Today was no different. I decided to try a few locations. I started in LaSalle Marina in Burlington, one of my favourite birding spots this winter, hoping to hear and maybe see a Pine Warbler. I found nothing but House Sparrows, ducks and swans, although there was a nice flock of Tree Swallows flying about. I next returned to the Saltfleet area, where I had seen Short-eared Owls one evening with a gaggle of other birders, and searched for Pectoral Sandpipers along 5th Road East. The most likely place for them turned up, not Sandpipers, but nesting Killdeers. Nice but not what I was looking for. Perhaps the Sandpipers had just been migrating through that day. No worries. I've been shut out before on these bird chases and I try not to let discourage me. I did see more Tree Swallows and Brown-headed Cowbirds, along the way, as I headed over to Fifty Point Conservation Area.
There seems to be no real paths or trails in Fifty Point, just some wooded areas and I had to bushwhack my way through the spiked branches and the thorns of wild rose bushes to find the birds I was looking for. It started off very slowly and even though I heard a few birds, I saw nothing. Sometimes I feel like a very bad birder. People report birds in locations, I go to said locations and see no sign of any birds. But I always keep in mind, "Your patience will be rewarded," and besides I paid $9.00 to get into the park and was going to get my money's worth, even if the high winds were making me sway back and forth and nearly topple over as I peered through my binoculars on uneven ground.
I played the call of the Fox Sparrow in hopes of getting it to show, but instead I called in Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Goldfinches, Song Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. I eventually found my way out of the bush and searched in a clearing by the lake and was rewarded, without the use of bird calls, a nice look at the Fox Sparrow. At least I'd have one bird for my $9.00, windburn and thorny scrapes.
I continued on back into the bush again and along the way got a nice look at an Eastern Phoebe before finally finding another of the birds I had set my sights on, a Brown Creeper. I had a nice look at it as I knelt on the ground with my binoculars, trying not to fall over, but it continued on with it's creepy business and I didn't see it again for a photo. By this time it started to feel like rain was coming on, so I headed back to the car just as the sky started to spit.
One more stop before I had to head home, and that was to Edgelake Park in Stoney Creek, for one last shot at a Hermit Thrush. I found the park easily enough and walked the paths, but it seemed like there were no birds around. I moved over to the other side of the park and this time had to make my way through a wooded area to find the source of the bird calls. I did see two turtles and a Belted Kingfisher, along with a male Cardinal, but not much else, until I moved further into the woods. There, under a long was a likely candidate for my thrush. I waited at a safe distance and yes, it jumped up on a log and revealed itself as the Hermit Thrush. Alas I didn't get to hear it sing, as I hear it could give candidates on American Idol a run for their money in the beautiful voice department. It's also the state bird of Vermont, if you need the answer to a trivia question next time you're in New England.
I ended where I began in LaSalle Marina thinking maybe the Pine Warbler would be out for an afternoon Warbler, but again, it left me wanting. I did see a lovely Blue-grey Gnatcatcher along with a Downy Woodpecker, giving me 27 species for the day,(after a very slow start), and 3 more Big Year Birds, bringing me to 306.
Birds seen in Niagara on April 16, 2012: