Sunday, September 30, 2018

OFO Convention Weekend 2018

It has been a whirlwind week for me with the trip up north, then back for the Ontario Field Ornithologist Convention at Point Pelee.  I went to Erieau on Friday, then over to Point Pelee for some birding and the evening affair, then back home.  Saturday I went to Rondeau to scout things out with Steve Charbonneau, then back over to Point Pelee for a little birding, and the evening dinner and meeting, back home.  It was back down to Rondeau and Blenheim today to co-lead the field trips.  A week off from work does not mean any rest! (Although anything is better than working).

Friday was fairly good birding at Erieau rail trail.  Blackpoll Warblers were coming out the wazoo, as parts of the trail were crawling with them.

Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler

There were other warblers mixed in such as Northern Parula and Wilson's.

Northern Parula

For the afternoon, I did some birding at Point Pelee.  The back side of De Laurier was quite good.  While there, I noticed a good number of birds moving south towards the east side.  I thought perhaps the east end of Shuster would be good.
My hunch was right on as lots of birds were moving through near the far end of Shuster Trail.  It was very nice to see so many birds.  Highlight was a White-eyed Vireo.

The evening affair called "Birds and Beers" attracted many OFO members.  Perhaps the "beers" had something to do with it (just kidding!)--although you could get beer.  Presentations included a history of Point Pelee National Park by Dan Dufour.  At the end of his talk, a virtual video of the new tower at the Tip was given.  It will be something to behold, so just wait until later this fall when it is complete!

Jeremy Bensette gave a fabulous presentation about his 2017 Big Ontario Year.  He did a great job and I admire the efforts of this young man.

Jere at the Tip

Saturday I went down to Rondeau Park early and met up with Steve Charbonneau on a clear crisp morning.

We wanted to see what was around and plan for the Sunday field trip for OFO.  We started with a lakewatch at dog beach.  Not much was moving but as usual a few tired migrants were coming in off the lake.
At one point, we spotted a thrush (determined to be Hermit) coming in.  Unfortunately, a gull also spotted this poor little bird.  The Hermit Thrush was not 3m from the shoreline when it went down on the water.  It was done.  The gull plucked it up!

We also watched another Hermit Thrush come in being chased by a Merlin.  It had some close calls, but the little manged to dive into the first shrub on the beach.

Afterwards, we walked south point trail which was good birding.  It was obvious that Blackpoll Warblers and Red-breasted Nuthatches came in overnight by the droves.  We had about 150 of each!
Often Blackpoll Warblers can be seen in big numbers in the fall.  We do not see very many in the spring migration, but most take a different route in the fall. I recall one day many years ago in the fall, I estimated about 800 Blackpoll Warblers in the park!

Just before leaving, Steve told me about something bizarre near the old pier.  As we arrived, I could see a mass of cattails!

A floating island indeed!

By some quirk of fate, an acre of marsh broke away 5km down on September 9.  This thing had a mind of its own as it was blown all around the Bay.  About Thursday, it grounded just south of the old pier.  It is one of the strangest things you will ever see!

Where is the old pier?

Saturday afternoon I headed over to Point Pelee for some birding before the evening conference.

Black-throated Blue (female)
Chestnut-sided Warbler

These gatherings are always great and I look forward to them each year.  I have been going since about 1997 (with the exception of two).
After a great meal at the Roma Club, business was taken care of, then the Distinguished Ornithologist Award is given.  This year it was for Alan Wormington who needs no introduction.  Alan was one of a kind and certainly is missed. A wonderful (eulogy of sorts) was given by Alan's very good friend Bill Lamond.
Certificates of Appreciation are also presented.  Our very own Steve Charbonneau received one for his Ontbirds postings about the status of recent rare birds at Rondeau.
The key note speaker was Tom Hince, whom many will know.  He gave one stellar talk about Point Pelee history with regards to the birds and birders.

Sunday was my field trip day at Rondeau and Blenheim.

I had the help from my very good friend Steve Charbonneau as well as Donald and Rayfield Pye.  I am always apprehensive about these as to where to go, what will the weather be like, and will the birds show.  Well, it always seems to work out!

The weather was not great, but due to wind and the Pumpkin Run (which always seems to coincide), we walked out marsh trail.  We started in view of the new island, where a Yellow-billed Cuckoo got things going.  A good bird to start!
There were lots of warblers to see along marsh trail, thankfully.



Near lunchtime, a few of us decided to scope Rondeau Bay where we added a number of species.

Afternoon was spent at Blenheim lagoons where there were several ducks, shorebirds and swallows.
After finishing up there, we all headed home after a great weekend of camaraderie.

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