Monday, May 14, 2018

Some May Migrants and a Painted Bunting in Porcupine

Since the ice on Porcupine Lake completely melted yesterday evening (May 13, 2018), I thought it would be a great time for an update with some highlights from the first half of May.

Let's start with a very unique and surprising rare visitor: a male Painted Bunting.  It was found by Andrew Warren (who also happened to host an overwintering Easter Towhee from December 2017 to March 2018). Andrew found the Painted Bunting on May 9th, 2018 at his feeder in Porcupine (10 km East of Timmins).  The bird could not have chosen a better yard with a more cooperative homeowner! Andrew quickly spread the word and gave us permission to go observe the bird. After 2 failed attempts that same evening, I finally saw it on the morning of May 10th.   

Here is my very blurry photo taken in the rain. It was a cold morning: 4°C (-1°C with the wind chill) and after standing still for almost an hour, the bird showed up briefly at the feeder and I had time to observe it and take a few quick photos.

My first Painted the rain
Porcupine (10 May 2018)
If you look online at the usual range map of the Painted Bunting, you will understand how rare it was to see it in Northern Ontario's Cochrane District.

Although I am proud of my blurry photo, it doesn't do the bird justice.  Andrew got some stunning photos and gave me permission to post them here.  In Andrew's photos, you can see the whole array of colours: blue, red, yellow, green and orange!  I would like to thank Andrew for lending me these great photos and giving me the opportunity to observe this life bird.

Painted Bunting / Passerin nonpareil
Porcupine, ON (10 May 2018) Photo: Andrew Warren

Painted Bunting / Passerin nonpareil
Porcupine, ON (10 May 2018) Photo: Andrew Warren

From May 9 to 11, the unusually cold weather (in addition to below-zero nights) probably prompted the Painted Bunting to visit the feeder on and off.  But starting on May 12, the temperatures rose over 15°C so the bird probably didn't need to supplement its diet with seeds and was unfortunately not seen again.

Other spring arrivals:

On May 5th Gary and I went out for most of the morning and afternoon for the Global Big Day. It was very early in May for Northern Ontario but we managed to see a few interesting species.
Peregrine Falcon / Faucon pèlerin
Timmins (5 May 2018)

Northern Shrike / Pie-grièche grise
Connaught (5 May 2018)

Rough-legged Hawk / Buse pattue
Connaught (5 May 2018)

Lapland Longspur / Plectrophane lapon
Timmins (5 May 2018)
Gary looking for Greater Yellowlegs
Global Big Day 2018 - Timmins Area
Most of our waterfowl species have arrived; we've been seeing decent numbers of them on Porcupine Lake and Frederick House Lake. Yesterday evening, we observed some Gadwalls and Northern Pintails with a group of mixed waterfowl (Greater and Lesser Scaups, Redheads, Common Goldeneyes, American Wigeons, Ring-necked Ducks, Buffleheads) in the Bristol area of Porcupine Lake where they usually gather in the evening during the month of May.

Northern Pintail / Canard pilet
Porcupine Lake (13 May 2018)
Gadwall / Canard chipeau
Porcupine Lake (13 May 2018)

Three Black Scoters were a surprise visit to Gillies Lake (which is a very small lake in the city of Timmins) They were found by a local birder and we were able to relocate them. They were only there for 1 day.
Black Scoters / Macreuse à bec jaune
Gillies Lake - Timmins (9 May 2018)
When Porcupine Lake is still covered in many sections of ice, it's a great time to look for rare gulls. We didn't get the number of rare gulls we got last year but we did find a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Great Black-backed Gull.
Lesser Black-backed Gull / Goéland brun
Porcupine Lake (8 May 2018)
Another fun thing to watch for when the Lake is partially covered in ice every year is the gulls' attempts at stealing the fish from the mergansers.  Here is a Ring-billed Gull doing just that.

Ring-billed Gull watching the Common Merganser
Porcupine Lake (7 May 2018)
 In the shorebird category, the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are here and a small group of Least Sandpipers arrived on May 12.  We also found a Wilson's Phalarope on May 12 in the same location as the one we found last year around the same date.
Wilson's Phalarope / Phalarope de Wilson
Porcupine (12 May 2018)
Not a lot of warblers have arrived yet but I'm expecting a good number will arrive during the upcoming week.  The most abundant right now are Yellow-rumped, Black-and-white with a few Nashville and Palm.
Black-and-white Warbler / Paruline noir et blanc
Gillies Lake (11 May 2018)

Yellow-rumped Warbler / Paruline à croupion jaune
Porcupine Lake (13 May 2018)
This week, we have lots of White-crowned Sparrows (mostly all males so far). They have been everywhere and they are very vocal so the Merlin's visits have been inevitable.

Merlin feasting on a White-crowned Sparrow
South Porcupine (11 May 2018)

I can't wait to see what the second part of May will bring.


  1. Sure is a nice bird (Painted Bunting male)! I have only seen a female here in SW Ontario.

    1. Yes, it sure is a nice bird. Hope you get to see a dazzling male one day.