Monday, May 12, 2014

Pt. Pelee, The Quiet Peninsula? - 10 May 2014

As I rode the tram out to to the tip of Pt. Pelee Saturday morning, I was chatting w/ a gentleman who commented that "he liked coming to Pt. Pelee National Park because its not crowded like Magee Marsh".  I didn't have the heart to tell him that I arrived here at 7 am, and had to park in the DeLaurier parking lot and ride my bike to the Visitor Center because all of the parking lots in between were filled...

I was at Pelee on Saturday morning to give a Digiscoping presentation as part of their Lunch and Learn sessions at the Visitor Center. Sarah Rupert, aka "Pelee Girl" and Park Interpretor, invited me to speak to the lunchtime crowd.  It gave me an opportunity to get back to the place where most of us growing up 'cut our teeth' on the birding mecca of Canada.  I was also there on Monday after hearing reports of Long-billed Dowitchers at nearby Hillman Marsh, and Smith's Longspurs just a few miles away.  I would dip on both, but still enjoyed a slow-but-great day.

Monday was sunny but cold, so hats and gloves were required field attire.  I started at the Marsh Boardwalk with the hopes of seeing some Black Terns, but would quickly realize that I was a few weeks early.  Water levels in the marsh appeared a bit high, but I still managed some nice pics and close encounters with the resident Red-winged Blackbirds and Swamp Sparrows.

Next stop was the DeLaurier Trails, where I had hoped to pick up the Yellow-breasted Chat that had been seen the past few days.  Dipped.  But I did see plenty of Yellow Warblers, a Yellow-throated Vireo, and a flock of 12 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks pass through the trees above me.  A flyover Common Loon was also a nice surprise.

1st-year male RBGB
The brush piles near the parking gave me an opportunity to do some early morning digiscoping.  A Gray Catbird and Eastern Kingbird provided stunning profiles in the morning sun.

As I drove toward the Visitor Center I spotted the great Cherise Charron and stopped to chat with her.  She offered to show me the flock of scoters out on the West Beach and the Eared Grebe that accompanied them.  But first we headed to the field across from the White Pine parking lot with the hopes of seeing the Chat.  Dipped.  But we did see several Hermit Thrush and an accomodating Song Sparrow.

We found the flock of scoters out on the west shoreline of Lake Erie, but they were south near the tip, so we hopped on the tram (btw the parking lot at the Visitor Center was full at 9 am) and took it to the midway stop.  A short hike through the woods brought us out on the beach and in front of a small raft of Black Scoters, Surf Scoters and White-winged Scoters.  We could not relocate the Eared Grebe.

We then walked the beach trail to the tip, where we passed a small group of birders trying to find a Virginia Rail among the rocks along the shoreline.  We would find a Northern Waterthrush bashing in the brains of a large termite grub. The Tip was quiet, so we headed back toward the tram using the woodland trail.  A pair of Wild Turkey and four Black-and-White Warblers were our only company. Cherise had to head off for work, so I packed up and headed to Birdies' Perch for a hot dog and fries.

From there I drove over to Hillman Marsh to look for shorebirds.  I arrived just after noon and found ~300 Black-bellied Plovers in the Shorebird Cell.  The sun was high overhead and heat shimmer was serious, so photography was strictly 'for record only'.  It was nice to sit on the bench, enjoy the sun, listen to the bullfrogs and toads singing in the shallows just inches away.  Nice scope views of the plovers were enjoyed, and I was tempted to nap there on the bench, but decided to head back home.

Saturday morning brought cool temps, especially after an early-morning rain, and I had forgotten my jacket.  But I roughed it, grabbed the scope and camera and headed back out on the DeLaurier Trail for a quick walk. Baltimore Orioles, House Wrens, and Yellow Warblers were everywhere.  I was able to digiscope a Field Sparrow in the parking lot, and a nearby Indigo Bunting, but most pics were on-the-fly as I rode the bike back toward the Visitor Center.

Gray-cheeked Thrush

As I boarded the tram and waited to take off, I spotted Iain Campbell, President of Tropical Birding Tours.  We chatted a few minutes before I headed toward the Tip.  Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, more Baltimore Orioles, and an Orchard Oriole were spotted along the way.  When I arrived at the Tip I found a large crowd of birders but very few birds: single Magnolia Warbler and Warbling Vireo. A small group were along the east beach watching an American Redstart and Nashville Warbler, the latter providing stunning views just inches away!

I headed back to give my talk, and enjoyed listening to Sarah's Warbler ID Talk, but I would miss a number of great birds reported that day.  Sarah was still on a high after finally seeing her nemesis bird: a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that was found a day before.  A Kirtland's Warbler would also be reported at nearby Long Point, but I had to head back home, so these birds would have to wait for another time.

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