Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Whitefish Point Day Trip

On Sunday, my friend and coworker Nathan and I traveled up to the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory near Paradise, Michigan in search of late migrating birds.

We arrived on location just after 6:00am to a very heavy fog cover.  Obviously, this wasn't ideal for finding birds, but nothing we could do about that!  It became quickly apparent that the most frequent bird we were going to see that day was Blue Jays.  Hundreds were flying around overhead and among the trees.

We went straight to the beach in search of any shorebirds we could find among the fog.  Since the Piping Plovers were back, most of the beach was blocked off, but they left a small strip right along the shoreline to walk along.  Before we found the shorebirds, six White-winged Scoters came flying out of the fog, practically right into our faces, then turned right back into the fog.  It was pretty cool to see them so up close, even if it was very brief.

We caught up with the shorebird flock, which had many Sanderlings, some Dunlin, a Semipalmated Plover, a couple Black-bellied Plovers, a Least Sandpiper, a Semipalmated Sandpiper and this White-rumped Sandpiper, a lifer for me:


We were hoping to catch up with the Piping Plovers, but no luck this go around.  We headed back to the feeder behind the gift shop.  No much was going on there (other than a ton of Blue Jays), but this Philadelphia Vireo was cool to see.


There was also a Snowshoe Hare visiting the feeder area.


We explored around some of the other areas of the point, but didn't see much of note, so we headed back down to the beach.  This time, we came across a flock of shorebirds almost right away.  It was a group of basically the same species we saw early, but this time, there were three Ruddy Turnstones in with them!  Unfortunately, the fog cover was so thick that my photos of them are very terrible.

Further down the beach, we finally came across the Piping Plovers, another lifer for me.   The male was actively searching for food while the female just sat and watched.



We headed back up to the parking lot, where we quickly learned that a Connecticut Warbler was just seen.  In about five minutes, we found it again and I managed an okay shot of it.


Most of the fog had cleared by now, so we headed up with the hawk watch platform.  A decent number of Turkey Vultures, Bald Eagles, Broad-winged Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks were moving past, so we sat and viewed them for a while.

Before we left, we made one more pass at the beach, in case we could find one or two more shorebird species.  Sadly, we did not, but with most of the fog gone, the photo opportunities were better.   

Semipalmated Sandpiper with Sanderling behind

Sanderlings
Here is just a small fraction of the the Blue Jays scene looked like throughout the morning.


Our full checklist of species from the morning can be found here on eBird: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46071877.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Point Pelee 2018

I had a fantastic trip to Point Pelee National Park and the surrounding area last week.  I again camped at White Pine within the park with 14 other members of the Sault Naturalists.   Here is a quick summary of the trip:

I left Sault Ste. Marie at 5:30am and by just after noon, I was already on my first lifer of the trip.  Just as I stopped at Pelee Wings to check out their feeders, I received word of a Little Gull at Hillman Marsh Conservation Area.  When I arrived, it was actually to the very left of all the other gulls, so it was very easy to see.


After spending about an hour and a half there, I headed to the park and set up my tent, then got right back into the birding.  It didn't take me long to get my second lifer of the trip, a Kentucky Warbler.


A little rain came down, but luckily it happened during supper time.  After it stopped, I was straight back to birding.  The park was basically empty at this point, but the birds were everywhere.  By the time I arrived back at camp, as it was getting pretty dark out, I was up to 97 species since I arrived within the Point Pelee Birding Area.  The challenge this year was to get 100 species in one day, so I knew I couldn't quit yet.  I drove up to DeLaurier Homestead and it took all of 15 seconds to hear an American Woodcock.  Up next was the Marsh Boardwalk, where in the first 100m of the boardwalk, I managed to hear both Marsh Wren and American Bittern.  100 species!

The next day produced two lifers as well.  First, I got this Hooded Warbler.


And later in the day, I got a Golden-winged Warbler, but not a good picture.


After my first full day of the trip, I ended up with 125 species.  Other than the two lifers, I didn't really see many birds of note, but I did see a lot of birds!

Day number three started out with a sighting of a Pileated Woodpecker.  I believe this was only the fourth sighting of one ever in the park.  It was crazy to see all the people running to get a look at this bird, considering I see them almost everyday at home.  There was also a Prairie Warbler, a species I'd only ever seen before in Cuba.


In the early afternoon, word got out that two American Avocets were back at Hillman Marsh, so I raced over there and got them, a lifer for me.


I also got a decent photo of a Willet.


And there was a Great Horned Owl across the pond, roosting in a tree.


The excitement for the morning of day four was a pair of American White Pelicans at the tip of Point Pelee.


In the afternoon, I went to Wheatley Harbour to see a Snowy Owl that was hanging out on the rocks there.  It was so cool to see on so late into the spring.


So, after three and a half days, I ended up with 170 species within the Point Pelee Birding Area, including five lifers.  The Sault Naturalists ended up smashing their combined group record, with 197 species, beating the previous record, which was set only last year, of 175 species.  It was a great trip and I'm already looking forward to next year!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Sault Ste. Marie's Western Kingbird

A Western Kingbird showed up at Whitefish Island in Sault Ste. Marie!.  It was first found by Elijah Rodgers on Friday morning (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45557804).  He wasn't able to get the word out about it until the afternoon, so right after work, I raced back into town and headed straight for Whitefish Island.

It took me about 10 or 15 minutes to track the bird down and I sure was excited when I did.  I definitely did not expect that I'd be seeing a Western Kingbird, a lifer for me, here in Sault Ste. Marie.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get any really great photos of it.


I got the word out that it was still around and few more local birders arrived to get a glimpse of this rare bird.  This was only the second record of a Western Kingbird for the Algoma District, with the first one coming only last September (https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S38960845).

On Saturday morning, there was sign of the bird and I didn't hear of any reports from anyone else.  I assumed the bird only stuck around for one day, which is the case for many rare flycatchers.  However, while I was birding at Whitefish Island early Sunday evening, I received an eBird alert that the Western Kingbird had been reported earlier that day.  I walked over to the location it was hanging out in on Friday, and sure enough, there it was.  I was able to get a better photo this time!