I haven’t visited the South March Highlands in a long time – not since April 2015. However, the weather this morning was poor for dragon-hunting (only 13°C, with more clouds than blue sky showing above and a brisk wind blowing), and as a Blue-winged Warbler had been discovered breeding there with a Golden-winged Warbler last month, I thought it was long past time to pay a visit.
The woods were still fairly dark by the time I arrived at 6:45. One of the first birds I saw was a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the gloomy woods, and one of the first birds I heard was a Wilson’s Snipe keening in the marsh close to the Brady Avenue entrance. The Blue-winged Warbler nest was a good 2 or 3 kilometers along the bike trail, and as there wasn’t much to see in the dark forest, I covered the distance in good time. Birds of note included a Great Blue Heron and a Black-crowned Night-heron at Confederation Bridge, a Wood Thrush chasing a Blue Jay, a family of Baltimore Orioles, at least four different Scarlet Tanagers calling, and two Pine Warblers and three Black-throated Green Warblers singing. I wasn’t able to get photos of any of them.
I found the clearing where the nest was located without any problems, but the birds were no longer singing (the Golden-winged Warbler is the male) and the chicks had already fledged, so I was unable to find them. I did see some female spreadwings in the long grass but no males to aid in identification. These were the first spreadwings I’ve seen since Chris and I found the Elegant Spreadwing at the Mississippi snye last weekend.
I did hear a Black-and-white Warbler and a Veery singing nearby, and was able to get a photo of a different male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
I was also hoping to find a Black-billed Cuckoo or a Barred Owl, both of which had been reported in the conservation area, but was unable to find those, either.
On my way back it started to rain, which was a bit of a surprise as the hourly forecast had showed no rain. As a result I headed back to my car, giving up on the idea of spending more time wandering around.
The brief shower ended before I even reached my car, so I stopped in at Sarsaparilla Trail on my way home. Unfortunately the wind made hearing birds calling from across the pond difficult, though the Marsh Wren was still singing energetically from the cattails near the boardwalk. I saw a Double-crested Cormorant swimming the pond, three young Wood Ducks, and several Tree Swallows hunting for insects but overall it was quiet. My most interesting observation was this Rose Hooktip Moth sitting on a leaf in the woods:
Even though the weather was cool and rainy, it was great to visit the South March Highlands trail system again after such a long time. And even if the Blue- and Golden-winged Warblers have moved on, it’s still worth visiting to see some of the other great birds that breed there.