Great Canadian Birdathon 2015 Report #2

By Michael McMillan

Download the PDF of this article, which contains many beautiful photos.

On May 9, at 6:30 a.m. I arrived at George Pond’s house in Simcoe to join George, Peggy McArthur, Alan McKeown, and Shelia Smith to begin my Birdathon.

A couple of minutes after leaving George’s we made our first stop at a grassy field on Luscombe Drive just north of Highway 3 at the west end of Simcoe. Immediately I had my first three birds. An insect-like buzz was coming from a Grasshopper Sparrow perched on a long blade of grass. Somewhere in the distance, was the faint buzz of a Clay-colored Sparrow. Above us a Tree Swallow swooped in a circle before stopping to rest on a wire.

Just before we turned west on Highway 3 from Luscombe Drive a Wild Turkey exploded into flight out of a ditch. We headed south on Hillcrest Road and then turned west onto the 5th Concession. At a brief stop along this road the familiar “witchity-witchity” of a Common Yellowthroat came from a nearby wet area. On another concession road near Turkey Point Road, a Black-throated Blue Warbler flitted at the edge of a forest alongside the road.

Shortly after arriving at Bird Studies Canada at Port Rowan, we were joined by the other members of our group: Diane Salter, Betty Chanyi, and Anne Wynia. A quick scan of the wetland here yielded two Green Herons. Across the road numerous Purple Martins gathered around an eye-catching futuristic looking martin house. I had never before seen a martin house like this one.

The group all piled into three vehicles and headed to Old Cut. Along the causeway a solitary Mute Swan was visible on the bay side.

A walk around Old Cut produced a White-throated Sparrow, a male Scarlet Tanager, a Red-eyed Vireo, a Blue-headed Vireo, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a Ruby-crowed Kinglet, an American Redstart, a Magnolia Warbler, and a Black-&- white Warbler.

On a quick walk along Lighthouse Crescent I saw a Chestnut-sided Warbler, a Palm Warbler and a Purple Finch. Just as we were leaving Old Cut, we noticed several Pine Siskins at the bird feeders. I haven’t often had Pine Siskins on the Birdathon because, by mid-May, they are usually further north.

Our next stop on Long Point at the Old Park was productive. Here we saw a Brown Thrasher, an Eastern Wood Pewee, several Brown-headed Cowbirds, a Gray Catbird and a Warbling Vireo. Warblers seen here were a Black-throated Green, a Bay-breasted, and a Cape May. Several people got excellent pictures of the Cape May Warbler as it posed close by in the bright sunlight. While we were in the park a Loon and a Broad-winged Hawk flew over.

During a quick stop at the lookout over the marsh on the causeway we spotted three American Coots and an Eastern Kingbird. Several Barn Swallows were nesting under the lookout.

At the old Port Rowan sewage lagoon, now a restored wetland, were three kinds of ducks: Redheads, Buffleheads and Mallards. Nearby, a Pied-billed Grebe could be heard.

At a stop at a grassy field on the Front Road west of Port Rowan a Bobolink’s head was visible poking out of the grass. A Meadowlark was perched in a distant tree.

Further west at the Port Royal bridge over Big Creek, the faces of Cliff Swallows peered from their mud nests attached to the underside of the bridge. A Rough-winged Swallow sat on a tree branch over the creek while a Phoebe periodically bobbed its tail from its perch on another tree branch. Further on, at the Lee Brown Sanctuary, were several American Wigeons.

Further west again, in a ploughed field amongst a group of Ring-billed Gulls were two Bonaparte’s Gulls. Soon we arrived at the Jackson-Gunn Old Growth Forest where, in the distance, we heard a Pileated Woodpecker and, from the road, we were fortunate to have a good look at a Red-headed Woodpecker bouncing from tree trunk to tree trunk. On the ground nearby was a Veery.

Heading back east on the Front Road we stopped at Betty Chanyi’s house where, at her bird feeders, we added several more species – a White-crowned Sparrow, a House Finch, American Gold Finches and a young Orchard Oriole. Betty’s feeders also provided the best bird of the day, a Harris’ Sparrow, a bird that was out of its territory because it should not be as far east as southern Ontario.

By now it was far past normal lunch time so we headed to Diane Salter’s to enjoy our lunch on her deck while keeping an eye on her feeders. We were rewarded with an Indigo Bunting, a White-breasted Nuthatch, and a Downy Woodpecker while a Great Blue Heron flew past overhead.

Our first stop following lunch was at the Timpf property where an Eastern Towhee sang form its perch high up in a tree. Here I added an Eastern Bluebird and a Swamp Sparrow to my list.

Back at BSC those who had been car pooling picked up their own vehicles and we headed east. During a short stop in the parking area of the Backus Woods the clear “teacher-teacher-teacher” of an Ovenbird rang out. It is usually easier to hear this bird than to see it.

Just west of Port Ryerse a Bald Eagle soared over a field. Our Port Ryerse stop was quite productive. We found two Kingfishers along the creek. On some rocks not far off the lakeshore were Forster’s Terns, Caspian Terns and a Common Tern. Far out on the water bouncing on the waves was a Red-breasted Merganser.

After a futile stop at the pier in Port Dover we headed to the Townsend Sewage Lagoons for our final stop of the day. On the mudflats here were several Semi-palmated Sandpipers, a Least Sandpiper, a Lesser Yellowlegs and a Dunlin. On the water were Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers and a Blue-winged Teal. A Solitary Sandpiper flew by very closely to us.

My total for the day was 101 species. I am grateful to the group for allowing me to join them. It was an enjoyable day for me doing my Birdathon with them. Without their help I would not have identified as many species. There is still some money to come in, but I am hopeful the final amount will exceed $4,700. I am thankful to you, my sponsors, for raising this sum of money for bird research and conservation across the country.

Tax receipts will be issued by Bird Studies Canada either by e-mail or regular mail in the summer. Refer to the list on page 3 of the birds I managed to identify by seeing or hearing them.

Thank you for sponsoring me,