Saturday, 17 May 1980

CANADA May 1980 (part 1)

This blog relates to a two week trip to Ontario in May 1980 with Graham Armstrong, Richard Bosanquet, Maurice Chown, Rupert Hastings, Graham Hearl, Andrew Moon and Pete Naylor.  All were really great companions.  Rupert, Graham H and Pete are very sadly no longer with us but are often in my thoughts.  This blog is based on old, fairly uninformative notebook entries, a few memories of varying reliability and digitised slides. Most of the latter were no better than 'record-shot' quality at the time and some, especially the darker ones, have deteriorated chemically since.

10 May.  Daytime flight from London to Toronto.  Halfway over the captain announced that West Ham had beaten Arsenal 1-0 in that afternoon’s FA Cup Final (their last success which as a WHU fan I was sorry to have missed).  I was then told off by cabin staff for opening the window blind to look at Greenland’s glaciers as the light was disturbing viewing of the in-flight film!  On arrival we hired a 9 seater vehicle and Andrew drove into Toronto and to the ferry terminal.  We crossed to Toronto Island as foot passengers and spent the last hour or so of daylight there seeing 16 Canada Geese(!), 70 Buffleheads, a Catbird, 2 Wood and 3 Hermit Thrushes and a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  We then caught the ferry back to Toronto, had something to eat and drove to Point Peele where we camped.
White-throated Sparrows in fading light on Toronto Island
Toronto skyline

11 May.  Our first day at Point Pelee.  We visiting the Tip, Tilden’s, the marsh boardwalk and Ander’s Field.  There were lots of 'local' birders around, all very friendly and helpful - quite different and  avery pleasant change to the predominantly male obsessives I was used to when visiting top migration spots in Britain.  At Point Peele there were lots of couples of all ages, some really very good birders but the majority appeared to know no more than we did.  On my first morning a friendly couple came and asked me if I could help them identify a stange bird they'd found.  I replied that I'd only been there for two hours but would try my best hoping it wasn't an Empidomax flycatcher or drab female warbler.  It was a perfectly ordinary looking Catbird which had apparently not been holding its tail as per the Field Guide!   Most excitement was caused by a Henslow's Sparrow found creeping around a grassy area.  It was superb, but so too were some stunning warblers and other very brightly coloured species.  I saw 64 new birds which was rather overwhelming.  Best were 19 species of Warbler including 3 Blackburninan, Prothonotary, 2 Chestnut-sided, 3 Cape May and 5 Magnolias.  Also a roosting Nighthawk, 3 Red-headed Woodpeckers, 2 Cedar Waxwings, 3 Carolina Wrens, 10 Wood Thrushes, 8 Veerys, 25 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, 20 Blue Jays, 5 species of vireo, 25 Scarlet Tanagers, 2 Cardinals and 11 species of sparrow including 3 Henslow’s.
Red-headed Woodpecker
American Goldfinch
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
female Scarlet Tanager
male Scarlet Tanager
birds really could be this bright red!
Henslow's Sparrow, this bird caused quite a stir amongst the locals
we could understand why - it behaved like a rare locostella

a very impressive bird - and nice to see subtle birds as well as gaudy ones
Carolina Wren - compared to ours it was rather big!
Purple Martin house.  Pretty naf but it seemed to serve its purpose
12 May.  We started at Point Peele but it was soon obvious that there were fewer birds around.  Only 14 species of warbler but they did include our first Golden-winged and Tennessee and a ‘Brewster’s’.  We decided to spend the restof the day at sites near Point Peele and drove to Sarina Airport where we saw 5 Upland Sandpipers and Bright’s Grove where a variety of American waders included a Stilt Sandpiper.  We finished at Wheatley Reservoir where selection of duck were present in small numbers.

gulls and terns at the Tip
Eastern Kingbird
Blue Jay
another superbly marked bird
Song Sparrow
American Robin

Pectoral and Least Sandpipers
Pectoral Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs and Dunlin
Semipalmated Plover and Dunlin
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Wilson's Phalaropes, deserving of a much better photo

Blue-winged Teal

13 May.  All day at Point Pelee concentrating on the Tip, Tilden’s and Stein’s.  Overnight rain, which collapsed Andrew’s tent, brought a decent fall with 24 species of warbler seen including Blue-winged, 2 Cerulean, Pine, a superb male Kentucky, 2 Canadas, 5 Ovenbirds and 2 Yellow-breasted Chats.  Very exciting.  Thrushes were well represented too with 3 Wood, 6 Hermit, 8 Swainson’s, 6 Veerys and 30 American Robins.  I also saw 2 Black-billed Cuckoos, 3 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, 15 Catbirds, 2 Yellow-throated Vireos, a Summer Tanager and 15 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.

Wood Thrush
Yellow Warbler
Myrtle Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
we were more used to seeing 'warblers' that looked like this
female American Redstart
male American Restart
Kentucky Warbler (photo by Rupert Hastings)

14 May.  Another day at Point Peele concentrating on the Tip, Tilden’s and Sleepy Hollow.  A record (for us) 27 species of warbler today including our first Orange-crowned (3), Parula (a male), Prarie and Worm-eating.  Also 18 Black & White, 6 each of Golden-winged and Blue-winged, 14 Blackburnian, 23 Magnolia, 35 Myrtle, 2 Bay-breasted, 6 American Redstarts and 17 Ovenbirds.  In addition to the warblers I saw 3 Yellow-billed and another 3 Black-billed Cuckoos, a roosting Whip-poor-Will and at dusk a Chuck-Will’s-Widow, another Ruby-throated Hummingbird, male Eastern Bluebird, 2 Grey-cheeked Thrushes and 30 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  Another very exciting day's birding.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Bay-breasted Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Parula Warbler
another real stunner
as is Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackburniam Warbler, could they get any better?
bright yanks are very nice but ...
... Ovenbird was probably my favourite

15 May.  Most of the day at Point Pelee at the Tip, Tilden’s and Sleepy Hollow, Stein’s.  We then visited Kingsville to the west.  Weather was indifferent and at times quite wet and warblers numbers appeared to be down but did include our first Louisiana Waterthrush and Mourning Warbler and more views of the previous day’s Worm-eating.  Also 2 Least Bitterns at Kingsville, a selection of dubiously identified Tyrant-flycatchers, 40 American Robins and 85 Blue Jays.
Red-winged Blackbird
Bonaparte's Gull

Great White Egret
16 May.  We had a day away from Point Peele driving about 100km east along Lake Erie to Rondeau.  This was a superb area of swamp forest where we saw American Bittern, 2 Bald Eagles, and adult Great Horned Owl with 2 fully-fledged youngsters, 4 Hairy Woodpeckers, 4 Black-capped Chickadees, 2 White-breasted Nuthatches and 21 species of warbler including a superb Prothonotary.  The day had some frustrations, at least for Rupert and me.  We had heard a distant Pileated Woodpecker too far to do anything about but then it or another sounded closer but back the way we'd come.  Rupert and I decided to retrace our steps to look for it but were unsuccessful, and not best pleased to discover the others had seen one after we'd left them.  To make matters worse we then heard another distant bird.  We saw 3 Nighthawks and returned to Pelee at dusk, me a bit grumpy (never satisfied).
Prothonotary Warbler (another of Rupert's photos)
Solitary Sandpiper

Great Horned Owl
17 May.  Heavy rain all day at Point Pelee where we visited the Tip and Tilden’s.  ‘Only’ 20 species of warbler but they did include Cerulian, Parula, 7 Blackburnian and 6 Bay-breasted.  An amazing Red-breasted Nuthatch was the day’s highlight for me and a Mockigbird my only other new bird.  I also saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and 11 Indigo Buntings.  We were halfway through our trip and had spent a full week based at Point Peele. We were thinking that unless there was a big fall overnight we should probably move on.

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