Friday, 11 May 2012

Relocating to Rondeau: More Birds, Fewer Bugs

Point Pelee was great.  It's just that I didn't see any new Warbler species there.  Now, that wasn't necessarily the fault of the park, as I had been in Florida for a great Fallout and had added a couple more right here in Toronto.  So, yes, we saw Warblers, but it wasn't the migration bonanza I had hoped for.  When I was a kid and I put a little too much food on my plate my mother would say, "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach."  Well, when it came to my expectations of Point Pelee, I had been guided by my experience at Fort DeSoto a couple of weeks earlier, and my expectations were bigger than the number of new warblers to see,

We began our last morning in the park looking for the Canada Warbler, but it didn't show, though we did see a lovely Yellow Warbler and a Swainson's Thrush while looking for either a Gray-cheeked Thrush or maybe a Louisiana Waterthrush.  Out next spot was the Woodland trail that turned out to be quite exciting as two good birds were spotted in short order.  The first to draw a crowd was a Red-headed Woodpecker,(I had chased one down in Florida two months earlier), and it put on a very nice show high in the canopy.  The second bird to attract a crowd was a Prothonotary Warbler that put on an even better show right next to the tree in which the Red-morph Screech Owl had its own fairly large crowd gathered on the same not very wide foot bridge.  Many times, while photographing the Prothonotary Warbler I felt like I was in danger of being cast into the abyss.

We finished down at the Tip at the south end of the Park, and got good looks at a few more Warblers and were nearly attacked and devoured by masses of Midges, gnat like creatures about twice the size of mosquitoes, that bug the heck out of you but at least don't bite.  There must have been thousands of them and in fact there were so many that you could hear a constant hum not dissimilar to an active bee hive.

After lunch we headed out of the park, but not before stopping at the Marsh Boardwalk.  Sue had mentioned the previous day that we might find Black Terns there, and it was not long before she spotted one on the marsh.  So I was able to get one more bird added to the list and only 3 new Year birds for the Park.  Along the way we saw a Swamp Sparrow in it's natural environment.  Again it was a bird I had seen in Florida, but on dry land.

All along I had been receiving e-mails from OntBirds about the Warblers and others in Rondeau Provincial Park and since it was on the way back to Toronto, I thought it would be fun to check out.  An hour and half later we arrived at Rondeau and after a brief stop at the Visitor's Centre, and a look at their feeder birds, headed off to the residential neighbourhood of the park.  Unlike Point Pelee, people still live in their own homes in Rondeau.  One house in particular is festooned with feeders and they have had the rare opportunity to host a visitor from the south, a Yellow-throated Warbler, each of the last three springs. A provincial rarity to be sure, it comes and goes from their suet feeder through out the day.

The home owners invited us, along with a few other birders, to stand in their front lawn and wait the arrival.  Some folks had been known to wait up to five hours without seeing the bird.  I wasn't prepared to stay that long, but was willing to give it time, considering all the birds that did come to their front and back yard feeders.  Turns out Rondeau is pretty much like Point Pelee, but with more birds and fewer bugs.  Just in their yard alone, we saw two other warblers, Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breaded Grosbeaks, two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and our second Red-headed Woodpecker of the day, at the backyard feeder.

After about 20 minutes, though, our patience was rewarded and the Yellow-throated Warbler flew in and had a small snack on the suet feeder, before flying into a tree and vanishing to wherever Yellow-throated Warblers vanish to after their evening performance.  We all got good looks at it, thanked the home owners and set out for some of the other park trails.

At the Tulip Trail where a Canada Warbler had been seen earlier in the afternoon Sue spotted a Warbling Vireo in a tree.  We had only been at the park half an hour and already I had added two new birds.  And it was going to get even better, as the South Point Trail at Rondeau proved to be a Warbler Wonderland.

First up was an Eastern Towhee, pointed out by a group of birders just leaving the trail.  Then we came to an area chock full of Warblers.  Chestnut Sided, Yellow, Palm, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped.  Then two of the birds we had missed in Pelee made an appearance.  First up was the Blue-winged Warbler that, at first only made a brief cameo appearance, but then came out for an encore and flitted from along the tops of some tall grass.  Our last bird was a Wilson's Warbler, pointed out by another birder.  I got on the bird quickly and was able to see its black cap clearly before it vanished into the depths of the foliage.

By that time, anyway, we were both tired and hungry and it was time to head back to Toronto.  All said and done, it was a great trip.  In we found 64 species in a day and a half and I was only able to add three to my Year list.  In Rondeau, we saw 36 species in about 90 minutes, and I was able to add five more birds to my Year's total, giving me 11 for the trip, including 3 at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons.

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