Sunday 11 May 2014

Pelee Island!

I visited Pelee Island from Thursday to Sunday with some friends from work to see if we could find some exciting birds and other wildlife.  For those of you who don't know where Pelee Island is; if you travel down to Leamington near Point Pelee National Park you can take a 1hr ferry ride to this wonderful spot at the border of the United States.  This island creates the feeling of going back in time.  Much of the island is agricultural and the landscape is dotted with various woodlands, alvars, wetlands, and meadows.

In total I saw 123 bird species, which is pretty good considering the birding on Friday was pretty slow.  Highlights included 24 species of warblers, yellow-throated vireo, yellow-billed cuckoo, lots of cool reptiles and countless species at risk which are rare elsewhere in the province!  Unfortunately, the abundant warblers are really tough to get decent photos of since they have a habit of constantly hopping around in dense vegetation or the tops of trees.

One of our favourite spots to go birding on the island is Fish Point.  At this time of year the forest floor is carpeted with spring wildflowers and lush greenery, and of course, birds!

Fish Point Trail

Ruby-throated Hummingbird nectaring on Dutchman's Breeches
Scarlet Tanager
Endangered Small-mouthed Salamander were present in good numbers
After walking on the trail through the forest at Fish Point, you will eventually come to the tip of this sandy spit that sticks out towards Ohio.  Here there are often good numbers of migrating songbirds.

Fish Point sand spit
Blackpoll Warbler
Blue-headed Vireo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo! Gave us great looks!
Red Admiral sits on Prickly Pear cactus! You know you are in Canada's deep south when...

Wilson's Warbler.  Note the black cap.
The fiery throated Blackburnian Warbler
We also really enjoyed the birding at Lighthouse Point on the north end of the island.  On Friday evening, this trail was incredible! In just over an hour of birding I saw 18 warbler species including Cerulean and Mourning warbler.  Someone saw a Kentucky Warbler right before we walked by, but despite frantic searching, we were unable to come up with it.

Lighthouse Point beach. 

We hiked several of the Nature Conservancy's trails.  This one went through forested and open habitats, and we had our eyes peeled for snakes and other wildlife along the way.

During the walk, Pat discovered an Eastern Foxsnake, a Threatened species in Ontario.  What an awesome find!  This guy was even vibrating his tail in attempts to imitate a rattlesnakes, which used to be found on the island.  Shortly afterwards, I found another one, curled up with several gartersnakes.

Although Caitlyn may not agree, this is a beautiful animal!!
This wasn't the only snake we saw on the trip.  We also found several Lake Erie Watersnakes near the southern beach.
A young Lake Erie Watersnake.
Great snake habitat along the beaches!
Melanistic (black) gartersnake
We also took some time to walk around the Stone Road Alvar.  This is a really cool habitat that has lots of rare plant species.  Plant nerds who went along with us really enjoyed this spot!

Riddell's Goldenrod, a species of Special Concern in Ontario.  Thanks to Pat for the ID!
We looked for the Prothonotary Warbler which was spotted by several other staff before we arrived, but it was nowhere to be seen, despite the great swamp habitat!

However, we did get lucky enough to spot this Threatened species, a Blanding's Turtle!

Blanding's Turtle. Check out that obvious yellow throat.
Pelee Island is a great spot to visit, and I can't wait to return next year! 

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