My wife and I flew Business Class with Globespan from Edinburgh to Hamilton International which is ideally located for visiting the birding hotspots in Southern Ontario. Flights both ways were late in taking off but made up time and overall we were happy with the Company and would use them again. Arrived around 5pm in Hamilton to warm sunny weather which continued for most of the 2 weeks we were there with a high of around 86F. The first night was spent in Ancaster just outside Hamilton and our first birds, seen from the taxi to our B&B, were Common Grackle, American Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, European Starling and House Sparrow all of which were common throughout the trip and seen daily. A short evening walk produced Mourning Dove, Chipping and Song Sparrows, American Crow and Turkey Vultures. Again all apart from Song Sparrow were seen regularly during our stay. A slightly longer walk the next morning added Black-capped Chickadee, American Goldfinch and House Finch before we headed off to collect our hire car. During the drive to Leamington which took around a leisurely 4 hours including a break we added Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer and Bonapartes gull.
Our B&B base was situated in 10 acres of woodland and before leaving for Point Pelee National Park on the Monday morning we had added Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe and Yellow-rumped Warbler.
The first of eight days at Pelee was relatively quiet but we still added a further 36 species including 2 fledgling Great Horned Owls, distant views of nesting Bald Eagles and after taking a wrong turn on the way back in the evening Semi-palmated Plover and Marbled Godwit being watched by a group of birders in a small scrape in a field.
I had booked an organised walk on the Tuesday morning and would recommend them to any first time visitors as the guides are well informed and knowledgeable. The group leader, Pete Read, took us to what remained of the tip. Winter storms had removed the sand spit completely as well as uprooting some of the trees at the southern edge.
A further 16 species were added during the day including Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Palm and Hooded Warblers as well as Scarlet and Summer Tanager.
Wednesday added a further 10 species including American Woodcock and Green Heron on another organised walk in the evening. Large numbers of Warblers were present in the park especially towards the northern end around Sanctuary car park and I managed to add Prairie, Bay-breasted and Kentucky Warblers.
Thursday added a further 8 species including Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-winged, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian and 6 Wilsonís Warblers. Large numbers of Warblers and Vireos were still around and passing through the Sanctuary/North West Beach area and there was constantly something to watch even as the light faded in the evening, quite an unforgettable experience.
Friday added only another 6 species but they included an elusive Louisiana Waterthrush which showed only briefly after a two and a half hour stakeout. Again the warblers were still present at the north end and Orange-crowned, Mourning and a beautiful male Canada were seen.
I had booked a bus tour on the Saturday afternoon and this visited Hillman Marsh and Wheatley Harbour as well as many other interesting places in between. A total of 23 species were added during the day including Greater Yellowlegs, Solitary, Least and Semi-palmated Sandpipers. The only small passerines added were Philadelphia Vireo and Northern Parula although there were still plenty of warblers present.
Sunday was our final day at Pelee and a further 6 new species were added with the only warbler being an Ovenbird seen after missing out on a Golden-winged warbler. A perched Chuck-Willís-Widow near the tip and a Common Nighthawk at the Marsh Boardwalk car park in the evening finished off a memorable visit to this amazing park.
It is also worth mentioning species reported but not seen by us during our stay. These included Mississippi Kite, Golden Eagle, Peregrine and Prothonatory, Cerulean and Blackpoll Warblers as well as Yellow-breasted Chat.
We left our B&B on Monday morning and headed for Rondeau Provincial Park in the first real rain of the trip. The feeders at the visitor centre were busy with several species including our first Hairy Woodpecker and White-breasted Nuthatch. The Tulip Tree trail delivered a brilliant male Prothonotary Warbler and Northern Waterthrush singing initially in the top of a tree. A walk in the area of the Pony Barn saw Lincolnís Sparrow and House Wren added to the list but a Blackpoll Warbler reported from this area failed to show. I would have liked to spend more time at Rondeau but we had to leave and make our way to our final B&B at Port Rowan, a small town situated close to Long Point.
The Bird Studies Canada observatory situated at Old Cut Boulevard on Long Point is well worth several visits to observe the banding operations. Close views of many species were obtained and provided the weather is dry visitors can observe the birds being processed every morning.
We visited the Observatory and the wader scrape at Bird Studies HQ in Port Rowan on the Tuesday morning where we were advised to try for some species in the Wilsons Tract area. A visit there saw Vesper Sparrow and a male Bobolink added but a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was missed by a couple of minutes. I found a freshly dead adult male Northern Goshawk in the woods with no apparent injuries. A Wild turkey was seen heading away from us at great speed as we left the area. A further visit to the observatory area in the evening and some help from a friendly French-Canadian birder resulted in a male Yellow-headed Blackbird being seen displaying in the reed beds. The same birder gave us directions to five Sandhill Cranes feeding in fields a few kilometres along the road.
The following day saw us back at the observatory where a Swamp Sparrow was banded along with around another eighty birds while we were there. A walk around the trails at the Bird Studies Canada HQ during the afternoon added Eastern Meadowlark. A visit to St. Williams forest clearing failed to add any new species but we stopped and joined some birders on the way back who were watching a male Lark Sparrow singing in a field off East Quarter Line Road.
Thursday was our last days birding as a visit to Niagara before our flight home was planned for the Friday. A visit to the observatory in only our second spell of rain resulted in a Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Warbler in the woods where the mist nets were rolled up due to the weather. After some discussion we decided that a final visit to the St. Williams Forest clearing complete with a picnic dinner would be the best option for our final night. This proved to be a good decision as we finally saw a Belted Kingfisher at our fourth attempt that was always perched on the wires according to our landlady at the B&B. On a walk around the clearing we heard a male Ruffed Grouse drumming but didnt manage to catch even a glimpse of him. We also heard a Pileated Woodpecker drumming and this time we had more luck and ended up with reasonable views of the bird perched and later in flight. As darkness approached we listened for our target species and eventually the unmistakeable call of a Whip-Poor-Will started close to where our car was parked. I walked towards the sound and was rewarded with close views of one bird perched on the sand trail only around six feet from me. Another was seen in flight at the same time so at least two birds were present.
The total for the trip was 146 species of which 120 were lifers for me and I would highly recommend a visit to this area especially during May. Point Pelee national Park is busy during the Festival of Birds at that time but I didnít find that a problem and on some occasions it proved helpful in locating birds that I would have missed otherwise. A full list of the bird species seen is shown below. We also saw Moose, Coyote, Raccoon, Chipmunks, Eastern Fox Snake, Five-lined Skink and turtles including Snapping during our stay.
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Great Blue Heron
Greater Black-Backed Gull
Great Horned Owl
Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
Cape May Warbler
Black-Throated Blue Warbler
Black-Throated Green Warbler