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.

Friday, May 4, 2018

First visit to Point Pelee

Point Pelee has been on top of my "places I want to go" wish list for the last decade and I finally had a chance to go spend 3 days in this wonderful National Park with Gary last week. My birding experience south of Cochrane District is practically non-existent. Other than a quick camping trip to Presqu'ile in July 2015 and another quick camping trip to Awenda in September 2016, I had never really observed birds south of the Timmins/South Porcupine area. Point Pelee was actually my first trip exclusively dedicated to birds.

The Tip at Point Pelee National Park
 30 April 2018
My goal was to take my time and observe and listen to many species that rarely or never make it all the way up north and learn as much as I could.  Hey, it's good to be able to recognize them by sight or sound if they ever decide to show up here one day, right?  

Before getting to the park, we read about Willets at Wheatley harbour and it turned out it was only a 14 minute drive so we went and we found them on the beach.  This was the first Ontbird alert that I was ever able to follow; they are usually over 8 to 12 hours away! I had seen Willets in Nova Scotia in 2008 but these were my first Ontario Willets. Someone we met told us we were now in Chatham-Kent county and I couldn't believe how small the counties were down south. Cochrane district is 500 km wide!

Willets / Chevaliers semipalmés
Wheatley Harbour (28 April 2018)
At Point Pelee, we went to explore the Tip, then we went to walk a few trails. Here are a few random observations:

I watched Field Sparrows for a very long time.  (For way too long, according to my husband! But we don't have them up north) At first I thought it was trying to gather nest material but it turns out it was feeding. It was jumping on tall grass, bringing it down, then eating the seeds off them. It was entertaining!

Field Sparrow eating
Cactus Field (29 April 2018)
Field Sparrow / Bruant des champs
Cactus Field Trail - Point Pelee (29 April 2018)

There was a Vesper Sparrow hanging out at the Visitor Centre:

Vesper Sparrow / Bruant vespéral
Visitor Centre - Point Pelee (29 April 2018)
We listened to the many songs of the Carolina Wren, another bird that doesn't come up north. 

Carolina Wren / Troglodyte de Caroline
Woodland Nature Trail - Point Pelee - (29 April 2018)
I also got to observe and listen to many Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Gary called them Nutchatchers. 
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher / Gobemoucheron gris-bleu
Point Pelee (30 April 2018)
In the evening of April 30th, we went for a stroll on the DeLaurier Homestead trail where we watched a Brown Thrasher sing non-stop from his perch. We also observed a Chimney Swift flying over us and a group of Wild Turkeys. 

Brown Thrasher / Moqueur roux
Point Pelee (30 April 2018)
All the trails were amazing at Point Pelee but The DeLaurier Homestead Trail was particularly picturesque in the evening sun. 
DeLaurier Homestead Trail - Point Pelee
30 April 2018
On April 30th, we had the opportunity to observe a Louisiana Waterthrush that was first found by a nearby birder that helped us locate it.  When the group that was looking at the bird with us left (to chase a nearby Prairie Warbler) I decided to stay and observe this lifer for another 10 minutes. You can see the bright legs, the thicker white rear supercilium. In the second photo, we can see  the white throat. The bird kept slowly bobbing up and down, giving us great views, and I was enjoying the moment.

Louisiana Waterthrush / Paruline hochequeue
Tilden Woods -Point Pelee - (30 April 2018) 

Louisiana Waterthrush / Paruline hochequeue
Tilden Woods - Point Pelee (30 April 2018)
When we left the Louisiana Waterthrush, we thought the Prairie Warbler would be gone but it was still being observed!!  And we were able to get decent views and listen to it sing.
Prairie Warbler / Paruline des prés
Cactus Field - Point Pelee (30 April 2018)
A Pine Warbler and a Palm Warbler were in the same location. 

Pine Warbler / Paruline des pins
Cactus Field- Point Pelee (30 April 2018)

The tip is a great place to watch waterfowl in flight.  Surf Scoters are a rare occurrence in the Timmins area and I had a lot of fun watching them fly back and forth.

Surf Scoters / Macreuses à front blanc
The Tip - Point Pelee (30 April 2018)

A group of White-winged Scoters also flew by. Even if we do see them here in the South Porcupine area once in a while, it was a great opportunity to watch them in flight.

We went twice to Hillman Marsh and observed a Forster's Tern for the first time. The day we left, we went back for a quick visit before we had to fly home and we saw some Black-bellied Plovers, Least Sandpipers and Dunlins. 

Black-bellied Plover / Pluvier argenté
Hillman Marsh (1 May 2018) 
Observing birds that I rarely have a chance to see was great, but that wasn't the only thing that impressed me.  At Point Pelee, there are birders! You actually meet people with binoculars on trails, doing exactly what you are doing. I had never really experienced this before (although we do see more and more people getting into birding here in the Timmins area, for many years we would meet on average 1 to 2 per year) Everyone at Point Pelee was friendly and helpful, from the birders who pointed out the Louisiana Waterthrush and Prairie Warbler to Jeremy and Amanda who took time to walk and talk with us at the Marsh Boardwalk. 

Overall, for a first quick first visit, it was great. On the day we left, a lot of new migrants arrived and the Festival of Birds started; I really wanted to stay. I would definitely love to go back one day; maybe in mid May and for at least 5 to 6 days. 

My first but hopefully not my last visit to Point Pelee
28 April 2018