After another rainy week the sun finally came out on Sunday. My plan was to do some birding and dragon-hunting close to home, starting with a visit to Trail 26 in Stony Swamp. This is the one off of West Hunt Club (Trailhead P11) that runs south to connect with the Jack Pine Trail system; I don’t visit it very often as it doesn’t have any boardwalks, which I prefer when looking for dragonflies. Still, it’s an under-birded gem that deserves more attention, especially in summer when the breeding birds are in full song. I tallied 28 species in just under two hours, with an additional species heard that I wasn’t sure of.
After the boat tour we did some birding down a dirt road which was initially lined with trees on both sides before opening up onto a large field on the right-hand side. The mosquitoes in the treed area were terrible, and even though we sprayed up with Deep Woods Off! both Doran and I got bit – the nasty little creatures even bit me right through my clothes in several places.
Right near the beginning of our walk Ollie heard a Tropical Gnatcatcher and finally found it about 20 feet up in a tree. It was difficult to see in the branches, so I asked if pishing would bring it in. Ollie said that they were more responsive to the call of the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl – which sounds exactly like our Northern Saw-whet Owl. Ollie started whistling the owl’s call, but the gnatcatcher stayed up in the canopy. It appeared to be a cute little bird, just like the Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers of southern Ontario with a black cap, and just as active.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Algonquin Park – over three and a half years! – and after having a camping trip with Dad last summer and a birding trip with Deb this winter both fall through, I wasn’t sure when I’d get to visit that beautiful park again. When Jon Ruddy announced an excursion to Algonquin this month, I jumped on the chance to go. The birding there this winter has been excellent, with not only the usual Boreal specialties being found on most visits (including Gray Jay, Evening Grosbeak, Boreal Chickadee, and Spruce Grouse), but also most of the winter finches as well. In addition, the park naturalists had put out a road-killed moose carcass in the valley below the Visitor Center, and foxes were being seen feeding on it. Pine Martens have also been observed at the suet feeders and Mew Lake garbage bins in the park on occasion.
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.
Yesterday I headed out relatively late in the morning (8:45 am) as the gray skies, cold temperature, and strong winds did not seem conducive to a productive morning’s birding. The previous week’s temperatures of the low to mid-twenties were gone; yesterday the thermometer plummeted, struggling to reach a paltry high of 9°C. It was one of those mid-spring days where a scarf, gloves, and a winter coat were necessary. I had the scarf and gloves, but didn’t bring my winter coat, thinking that my layers of sweaters beneath my spring coat would be enough. They weren’t.
On Saturday, April 30th I took the train to Kitchener to visit my mother and step-father, and on Sunday, May 1st we drove down to Point Pelee. We weren’t able to check in at the Best Western just outside of the park until the afternoon, so we headed to the Tip as soon as we arrived at 11:00. The weather was not cooperative – it was cold and overcast, with the same north winds I’d experienced in Ottawa. North winds in May are never good for migration; birds trying to fly across the Great Lakes will stay on the south side of the lakes until the winds shift from out of the south, giving them a boost across the water. Of course, north winds could also mean that any birds already in the park would likely stick around before continuing north, but this did not seem to be the case.
After returning from southern Ontario I was eager to go birding and see if songbird migration had started yet. The Magnolia and Canada Warblers had whetted my appetite, so the day after my return I headed out to see what was around. A stop at Sarsaparilla Trail netted 23 species, including a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Gray Catbird calling at the edge of the marsh (it’s not often I observe these birds here), a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and a Black-and-white Warbler right near the parking lot. There wasn’t much around the pond, though a Double-crested Cormorant flying over was a bit of a surprise….I’ve never seen one on the pond before.
From there I went to Mud Lake. I spent 3.5 hours there and doubled the number of species seen at Sarsparilla Trail. I was hoping to find some flycatchers, particularly the Yellow-bellied or Olive-sided Flycatchers, and parked at Rowatt Street so I could check the scrubby field west of the lake. There I found a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and an Empidonax Flycatcher that flew off too fast for me to ID.