Thursday, September 24, 2020

Algonquin Anecdotes

 From Sunday to Wednesday morning I was at Algonquin Provincial Park for a getaway.  I go at this time of year at least every two years, but this was the second year in a row.  My original plans were to go to Algonquin, then on to the OFO conference in Peterborough this year.  I was really looking forward to birding in Peterborough area, but like everything else this year, it was cancelled.  I still had the option of going to Algonquin though!

I headed up early Sunday morning, arriving into the park in a record-setting 5.5h from Wallaceburg!  I always go early Sunday mornings to avoid traffic.  The visit was quite successful as I managed to find the "Big Four" specialties plus a couple of bonus species!

Scenery was good with trees turning colour quite nicely.


As always, I start birding at the old railway bed off Arowhon Road.  I had some success, but I noticed there were few birds, which turned out to be the theme of the trip.  I think birds have left early this year, comparing it to previous visits.  There were hardly any warblers, few sparrows (not a single junco the whole trip!) and long stretches without any birds.




I did come across a rather late Magnolia Warbler which was a bit shy.



I did pick up on two Black-backed Woodpeckers, a Spruce Grouse and some other odds and ends.  I could not get in a proper postition for the woodpecker, so photo is the pits.


Ruffed Grouse

I saw a couple of Compton Tortoiseshells, my first for the park.  As many of you know, this species is having a banner year in Ontario.



To kill some time, I stopped by Cache Lake boat launch.  Here we have a historical display where the old Highland Inn to stand, and where the railroad came through.



Steps to the old Highland Inn

I also walked along the edge of the lake to the east, where there is a trail.  I saw a couple more Compton Tortoiseshells!

To kill more time before check-in time at the campground, I walked Peck Lake trail afterwards before going to the campground at Mew Lake.  At the entrance of Peck Lake, I saw an Orange Sulphur to add to the butterfly list.

Upon arrival at Mew Lake, I walked around the old airfield, my most favourite spot in the park.  I was hoping to find American Copper, but only found Mourning Cloak.



After a quick supper, I did my usual sunset walk of the old airfield.  I lucked out and encountered three Canada Jays.



The sun soon was to set, so I headed back to camp.


Next morning, I walked my favourite trail, Mizzy Lake.  It is 11 km in length, but visits various habitats, including the old railway bed which I mentioned above.  It was foggy on the lakes due to the cold overnight temps (uncomfortable at night in a tent!).

Mizzy Lake

Some Ring-necked Ducks were on Mizzy Lake in the fog. You can see the "dots" in the above photo.


Scene at West Rose Lake


I did not come across anything special though, but it was a nice walk for early morning.

Palm Warbler

After lunch, I tackled the Bat Lake Trail.  I have had success here before.


I managed to pick up on a Boreal Chickadee at a spot I usually get one or two.  Boreal Chickades are getting more difficult to find in Algonquin along the highway 60 corridor it seems.

Some good scenery along the way.


And, that tree growing on a rock that I always take a picture!


A Garter Snake was slithering along the trail at one point.



After Bat Lake trail, which is just across from Mew Lake campground, I looked on the old airfield for American Copper.  I found two!




After supper, I did the usual evening walk on the old airfield.

Tuesday morning, I headed east to Spruce Bog Boardwalk.  I find it the best time to encounter Spruce Grouse, and this day was no exception.





After that, I killed some time before the VC opened and walked Beaver Pond trail where I added Solitary Sandpiper for the list.

I decided to tackle the Track and Tower Trail, which is quite long, and sometimes boring.  It had been many years since I walked this trail, so it was something I wanted to do.  Although certainly not a birding trail, it holds the record for Algonquin's only Townsend Solitaire found a few years ago by none other than Wallaceburg's Tom and Jenn Chatterton!

The most interesting area is where one can see remains of the old railway crossing Cache Lake.  Also there foundations of the big old tressel can be seen.

Old Railway crossing on Cache Lake


Also, the outlet of Cache Lake has a dam and falls.



After this long walk, I was dead tired (not as young as I used to be!) so I relaxed at the campsite after lunch.

In the evening I once again did my usual airfield walk.  I took this photo, seen below,  thinking of the Bohemian Waxwing that Burke Korol and I found on September 26, 2001.  It was the very spot.  The bird was a fall record-early by a longshot for Algonquin at that time.



Continuing on, I found the same American Copper from the previous day.



About a half hour later after taking the photo of the Bohemian Waxwing spot, I noticed a couple of birds sitting in a dead tree across the river.  Waxwings!  I had not yet had any for the trip list so I thought it was nice to get some Cedar Waxwings.

 But wait a minute, something different here.  They were a bit distant so I fired off some photos to magnify on the camera.  They had cinnamon butts!   Never did I think I would find Bohemian Waxwings at this time!




I ended up staying in this spot for 45 minutes watching the birds.  Once in a while, they would drop down and come up with berries.



A couple other birders came by and I showed them the waxwings.  While talking to them, I heard the distinctive flight calls of White-winged Crossbills overhead.  Sure enough, six flew right overhead!  Another bonus bird I did not expect since none had been reported lately.

I slept well that night needless to say.  It was much warmer too!

Next morning I headed out early.  I should mention that I heard Barred Owl each night, and the last morning when I was already up, one called very close.

I walked Whiskey Rapids Trail before leaving the park.  It used to be my favourite short trail where I often had good success for birds.  It was rather quiet this day.

On the way home, I stopped by Hardy Lake Provincial Park between Gravenhurst and Bala.  It was also quiet for birds.


I came home "cross-country" which took a long time since I got twisted around at one point (signage sucks!).

As usual, I stopped by West Perth Wetlands for a break and to see what was in.  There were lots of ducks and shorebirds, but the key feature was the long-staying Barnacle Goose.  Neat to see, but I think this one has questionable origin.



All-in-all, a successful get-away as I picked up on some good birds, scenery and fresh air. And, establishing a new early record for Bohemian Waxwings in Algonquin Park.


Common Raven



Saturday, September 12, 2020

Lakewatches, Passerines, Tower Watch

 With September well underway, migrants have been in good numbers and lake watches have been productive.  Friday morning saw a brisk NE wind so I headed down to Rondeau Park and set up for a lakewatch at dog beach.  I find a brisk NE wind can be good at times, while a direct east wind is not.

Things were slow at first, but then picked up.  Lots of gulls, especially Bonaparte's were moving NE into the wind.  I was joined by Keith Burk shortly after setting up.  Gulls kept coming, unlike last Monday when Common Terns were the bird of the day moving in the opposite direction.

At one point, I spottted a jaeger fairly close, followed by a second.  Obviously Parasitic, but any jaeger at Rondeau is good!  For whatever reason, we do not get many jaegers at Rondeau, and we have seen very few over the years.

I did not think to get record photos at the time as I watched the two moving SW, as opposed to all the gulls moving NE!

Soon after we saw an adult Little Gull which turned out to be the only other notable sighting.  Little Gulls have been scarce the last couple of years at least in the Rondeau birding area.

After three hours, it was time to walk a trail.  There were a few warblers, but vireos were certainly dominant.  I had five species, including the continuing White-eyed on south point trail.

Red-breasted Nuthatches continue to be in big numbers lately.



A check of maintenance area and a little down Harrison added a few more birds, but nothing of note.

Warbler of Cape May

Bay-breasted Warbler

I stopped by Keith McLean C. L. before heading home, but there were few birds there.

Bronze Copper at McLean's


Today, I decided to head to Point Pelee.  I did not arrive too early, but as I headed to the Tip, it was obvious there was a good fallout of passerines.  Many warblers and vireos were all along the way flitting through the trees.  Certainly hundreds were in the park, but many went unidentified.

Black-throated green Warbler


I arrived at the Tip to find Keith, Kory and Jeremy (Hatt) watching the lake.  



There was not too much going on, and soon we hit the trails.  There were lots of birds to look at, including a significant number of vireos.  Red-breasted Nuthatches were all over.



We went up on the observation tower, which was finally opened a few weeks ago, almost two years late!  It was my first time on the tower, and one certainly gets am impressive view.  It was fun picking out birds from above!




One can get a good view of the lake all around, so it will be interesting to see what can be tallied from there.




We walked back up the west side.  Butterflies were almost absent, but it has been a paltry year for them.

Peck's Skipper (not at Pelee!)


Later we walked De Laurier and found lots of birds, including an Olive-sided Flycatcher.



Working my way home, I stopped by Mersea Road 21 fields, where some Black-necked Stilts were hanging out.  A few days ago, Dean Ware reported five there.

I only could see three during my brief visit, but viewing is limited due to the vegetation and distance.



It has been a good year for Black-necked Stilts in the southwest.  Several were at Hillman Marsh in the spring, and one was at Sombra in early May.

Sunday looks like a bit of weather, but we certainly do not need any more rain!  There are still puddles from the last one last weekend!