Friday, May 3, 2013

Henslow's Sparrow and Other Early May Migrants

Wow, its been a great spring migration so far. Of course, work has been getting in the way of me being able to spend large swaths of time at Point Pelee, but I still have made an attempt to get out and bird every day (if only locally) for the last week or two. On Tuesday April 30th, I stopped by Point Pelee after work, mainly to try and find a Worm eating Warbler at Kopagaron Woods (unsuccessful) but then went to PPNP to walk the West Beach Footpath from the visitor center to the tip parking lot (and perhaps take the tram back). Lots of cool birds to look at. It wasn't crawling with birds, but there were some nice birds every now and then. Savannah Sparrow, White crowned, brief looks at Red headed Woodpeckers, White eyed and Blue headed Vireos, Brown Thrashers and Palm Warblers were nice birds to see. But, just as I was nearing the tip parking lot, I saw David Bell waving me over  to see what Josh and himself had found... A Henslow's Sparrow crawling through the grass! What a beautiful Sparrow. It was difficult to photograph because it was never really out in the open, and also, my lens has a 3.5m minimal focus length.

I faintly saw the white tram through the woods make its last trip to the visitor center and realized I was going to have to briskly walk the 2.5km walk back to the visitor center, (I was hungry and I knew my wife would be a little upset about me getting home late) ... but how could I complain? This is a bird I had conceded that I would probably never have found... A mega rarity... So Dave and Josh ...thanks!

According to ROM, the Henslow's Sparrow is endangered in Canada and Ontario, due to loss of old-field habitat from changing agricultural practices, urbanization and succession of grasslands to forests. I encourage anyone to read more about this bird at the following two links. Perhaps more awareness could increase the chance that suitable habitats could either be preserved or regenerated.

Josh mentioned seeing a Northern Goshawk, moments before I had arrived, and I had myself noted a few Accipiter Hawk species flying overhead... I'm not sure but perhaps we had seen the same bird? I'm inviting any corrections or confirmations on this bird... Goshawk? My caution in the ID stems in the lack of marking on the lower belly, but, it does seem to have a faint white eyebrow, as well as buteo-like wings.
I could be wrong! :-)
Another post-work Pelee walk this week (on Thursday May 2nd) had shown a noticeable increase in bird diversity. I had my own awesome moments viewing: Wood Thrushes, Veery, Winter Wren, Red-eyed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Black and white Warbler, Least Flycatcher (my first northbound), Brown Thrashers, Scarlet Tanagers, Eastern Kingbird among many others. Many self found!

I've noticed that Blue headed Vireos are have been abundant this year, I don't know if I have just gotten better at finding them, or if my timing was better, but I had never seen this many in any of my previous three years of birding.

Good birding!

Henslows Sparrow - 330


  1. I agree with you about the Blue-headed Vireos. I'm seeing them every day I've been out and not just one but several throughout the park.
    I'm also seeing plenty more Blue-winged Warblers than I ever have. This year is turning out to be a real treat for birding.
    I hope you can find lots more time to get out this week. The trees are starting to really leaf out and it's going to get more difficult finding the little buggers.

  2. Congrats on the Henslow lifer! I can relate with the new lens with the reduced minimum focal distance. Though I've noticed that manual focus affords me a few cm's closer than AF with the Sigma lens at least. :)



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