Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Up Come The Songbirds and Out Come The Herps!

Of course, leaving Chatham-Kent for a time period meant also one last visit to Rondeau Provincial Park.  This place, as many know, has a special place in my heart.  I've been coming here ever since I was in elementary school (which was when I moved down here) and have since been exploring and understanding it's significance when it comes to habitat and species.  In fact, the majority of projects I have worked on have had a focus on Rondeau Park.

Many times when people want to visit and say the common "What should we do?". I'm sure they watch to backtrack it because it either centers around outdoors (usually to Rondeau or lately St. Clair) or food.  Well, in this case...it was both!  Two friends, Andrea Lam and Eric Mark, currently working in Windsor decided to meet up in Chatham with my boyfriend (Mike) and myself.  Naturally, I suggest that we head over to Rondeau as I've been seeing reports of songbirds that are starting to come in.  Was I ever glad that we did!

Blue Spotted Salamander
We started along the Tulip Tree Trail where the first sign of life wasn't a bird...but a herp!  Our first Blue Spotted Salamander of the year.  Little guy was moving so slow due to the temperatures being still a little too cold, but it was such an exciting sign that spring was surly on it's way (That is until Mother Nature had the last laugh this past week..again!)
Wood Frogs were all up in a Chorus!

 Walking a little further along the path we heard such a symphony of sound.  My first reaction was....What the heck kind of bird is that!?  I swear I've heard it before....
Eastern Garter Snake

It wasn't a bird.   But a crap ton of wood frogs!  Kudos for Mike for being much more skilled in herp ID than I am, I would have sat probably for hours.  Looking through the binoculars we could see probably 20 or 30 individuals swimming and singing around in the water.  Finally, there was one I spotted that I was able to get a photo of below.
Along with all the froggers (we also saw many leopard frogs!), we got sight of quite a few gartersnakes!   These little guys wanted absolutely nothing to do with us and slithered away whenever Mike would try to catch then for us to get a closer look.  Snakes, are one of my other favourite things and it was very exciting to see them out and about basking in the sun!

Next, all the excitement went back to the birds.  At first there wasn't anything really out of the ordinary.  A downy woodpecker called in the distance, so I called it in fairly close so that the other could see. It was the first time they saw one up close knowing what it was, and loved watching me talk back and forth with it (hell, i loved it too!).   As the Tulip Trail rounded near the exit, we saw a flash.  First assuming it was a downy I wasn't all that excited, despite adoring them there had just been so many.  But then we noticed the size...and the red!  Our first thought was hairy woodpecker? No...Pileated? Maybe?  I snapped a few shots of it (like the one below) and suddenly it just hit me.  "Hey Mike!  Look up Yellow-bellied Sapsucker!"  BAM.  Exactly what it was!  It's so exciting when suddenly names of birds (especially ones you've never ID'd or seen before) just come to you.  

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Following this beauty we went back out to the Visitor's center where we ran into this sweet older gentleman, who had been an avid birder for years.  He told us stories about the birds at Rondeau from when he had started, and other stories about his younger years driving to Long Point or Pelee when there had been a sighting and helping at the observatories.  I don't remember his name anymore, but he was just wonderful.  I love listening to people's stories...you just learn so much.  Here, I was VERY excited and saw my target species of the day...a Tufted Titmouse!

Tufted Titmouse at the Visitor Center's feeder
 Following that, we then went on a hike along the Marsh Trail, which was much longer that it had originally seemed!  But goodness, we were SO happy that we decided to hike it in the end!  What amazing things we spotted.  I believe our highlight was a Blanding's Turtle. Originally I spotted it and yelled at Mike "Hey!  there's a duck decoy stuck over here for you", as a joke...as it was the bayside and the Waterfowlers Association Hunts these waters in the fall, perfectly plausible!  But, the striking yellow throat suddenly caught my eye.  It was a BIG and beautiful Blanding's. <3

Blanding's Turtle 

Some other fun on the way back...more leopard frogs!
The top of the viewing tower was incredibly windy, so we didn't stay too too long, but we were able to see quite a few more coots and a variety of ducks! The walk back I was able to spot another little wonder I had wanted to see.  A Golden-Crowned Kinglet!  The photo I took below of it is one of my favourites I think of the year. It is almost as if it's a silhouette and yet it's golden crown is so evident.  But!  It was a superb day and I was so happy to be able to share it with others!  I hope they all had a great time too!

Till next time...

Golden-Crowned Kinglet