Thursday, October 15, 2015

Trent Ornithology field trip to Presqu'ile Provincial Park

This year at Trent I am lucky enough to be one of the Teaching Assistants for the Ornithology Class!  This class teaches students the basics of bird morphology, evolution, about birding, and how to ID by sight and song.  It's such a great course (at least I think so!) and I hope that by the end of the semester the students would have loved it too.

My "job" has been to take the students on weekly bird hikes around campus, but also sometimes we head to further locations.  So far we've hit up the Trent Waterway (by Lock 22), around campus, and to the Trent Nature Trails where we had the most luck!  Unfortunately, since I am leading the hikes, I rarely bring my camera with me (hence having no photos).  My computer recently also decided to crash on me, so using a back-up laptop from 2007 hasn't made it easy to "enhance" my overly bright/dark photos the way I normally can.  (Can you say bird photographer problems?).

Last weekend (September 26) we headed out to Presqu'ile Provincial Park to see what we could see, and there was quite a bit, a total of 48 species to be exact!

We started our day at the Lighthouse and Calf Pasture where we saw quite a large variety of warblers!  There is always that one tree where every single warbler tends to hang out, and lucky for us that is exactly what we found!   Students were able to take in the sights of warbler species such as Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Yellow-rumped, Parula, Wilson's, Blackpoll, Blackburnian, Nashville, Tennessee, and Black-and-White.  We also got to compare White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows!  Walking along the road, the group spotted a pair of Scarlet Tanagers, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Flickers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Osprey, and Harrier just to name a few more.

Scarlet Tanager
Yellow-rumped Warbler

 After our successful morning at the Lighthouse and Calf Pasture, we ventured over to a local cottager and friend of the park's cottage for lunch.  He had one of the most amazing backyards that I have ever seen.  It was full of every type of bird feeder imaginable and was entirely pollinator friendly.  It made me really sit back and realize how antsy I am to settle down finally in one city so that I can start something like this!

After lunch we headed out to Owen's Point Beach for a look at shorebirds.  The actual tip of the beach was closed due to opening day of duck hunting, but the rest of the beach was open and able to be scouted.  There was a large number of geese in the area and also very few ducks (I feel like they all know exactly where the hunting blinds are!).  Mallards were present in the highest numbers, 4 Green-winged Teal were spotted, and also one Pintail.

Canada Geese (and likely a duck here and there!)
The last time I visited Presqu'ile it was a shorebirder's paradise, so I was very surprised this time to hardly see any shorebirds.  We could see flocks of them flying out on the island, but even with the scopes being at Beach Area 2, it was just too far away. Throughout the hour or so that we were on the beach we spotted two species: the Semipalmated Sandpiper (SEPL) and Sanderlings.  Throughout our whole beach walk we saw approximately 18 SEPL and then amongst a group of them 4 Sanderlings running around.  These were both lifer species for almost everyone in our group!

SEPL on the beach

SEPL and one lone Sanderling
 Overall, it was such a fantastic field trip.  I believe everyone had a good time, learnt a lot (likely an overwhelming amount!), and hopefully became a little more bird nerdy.  I hope to keep visiting the area a little more this season to spot anymore shorebirds.

The day wouldn't have been as successful as it was without our fantastic bird guides in the morning.  Mike Burrell from Bird Studies Canada and a very well known local birder Doug McRae were so great giving their time to us.  For anyone interested in a awesome blog by Mike Burrell visit: for a bunch of great posts and tons of information.  Thanks guys!

Group photo time!