Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Spring Migration 2018: From Toronto to Rondeau

It’s been a great month for birding during migration this year, from many days spent at Colonel Sam Smith Park and a great few days out at Rondeau Provincial Park, including a morning in the rain where warblers were everywhere for a few hours, during a mini fallout.

After all the rarities we saw in the early days of May, was it too much to expect more?  Of course not!  During May, it’s all about the crazy birds that show up, and I was thrilled to chase as many as possible, including a Cerulean Warbler back at Ashbridges Bay where the previous day we all chased a Prarie Warbler.

Cerulean Warbler: One of the Few that are Not Yellow:


Over the next few days, at Tommy Thompson Park and Colonel Samual Smith Park, migrants began to slowly make their way north, including a Rose-breasted Grossbeak, Indigo Bunting and a lovely Blue-winged Warbler.  Also there was a rare coyote sighting at Col. Sam, which is always fun, as long as it doesn’t eat you.



Of course, it wouldn’t be spring without baby birds:


Next it was off to Rondeau Provincial Park for their Festival of Flight, one of two great migration Hot Spots in Southern Ontario.  Sue doesn’t come on all my crazy birding adventures, but migration is a different story and she came with dreams of a “magical” Fallout.  Fallouts occur occasionally during migration when the perfect storm of foul weather and large flocks of migrating birds crossing the lake intersect, forcing said birds to land, exhausted and put on a great show for birders who happen upon them at just the right time.  

We arrived early enough at the Harrison Trail leading out from the Pony Barn and in the first hour and a half had walked barely 400 feet and could still see the trailhead, the birds were so thick.  I had seen Fallouts on a couple of occasions, including a great one in Florida in 2012 and a very brief one in Toronto a few years ago.  Sue had never seen one and was finally witnessing the amazing sight of warblers sitting exhausted in trees, barely moving and birds that normally are high up in the canopy just walking about on the edge of the paths.  In all, we saw 23 warbler species on one of the most memorable days of birding for either of us.

                  Cape May Warbler:


 Finally, after 7 years, my first photo of a Golden-winged Warbler:


Baltimore and Orchard Orioles:


This poor, single White-winged Dove has returned to Rondeau for a couple of years now, in the spring, without a mate, as they are normally found in Florida, Arizona and Texas.  Even still, this sole representative of the species couldn’t help start building a nest, in the vain hope of another of the opposite sex arriving any day.


Unfortunately it chose an odd place for the nest, the windshield wiper well of a pickup truck.  Good thing there were no eggs to be laid here.


Bay-breasted Warbler:




 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker:

Blackburnian Warbler:

A young birder proved that age and experience aren’t always necessary for spotting tough to see birds, when she pointed out a Whip-poor-will high in a bare tree that afternoon.  I was able to capture the shot with my iPhone through my birding scope.


One of the prized warblers to see during migration is the beautiful Prothonotary Warbler:


       Magnolia and Canada Warblers are pretty nice themselves:


Red-headed Woodpecker and Purple Martin:


Though the Rondeau trip and the bulk of Warbler Migration was over, there was still another week or so of migration to come, which I shall update in my next installment. 

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Migration Time and the Colonel Sam Smith Park Rare Birds: Chat and LeConte’s

Once I returned home from Florida it was a waiting game for Spring Migration.  In Florida in March, I did see a few Warblers, including the ubiquitous Palm and Yellow-rumped, along with Common Yellow-throat and Black-and-white.  Back in Toronto, spring did not want to come out, with low temperatures and even a late April ice storm, with trees coming down all over the city.

I spend most of the migration season, while in Toronto, at Colonel Samuel Smith Park by Lake Ontario.  It is a great migrant trap and we have had some amazing birds show up over the years.  This year, it started with a fallout of American Woodcocks and a single Virginia Rail.  The rail was the second new bird for my park list,(#199).   The woodcock, I’ve seen a few times at Col. Sam and elsewhere, but never seen one for long enough to get even a blurry photo.  Thanks to a good handful of tired migrants, it was like shooting snapping photos of fish in an aquarium.  The rail also showed well:

But that was only the beginning.  Next was a White-crowned Sparrow; not rare for the park but a very early arrival, and a Snow Bunting, a very late sighting for the park, both of which came up on eBird as rare for the date:

Next up, a Pine Warbler and a Sora, numbers 200 and 201 for my park list and we were done yet, not by a long shot.

Along with the rare birds and park Lifers, there were Common Loons, a few Horned Grebes, and even an American Robin with a white wing, to make birding every day in the park more interesting.

But it was in the aftermath of the April 29 ice storm and after the wind storm of May 5, when things really heated up.  On Saturday we were treated to a rare for Toronto Yellow-breasted Chat in Col. Sam-which boosted my park total to 202-and to top it all off, a Prairie Warbler over at Ashbridges Bay.

The weekend finished on an even higher note, when a LeConte’s Sparrow showed up in Col. Sam, yet another new species for my park list, #202:

Other birds of note for the day were a Wood Thrush, Rusty Blackbird, Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Red-winged Blackbird on her nest.  Migration is just heating up, and who knows what else might show up before the end of May.  I will spend the next week birding in Toronto, then it is off to Rondeau Provincial Park for their Fantasy of Flight birding Festival.