Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Solitude returns....but there is lots to see!

The last couple of weeks or so have been pretty chaotic at many birding hotspots in southern Ontario. It is totally understandable, given the concentration of many of the more colourful feathered critters, which are especially easy to see before the opening leaves obscure them. However the concentrations of birds as most birders would like, were not all that plentiful. A case in point was on this past weekend, one of the busiest in the early season for most southern Ontario provincial parks. Birders, as well as other park users enjoying this holiday weekend were visible in large numbers. But the birds were not.

I chose the less travelled trails, such as one of the middle sections of Harrison Trail. In about an hour and a half, I saw two other birders and two cyclists.
There were a few warblers, including Canada, American Redstart and this male Hooded Warbler which was singing up a storm. It looked like it was in good habitat....will this be the year that this species at risk is confirmed breeding at Rondeau?

Along the deer exclosure off of Bennett Ave, I had two Pileated Woodpeckers right close by. They were both males, vying for territory, it seemed, and were on opposite sides of this tree trunk at times, but those photos didn't turn out.

Other resident species are easier to find, such as Great Crested Flycatcher and Eastern Kingbird.
Great Crested Flycatcher

Eastern Kingbird
Even combing the forest edges for several hours on the weekend would only bring the average warbler list to between 15 and 20 species. But later in the day, warblers were seen concentrated in unexpected places. In a cluster of spruces and Red Cedars situated on a vacant cottage lot along Lakeshore Road, I had 15 species of warblers in about 35 minutes, certainly a greater diversity than I had seen that day to that point. Unfortunately they were hard to photograph as they very actively foraged among the coniferous branches in the fog. The only shot that turned out reasonably well was this one of a female Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Since the holiday weekend, the park has been considerably quieter. Even the busiest trails are virtually empty.
Spicebush Trail
One can sprawl out on the trail to photograph wildflowers and not be worried about impeding the progress of a birder with his face to the skies.
Foamflower close-up
 There are hundreds of violets around the trail. This Long-spurred Violet, easily told by its long hind spur and pale bluish petals, is one of the most abundant right now.
One of the tiniest flowers, and one that even wildflower enthusiasts do not see often, is Mitrewort. One has to get on hands and knees with a hand lens to really appreciate the intricate detail of its tiny flower, which measures only 3-4 mm in diameter in real life.

The sloughs are awash with colour, more now than at any other time of year, as the Yellow Water Buttercup is abundant and easily seen from the trails.

Orchids are starting to appear....but only if you know where to look. There are two species in bloom right now: Large Yellow Ladies'-slipper and Showy Orchis. The former is one I have seen at three isolated locations in the park. One has disappeared due to vegetation succession; the easiest one to find did not flower this year; the largest population is well off the trail in a remote area and has not been checked.
Large Yellow Ladies'-slipper from a previous year
 Showy Orchis is more widely spread, but not abundant. It is much smaller and more easily missed.

Yesterday was a great day to be out. I saw my first American Lady and Eastern Tailed Blue butterflies.
American Lady
A Common Nighthawk was noted on the horizontal branch of a large oak tree.

Wild Columbine is abundant along forest edges and openings. Hummingbirds can be seen hovering under the delicate flowers, seeking the nectar. That is one photo I am still hoping for......

The Tuliptree Trail continues to be a favourite spot for birders, and for good reason. The resident pair of Prothonotary Warblers provide lots of entertainment. At one point, I had this male Prothonotary foraging almost right overhead, and sometimes almost at eye level and too close to focus! These shots were hardly cropped at all.

And a Louisiana Waterthrush, normally a warbler species that appears in late April and very early May, just showed up in the last few days. It is a species that has nested in the past.....I photographed a nesting pair less than 250 metres from where I took this shot yesterday......maybe it will nest again this year?


  1. After reading this post, I think we may have to stay 3 weeks next year!

    1. all means do long as your better half is okay with it. Happy wife.......