Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Whimbrel & Godwits in Flight - Shorebirding at Wheatley Harbour

After hearing about a Ruff at the Hillman Shorebirding cell, I headed out the the Hillman shorebird cell after work to see if could partake in some good shorebirding. Upon arriving at the site, I walked briskly to the shorebird cell because I had limited time on my hands. Just as I arrived, hundreds, if not thousands of birds took to the air ... and left! The shorebird cell was birdless! All that remained was a Peregrine falcon. One lady suggested checking out Wheatley Harbour - the Whimbrel might have stopped by there... And so I went. Sure enough, this flock of about 13 Whimbrel, and one Marbled Godwit circled around the harbour several times. It seems like they were trying to land on the beach where are large group of gulls were sitting, but they would abort their landing attempt and recircle the harbour again and again. Eventually, they seemed to head back toward Hillman.

Going back to last Saturday, I walked around at Point Pelee with hopes of finding a Worm Eating Warbler and Perhaps a Prothonotary Warbler.  I missed out on both of those target birds but instead saw Canada Warbler, and finally caught up with the long staying female Praire Warbler. I think I've only seen Prairie Warblers on three other occasions - and all three of those were male so it was nice to see a female. 

Good Birding!

Bonus Botany - Sharp Blue eyed Grass at Ojibway - This particular species graces the cover of the Audubon field guide for (Eastern) North American Flowers

Thursday, May 12, 2016

May 11 & 12th Highlights - Kirtlands, Cerulean, Golden winged and More

On Wed May 11th, I went to Point Pelee after work as the daily report hinted that it was an excellent day to be at Pelee. Some birders hinted that it could have been the best day in ten years. It was good but I don't know if it was any better than a good day from last year. On Wed, I caught up with a Cerulean that was report at the Northwest Beach parking lot. Later, I went to the West beach footpath and had really close views of a Kirtland's Warbler! The Kirtlands was skulking around in some low lying dwarf juniper plants. Occasionally it would pop into view -at point blank range - then go into skulking mode again.

I took the day off on today, May 12th and had a pretty good day. I stopped off at Hillman first - and there was not much around in terms of shorebirds. So I went to Pelee. I had to park at Delaurier - and walk the anders footpath to tilden. Today was excellent for birding but of course, yesterdays volumes of birds were not present.

I saw this Northern Parula at eye level near Cactus Field. It was singing its heart out in the early morning light. Its so small, it took me a few moments just to find it.

I then took the tram to the tip - in hopes of finding a Cerulean and Yellow billed Cuckoo. The Cerulean was amazingly close to the trail, and singing its heart out. I took boat loads of photos but they were poor as the lighting was terrible.

Next- I ended up trying to go to "Dunes" which had a recent sighting of Golden Winged Warbler! I took the tram back to the VC and walked---- 2km??? Birding is great exercise isn't it? I was able to find the Golden Winged and later I ran into J.B. and Jeremy Bensette who were looking at YB Chat!

I birded with Jeremy and Tim(?) for the remainder of the afternoon. We attempted to see the Kirtlands again this afternoon but couldn't find it. Along west beach footpath, our consolation birds were: Wilson's, Cape May, Scarlet Tanager, and Morning Warbler!

Good birding!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Selected Photos While Birding at Point Pelee May 7th

I walked the park today from about 7am-12 noon. I left feeling disappointed --- it seemed dead, but there was some diversity to be found singles of several warbler species. In hindsight, it wasn't too bad.

This might be a Grey cheeked Thrush, not a Hermit Thrush. Any thoughts?

This Red Trillium was seen at Kopegaron Woods, not Pelee

These little white flowers were found at Ojibway Park this week. My Audubon's Botany guide (donated by reader Irene) indicates that these flowers are named Pussytoes because the little white flowers look like a kittens paws... That is botany for you ... :p

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 (www.anchorwheelinn.com) 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.


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