Saturday, August 31, 2019

August Birding at Fushimi Lake Provincial Park - Hearst

There is nothing I love more than to explore new potential birding spots in Cochrane District; and the great thing about living here is that I will never run out of areas to explore because it is immense. With a land area of 141,268.51 square km, it is the second largest district in Ontario after Kenora, and it is almost the same size as the 40 Southern Ontario counties combined.  Camping at Fushimi Lake Provincial Park has been on my wish list for many years, and since we were in Moonbeam on August 17, we decided to continue west and spend 4 days there.

Morning fog on Fushimi Lake
Fushimi Lake Provincial Park (21 August 2019)
We made a brief stop at the Hearst Sewage Lagoons before going to the park.  It is by far the largest lagoon I've ever visited, with 7 ponds: 4 large ones and 3 smaller ones.  We only covered 5 of the 7 cells in 1h30 hours (because of intense heat & limited time) This place would require at least 3 hours to bird properly. It was a very hot late afternoon and no songbirds were around but we did see a good number and variety of waterfowl and 5 Red-necked Phalaropes.

2 of 5 Red-necked Phalaropes
Hearst Sewage Lagoons (17 August 2019)

5 Red-necked Phalaropes
Hearst (17 August 2019)

Fushimi Lake Provincial Park is one of the northernmost operating road-accessible provincial parks in the Northeastern Ontario region.  To get there, you have to drive 25 km west of Hearst on Highway 11 then approximately 14 km northbound on a gravel road.  It is a quiet, beautiful, small park that is worth the drive. We had a great, private campsite. Side note: If you don't have an RV or don't want to sleep in a tent (nights get cold up north in August) there is now a cabin for rent right in the park on the shore of Fushimi Lake.

Achilles Lake Trail - Fushimi Lake Provincial Park
(19 August 2019)
The one thing that was clear when we got there was the abundant number of White-winged Crossbills around.  There were practically none around this past winter, but we've been seeing a lot from Timmins to Hearst since June. If you look at the next photo, you'll see why; the cone crops are great. White-winged Crossbills were calling and singing everywhere in the park from the moment we arrived. It was a real treat, and I probably saw more in during those 4 days than in the last 3 years combined.  A important number of Pine Siskins were also around as well as a few Purple Finches.

WWCR feeding on the abundant White Spruce cones
Fushimi Lake Provincial Park (19 August 2019)
There were lots of females as well but they were deeper in the trees, making it harder to get  photos. The males, on the other hand, were constantly perching on the highest trees to belt out their songs and  calls.  I find that one of their calls sounds like they are sending telegraphs.
White-winged Crossbill singing over our campsite
Fushimi Lake Provincial Park (August 2019)

WWCR male singing and calling on top of a Balsam Fir
Fushimi Lake Provincial Park (21 August 2019)
The last 2 weeks of August are always ideal for warblers moving in groups in the boreal forest, and Fushimi certainly didn't disappoint.  Because warblers are sometimes silent (or use minimal calls) in the fall, one of my favourite strategies is to get up early and follow the Black-capped Chickadees. Unlike warblers, they will constantly vocalize while feeding and if you follow their sound, you might find mixed-species flocks (warblers, vireos and kinglets) feeding near them.  Out of the 16 species of warblers we saw during our stay, 14 of them were found feeding in proximity to chickadees.
Following the Black-capped Chickadee to find warblers
Fushimi Lake Provincial Park (18 August 2019)
Northern Waterthrush on our campsite!
Fushimi Lake Provincial Park (18 August 2019)
Canada Warbler
Fushimi Provincial Park (18 August 2019)
Bay-breasted Warbler
Fushimi Provincial Park (19 August 2019)
Blackburnian Warbler
Fushimi Provincial Park (19 August 2019)
Black-and White Warbler
Fushimi Provincial Park (19 August 2019)
Magnolia Warbler
Fushimi Provincial Park (19 August 2019)
This juvenile Magnolia Warbler was being fed by both parents
Fushimi Provincial Park (20 August 2019)
The Fire Tower trail is a gorgeous 3.5 km (7km return) trail that leads to an original fire monitoring tower built in the 1930s. The start of the trail offers mixed forest and is good for songbirds in early morning. The rest of the trail is mostly evergreens and a few spots on the trail brings you to the shore of Fushimi Lake.

Fire Tower Trail - Fushimi Lake Provincial Park
20 August 2019
Ovenbird on the Fire Tower Trail
Fushimi Provincial Park (20 August 2019)
Black-throated Green Warbler
Fire Tower Trail - Fushimi (20 August 2019)
Blue-headed Vireo
Fire Tower Trail - Fushimi (20 August 2019)
Other species of note that we observed but didn't photograph: a Black-backed Woodpecker flying around the campground and in the Fire Tower Trail during the last 2 days of our stay.  We also observed 2 Boreal Chickadees right near the Fire Tower.
Fire lookout tower built in the 1930s
Fushimi Lake Provincial Park (20 August 2019)

Common Raven on a foggy morning
Fushimi Provincial Park (21 August 2019)
Overall, we loved Fushimi Lake Provincial Park and I hope I get the chance to return.  I am very grateful for our Ontario Parks system; they offer wonderful protected natural spaces where we can explore the best of Ontario.  
Roughed Grouse near our campsite
Fushimi Lake Provincial Park (21 August 2019)
Bald Eagle flying over the beach
Fushimi Lake Provincial Park (20 August 2019)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Summer Highlights

Since fall migration is starting, I thought I'd post a quick summary of summer 2019.

One of many Wilson Warblers
Porcupine Lake (4 June 2019)
Songbird migration was still ongoing in our area during the first week of June. We usually witness the best of warbler migration during the last 2 weeks of May but this year the biggest bulk of them arrived at the same time during the first week of June.

Blackpoll Warbler
Porcupine Lake (4 June 2019)
Porcupine Lake is always a great place to observe warblers.  On June 4th, after a good stretch of south wind that had been lacking for most of May, we saw a good number of warblers and flycatchers. It was a great day to be out.  In fact, I had never seen so many Wilson Warblers, Blackpoll Warblers and Canada Warblers in one day.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Porcupine Lake (4 June 2019)

June 4th was also the day that a Lewis's Woodpecker was found between Schumacher and South Porcupine (I only found the post on iNaturalist a few days later) On the same day, a Yellow-breasted Chat was also found near Cochrane. Both are very rare birds for our region and we tried to relocate them but unfortunately, we had no luck.

Summertime birding is sometimes slow but there's always other wildlife around to admire. We see a lot less Moose now compared to 20-30 years ago so it's always a treat to observe them.

Porcupine (11 June 2019)
My dad and I found a male Eurasian Wigeon at the Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons on June 13th. We had also found one here on May 2nd 2015 (that one remained until late summer 2015)

Eurasian Wigeon
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (13 June 2019)
On July 4th, we were notified that an American White Pelican had been observed by a fisherman on Abitibi River in Iroquois Falls so we drove there immediately and relocated it near an abandoned paper mill. Even though American White Pelicans are now observed on average once a year in our area lately, they are rarely documented so we were happy to document that one.

American White Pelican (Max 83X zoom and cropped with Coolpix)
The CoolPixP900 is great!
Iroquois Falls (4 July 2019)
Digiscoped photo of AWPE
iPhone & Vortex Razor HD 60X scope

The land belonged to a half-dismantled paper mill so we couldn't get close but we found a spot where we could observe the bird with a scope. Here is the photo taken from where we were standing. The Pelican was where the red arrow is, on a rock.  The Nikon Coolpix P900 is great in these situation; it is sometimes even better than my digiscoped photos (iPhone through the Vortex Razor HD scope).

The only spot where we could view the pelican without
trespassing on mill property. 

In July, we went on a camping trip on Manitoulin Island, Bruce Penninsula, Wheatley and Rondeau Provincial Park. I like going south for camping; it's an opportunity to see birds we don't normally see here and to enjoy the outdoors without the millions of black flies and mosquitoes we have here.

Southern Ontario is a great place to see birds we don't see often here
Indigo Bunting - Wheatley Provincial Park (13 July 2019)

The week we spent at Wheatley and Rondeau was unfortunately too hot to hike. There were heat warnings every day.  But we did go see the famous White-winged Dove that has been observed in the same location for a few years now in Rondeau Provincial Park.

Rondeau Provincial Park's famous White-winged Dove
20 July 2019
Since I've been back home, I've been patiently waiting for fall migration to start while admiring the many butterflies everywhere.  I only just started paying closer attention to butterflies a few years back and they are fascinating; a great way to make the slow birding days more interesting!

Striped Hairstreak
South Porcupine (26 July 2019) 
Bronze Copper
Porquis Junction (4 August 2019)

Common Branded Skipper
Porcupine Lake (11 August 2019)

Atlantis Fritillary
Porquis Junction (4 August 2019)

I hope everyone had a great summer!
Happy Fall Birding!

Northern Cardinal
Rondeau Provincial Park (14 July 2019)