Sunday, 6 May 2012

Pelee Weekend

Our first day at "full strength" begins with the usual cold-cereal-and-coffee Days Inn breakfast at 5:30. (Sadly, the hot breakfast is not available until 7am.) In the park it's obvious that it's a big visitor day -- the main parking lot is overflowing, and the shuttle frequency is doubled to accommodate the birder invasion. Phil is keen to get caught up, but the walk to the Tip is quiet with overcast skies and cool temps. However business picks up as we wander Pelee's forested trails and shoreline. We manage stunning views of a Black-throated Blue Warbler and Phil spots his lifer Scarlet Tanager. Indigo Bunting was another lovely (and new) morning bird.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
 Birder traffic on the trails continues to increase so we take a lunch break at the Visitors Centre, where the sausage hot dog is excellent.  Under mostly sunny skies, we we walk a loop near the Visitors Centre and make our way on to the Sanctuary. Here we strike a bonanza, seeing 11 warbler species including Northern Parula and Cape May Warbler plus a couple flyover Broad-winged Hawks. And Phil gets his own life Black-billed Cuckoo!

Northern Parula
Broad-winged Hawk
 We move on to Hillman Marsh and note an uncommon Wilson's Phalarope among a mass of Black-bellied Plovers. A patient lady shows us an American Golden-Plover. Following a quick tour of the Onion Fields we head the hotel and supper. Our total of over a hundred for the day includes 19 warbler species. It's a good day.

Early May 6 finds us back in Pelee NP. The mature forest is dominated by Carolinian species including black walnut, shagbark hickory, silver maple and tulip, and the plant life ranges from trillium to horse's tail in wetter sections. Sections of the park are undergoing the slow, tedious process of invasive plant removal. We're well-warned to avoid the local hazards of ticks and "southern" poison ivy.

Poison Ivy
The morning cacophony emanates from cardinals, grackles, blackbirds, Yellow Warblers, and songs from the many Baltimore Orioles are particularly piercing. We listen intently for sounds below their level -- the waterthrushes, the vireos, the sparrows. Ray spots a Marsh Wren in an unlikely habitat: along the boulders lining the edges of the tip, foraging with White-crowned Sparrows. It quickly draws a crowd. We chase a Cerulean Warbler rumour, and find a female Summer Tanager, rare here. An armada of long lenses aims skyward at the tanager, looking like so many large-bore lethal weapons. We nail the Cerulean also -- it's an exciting few minutes, in this milling, shuffling knot of birders young and old.
Summer Tanager
After a mid-morning coffee break at the Visitor Centre, we walked the Shuster and Tilden Woods trails with the highlight being a red morph Eastern Screech-Owl - our 300th bird species for the year.

Eastern Screech-Owl
 Following lunch Ray departs to meet his son Rob, and the three of us patrol a trail near the Visitors Centre. But the birds are quiet and we're tired -- or at least I am. A three o'clock break for a nap is welcome and needed.

 After dinner, the 5 of us went back to the park for a couple of hours.  In the Northwest Beach area we found a Bank Swallow which was quickly followed by a Philadephia Vireo and a Lark Sparrow (which is a rare bird for Ontario but common in Alberta).  We wrapped up the evening with an American Woodcock (a catch-up bird for Phil).


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