Saturday, May 28, 2016

Day in the Pelee Area

It's been a little while since I've been able to catch-up on my postings, but here I am trying, yet again!

While visiting home in Chatham, I was given the opportunity to spend a day banding and birding in the Point Pelee Area from two birding/banding friends Emma Buck and Jeremy Bensette. I'm a little embarrassed to say that even though I grew up in Chatham-Kent...I have only ever been to Point Pelee National Park once during a Grade 4 field trip.  But, with this chance to head down there, I took it and boy am I so glad that I did!

I begun the morning early at Hillman Marsh with Emma for some banding.  We set up nets and eagerly waited for the first net run. Flying over us all morning were flocks of Black-bellied Plovers (my first of the year...or FOY). It their first really busy day at the station, so I was incredibly happy that I was able to come out, help, and band some awesome birds in the process.  During our net runs we caught high numbers of Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Yellow Warblers.

Common Yellowthroat

Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

I was really excited too to see a handful of other bright warblers such as the: Black-and-White, Nashville, Palm (my first in the hand!)

Black-and-White Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Palm Warbler

Northern Waterthrush
We then had three REALLY special guests show up into the nets...a Canada Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler and a Rusty Blackbird!  These two warbler species are always a "favourite" I would say amongst the birders I know and are definitely a treat to be able to see them in the hand.  A group of people had stopped by to watch at this point and the "oooohs and ahhhs" from the crowed were certainly there!
Canada Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Rusty Blackbird
Some of the last birds at the station were a group of Warbling Vireos that we had caught together in a net, which obviously makes for a great group photo!

Once the nets were closed at Hillman, we drove off to the Wheatley station.  Before we arrived there, we decided to stop quickly at the harbour because there had been recent sightings of Willet, a type of shorebird, on the beach.  We were incredibly lucky as we spotted them almost immediately after getting out of our car!  They were life species #239 for me.

From here, we went to the Wheatley Station where I was so lucky to participate in quite a bit more banding!  I banded my first Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, Blue Jay, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and White-crowned Sparrow! 

Second Year male Orchard Oriole
Can see the different coloured wing feathers
Second-Year male, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
It was certainly a little terrifying taking a Rose-breasted Grosbeak out of a bag, I mean, look at that bill.  Anything made for crushing seeds can cause some serious pain to skin. Luckily I managed to only get bitten once, and boy did it leave a mark!

We left the station a little early so that we could meet up with Jeremy Bensette at Point Pelee NP.  We took the "bus" to the tip and began the evening birding from there. Birds, were immediate. We heard stories from people that entire day talking about how "warblers were dripping from the trees", and while we missed this extent there were still birds everywhere we looked.  It say the least...amazing.  During this first part of the evening I was able to see my very first male Bay-breasted Warbler, and lifer Cape May (bird #240!).

Male Bay-breasted Warbler

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler
During this trip I decided that I wouldn't even bother taking any in-flight photos. Mainly because, quite frankly, I suck at them.  Every time I attempt a shot it always comes out as a colourful blur and I still don't know camera settings well enough that I can change them in that instant.  However, one thing I learnt during this trip is that, if I don't prepare and try to get perching shots...apparently I get ok in-flight photos instead!

Blackburnian Warbler
Cape May Warbler taking off

We saw many other birds during out walk including Magnolia, Yellow, Palm, Black-throated Blue and Green Warblers, thrushes too such as Veery and Swainsons, and also happened to spot Tree Swallows who were potentially beginning to built a nest in a tree cavity (or were already taking care of young!).  

Magnolia Warbler

Another Maggie
Curious Palm Warbler


Tree Swallow

We then packed up and headed a little closer towards the Marsh Boardwalk area as the sun was about to set, hoping to pick up just a few more birds.  One that was particularly on my list to see this year was a Red-headed Woodpecker.  I do remember seeing one once in Grade 4 here, however since then I've only ever seen one in Illinois!  Much to my delight, we noticed a crowd of people taking photos of a bird....which was a Red-headed Woodpecker!  

Afterwards we walked a little more towards the lake where I then saw my lifer (#241) Lincoln's Sparrow.  With a really crappy record shot to boot!

It was such a beautiful day out and a much needed break!  Thank you so much to Emma and Jeremy for bringing me out both banding and birding!  And big thanks too to the Wheatley banding crew for letting me come over to your house and have a wee bit of fun!

Happy Birding everyone!