Wednesday, May 4, 2016

EFCN Pelee Island Trip Report

On Saturday April 30, twenty-two intrepid Windsor-Essex Field Naturalists (EFCN) met at the Leamington docks for a two-day, one-night adventure to Pelee Island. Young or Old, woman or man - we all had one thing that we all had in common, we were about the embark on a voyage that celebrates the natural history of Pelee Island. We boarded the MV Jiimaan ferry were soon plying the waters of Pigeon Bay making the 10 km ride south to Pelee Island.

Upon arriving to the island we boarded a school bus and drove towards our lodging provider: the Anchor Wheel Inn ( where we had lunch and dropped off our luggage. Our trip was let by David Kraus - who has led this trip for many years and is a landowner on the island. While we drove around on a chartered school bus, David's daughter Megan challenged the group to answer some riddles and puns. No doubt she will be a great naturalist when she gets bigger.

Kraus Property 
Our first destination was the Kraus Property. This 30-acre property was formerly a crop field which has been naturalized with the help of local environmental groups and landowner stewardship programs- along with a willingness by our group leader and property owner David Kraus. Birds seen include an Egret, three Red-tailed hawks, a Peregrine Falcon and Spotted Sandpiper. Fox Squirrels were seen. David Kraus showed us the various habitat improvements that were made on the property including Hibernacula - specialized rock piles that give snakes an ideal place to overwinter safely. Small ponds along with various sized nest boxes. Pit and mound excavation creates small habitats to increase site diversity. Locally sourced Kentucky Coffee trees were noted as well.

Lighthouse provincial nature reserve 
Our next destination was the lighthouse preserve which features a large triangular shaped marsh surrounded by beach dune habitat. This reserve is on the northeast corner of the island and almost reaches back towards Point Pelee on the mainland. At the north-most tip of this park is a beautiful lighthouse which was constructed in 1833. The lighthouse seems to be tilting a little- a reminder of how dynamic the Lake Erie shoreline can be. Huge Hackberry trees were abundant along the pathway that lined this park. During this particular part of the trip - the weather became cold, windy and rainy- and we may have been rushed a little more than normal - which unfortunately prevented us from appreciating the flora and fauna that surrounded us. A Belted Kingfisher, along with about four Yellow-rumped Wablers were noted as we walked briskly back to our awaiting bus.

Red Cedar Savanna
 Even though it was cold and raining in the late Saturday afternoon, we continued on to Red Cedar Alvar which provided an abundance of reptile observations. Some large flat rocks that we inspected were sheltering Dekays Brownsnake, along with Garter Snakes - one being melanistic. Later on during our walk, we found a Blue Spotted Salamander. Spring Cress and Dutchman's Breeches wildflowers were noted along the pathway. Blue Jays, Chickadees, Yellow rumped Warblers and a late Eastern Phobe greeted us as we walked the trails.

Fish Point Nature Reserve 
Sunday morning, we visited the Fish Point Nature Reserve. Some highlights included breathtaking wet swamp forest, large areas of Trilliums, and a trail that meandered into a biodiverse section of forest and marsh edge habitat. We were greeted by a singing Eastern Towhee, then small groups of warblers (mainly Yellow Rumped, Palm, with a few Chickadees and Blue headed Vireo). This trail then led to the tip of Fish Point - which is (as one would expect) very similar to the habitat at Point Pelee's tip. But Fish Point's tip , but does not have trails or signs. Its a little more untouched and natural than mainland Pelee - which has generous trail paths carved out for huge numbers of tourists that visit that park. The sandy tip allowed for some of our group members a good 50m walk on the tip sandbar - something that we have not done at Point Pelee for quite some time. Mainland Pelee seems to be suffering from more erosion than deposition as of late. A walk back down the beach and along the roadway gave our best birdwatching opportunity on the trip - Yellow Warbler, Rose breasted Grosbeak, House Wren and Hermit Thrush - along with Black and White Warblers added some much needed checks on our meager trip bird list. Red Admiral Butterflies were seen along the edge of the beach as well.

Stone Road Alvar 
Limestone pavement jutting out into lake erie made for an interesting beach. Nature highlights here included a Lake erie watersnake (found by Sarah B. and Megan), Savanah Sparrow, Spotted Sandpiper.

Sheridan Point & the Old Query 
Our trip ended off with one last trip to Sheridan Point - just around the corner from our lodging location. Blue spotted salamander was seen again - this time 4 specimens were found. Dave reminded us that when looking under rocks, or even walking on rocks, one must be careful not to harm snakes or salamanders by "dropping" the rock back on the animal. Its best to encourage the animal to move out of the way before setting the rock or cover back into place. We walked around the old quarry which was abundant in Hackberry and Kentucky Coffee trees.

Our group thoroughly enjoyed this trip led by David Kraus. The food, lodging and transportation were well organized and the company was excellent. Just being able to discover this island is something that any Essex county nature enthusiast should take part in. Our total bird list totalled 67 species, a little lower than average. Thank you again to David Kraus and thank you to ECFN for organizing this great annual trip.

Friday, April 29, 2016

More Late April Birding + Bonus Botany & Herp Observations

Yellow Warbler - A little bundle of sunshine and happiness :p
I've really made an effort to go birding every day after work for the last week or two and its been really neat seeing what "comes in" day by day. I've been mainly visiting Malden Park which is really close to my house.

Malden Park never has the variety of Pelee - but time after time I'm amazed at how consistently you will see Warblers at this time of year. This week, I've seen Yellow, Yellow Rumped, Palm, Nashville, Blue headed Vireo within 50m of where I parked my car. Last year, I picked out a Summer Tanager at Malden, so rarities can happen. A Yellow crowned Night Heron was found here as well a while ago.

I stopped by Oakwood Park a few weeks ago and while the birding was good, I kept noticing that there are some interesting flowers present. Trout Lily and White Trillium are present, along with several other flowers - but one caught my eye below and I took a photo of it in hopes of identifying it later. Patrick's Blog had featured a Sharp-lobed Hepatica recently, and oddly enough, it looked like my unidentified flower I had taken with my phone. Steve Pike even mentioned this species to me last weekend at Pelee and at the time I was unaware of this flower. Allen Woodliffe weighed in on the ID of this flower below- which is clearly a Hepatica Species. The Round lobed and Sharp lobed are not easily distinguished. The Ontario Wildflower website suggests that the differentiating factor is not in the flower, but the green clover-shaped leaves surrounding the flowers. If the green leaves have a point, its sharp lobed, and if they are rounded - you get rounded. The second photo of the hepatica shows a clover shaped leave lobe with a slight point - hinting at Sharp-lobed Hepatica. (Round-lobed Hepatica- Anemone americana) (Sharp-lobed Hepatica- Anemone acutiloba)

Oakwood had some great birds as well, pretty well the same that were seen at Malden. I had caught a glimpse at my FOY Least Flycatcher at Oakwood. Lastly- my son and I caught a glimpse of this Melanistic Garter Snake at Oakwood as well (let me know if I'm wrong on the ID).

I will be heading out to Pelee Island this weekend. Wish me luck! I've heard that the birding is always good on the Lake Erie archipelago... 

Good Birding!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Late April Birding at Ojibway

Happy Earth Day! It seems like a few new migrants trickled in during the last week but even still, some of the mid to late April birds didn't really seem to show up yet. It seems like I might have missed the wave of Yellow bellied Sapsuckers this year - having only seen two at Point Pelee in the earlier part of the month. Louisiana Waterthrush hasn't seemed to have been spotted as much as one might expect. 

Two new migrants I spotted this week were House Wrens - which are singing on location at Ojibway Park since Wed this week. Another nice arrival was Green Heron today at Malden Park. 

On the day that I had seen my first House Wren for the year, I had also seen a Winter Wren, and ironically- heard a Carolina Wren while I was picking my son up from his school.  I was wondering if a three wren species day is noteworthy --- probably not --- as a good walk at Pelee could reveal 4-5 wren species - adding sedge and marsh types to the mix. Just thought it might be worth mentioning.

At one point this week while walking with my family in toe, my son screamed --- "Ahhh -- a bumble bee" and I scrouched down to look at the bee with my son and reminded him --- 'don't be scared when you see a bumble bee --- be scared when you don't see one'.... My little tidbit of earth-day wisdom for this posting.

Oakwood Park in Windsor (which is part of the Ojibway Complex) is already carpeted with blooming yellow Trout Lilies. A few other species of unidentified flowers were present as well. 

I had a scope set up in my son's room to keep an eye on the great horned owl nest out back and I had moved it to the trunk of my car - anticipating a trip to the Hillman shorebird cell as of late. It was suggested to me that I should check if the Owlets had hatched and sure enough -- it seems there are at least two in this nest. Pretty exciting!

Next weekend - I think I will be on Pelee Island with the Windsor Essex Field Naturalists. I'm excited to go because I've never been to this jewel of an island. Hopefully the group will be doing some serious birding ... or else I might have to break off on my own ;-p

Good birding!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mid-April Pelee Birding - Pine, Audubon's Warbler ... and an early Upland Sandpiper?

Another quick posting. I have an exam on Wed of this week so blogging time is minimized. I did get out to Pelee this morning for a nice walk and got to see many of the birds I was hoping to see.

I parked at White Pine and walked through cactus field, then to Tildens, up Shuster Trail to the Visitor Center Parking Lot. I then took Woodland Nature Trail to  Post Woods trail leading to Sparrow Field. I ran into Alan Wormington and Steve Pike who mentioned Audubon's Warbler near the tip of Pelee. I then took the West Beach Footpath all the way back up West Beach to White Pine.

I would love any comments on the last photo in this group. I went by the 'radio tower fields' near amherstburg and photographed what I thought were two meadowlarks on a wire. After looking at my photos --- I think I might have photographed a Meadowlark with an Upland Sandpiper! See the link that I provided below of a photo of these two birds on a wire. Any feedback would be appreciated!

Yesterday I went to Holiday Beach and photographed this Forster's Tern which was catching fish in the water just about twenty feet from the edge of the marsh.

I photographed an Eastern Meadowlark at a grassy radio tower field, and ... I think I may have photographed an Upland Sandpiper along with the Meadowlark .... What do you think? Here is a picture online of an Eastern Meadowlark and an Upland Sandpiper beside each other on a wire.

Good Birding!


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