Warblers and Vireos at Mud Lake

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

On Saturday when I left the sky was gray and gloomy, although rain didn’t seem imminent. I wanted to start my day with a visit to the Rideau Trail on Old Richmond Road, but changed my mind when I saw about 20 construction workers blocking access to the parking lot. They have been working on Old Richmond Road between West Hunt Club and Stonehaven for a full month now, widening the lanes, and it surprised me to see them there at 7:45 am on a Saturday morning. I figured that even if the men had been working instead of having their daily meeting in the parking lot, I wouldn’t have been able to hear anything due to the noise.

Although it was quiet, Sarsaparilla Trail was a great place to start my morning. I found three American Redstarts and one Wilson’s Warbler in the open area by the picnic shelter; although there seemed to be more birds moving around in the foliage, these two species were great to see as the Wilson’s Warbler was a year bird, and both were new for my Sarsaparilla list. A single Red-eyed Vireo was the only other bird I saw in the area.

Looking North

Looking North

The pond was also quiet, though I did see a Belted Kingfisher and a Northern Flicker perching on the snags. I caught sight of three Great Egrets flying north; they hadn’t come from the pond, making me wonder if they had roosted somewhere north of the trail.

Dark clouds moving in from the west created a dramatic backdrop to the pond; I took a few photos as none of the wildlife were proving very cooperative.

Dark skies across the pond

Dark skies across the pond

To the south, a large swath of trees were already changing colour.

Autumn at Sarsaparilla

Autumn at Sarsaparilla

From there I drove over to Mud Lake. As it was so birdy last weekend, I thought that things might be quiet this weekend if all the birds had moved on. Fortunately, my fears proved groundless. If anything, there were even MORE birds around than there were last weekend; it took me two hours to walk the entire length of the ridge! I started off the morning with three Red-eyed Vireos near the western fence. One of them came right out into the open when it heard me pishing.

Red-eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

A pocket of birds in the same area kept rooted me to the spot for almost 20 minutes. A couple of White-throated Sparrows were moving through low to the ground, while Yellow-rumped Warblers were moving through everywhere. I saw an American Redstart, a Magnolia Warbler, a Nashville Warbler, and a Bay-breasted Warbler. The Bay-breasted Warbler flew in when I started pishing, hopping from branch to branch to get a good look at the human making the funny noise. This meant that not only was I able to get a good look at it, but also some photos.

Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warblers and Blackpoll Warblers look a lot alike in the fall. Both are yellowish birds with dark wings and white wingbars. Some male Bay-breasted Warblers still retain a trace of chestnut colour along the flanks, making them easy to identify; if these are absent, check the colour of the legs and feet (black in Bay-breasted, yellow or pale in Blackpoll), whether there is any streaking on the breast (there will be in Blackpolls, but not in Bay-breasted Warblers), and the colour of the undertail coverts (buffy in Bay-breasted, white in Blackpoll).

Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

I met up with a couple of other birders including Mike Tate, Paul Matthews, and Richard, and we spent the rest of the morning together. We found another pocket of warblers which included a couple of Palm Warblers, a Blackburnian Warbler (my first of the fall), a Northern Parula, and a late Yellow Warbler. A couple of Philadelphia Vireos were moving through the area, and although one popped up on a branch right in front of me, I couldn’t get the camera up in time to snap a picture before it disappeared.

A little further along we saw a Scarlet Tanager at the top of a tree, while several Tree Swallows hawked for insects overhead. Bruce DiLabio was leading a group and found a Blue-headed Vireo singing in a tree; I knew what it was the moment I heard it, realizing all over again that it really doesn’t sound as much like a Red-eyed Vireo as I always think. We saw several Cape May Warblers, at least two Blackpoll Warblers (their yellow feet really stood out), more American Redstarts, more Palm Warblers, more Magnolia Warblers, and a Warbling Vireo making it a four-vireo day. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet spent some time foraging in a shrub in front of us; this was my first of the fall. We heard a Rose-breasted Grosbeak attempting to sing and identified it by its squeaky chip note as we couldn’t see it among the foliage.

We found some people photographing a cooperative Cape May Warbler; I took a few shots since I had very few photos to show for my day so far.

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

The four of us left the ridge and walked along Cassels Street, where an adult Black-crowned Night-heron perching in a a tree was the highlight. I didn’t see any waterfowl on the lake other than the usual Wood Ducks, mallards, and Canada Geese.

A second pass along the ridge produced two new warbler species: a Black-and-white and two Black-throated Greens! The latter have been scarce at Britannia this fall, so seeing them was a real treat, especially as they were very close to the ground. Altogether I had 14 warblers, which is probably a record for me (I missed the Chestnut-sided Warbler and didn’t get a good enough look at a Tennessee Warbler to count it):

1. Black-and-white Warbler
2. Nashville Warbler
3. American Redstart
4. Cape May Warbler
5. Northern Parula
6. Magnolia Warbler
7. Bay-breasted Warbler
8. Blackburnian Warbler
9. Yellow Warbler
10. Blackpoll Warbler
11. Palm Warbler
12. Yellow-rumped Warbler
13. Black-throated Green Warbler
14. Wilson’s Warbler

It was a pretty good morning even if I didn’t get very far at Mud Lake!

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3 thoughts on “Warblers and Vireos at Mud Lake

  1. Oh, I’m jealous! I’ve had very few warblers yet this fall. (My fault for not getting out in the mornings, I guess.) One of the few I’ve had is a Cape May Warbler that looked very much like yours here, but he wouldn’t come that close. Those are great shots of him.

    • Suzanne, Mud Lake has been dripping with warblers the past two weekends – lots of Cape Mays and a good selection of other species. You should definitely get up early and go see them!

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