Saturday, 5 May 2012

Ontario Part II - Rondeau and More Pelee

This post will cover May 3rd and 4th of our trip to Point Pelee and region. While Point Pelee is a very unique birding spot, the surrounding region also has much to offer and one spot we were keen to spend time in was Rondeau Provincial Park, about an hours drive to the east. We knew in advance that Rondeau was a reliable place for Prothonotary Warbler. We also knew that May 3rd was a little early for this warbler species but a very rare for Ontario Yellow-throated Warbler had been reported in the park so early or not, we decided to give Rondeau a try! The early morning drive out there was a bit hair-raising. The road runs parallel to Lake Erie and there was a  dense fog throughout the journey.

A Foggy Drive to Rondeau P.P.

Not only that but as it turned out we got neither of these two warbler species! We learned upon arrival that the Yellow-throated Warbler hadn't been seen for about 48 hours and it didn't show up when we were there either! Nor did the Prothonotary Warbler! Nevertheless we found Rondeau to be full of birds and we picked up several new species while exploring some of its many trails and despite the fog en route, the park itself was under clear sunny skies when we arrived and stayed that way all day.

While trying for the Yellow-throated Warbler, we spotted a Brown Thrasher, a Tufted Titmouse, a Wood Thrush and a Purple Martin, all new for the year and all good birds, especially the Tufted Titmouse perhaps which is not found in our home province of Alberta.
Brown Thrasher

Tufted Titmouse

Once we gave up on the Yellow-throated Warbler location, we set off from the Visitor Centre on Tulip Tree Trail where we soon concluded we were too early for the Prothonotary Warbler but we did manage to find our first Magnolia Warbler of the year! More rewarding however was a walk later around Spice Bush Trail which featured many of the warblers we'd already seen plus an Ovenbird. We also found a number of thrushes here including a Swainson's thrush and a Veery, both new for the year.


After this we visited a couple of places we heard were good sites for Eastern Screech Owl but we'll need to come back one evening later during our stay here to have a chance at seeing or hearing this bird! We paused for a spot of lunch and then tried one more trail in Rondeau, the South Point Trail. On the drive to the trail head, Brian caught sight of a Great Crested Flycatcher - a key target bird for us on this Ontario trip. We were unable to get a  good photo but we expect to see more of this species in the days ahead.

We were pretty impressed with Rondeau Provincial Park and resolved to return in a few days time. Meanwhile we returned to our hotel in Leamington (The Days Inn) and after supper made a trip back down to "The Tip"! Things were a litte quiet but Michael Biro, a friend of mine birding in the area, told us about a Chuck-will's-Widow heard in the park very early that morning. There was  a distinct possibility this bird may start calling again at dusk so we stationed ourselves at the proper location at about 8:30 P.M. and sure enough, within ten minutes of our arrival, this very rare bird in Canada began to make its call. We and about 60 other keen birders were gathered for the occasion and though none of us ever saw the bird, we were very pleased to hear it!

May 4th

Birders going to Point Pelee in Spring all know that as May progresses the number of birds and the variety of species both increase to a peak around mid-May. Each morning as we head into the park we are optimistic that we shall see more new birds than the day before. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is not quite so simple! Today was a case in point. Yet another very early morning start was not rewarded with a large wave of new migrants! But you can't spend time in Pelee at this time of year without at least a few pleasant surprises - even on a slow day! It was 9 A.M. before we saw our first new year bird for the day, but what a great bird it was - a Black-billed Cuckoo! By mid-day we added Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart, Carolina Wren and best of all, a Yellow-throated Vireo.
Black-billed Cuckoo
Yellow-throated Vireo
I should mention that while it's important for us to focus on new year birds for our quest it's also important not to overlook some of the grander moments that come along with birds we may already have seen. A good example is the early morning encounter we had with a displaying Wild Turkey today. It was spectacular! Wild turkeys are common here every morning and they're very impressive!

Wild Turkey

We left the park shortly after lunchtime and drove to Windsor  in order to pick up Phil who was unable to join us until today. Phil was of course very keen to start catching up with the rest of us and after an early supper we spent a few evening hours back in the park. The birding seemed a little slow but by the time we returned to our hotel, Phil had tallied about 40 species. Meanwhile Brian, Mike and I were up to about 125 species but as I write this post on the evening of May 5th after our best birding day of the trip so far, Phil has almost caught up with us.....but that's a story for our next post!  

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