Friday, May 31, 2013

Pelee Island Part 2

Please read part 1 first:

Pelee Island is unique in Ontario due to the fact that it has not one but two peninsulas to concentrate migrant birds, one each facing north and south. During our time on the island we found two notably rare birds, one at each location.

At the southwestern corner of the island is one of the coolest spots I've been in Ontario: Fish Point. A rich dense forest carpeted with wildflowers like the Appendaged Waterleaf in the picture above extends south until it abruptly ends at a bare sand spit over a kilometre long. When taking the picture above I was most likely the southernmost person on land in Canada!

Large numbers of shorebirds, gulls, terns, cormorants and herons can often be found roosting on the spit. We did not find much scanning these flocks multiple times each day, but Short-billed Dowitcher and Ruddy Turnstone were present.

Given the nice weather and late date we were present, it was not surprising that the woods at Fish Point were essentially devoid of migrant landbirds. Still, we saw quite a few birds at the point due to the phenomenon of reverse migration. Reverse migration involves a large variety of birds, mainly migrant songbirds, flying south off the tip of places like Point Pelee and Fish Point on spring mornings. As far as I know this seemingly counter-productive behavior has not been fully explained, but that does not stop many birders from enjoying it! We did not experience any major reverse migration events, but still ended up with a few hundred birds flying south, mainly blackbirds, European Starlings, Indigo Buntings, Eastern Kingbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles.

On our second morning, I noticed a small group of kingbirds flying out of the southernmost group of trees and over our heads. I put my binoculars up and shouted "That one's a Western!!". The looks weren't great however, and we weren't able to confirm anything more than a Western/Cassin's Kingbird, although both are very rare birds. Luckily, about half an hour later it came back and we were able to get great looks as it flew out over the lake again. This Western Kingbird was the bird of the trip and of the spring for both of us!

In stark contrast, Lighthouse Point on the northeastern corner of the island was alive with migrants, mainly Blackpoll Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos and all 5 species of Empidonax flycatcher including the Yellow-bellied above. While picking through a great flock of warblers at the extreme north end of the point out popped this beauty:

Although not nearly as rare as a Western Kingbird, this female Summer Tanager was still a very exciting find.

We also saw a number of interesting birds apparently on territory, including a Prothonotary Warbler, a Hooded Warbler, a White-eyed Vireo and 2 probable Yellow-breasted Chat heard. Pelee Island is the southernmost part of Canada and it shows, with all these species being very exciting even as far south as Toronto.

We spent much of our time in habitat like the above, and were amazed at the number of cuckoos around. I wish now that I had kept track of exact numbers, but I estimate we heard 20 Black-billed and 15 Yellow-billed on our final day and over 60 cuckoos in total for the whole trip. Still, cuckoos are very secretive birds and we only saw a single individual of each species.

This Common Grackle was kind enough to clean up after us at the campsite.

There are no Gray Squirrels on Pelee Island and the Fox Squirrels introduced from further south fulfill the same role. It doesn't take long to get blasé about these large, colourful squirrels.

This is the end of what I want to share from Pelee Island. It was an incredible trip, probably the best few days I've had in Ontario!

No comments:

Post a Comment