for and unlike my experience the previous year. But, there were still good numbers and a large variety of birds, and, all the species we hoped to find were present. Strangely there were good numbers of rarities and sub-rarities throughout our stay, many of which we saw, 2 of which we found.
We didn't keep a daily account of our locations, instead a daily log of species was kept, below are listed most of our sightings, new for me will be in bold.
Only 3 Great Northern Divers or Common Loons were seen and a single summer plumaged Slavonian or Horned Grebe at Rondeau was our only grebe. Great Blue Herons, Great or Great White Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons were seen in small numbers most days, also singles of Green Herons, 2 Least Bitterns were seen in flight over Pelee's cattail marsh and an American Bittern was heard at Rondeau.
An immature Whistling now Tundra Swan was seen at Tilbury, a pair of Black Ducks at Stein's Marsh, Blue-winged Teal were present on most lagoons and Wood Ducks were common in the two parks. A pair of Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Ducks were at Blenheim Lagoons. Red-breasted Mergansers were common on Lake Erie with 150 seen from Point Pelee on the 10th and 60 Long-tailed Ducks and 4 Goosanders were seen on the Niagara River.
Turkey Vultures were present most days at Pelee with 18 seen on the 20th. A bird seen by us circling over the trees south of the Pelee visitor centre on the 20th, proved to be an immature Mississippi Kite only the 4th Pelee record and 8th for Ontario, and, still present the following day.
9 Sharp-shinned Hawks were recorded, only at Pelee, and a single Cooper's Hawk was seen gliding over woodland near the point on the 10th. Small numbers of Red-tailed Hawks were seen most days and 3 Broad-winged Hawks on two dates, close views of an adult Bald Eagle flying overhead at Rondeau on the 14th was one of the highlights. Singles of Northern Harriers were only seen in the Pelee area, whereas, singles of American Kestrels were seen in lots of locations.
Blue-winged Teal at Blenheim Lagoons.
The various sewage lagoons were the best places for waders and also where we saw our only Sora Rail, at Tilbury on the 13th, our highest counts were 40 Semipalmated Plovers at Harrow on the 19th, along with 200 Turnstones, 14 Spotted Sandpipers, 2 Greater Yellowlegs, 60 Least Sandpipers, 300 Dunlins and 30 Semipalmated Sandpipers. We saw a Solitary Sandpiper near Pelee on the 9th and another at Blenheim on the 17th, there was a White-rumped Sandpiper at Tilbury on the 17th and 76 Lesser Yellowlegs and 30 Short-billed Dowitchers there on the 13th. 4 Pectoral Sandpipers were seen at a marshy pool near Leamington on the 8th, while lots of Killdeers were seen on farmland and by the sides of the roads, 2 Upland Sandpipers were seen in flight near Charing Cross on the 15th with presumably the same 2 seen there, on the ground, on the 17th, giving great views. A flock of American Golden Plovers were seen flying over Stein's Marsh on the 10th, a flock of 60 Grey Plovers were seen from the point at Pelee on the 11th and a single Hudsonian Whimbrel there on the 19th with a flock of 36 on the 20th. American Woodcock are more often heard than seen, but several were watched performing their amazing display flights, our best count was of 10 at Pelee on the 12th.
Gulls were mostly seen around Lake Erie, with the highest numbers at the point at Pelee, typically up to 100 American Herring Gulls, 200 Bonaparte's Gulls, 2 Laughing Gulls there on the 12th and about 400 Ring-billed Gulls which were common in all areas, even inland.
Smaller numbers of terns were seen mainly along the shore of Lake Erie, with the point at Pelee usually holding groups of Forster's and Common Terns with a few Caspian Terns. American Black Terns were more often seen at the lagoons, with 36 at Harrow on the 19th.
Mourning Doves were seen every day in all locations, only one Yellow-billed Cuckoo was seen, at Pelee on the 19th, usually a late migrant and several Black-billed Cuckoos were found during our stay.
Great Horned Owls proved very elusive this year with only 1 heard at Pelee on the 12th, however, Common Nighthawks were much easier and several were seen at various locations.
Small groups of Chimney Swifts were seen most days, but it wasn't until the 19th that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were seen, we saw 5 flying south from the point - reverse migration?
We only saw 3 Belted Kingfishers in 3 different locations. Common Flicker, Red-headed and Downy Woodpeckers were the commonest of the woodpeckers and seen most days, Pileated Woodpecker was only seen at Rondeau with a male seen at a nest hole on the 16th, singles of Red-bellied Woodpecker were seen at Pelee and Rondeau and Hairy Woodpecker was only seen at Rondeau.
The commonest flycatchers were Eastern Kingbird with 15 at Charing Cross on the 15th, and, Least Flycatcher with 32 at Point Pelee on the 18th. A few Great Crested Flycatchers and Eastern Wood Pewees were seen in the two parks, 2 Yellow-bellied Flycatchers were seen at Pelee on the 19th and 20th, 2 Eastern Phoebes were at Rondeau on the 14th and a single Acadian Flycatcher was seen along the woodland trail at Pelee on the 18th.
American Horned Larks, now a seperate species, were usually seen in the open fields with 9 seen on the Onion Fields north of Pelee on the 10th. Sand Martins (Bank Swallows) and Swallows (Barn Swallows) were very common, Tree Swallows were common where there were old, dead trees, small numbers of Northern Rough-winged Swallows were seen in various locations and Cliff Swallows were uncommon this year, only found in a few areas. Purple Martins were seen most days as many gardens had nest houses with resident pairs. Both American Crow and Blue Jay were common in the parks, Black-capped Chickadee is a late migrant and only a few were seen. Only 3 White-breasted Nuthatches were recorded, while Red-breasted Nuthatches were common in both parks, Brown Creeper, now a seperate species from our Treecreeper, was mainly seen at Pelee.
House Wrens were common in the woodland with 16 at Pelee on the 11th, Bewick's Wren is an extremely elusive Pelee rarity with one present at Andersfield throughout our stay and briefly seen on the 11th. A pair of Marsh Wrens were seen from the Pelee Marsh Boardwalk on the 18th and 1 of the 2 Sedge Wrens we saw was at Pelee on the 13th, the other at Stein's Marsh on the 20th. Northern Mockingbird is rare, but annual at Pelee and we had good views of one in Andersfield on the 19th. Gray Catbird is a common woodland bird, 20 were seen at Pelee on the 11th, whereas, Brown Thrashers are always elusive, but present in the parks most days.
American Robins are common everywhere, small numbers of the shy Wood Thrush were seen most days with 4 at Pelee on the 12th, only 1 Hermit Thrush was seen, at Pelee on the 11th. Swainson's Thrush was the commonest woodland thrush with 10 at Pelee on the 18th, followed closely by Veery, with 6 at Pelee on the 11th. A pair of superb Eastern Bluebirds were seen at Rondeau on the 15th, with 2 pairs there on the 16th and another pair seen at Pelee on the 19th.
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were common in the parks with 15 at Pelee on the 11th, Ruby-crowned Kinglets were quite common, 5 recorded at Pelee on the 9th. Cedar Waxwings are late migrants, building up numbers towards the end of May, 145 were seen at Pelee on the 19th.
Red-eyed Vireo was the commonest of the vireos, with 16 at Pelee on the 19th, followed by Warbling Vireo with a count of 5 at Rondeau on the 14th. Philadelphia Vireo became commoner in our second week, with 6 at Pelee on the 18th, small numbers of Blue-headed Vireos, now split in 3 from Solitary Vireo, were seen in both parks and a single Yellow-throated Vireo was seen at Pelee on the 9th.
Black-and-white Warblers were common in the parks, with 8 seen at Pelee on the 13th. We had amazingly close and prolonged views of a stunning Prothonotary Warbler at Pelee on the 9th and equally good views of a pair there on the 11th. Two Golden-winged Warblers were seen at Pelee on the 9th and 11th, but only 1 Blue-winged Warbler was seen at Rondeau on the 16th, with the hybrid Brewster's Warbler (Golden-winged x Blue-winged) seen at Rondeau on the 15th and another at Pelee on the 19th.
A few Tennessee Warblers were seen during our first week, with 4 at Pelee on the 13th. Nashville Warblers were common and 20 were at Pelee on the 11th. The commonest warbler was Yellow Warbler with 62 at Pelee on the 12th. Magnolia Warblers were more common during our second week with 19 at Rondeau on the 16th. Only a small number of Cape May Warblers were seen and there were small numbers of Black-throated Blue Warblers, with males more common in our first week and females commoner during our second. Myrtle Warblers were common, especially in the first week, with 15 at Pelee on the 11th. Black-throated Green Warbler was one of the commonest warblers, with 13 at Pelee on the 19th.
Black-throated Green Warbler
We saw a male Cerulean Warbler at Pelee on the 11th, with another 2 at Rondeau on the 14th and 16th. Small numbers of Blackburnian Warblers were seen most days with 5 at Pelee on the 11th. Chestnut-sided Warblers were common in the parks and 12 were at Pelee on the 19th.
A few Bay-breasted Warblers were seen in our first week, becoming commoner by the end of our second, with 12 at Pelee on the 19th. Blackpoll Warbler is a late migrant and only 2 were seen at Pelee on the 18th and 19th.
On a visit to Rondeau on the 14th, we had walked about 3 kms down the south point trail when we noticed a party of around 10 warblers feeding in the track-side vegetation ahead of us. As I looked through the flock I could see a Wilson's Warbler, 2 Yellow Warblers, 2 Black-throated Green Warblers, 2 Magnolia Warblers, 3 Nashville Warblers and what I first thought was a Canada Warbler, which I very quickly dismissed as I got better views. After a couple of minutes viewing I said to the group that if we were in Michigan I would say that's a Kirtland's Warbler. In almost disbelief we checked and re-checked the plumage features, refering to the fieldguide for confirmation and it all fitted.
The bird was in view for about 15 minutes and at it's closest only 10-15 yards away. then it started moving quickly away with the rest of the flock until we ran out of trail. This was a 1st record for Rondeau and there had only been about 20 previous sightings of this species in Ontario.
Kirtland's Warbler at Rondeau Provincial Park.
A few Palm Warblers were seen especially during our first week, with 5 at Pelee on the 11th. Ovenbirds were more often heard, but a few were seen, with 3 at Pelee on the 11th. 2 Northern Waterthrushes were at Pelee on the 9th, with another seen on the 11th. Only 1 Louisiana Waterthrush was seen, at Pelee on the 9th. 2 Kentucky Warbler males were at Pelee on the 11th, with another seen on the 12th. Only 1 Mourning Warbler was seen at Pelee, on the 12th, with another at Rondeau on the 16th. Common Yellowthroats are a common migrant and abundant in the cattail marshes, with 26 at Pelee on the 18th. Singles of Yellow-breasted Chats were seen at Pelee on the 11th, 12th and 20th. We only saw 1 Hooded Warbler, but had excellent views of a male, in the open for almost half an hour, on the 11th.
Wilson's Warblers were seen every day in the parks, with 8 at Pelee on the 18th. Canada Warblers were more common during our second week, with 4 at Pelee on the 18th. American Redstarts were fairly common in the parks, with 7 at Pelee on the 19th.
Bobolinks were mainly seen in open grassy fields, with 30+ seen at Charing Cross on the 15th.
Another bird of grassy fields was Eastern Meadowlark, a few were seen in the sparrow field at Pelee and 6 on the drive to Leamington on the 8th.
Female American Redstart.
Easily the commonest bird in all areas was the Red-winged Blackbird, with several hundred present in the parks. Common Grackles were also very common. Small numbers of Orchard Orioles were seen in the parks every day, with 7 at Pelee on the 19th. Baltimore Orioles were common, with 36 seen at Pelee on the 19th. Small numbers of Brown-headed Cowbirds were present most days, 9 at Rondeau on the 14th was the best count.
The expected 'fall' of Scarlet Tanagers didn't occur due to the clear, sunny weather, but small numbers were seen in the parks, the best being 10 at Pelee on the 18th. Summer Tanager is a rare, but annual migrant at Pelee, a female was seen near the point on the 19th. Cardinals are shy birds more often heard than seen, 10 were seen or heard at Pelee on the 11th. The expected 'fall' of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks didn't happen either, although there were small numbers in the parks every day, with 13 at Rondeau on the 14th.
Indigo Buntings were seen most days, with 15 at Pelee on the 12th. A pair of Evening Grosbeaks still remained at Point Pelee, prior to migrating north, the female was seen up to the 20th. Again, wintering Purple Finches remained, only giving infrequent sightings, with 3 at Pelee on the 12th. American Goldfinches were common, with 42 at Pelee on the 19th, Rufous-sided now Eastern Towee became more common in our second week, with 4 at Pelee on the 19th. Savannah Sparrows were seen in most open areas, with 16 at Charing Cross on the 15th. Chipping Sparrows were common, 27 were seen at Rondeau on the 14th. Single Field Sparrows were seen in suitable habitats, with 3 at Pelee on the 13th. White-crowned Sparrows were more common during our first week, with 18 at Pelee on the 9th. White-throated Sparrows were fairly common, with 12 at Pelee on the 11th. Lincoln's Sparrows were mainly seen in our first week, with 4 at Pelee on the 11th. Swamp Sparrows were common in the cattail marshes, with 8 at Pelee on the 19th and Song Sparrows were seen in most areas, 10 were seen at Pelee on the 12th.
Ten mammal species were seen on the trip, 5 Little Brown Bats at Rondeau on the 15th, singles of Eastern Cottontails at various places, 5 Eastern Chipmunks at Rondeau on the 16th, 2 Woodchucks were seen by the outer fence of Toronto Airport on the 8th, Eastern Gray Squirrels were common, 2 Meadow Voles were seen at Pelee on the 11th, Muskrats were seen at all the lagoons, with 5 at Harrow on the 19th. Only 1 Raccoon was seen at Pelee, but 8 were at Rondeau on the 16th, a Long-tailed Weasel was seen crossing a path in Tilden's Wood at Point Pelee on the 18th. White-tailed Deer were often seen in the parks, with 8 at Pelee on the 12th and we heard a Coyote at Pelee on the 12th and another at Rondeau on the 16th.
We only saw 2 amphibians, a Wood Frog at Pelee on the 19th and 6 American Toads at Harrow Lagoons on the 19th. We did better for reptiles, with a Blanding's Turtle near Leamington on the 13th, 24 Map Turtles basking at the sides of the canals around Tilbury on the 17th, 2 Painted Turtles at Stein's Marsh on the 10th, 2 Five-lined Skinks at Pelee on the 18th, 2 Fox Snakes, one at Pelee on the 13th and a larger one at Tilbury later the same day and a few Garter Snakes were seen in the parks.
Lots of butterflies were seen during our stay, most notable were Black Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Question Mark.