Monday 24 May 2021

Amherst Island Spring Migration 2021

On Saturday I had the pleasure of resuming a spring tradition that had been put on hold last year due to COVID.  Dad and I caught the first ferry to Amherst Island (630am) to try to see as many birds as possible before catching the 1pm back!  This was the fourth year we have done this and each year we have been able to see more than the previous year: 2017 (100 species), 2018 (103 species), 2019 (104 species) and this year we managed to blow our record out of the water with 108 species!

I was not optimistic since the weather has been pretty stagnant for migration and the warblers have been few and far between lately, but it turned out to be a great day!

What we lacked in warblers we made up for in marsh birds, getting both the bitterns, Sora, Virginia Rail, etc.  One new bird we had for the event was an Olive-sided Flycatcher that sang it's distinctive 'quick three beers!' song from a high perch.  Another surprising bird we had was a late Rough-legged Hawk - the second time we have had this species on the count.

We were sitting at 98 species after leaving the Martin Edwards Reserve around 11am, and I genuinely thought we were sunk, since the last few birds are exponentially harder than the early ones!  However, we managed to pick up a few new birds near Stella (Rock Pigeon, House Finch, and Northern Cardinal, which are easy to miss on the island if you aren't paying attention!).  Northern Harrier brought us to 104 and Ovenbird was the tie breaker along Emerald 40ft Road!  Our 108th species was a pair of Green Herons that flew by.  We made it to the 1pm ferry with about a half hour to spare.

The best thing about birding is that you can bird the same spots year after year and find new things!  We have set the bar high for next year, but we are up for the challenge!

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Young male Orchard Oriole

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Semi-palmated Plover

Wilson's Phalarope

Although I was happy to tally this young Peregrine Falcon, it probably was the reason we had so few shorebirds at the reserve!  They were all scared off by public enemy #1!

This Least Bittern in flight across the pond at the reserve was a lucky break after missing the species early in the morning!

Tree Swallow

very distant Rough-legged Hawk

Saturday 15 May 2021


I awoke in a warm sweat.  No, it wasn't the night sweats of covid, this was migration fever.  As sure as I know which way north is, I sensed that as I lay there in bed, millions of neotropical migrants were in the air winging flap upon flap towards Ontario.  Hastily I dressed, ate, and travelled towards the Lake Erie shoreline - I with conventional means of human navigation, they with invisible instinct implanted brilliantly deep within from ages long since past.  At dusk they rose like vapours from misty mountains in West Virginia, backyards and forests in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, and a patchwork of other southlands to drop like scintillating rain on stopover sites along the Erie shore.  Colours of cerulean blue, scarlet red, flame orange, olive green brought to life at the sunburst of dawn, forests brimming with the life of myriad bird song. least that was the fantasy and the hope as I cruised down the highway in the pitch dark of morning (I've been reading too much Virginia Woolf, and her descriptiveness is rubbing off).  Ok, back to reality!  Yesterday, I decided to take the day and go to the hallowed ground of Point Pelee!  Migration has been slow lately, but I was hoping that the light winds over night might have been conducive to migration!  I got to the park around 645am and birded until just before noon.  Although it was definitely not an insane day of bird activity, it was still pretty good, and I tallied 19 species of warbler including 5 Prothonotary Warblers, 1 Hooded, and best of all a Kirtland's Warbler! Most of the birds were very high up in the canopy which did not make for great photos, but I managed to get a few.

Warbling Vireo

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Cedar Waxwing

Prothonotary Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Kirtland's Warbler!

Forster's Tern


I stopped quickly at Erieau pier and was rewarded with a flyby Whimbrel!

Saturday 1 May 2021

Rondeau Delights! Yellow-breasted Chat vs White-eyed Vireo!

Yesterday I had fieldwork in the Chatham area and zipped into Rondeau to look for birds before I got down to business.  It was quite windy so I decided to start at the Pony Barn - an area which is quite sheltered.  As soon as I got out of the car I heard a White-eyed Vireo singing in a tangle nearby!  I waited for a minute or two and it moved out to the edge of the parking lot.  I photographed it briefly and was quite shocked to see a Yellow-breasted Chat pop up on a branch right in front of me!  The vireo was none too pleased and went after it, trying to grab its tail feathers. The chat was not having it, and stood its ground until the vireo decided to pick on some of the smaller warblers.  I was fortunate enough to snap a few pictures of the sequence!  To get not one, but two rare birds in the same photo was fantastic!

Chat above, white-eyed vireo below

I also heard a Yellow-throated Vireo singing in the distance and it eventually came close enough that I could get a few distant shots.

I posted to the Discord group about these birds and a few birders showed up.  Unfortunately the chat promptly disappeared before many people got a chance to see it!  Sorry Blake and Steve (I don't feel too bad for those guys, they will see more chats than me this year!!).  Part of the great thing about migration is that you get to see the same folks out at the familiar spots, and it is really a small and friendly community of birders!

Overall, a fantastic couple of hours in the park, and I can't wait to get back down there again.