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May 2024 Canada Trip - Part two Lake Eire Spring Migration (1 Viewer)

NAB

Well-known member
This report covers the second part of our spring Canada trip covering Ontario migration sites along Lake Eire.

The first part of the trip covering Vancouver Island, can be found here: Canada May 2024 trip - Part one Vancouver Island and surrounding area.

Sunday May 12th

The previous day saw us fly from Vancouver to Toronto, where we collected a hire car before making the 3.5 hour drive south to Kingsville on the banks of Lake Eire, which was to be our base for the next 8 days.

Point Pelee National Park

eBird site links:
https://ebird.org/hotspot/L131153/bird-list and for the tip area https://ebird.org/hotspot/L611224/bird-list

I arranged to meet my wife’s cousin Mark, who is a keen Ontario based bird photographer. Unfortunately being a Sunday, when I arrived around 08:20, many of the prime birding spot car parks were already full, so I had to park a mile out from the visitor centre and head down to meet Mark on foot. As I exited the car, I was greeted by a singing male Blackburnian Warbler. At this point I decided to ignore the birds and just make my way down to meet Mark who’d been in the park since 06:20.

Anticipation was high on my part, based on my first day visit here 2 years earlier, when it was absolutely bouncing with multiple warbler, thrush, flycatcher and vireo species! This excitement, soon diminished however, when it became clear that migrating bird numbers present were not huge. Mark and I birded hard for 8.5 hours, starting at the tip and working our way back. Besides the inevitable Yellow Warblers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and Brown-headed Cowbirds, it was a struggle, bird numbers wise and the following species were ticked off: Wood Duck, Wild Turkey, Mourning Dove, Grey Plover, Bonaparte’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Tern, Black Tern, Double-crested Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Downy Woodpecker, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Philadelphia Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, House Wren, Carolina Wren, Common Starling, Grey Catbird, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, American Goldfinch, White-crowned Sparrow, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Prothonotary Warbler (at nest box), Tennessee Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Cape May Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Northern Cardinal and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

On a more frustrating note, we attempted to track down 2 separate Golden-winged Warblers, which were present, one being reported at the point tip and another on the woodland trail. We failed to connect with either and as a result this remains my North American bogy warbler!

Monday May 13th

Rondeau Provincial Park

eBird site link:
https://ebird.org/hotspot/L265518/bird-list

Mark had based himself at Rondeau for the week, so today my wife and I headed here, which is just over an hour’s drive from Kingsville. I actually prefer Rondeau over Pelee, as Pelee is a big park and it’s just not possible to bird the whole park in a day, when working the trails slowly/methodically. Realistically you can only cover around a third of the park in a single visit. It also gets frustrating, as when birds like Golden-winged Warbler are reported, exact location details can be rather lacking, or the report is somewhat belated. This isn’t helped by the poor phone/data signal in the park, as in addition to eBird, many local Ontario birders use the Discord messaging app to report scarce/rare bird sightings.

Rondeau although smaller in size, is still a big park, but it’s just easier to drive between different parts of the park and it has less birders, meaning you find your own stuff.

On meeting up with Mark, we proceeded to bird the road leading down to the South Point Trail parking area. Bird numbers seemed slightly up on Pelee from the previous day and the following warblers were seen: Black-and-white Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Cape May Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Yellow Warbler. During early afternoon we tried to connect with Prothonotary Warbler for my wife on the Tulip Tree Trail, where they breed. We were unsuccessful in our search, but my attention was suddenly grabbed by an interesting Warbler buzzing song above and as I looked up through the binoculars, I was greeted by a stunning male CERULEAN WARBLER!

Other birds seen and added to the trip list included: Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Killdeer, Caspian Tern, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Yellow-throated Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Sand Martin, Purple Martin, Cliff Swallow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, Chipping Sparrow and American Goldfinch.

Tuesday May 14th

Erieau Marsh Trail and Keith McLean Marsh

eBird site link:
https://ebird.org/hotspot/L1782673/bird-list

Again we headed back in the direction of Rondeau to meet Mark and first arriving at the Erieau Marsh Trail. I’ve mentioned on my report from 2 years ago that this is my favourite birding sport along Lake Eire. Its just so easy to bird and consists of a narrow strip of trees, which for the most part you look down on, so the warblers are easier to spot. On the other side of the path, you are viewing an enclosed bay, which is part of Lake Eire and which can be good for both waders and wildfowl. Again passerine numbers weren’t huge, but birds seen included: Philadelphia Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Least Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, Ovenbird, Prothonotary Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Cape May Warbler, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Palm Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Today I’d also brought my scope and birds seen along the shoreline and lake bay, included duck wise and in small numbers: Gadwall, Canvasback, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck (well over 100 birds present). Also Spotted Sandpiper, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, Great Blue Heron and Belted Kingfisher

Next we headed to Keith McLean Marsh and enroute called in at Shrewsbury to see Black-billed Magpie, which is a major Ontario rarity. Mark couldn’t seem to understand why I didn’t get excited about this bird and clearly he hasn’t been to the UK in a long time!

On arriving at Keith Mclean Marsh, some of the birds seen included: Short-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, American Moorhen, Marsh Wren, Chipping Sparrow and Song Sparrow.

eBird site link:
https://ebird.org/hotspot/L2678561/bird-list

We also headed to Rondeau in the afternoon and although birds were seen, nothing new was added to the trip list, although of note we did encounter increased numbers of both Wood Thrushes and Swainson’s Thrushes.

Wednesday May 15th

Hillman Marsh

eBird site link:
https://ebird.org/hotspot/L2996147/bird-list

This spot is close to Point Pelee and I visited here with the intention of adding further shorebirds to the trip list. The site was reasonably busy due the presence of a White-face Ibis, which is an Ontario rarity, being a bird normally seen in Western North America. The White-faced Ibis was soon ticked off and other notable birds seen here included: Blue-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Short-billed Dowitcher, Least Sandpiper, Black Tern, Willow Flycatcher, Veery, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler.

After completing a full loop of the site, a birder informed me that there was a Golden-winged Warbler, singing right by the car park, so I hastily headed over. I spent the next 90 minutes looking for the bird unsuccessfully and it later transpired that the bird was a Golden-winged/Blue-winged hybrid Warbler, so I wasn’t therefore too disappointed at again missing out.

Thursday May 16th

Holiday Beach

eBird site link:
https://ebird.org/hotspot/L7/bird-list

My wife requested a non-birding day, as she wanted to explore the Amherstburg area along the Detroit River; however she also suggested that we could visit Holiday Beach Park enroute, which is a noted eBird spot.

This is another forest park leading down to Lake Eire and containing its own separate large lake area. Within the park is large viewing platform, which gives good views of the contained park lake. Viewing from here we saw various birds species and added American White Pelican and Great White Egret to the trip list. Birds seen in the surrounding woodland, included Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Prothonotary Warbler (great close views at nest box), Tennessee Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler and Scarlet Tanager.

On a non-birding note Amhertsburg is a really nice town and is well worth a visit for its cafes and views across the Detroit River towards the US.

Friday May 17th

Erieau Marsh Trail and Ridgetown Trees Trail

eBird site link:
https://ebird.org/hotspot/L4204660/bird-list

Throughout the trip, I’d been trying to connect with Eastern Bluebird. We were told to keep our eyes on the roadside telegraph wires in areas of open farmland, but we just couldn’t locate any. Mark obtained some local intel that there was a pair breeding at Ridgetown Trees Trail in a nest box, so Friday morning we headed here.

The Eastern Bluebird pair was easy to find and following a short walk along the trail, we watched the pair feeding young in the provided nest box. Other birds seen here included: Willow Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, Baltimore Oriole, Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat and American Redstart.

Mid-morning and we arrived back at the Erieau Marsh Trail. Earlier in the week a major Ontario rarity had been discovered, which was King Rail and which is normally found in the south east of the US. It had also only been seen by a few birders.

As I entered the path from the road, a large bird walked out of the grass and across the path directly in front of me, no more than a few meters way and sure enough it was the KING RAIL! I went to tell other birders present that I’d seen the bird, as it hadn’t been seen for a couple of days. Unfortunately we were unable to relocate the bird, but whilst doing so, we found another Ontario rarity, which was a Sedge Wren!

Overall other migrant birds were lacking in number again and especially on the warbler front, where the only birds of note were a Cape May Warbler and Northern Parula.

Finally we went to view the far Erieau town waterfront, were Ruddy Turnstone, Least Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover and Black Tern were seen.

Saturday May 18th

Point Pelee Tip


This was our last day of the trip and my wife wanted to visit Point Pelee. On arrival there were less people in the park than the previous Sunday and we were able to park well into the park at the visitor centre. From here we walked in the direction of the point tip down the western side bordering the lake Eire shoreline. The whole area was covered in mist, with visibility across the lake being poor; however it soon became apparent that we’d finally hit migrating birds in numbers, with many Warbler, Vireos, Thrushes and Flycatchers being present. As we neared the tip, the bird numbers increased and the following birds of note were seen: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Philadelphia Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Grey Catbird, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Cedar Waxwing (100+), Orchard Oriole, Ovenbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Restart, Cape May Warbler, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting.

Several Mourning Warblers and a Cerulean Warbler were also reported in the immediate area of the tip. We also heard calling Canada Warbler, but were unable to locate the bird.

Beyond the tree line and onto the out of bound tip shoreline, birds seen included: Grey Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Caspian Tern and 2 Buff-bellied Pipits.

From here we returned to the visitor centre on the trolley bus in time for lunch and to check the rarities present information board. This revealed a Kirtland’s Warbler to be present and also a female Golden-winged Warbler at the tip. After lunch we headed back to the tip area to search for the Golden-winged Warbler, but yet again we failed to connect!

Summary:

On this leg of the trip, 126 bird species were seen, which compares to 142 species seen on my previous trip of the area in May 2022. A copy of this trip list is found here: https://www.birdforum.net/threads/spring-migration-lake-erie-ontario-canada-may-2022-14-05-2022-–-22-05-2022.424482/#post-4328624

Overall despite seeing some great birds, I have to say that as migrating birds numbers were so low compared to 2022, this leg of trip was a little disappointing and especially as you could walk through large parts of both Point Pelee and Rondeau, where it was really difficult to find any migrants in number.

On the previous trip, both Chestnut Sided Warblers and Bay-breasted Warblers seemed to be everywhere, but on this trip they were somewhat lacking and especially in respect to Bay-Breasted Warbler, where only a few individuals were seen. After Yellow Warbler on this trip, American Redstart and Tennessee Warbler, was the most frequent warbler species encountered.

I was also again frustrated to miss out on both Golden-winged Warbler and Black-billed Cuckoo, both of which I need and they were reported most days at Pelee and Rondeau.

Many local birders did comment on how poor a spring it had been for seeing birds in any real numbers. It was suggested that birds were either late or had flown straight through at night?

Species list for Ontario leg of trip:

1, Canada Goose
2, Mute Swan
3, Wood Duck
4, Blue-winged Teal
5, Gadwall
6, American Wigeon
7, Mallard
8, Canvasback
9, Redhead
10, Greater Scaup
11, Lesser Scaup
12, Ruddy Duck
13, Red-breasted Merganser
14, Wild Turkey
15, Mourning Dove
16, Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon
17, Yellow-billed Cuckoo
18, Chimney Swift
19, Ruby-throated Hummingbird
20, Grey Plover
21, Semipalmated Plover
22, Killdeer
23, Ruddy Turnstone
24, Dunlin
25, Least Sandpiper
26, Semipalmated Sandpiper
27, Short-billed Dowitcher
28, Spotted Sandpiper
29, Bonaparte's Gull
30, Ring-billed Gull
31, Herring Gull
32, Great Black-backed Gull
33, Caspian Tern
34, Black Tern
35, Common Tern
36, Double-crested Cormorant
37, Great Blue Heron
38, Great White Egret
39, White-faced Ibis (Lifer)
40, American White Pelican (Lifer)
41, King Rail (Lifer)
42, American Moorhen
43, Turkey Vulture
44, Osprey
45, Bald Eagle
46, Red-tailed Hawk
47, Red-bellied Woodpecker
48, Downy Woodpecker
49, Northern Flicker
50, Eastern Wood-Pewee
51, Least Flycatcher
52, Willow Flycatcher
53, Great Crested Flycatcher
54, Eastern Kingbird
55, Yellow-throated Vireo
56, Philadelphia Vireo
57, Warbling Vireo
58, Red-eyed Vireo
59, Blue Jay
60, American Crow
61, Black-capped Chickadee
62, Tree Swallow
63, Sand Martin
64, Barn Swallow
65, Cliff Swallow
66, Purple Martin
67, Ruby-crowned Kinglet
68, White-breasted Nuthatch
69, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
70, House Wren
71, Marsh Wren
72, Sedge Wren (Lifer)
73, Carolina Wren
74, Common Starling
75, Grey Catbird
76, Veery
77, Grey-cheeked Thrush
78, Swainson's Thrush
79, Wood Thrush
80, American Robin
81, Eastern Bluebird (Lifer)
82, Cedar Waxwing
83, Buff-bellied Pipit
84, House Sparrow
85, American Goldfinch
86, Chipping Sparrow
87, White-crowned Sparrow
88, Savannah Sparrow
89, Song Sparrow
90, Lincoln's Sparrow
91, Swamp Sparrow
92, Orchard Oriole
93, Baltimore Oriole
94, Red-winged Blackbird
95, Brown-headed Cowbird
96, Common Grackle
97, Ovenbird
98, Black-and-white Warbler
99, Prothonotary Warbler
100, Tennessee Warbler
101, Palm Warbler
102, Nashville Warbler
103, Mourning Warbler
104, Common Yellowthroat
105, Hooded Warbler
106, American Redstart
107, Cape May Warbler
108, Cerulean Warbler
109, Northern Parula
110, Magnolia Warbler
111, Bay-breasted Warbler
112, Blackburnian Warbler
113, Yellow Warbler
114, Chestnut-sided Warbler
115, Blackpoll Warbler
116, Black-throated Blue Warbler
117, Yellow-rumped Warbler
118, Black-throated Green Warbler
119, Wilson's Warbler
120, Scarlet Tanager
121, Northern Cardinal
122, Rose-breasted Grosbeak
123, Indigo Bunting
124, Pileated Woodpecker
125, Black-billed Magpie
126, Green-winged Teal
 
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I've only done the Ontario thing once, back in May 2008, but like you I dipped on GW Warbler, once by ten seconds!

I also preferred Rondeau - on the first day there we had single male Cerulean, Prothonotary, and Worm-eating Warbler, plus a few Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian, Black and White, Magnolia Warblers plus Ovenbird, Pileated Woodpecker, Bald Eagle, Northern and Louisiana Waterthrush.

Spent next seven days at Pelee and area but repeatedly saw the same warblers but dipped Mourning (only heard), Canada and Blackpoll, though saw a few Parula's and Bay-Breasted Warblers as well as brief Hooded Warbler, Yellow-Breasted Chat, and nearby 2 Great Crested Flycatchers. Also got Black-Billed Cuckoo briefly at Long Point and Eastern Bluebirds at Blenheim Sewage Works.

Nice report!
 
So while I love the compromise birding I'm now totally gripped by the hardcore of a spectacle that is right up there on my bucket list. I am happy to grip you back however, being old enough to have connected with a certain unnamed American warbler in a Kent supermarket carpark a few decades back!

Cheers
Mike
 
We did Algonquin/Pelee in 2017, amazing trip, a myriad of new birds for me, and then a not so memorable venture into the US, even though we easily scored our Target bird of Kirtlands warbler on breeding grounds in MI…
 

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