Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oh Sweet Canada!

Are we tough birders or what? Amidst rain and predicted storms, we boarded the jet boat to cross 33 miles of Lake Erie this morning towards Point Pelee National Park, Canada. Breakfast included the standard coffee and donuts, and McDonald's sausage sandwiches. I can just picture the scene at the drive-thru window. "I'll have 200 sausage sandwiches to go, please." The windows on the boat were steamy on the inside, and covered with splashing waves on the outside, but we could still see flashes of lightning. Where, we wondered, was the standard safety speech in case of emergency? We did not hear it either going over or coming back, but fortunately, everything was fine.
The wind whipped across the marshes, but the rain slowed to a drizzle in a short time. The Common Yellowthroat daintily stepped across the lily pads, although it still eluded having its photo taken.
The Red Winged Blackbirds were pretty tame and met us at the beach looking for a handout, almost stepping under our feet for attention.
The Black Tern is a life bird for us though, and rested for a minute on this log before soaring into the sky again. Down on the Point itself, we almost ducked every time a Swallow flew at us. Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows and Rough Winged Swallows seemed to fly races down the path on the leeward side of the peninsula. A Blue Headed Vireo landed on a branch for a minute, and I identified it with no help. Whoo-hoo! I'm getting better at Vireos and Warblers, which is handy since we see so many of them. Warblers a clean little birds, even in the wind and rain, as evidenced by this guy just emerging from a bath in the lake. I'm not positive, but think it may be a Prothonotary. It was sad to hear people say, "Oh, it's just another Yellow Warbler," as the day went on. How quickly we become accustomed to new birds!
The real excitement started on Tilden Trail in the woods near the Visitors Center. By this time after lunch, the rain stopped and the wind died down too. We saw so many different kinds of birds, I wonder if it qualifies as a "fall-out" I've read about? Like the boardwalk in Magee Marsh, the trail was filled by birders of many skill levels, guides for different groups, and photographers without end (including me, of course, elbowing my way between the big guys). With enough encouragement from the photographers, this Rose Breasted Grosbeak hopped from the leaf filled branches on to an open perch. You should have heard the shutters clicking then! He's beautiful and he knows it!
Farther down the trail, Dick and I were alone when we spotted this largish brown bird. I motioned some other birders to come help us, but as they approached, I deduced that the large beak (the Gros Beck in French) made this the female Rose Breasted Grosbeak. I enjoyed seeing all the bi-lingual signs at the park.
The biggest thrills of the afternoon came when we saw birds I've heard many times before, but never actually seen. This Red Eyed Vireo was the prize of the day for me. I heard this bird as a Brownie at summer camp, and never had any interest in what it was. Now we have seen more Vireos this week than ever!
Black Throated Green Warblers have followed us for weeks, both here and at home in Kentucky, and now we've finally seen one live.
The Black and White Warbler can usually be heard and not seen, and even today, he was so busy shopping for bugs under every leaf he found, it was hard to get a photo that wasn't blurred.
Yes, they do allow American Redstarts into Canada. I wonder if he was questioned by Customs as we were crossing the border? Orioles whistled from the branches, and we saw bright orange Baltimore Orioles, accompanied by their more yellow mates. Then a dark rusty colored Orchard Oriole joined the crowd to ooohs and aaahs.
For a while I wondered if the photographers would start dueling with their cameras. I found myself whispering, "Ready, aim, FIRE!" when I saw this group because they seemed to be pointing at each other instead of the birds! With birds around you in all directions, it's hard to know where to look first. The weather forecast calls for clear cool weather for the rest of the weekend. Yippee - maybe I can postpone buying those rain pants for a while longer yet. Total species count for us so far is 81!


Mary Beth said...

80 whoo hoo Go Mom go Dad keep it up.. How many lifers does that make so far? Are you back in the states yet?

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Lovely share of images, great little series, love the Rose Breasted Grosbeak, have never seen one for real before. Have a great weekend~