Monday, 14 May 2018

Pelee 2018 (Part 2): Pelee Island - Bell's Vireo!

After a great time at the Point I was happy to get away to Pelee Island for some relaxing birding.  I enjoy birding at the national park, but there are so many birders there that it can be a bit annoying at times.  The island is great because there are far fewer birders, so you feel like you have the place to yourself most of the time, and the birding can be amazing!

I took the 1.5hr ferry ride across to the island on Wednesday evening and got there just in time to set up my tent in the campground along East Shore Road.  The real birding began on Thursday, and since most of the other NRSI crew weren't coming over until late in the afternoon, I was on my own for most of the day.  Thursday was a very good day on the island, and I managed to track down 112 species of birds including 24 species of warblers. 

As always, I started the morning at Fish Point, and was greeted with my first American White Pelican of the year floating in the waters off the point.

It was a good day for White-eyed Vireo on the island, I saw 3 different birds.

Blackburnian Warbler
 It was a real treat seeing this Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  I have seen both cuckoo species this year, which usually takes a bit longer in the year for me.

I went to Lighthouse Point in the early afternoon and was rewarded with hordes of birds.  There was a sign across the path that said 'Trail Closed', either because of fallen trees from last weeks storm or because Margaret Atwood was filming a documentary at the point.  I was slightly annoyed as they were flying a drone up the beach in peak migration, and watching the birds, it was definitely disturbing them as most were foraging on the edge of the scrubby vegetation near the beach.  I was very glad that I walked the trail anyways as I found a very exciting bird: Bell's Vireo!  My mind was racing as I was eliminating all the other more common species.  I had just seen a White-eyed Vireo and quickly realized it was not just a young WEVI!  I realized it was likely a Bell's Vireo, a bird I have never seen before and is recorded in Ontario very infrequently.  I was so excited I had a hard time getting a photo of this very secretive bird that preferred the densest tangles.  I soon lost the bird with only crappy record shots that showed only some of the features.  Most of the birds were moving north, so I went ahead to cut them off and managed to refind the bird 30 minutes later.  Eventually I got some shots that I was satisfied with and was even able to get a few other folks to see it.  As I had never seen this species before, I sent the photos to Ken to make sure I wasn't crazy!  Below are the sequence of shots I was able to get, with the last one being the best.

Bell's Vireo
An exciting bird made even more exciting since I found it on a largely abandoned beach!

Friday was very rainy and cold and not the best for birding.  One highlight was a roosting Common Nighthawk that someone else found and reported.

Common Nighthawk
I was a little sad that my week at Pelee was over, but I am already looking forward to next year.  I think I may spend more time on the island and less at the point!


  1. Well done on the Bell's Vireo!

    1. Thanks Blake! Just in the right place at the right time!