The next morning it was still cloudy and cool. Our morning walk with Judith King started at 7:00 a.m. and took us back to the Bruce/Saugeen Townline and the Ducks Unlimited pond. We scared up a Great Blue Heron fishing in the fast-running water in the ditch beside the road, and then had to park about seven vehicles near the bridge. This was difficult as road had no shoulders and barely fit two passing cars; this was demonstrated for us first-hand when a car approached us from the opposite direction and both vehicles had to drive with one tire in the grass. The wide spot where I had parked the previous night seemed long enough to hold about three vehicles, and it took much maneuvering to get our vehicles safely off to the side.
At the Ducks Unlimited pond we had a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak singing in a tree, a couple of Canada Geese with their goslings, a Northern Flicker, Gray Catbird, Pied-billed Grebe, two Eastern Kingbirds, Common Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers, and a Baltimore Oriole all along the dyke. We also heard the same Least Bittern calling from the same clump of vegetation; Judith told us when she had been scouting the area the previous day she had actually seen it walking along a fallen log right out in the open. My mother and I were envious, as we had been there shortly before Judith and hadn’t even thought to check the logs.
From there we walked back onto to the road and spent some time birding the townline. Judith told us that a Mourning Warbler had set up its territory not too far away and that it was responsive to play-backs of its song. She played a recording, and sure enough a tiny yellowish bird flew out of the vegetation and landed in a shrub across the road. Eventually he perched right out in the open, chipping away at the unseen intruder. This was a lifer for both me and my mother and we had splendid views of the bird.
My mother got another lifer shortly after when we found a Swamp Sparrow singing in the vegetation beyond the ditch. A male Common Yellowthroat, Red-eyed Vireo, Brown-headed Cowbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Gray Catbird and Yellow Warbler were also found along this stretch. We then returned to our cars and drove to the end of the road where it meets the lake in order to turn around. A Great Egret flew out of the ditch toward the water right in front of us; we were the second car in the procession and had a great view of this magnificent bird before it disappeared.
We drove back along the Bruce/Saugeen Townline, stopping to listen for birds. When Judith found an area where she had heard a Blue-winged Warbler the previous day, we got out to have a look around.
Blue-winged Warbler habitat
A Brown Creeper was making its way up a large tree beyond the road, and we could hear White-throated Sparrows, an Ovenbird, Nashville Warblers and a Black-throated Green Warbler singing. A hummingbird flew out of the blossoming tree in front of us and landed on the telephone wire briefly; then this male redstart posed obligingly in the tree.
Judith played a recording of a Blue-winged Warbler’s song, and we heard an answering call in the distance. Searching for the Blue-wing, one of the birders came up with an Indigo Bunting instead…a year bird for me! We heard the Blue-winged Warbler’s song increase in volume as he flew in closer, and landed in a tree about 20 feet away! I managed to take two photos of him, neither of which is very good (the light was very, very poor) before he flew off again. This was my second lifer of the trip and one of the target birds we had hoped to see!
We continued along to the junction of the Bruce/Saugeen Townline and Lake Range Road where we found a cooperative Alder Flycatcher, a Great Crested Flycatcher, a female Purple Finch, a female Scarlet Tanager, and an immature male Orchard Oriole. This is another species I hadn’t expected to find on our trip. A pair of Turkey Vultures also soared by overhead.
We explored one of the deserted campgrounds in search of migrating warblers but found only the typical breeding Ovenbirds, Black-throated Green Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos and American Redstarts (I think I now know why this bird is the birding festival’s emblem….these birds were everywhere!). We heard a Pileated Woodpecker here, and then later had a Green Heron flying over the Turtle Pond near the Visitor’s Center. Our final stop was the beach, where we found several Ring-billed Gulls, Common Terns, two Red-breasted Mergansers, two Killdeer, a single Spotted Sandpiper bobbing its tail, and several Barn Swallows flitting over the water.
I think I enjoyed Judith’s outing the most; we recorded 42 species along the Bruce/Saugeen Townline, and an additional nine species back in the park. She was a bit disappointed with the numbers, and said we should have had 70 or 80 species, and that’s when I realized that most of the birds we had seen were species that breed here in MacGregor Park. Where were all of the migrants?
Our next outing took place that afternoon. We tried a new trail, the Lake Ridge Trail, led by the park staff. Although knowledgeable about trees and wildflowers and porcupine fatalities (we found the remains of a porcupine in the trail which was likely killed by, and almost certainly eaten by, a fisher), they weren’t really birders. In any event, there weren’t that many birds to see. We heard several, none of which were new for the trip, but only actually saw two species: a pair of chickadees and a Blue Jay. The wildflowers proved more interesting, even if I didn’t get all of their names.
Still the trail was beautiful, though swampy in places, and I regretted not bringing my rubber boots. We all had wet shoes by the time we were done, though thankfully the water hadn’t seeped inside to soak my socks. Most of the trail traversed through ancient-looking forest, and we climbed a set of stairs to get to the top of the ridge which formed the shore of the glacial Lake Nipissing 5,500 years ago.
At the top of the ridge we came to an open, grassy area said to be favoured by Blue- and Golden-winged Warblers (we found neither). Lilacs and other flowers brought in from long-ago settlers still remained, though their homestead has vanished. We saw the remains of an old rock wall and a former well.
Wildlife was scarce, however, and the pace of the walk was hurried as we only had two hours to get everyone back to the Visitor’s Center in time for that night’s soiree. I didn’t enjoy this event as much as I had enjoyed the previous outings for these reasons, and also because of the annoyance of having to navigate numerous puddles along the trail (indeed, I spent more time looking down than up for this reason). I would love to visit the Lake Ridge Trail later in the season when the trail is drier, the butterflies and dragonflies are abundant, and I can proceed at a more leisurely pace.