An OFNC outing at the Jack Pine Trail

On Sunday, June 5th I led my third OFNC birding walk at Jack Pine Trail. This time I had only five people attend, perhaps because of the uncertain weather forecast for the day: cloudy with a chance of showers. It wasn’t raining when I got up, so the walk went ahead as planned. After finding no one waiting at the usual meeting spot at Lincoln Fields, I drove directly to Jack Pine Trail where, in the parking lot, the beautiful song of a Wood Thrush could be heard.

The smaller group made it easier to talk to each individual and ensure they all saw everything. Because the leaves had all filled out, I planned to concentrate on identifying birds by their songs and teaching the group the most common marsh and woodland birdsongs.

The Wood Thrush was an excellent bird to start the walk with. I tried to track him down but failed; he was along a side path I didn’t intend to take, so I didn’t want to venture in too far, and it was impossible to locate him in all the foliage. We continued on our way to the first boardwalk along the right-hand trail, where we were surprised to find a Snowshoe Hare. He was busy munching on the vegetation and seemed disinclined to move until I led the group right toward him.

Snowshoe Hare

At the marsh we found a Purple Finch singing in one of the tall trees that border the wetland. We heard a Swamp Sparrow, a Song Sparrow and a Common Yellowthroat as well. We didn’t see a Snapping Turtle laying eggs this time, but found one swimming just below the water’s surface at the middle boardwalk. Perhaps this explains why there were no ducklings here. (I prefer to think the mallards were smart and nested far away from the Snapping Turtle’s territory rather than the grisly alternative.)

In the woods we heard Ovenbirds, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Red-eyed Vireos and a Black-throated Green Warbler, though we only managed to see the Ovenbird. He responded to a recording that I played by flying out of the woods and perching briefly on a tree branch in plain view. We did get a good look at a Pileated Woodpecker chipping away at the base of a large tree trunk.

Bunchberry blossom seen along the trail

At the marsh at the back of the trail we heard an Alder Flycatcher and saw a Wilson’s Snipe flying overhead. We saw a Swamp Sparrow singing right out in the open, and, when I heard a Virginia Rail grunting in the reeds, managed to coax a pair out into plain view by playing a recording of their calls. We saw two herons in flight, a Great Blue and a Black-crowned Night-heron.

Blue Flag

The most interesting sighting was that of a Magnolia Warbler singing away at the back of the trail near a stand of conifers. We heard him before we saw him, and I recognized the song (“Weeta-weeta-we-teach-you”) after several long moments of mulling it over. However, I had never heard or seen this species at Jack Pine Trail before, and I wasn’t even certain a migrant would still be here this far along in the breeding season. We finally got a look at this bird, and Magnolia Warber was exactly what it was. After I consulted the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario and a more experienced birder, it appears quite probable that this species breeds in our area, though concrete evidence hasn’t yet been found.

Breeding Range of the Magnolia Warbler in Eastern Ontario. Ottawa is inside the circle.
From the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario

In the alvar-like meadow we found our first dragonflies, a couple of Four-spotted Skimmers, and our only butterfly, a Common Ringlet. Two Field Sparrows were singing and we managed to get a look at one, although from a great distance; one of the singing White-throated Sparrows was more cooperative.

White-throated Sparrow

A number of flowers were in bloom, including these bright yellow Goatsbeard flowers.

Goatsbeard

Although the sun never came out and we didn’t see a lot of insects, we still found a total of 35 species of birds, some heard only, some seen, and some both. Here is a list of the species seen on the walk:

  1. Mallard
  2. Great Blue Heron
  3. Black-crowned Night-Heron
  4. Virginia Rail
  5. Wilson’s Snipe
  6. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  7. Pileated Woodpecker
  8. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  9. Alder Flycatcher
  10. Great Crested Flycatcher
  11. Red-eyed Vireo
  12. Blue Jay
  13. American Crow
  14. Tree Swallow
  15. Black-capped Chickadee
  16. Brown Creeper
  17. Wood Thrush
  18. American Robin
  19. European Starling
  20. Cedar Waxwing
  21. Yellow Warbler
  22. Magnolia Warbler
  23. Black-throated Green Warbler
  24. Black-and-white Warbler
  25. Ovenbird
  26. Common Yellowthroat
  27. Field Sparrow
  28. Song Sparrow
  29. Swamp Sparrow
  30. White-throated Sparrow
  31. Northern Cardinal
  32. Red-winged Blackbird
  33. Common Grackle
  34. Purple Finch
  35. American Goldfinch
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