TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
7-20 May 2001
Neil Arnold - The Travelling Naturalist
Nadine Greenwood - Nature Travel Holidays
Tony Beck - Nature Travel Holidays
It was wonderful to be in Southern Ontario in the spring. Nadine, the chief 'fixer', and Tony made us very welcome. I would like to thank them both for making the trip such a success; a fun time was had by all! The good spirits of the group had little to do with our visit to a winery, honest! We were all delighted to be joined by Lou, from Winnipeg, whose good nature and knowledge of Canadian wildlife were invaluable.
Tony's bird race team came second, scoring 176 bird species in 24 hours, four short of the winning total! They also saw a bear in Algonquin!
Neil Arnold June 2001
SUNDAY 7 MAY
Flight to Toronto. Drive to Niagara. We visited the Niagara Falls. Their floodlit splendour was much appreciated, despite our somewhat jet-lagged state!
MONDAY 8 MAY
WEATHER Fine early, SW force 2. Heavy rain for most of the morning. Dry afternoon and evening.
The pre-breakfast walk around the hotel area enabled us to become familiar with the commoner birds including Common Grackle, American Robin and American Crow, amongst others.
We then enjoyed a daylight view of the Niagara Falls. This was not just confined to the tourist viewing, though. There were birds, including Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser and Great Scaup. The two most flamboyant birds of the morning though were Northern Cardinal and Baltimore Oriole.
It was then our intention to walk the shore of Lake Ontario at Hamilton but by this time the rain was pouring down. We, therefore, drove on to Simcoe, booked into the hotel and then set off for Long Point.
Long Point is a sandspit which extends into Lake Erie. The spit is stabilised with tough grasses and mixed woodland and is also bounded by extensive marshes. It is also a major funnel for migrant birds.
Needless to say our visit to the point was very productive. When we arrived at the marshes the mist came down. It was then that we heard the strange 'booming' of the American Bittern. Much to our surprise it was calling from a raised bund where it could be seen by all. Wildfowl and waders were common in the marshes and warblers and sparrows abounded in the woodland. We had our first experience of the wonders of spring migration in Canada. Each of the warblers appeared as a jewel in a somewhat bland setting.
Who knows, the sun may shine tomorrow!
WEDNESDAY 9th MAY
WEATHER 0/8 cloud. SW up to force 4. 24 degrees C.
By 08.00 we were back at Long Point enjoying excellent views of a variety of wetland bird species. The Point was alive with migrants. The warblers included the colourful Northern Parula and Yellow-breasted Chat as well as the more subtle and much rarer Worm-eating Warbler. Eventually we discovered seventeen species of warblers! Thrushes were also much in evidence: American Robin was commonplace but Veery, Swainson's Thrush and Wood Thrush were less evident. Eventually we all managed to gain good views of the elusive Wood Thrush. Vireos were also widespread. One of the most endearing birds of the morning though was Cedar Waxwing which was commonplace in the well vegetated dunes. It was here too that we were able to enjoy the antics of Red-headed Woodpecker, a king amongst birds.
Later in the day in the marshes we were lucky enough to see a fine pair of Bald Eagles and two Sandhill Cranes. The cranes flew over the marsh calling loudly. The marsh was also home to Marsh Wren. Once again we waited patiently until this shy birds eventually showed itself.
Butterflies also abounded: Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Mourning Cloak.
By the end of the day we had recorded a hundred bird species.
THURSDAY 10th MAY
WEATHER Clear, sunny and calm. SW 4-5 later.
We drove west.
Our first port of call was the St. William's Crown Forest. Here we noted a wide variety of woodland species including Pine Warbler. In a nearby clearing we encountered Field Sparrow and Prairie Warbler. The latter was singing loudly but proved very elusive; we only saw it in flight. Birds of prey were much in evidence. These included Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Cooper's Hawk and an American Kestrel.
Stoney Point on Lake St. Clair was windswept but despite that we were able to find a good variety of migrant birds including Forsterís Tern, Palm Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Brown Thrasher and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Other species of note included Map Turtle, Midland Painted Turtle, Cottontail and Woodchuck.
We soon settled into our delightful hotel in Leamington.
FRIDAY 11th MAY
WEATHER 8/8Cu, clearing to 3/8 Cu. Sun. SW 3. Evening rain.
By 07.30 we were at Point Pelee, a well-wooded area of dunes that projects into Lake Erie. Though there were plenty of common migrant birds overhead there was little evidence of the hoped for 'fall' of warblers. Orchard Orioles were much in evidence as were their cousins the Baltimore Orioles. A Red-bellied Woodpecker added a touch of colour as did American Redstart and Cape May Warbler. The 'Tip' was alive with birds - Double-crested Cormorants, Ring-billed Gulls, Bonaparteís Gulls, Forsterís, Caspian and Common Tern and a single Spotted Sandpiper. Later in the day, while we were watching a fine Yellow-breasted Chat, a Peregrine Falcon flew by.
Two of the delights of the day were a Five-lined Skink and a Fox Snake.
SATURDAY 12th MAY
WEATHER 8/8 Cu. dull, cold. N3-4. Clearing p.m.
Most of the day was spent at Rondeau, a miniature version of Point Pelee, dominated by Carolinian Forest.
The wetlands yielded Common Loon, Redhead and a variety of waders. The area was overlooked by a perched Bald Eagle.
We were soon on the carefully constructed walkways which wound their way through the wet woodland. Here we saw Hairy and Downy Woodpecker and a variety of warblers, including the quite spectacular Prothonotary Warbler. White-breasted Nuthatch, Purple Finch and Eastern Wood Pewee were also noted. Carolina Wren was seen briefly as a Pileated Woodpecker called in the distance.
It was a quiet day for birds but everyone enjoyed the splendid habitat.
SUNDAY 13th MAY
WEATHER Clear, sunny, cool W 1-2.
We returned to Rondau to see what it was like in the sunshine!
The birds were much more active than they had been on the previous day. We were particularly pleased to gain close views of a Pileated Woodpecker. We were also able to enjoy a host of woodland birds in more comfortable circumstances. Five overflying Sandhill Cranes were only glimpsed as they were obscured by trees.
In the afternoon we visited Hillman Marsh where we were able to see a variety of duck and waders.
After dinner we made for the Point Pelee Marsh where we had a brief encounter with a Common Nighthawk and a flock of Wood Duck.
MONDAY 14th MAY
WEATHER 6/8 ci, sun,NW 2. Clearing later.
Tony informed us early in the day that it was a 'Bluebird Day', a day that was not too good for migrants but one in which we should see Bluebirds!
We started the day at the Point Pelee Marsh. We had fine views of many of the species that had only been glimpsed before. American Bitterns were seen in flight as were Bobolink. The latter were distant unfortunately.
The woodland walks were 'quiet' but there were some surprises in store. We were soon looking at a delightful Eastern Screech Owl roosting in a hole in an ancient tree. The other great surprise was an adult Great Horned Owl roosting in deep cover; nearby was one of its offspring.
Once again we enjoyed views of warblers, vireos and orioles.
In the afternoon we visited the Onion Fields and the Hillman area. Hillman Marsh held Ruddy Duck and a good variety of waders. Nearby we watched an adult and a juvenile Bald Eagle on a nest. As we watched the eagles we heard a Horned Lark. Eventually we found the bird in a ploughed field.
Incidentally, we didn't see a Bluebird!
TUESDAY 15th MAY
WEATHER 8/8 cu RAIN SE 2-3. Dry afternoon.
Once again we searched the Point Pelee area. The great benefit of the day was reinforcing our experience of the previous days. It was delightful to be able to get good views of Northern Waterthrush, Black-throated Green Warbler and Black-throated Blue Warbler.
In the afternoon we visited a number of local wetlands including Days Inn Wetland where we saw a Great White Egret. Our next port of call was the Big 'O' Conservation Area at Comber. This is an area of mixed woodland and sewage treatment pools. The highlights here were two Solitary Sandpipers and two Spotted Sandpipers in very smart breeding plumage. As we prepared to leave the area a Red-shouldered Hawk flew over our heads.
WEDNESDAY 16th MAY
WEATHER After a dull start it was sunny and warm (67 įC). A cloudy evening.
Most of the day was spent driving to Dwight on the edge of the Algonquin Provincial Park.
The late afternoon was spent in the park. We were soon watching Ravens, Black Duck and Great Northern Divers. A walk along a side road brought us into contact with a very confiding Ruffed Grouse. Two-barred Crossbills were seen briefly. We also enjoyed close views of a Red Fox.
THURSDAY 17th MAY
WEATHER 8/8 cu. rain, calm. A dry afternoon.
Birdwatching started at breakfast time, many birds visiting the bird feeders. These included Pine Siskin, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Purple Finch and Evening Grosbeak.
Once we were out in the park Grey Jays and male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were the birds of the day. We were also lucky enough to see Short-tailed Weasel, Red Squirrel and White-tailed Deer.
A night drive was rather unsuccessful.
FRIDAY 18th MAY
WEATHER 8/8 cu. rain SW1. Clearing later.
Another day in the park: Lots of birds including the delicate Boreal Chickadee, Tennessee Warbler, Lincoln Sparrow and Osprey. The highlight of the day was a close view of a male and female Moose.
After a fine dinner we set off in search of 'night life'. No we weren't out clubbing we were enjoying sightings of Musk Rat and a male Moose. On a side track we heard American Woodcock 'pinting', calling quietly, before leaping into the air in their display flight. Tony then began to call like a Barred Owl. Before long an owl answered from a nearby tree but despite considerable effort we were unable to see it!
SATURDAY 19th MAY
WEATHER 1/8 cu. sunny, calm.
The main aim of the day was to reach Toronto. Tony decided to drive to the city via the Carden Plain, an area of chalk grassland, marshes and woodland. The marsh delivered up the first jewels of the day, Olive-sided and Alder Flycatchers: regrettably they were somewhat distant. At our lunch stop in an open grassy area we suddenly realised that we shared the site with two species of waders. Common Snipe were displaying overhead soon to be joined by displaying Upland Sandpipers. Watching this rare and elegant wader in display was one of the great moments of the trip. Eastern Meadowlark were also much in evidence.
Toronto was busy!
Our flight to the UK was comfortable and on time.
I am sure that the delights of Ontario will call us back.
Neil Arnold 2001
POINT PELEE & ALGONQUIN
(A) - Algonquin area
(C) - Carden Plain
(E) - Lake Erie area
'Coastal' is used to indicate the shores of Lake Eire.
Great Northern Diver Four (E), fifteen (A)
Slavonian Grebe One,Long Point (E)
Double-crested Cormorant Common (E) but only two (A)
Great Blue Heron Noted daily.
Great White Egret One, Days Inn wetland (E)
Green Heron Four records (E)
Black-crowned Night-heron One,Long Point, one, Point Pelee (E)
American Bittern One, Long Point, two, Point Pelee(E), one(A) and one (C)
Mute Swan Introduced (E)
Ruddy Duck A pair,Hillman Marsh (E)
Canada Goose Widespread. Common (E)
Wood Duck Only at Point Pelee (E)
American Wigeon A pair, Long Point (E)
Gadwall Only Long Point (E)
Green-winged Teal Only Long Point (E)
American Black Duck Scattered records (A)
Blue-winged Teal At Long Point and Point Pelee (E)
Redhead Up to five,Rondeau (E)
Greater Scaup A pair, Niagara (E)
Lesser Scaup A pair, Long Point and a pair Hillman Marsh (E)
Red-breasted Merganser Coastal (E)
Common Merganser (E) and (A)
Turkey Vulture Widespread
Osprey One, (A) and one (C)
Bald Eagle Two, Long Point, one Rondeau and three records Point Pelee (E)
Northern Harrier Five coastal records (E)
Sharp-shinned Hawk Scattered records.
Cooper's Hawk One St William's Crown Forest (E)
Red-shouldered Hawk One Comber (E)
Broad-winged Hawk Two (E) widespread inland.
Red-tailed Hawk Widespread and common
American Kestrel Only six scattered records
Peregrine One, Point Pelee (E)
Ruffed Grouse Four records, including a fine male displaying (A)
Common Pheasant Heard (E)
Sandhill Crane Two, Long Point and five flew over Rondeau (E)
Common Moorhen A single record, Long Point (E)
American Coot Up to five, Long Point (E)
Grey Plover About sixty, Stoney Point and twenty Hillman Marsh (E)
Semipalmated Plover Widespread on the marshes (E)
Killdeer Widespread except (A)
Upland Sandpiper At least three pairs (C)
Greater Yellowlegs One, Long Point (E)
Lesser Yellowlegs Eight records on the marshes (E)
Solitary Sandpiper Two at Comber (E)
Spotted Sandpiper Mainly on the coast (E) but two (A)
American Woodcock Three birds displaying (A)
Common Snipe One displaying (C)
Short-billed Dowitcher Flocks at Long Point and Point Pelee (E)
Pectoral Sandpiper One Hillman Marsh (E)
Least Sandpiper Common in coastal marshes (E)
Dunlin Common on the coast (E)
Ring-billed Gull Very common and widespread
Herring Gull Widespread in small numbers
Great Black-backed Gull A handful of records (E)
Black-headed Gull One reported from the Tip, Point Pelee (E)
Bonaparte's Gull Flocks at Long Pt and Pt Pelee (E)
Forster's Tern Small flocks except at Pt Pelee where common.
Black Tern Up to twenty, Long Pt, a few Pt Pelee (E)
Caspian Tern Four scattered coastal records (E)
Common Tern A handful of records (E)
Rock Dove Common close to habitation. Not (A)
Mourning Dove Widespread. Scarce (A)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo One, Stoney Point (E)
Eastern Screech Owl One at roost, Point Pelee (E)
Great Horned Owl An adult and a juv., Point Pelee (E)
Barred Owl One heard (A)
Common Nighthawk One Point Pelee (E)
Chimney Swift Widespread in small numbers
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Widespread in small numbers
Belted Kingfisher Seven records, mainly Point Pelee and (A).
Red-headed Woodpecker In coastal forests, Long Pt and Pt Pelee (E)
Red-bellied Woodpecker Noted at Rondeau and Pt Pelee (E)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Two records (A)
Downy Woodpecker Widespread in woodlands and gardens
Hairy Woodpecker Rather elusive (E) and (A)
Northern Flicker Very widespread
Pileated Woodpecker Sightings at Rondeau (E), (A) and (C)
Eastern Wood-pewee A single bird at Rondeau (E)
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher A singing male (C)
Alder Flycatcher A singing male (C)
Least Flycatcher Widespread
Eastern Phoebe Widespread
Great-crested Flycatcher Only in the Pt Pelee area (E)
Eastern Kingbird Very widespread
Tree Swallow Common and widespread
Purple Martin Widespread except (A)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Scattered records (E)
Bank Swallow Small numbers (E)
Barn Swallow Widespread and common
Cliff Swallow Only at Niagara (E) and (C)
Cedar Waxwing A common migrant
Marsh Wren In marshes (E)
Carolina Wren Often heard, seen once (E)
Winter Wren Heard (A)
House Wren Common except (A)
Grey Catbird Very widespread
Brown Thrasher Only on the coast and (C)
Eastern Bluebird Widespread
Swainson's Thrush Several records on the coast (E)
Hermit Thrush Heard (A)
Wood Thrush Widespread, mainly heard.
American Robin Very common
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher A common coastal migrant (E)
Golden-crowned Kinglet Seen well (A)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Widespread
Black-capped Chickadee Common and widespread
Boreal Chickadee Two pairs seen (A)
Red-breasted Nuthatch Scarce (E) commoner (A)
White-breasted Nuthatch Only (E)
Blue Jay Common
Gray Jay Six (A)
American Crow Very common
Common Raven Very common (A)
Common Starling Common
Song Sparrow Common
Lincoln's Sparrow A male (A)
Swamp Sparrow Common in damp areas
White-crowned Sparrow Common
White-throated Sparrow Common
Dark-eyed Junco One, Long Point (E) and one heard (A)
Savannah Sparrow Only at Niagara (E) and (C)
Chipping sparrow Very common
Field Sparrow A pair St William's Crown Park, a pair Rondeau (E)
Vesper Sparrow One singing (C)
Eastern Towhee Several (E)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Common on the coast (E) heard (A)
Northern Cardinal Common except (A)
Indigo Bunting Widespread in small numbers except (A)
Scarlet Tanager Seen daily on the coast (E)
Golden -winged Warbler Heard (C)
Tennessee Warbler Often heard, seldom seen
Nashville Warbler Widespread
Northern Parula Mainly coastal (E)
Black-and-white Warbler Widespread and common
Yellow Warbler Very common
Black-throated Blue Warbler Only at Pt Pelee (E) and (A)
Pine Warbler At St Williams Crown Forest (E) and (A)
Chestnut-sided Warbler Coastal (E) and inland (A) records
Blackburnian Warbler Widespread
Black-throated Green Warbler Widespread
Prairie Warbler One in song, seen in flight, St William's Crown Forest (E)
Palm Warbler Only at Stoney Point
Cape May Warbler Widespread
Magnolia Warbler Common and widespread
Yellow-rumped Warbler Common
Blackpoll Warbler Surprisingly scarce
Bay-breasted Warbler Widespread
American Redstart Widespread, but mainly (A)
Ovenbird Often heard, seldom seen
Northern Waterthrush Seen well, Pt Pelee (E) heard elsewhere
Worm-eating Warbler Great views Long Point, 9th (E)
Prothonotary Warbler Only at Rondeau, where it breeds
Common Yellowthroat Common in wet habitats
Mourning Warbler Heard (A)
Hooded Warbler A male Long Point (E)
Wilson's Warbler Rather scarce, Long Pt and Pt Pelee (E)
Canada Warbler Scattered coastal records (E). Heard (A)
Yellow-breasted Chat Seen well at Long Pt and Pt Pelee (E)
White-eyed Vireo Well viewed on the coast (E)
Blue-headed Vireo Widespread.
Red-eyed Vireo Common
Eastern warbling Vireo Common
Pine Siskin Common (A)
American Goldfinch Common
Purple Finch Only at Rondeau (E) and (A)
House Finch Common
White-winged Crossbill Brief glimpses (A)
Evening Crossbill Common (A)
House Sparrow Common near habitation
Baltimore Oriole Common except (A)
Orchard Oriole Only at Point Pelee (E)
Red-winged Blackbird Noted daily
Eastern Meadowlark Several (C)
Common Grackle Noted daily
Brown-headed Cowbird Widespread, except (A)
Bobolink Elusive, Pt Pelee (E) and (C)
Eastern Grey Squirrel
Common Map Turtle
Midland Painted Turtle
Smooth Green Snake
Eastern Fox Snake
Eastern Leopard Frog
American Painted Lady
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail