It was a really fun, last-minute trip that Ken, Alvan and I did. We left on May 20 and returned to the deep south on May 28. In all we logged a little over 4000 km on my 2002 Toyota Corolla - which is now sitting at 485,000km! Hopefully I can make it to 500k!
Anyways, be sure to check out Ken and Alvan's blogs for other photo highlights, but here is a quick day-by-day:
Monday May 20: met Ken and Alvan in Orillia at about 10am. We pretty much drove non-stop to Wawa. It was hot and humid in southern Ontario but it cooled down and started raining as we rounded Lake Huron. The rain was very heavy at times and was actually the 3rd or 4th straight day of rain for much of the north shore of Huron and Superior. That resulted in a few wash-outs and at one spot almost in Wawa we had to drive in the wrong lane as part of the west-bound lanes were falling away! In fact, they closed Hwy 17 here just after we passed and it didn't reopen until the afternoon the next day. We stopped at a few spots on the drive:
-Bruce Mines Sewage Lagoons
I think I only took two pictures this day, one of some Evening Grosbeaks in Thessalon and one of our best bird of the day, our only Bohemian Waxwing of the trip.
|Evening Grosbeak in Thessalon|
|Bohemian Waxwing near Mamainse Harbour|
The next day (May 21) we woke up and it was very grey, lightly raining and cool - perfect weather to find something interesting....we started off with a flyover Lapland Longspur, which we thought was really good, but we would see many more on the trip. Then we headed to the Wawa Sewage Lagoons before heading further west. In addition to plentiful waterfowl, there were lots of migrant passerines hopping around.
After connecting back up with the shore of Lake Superior we started stopping at most of the small communities. The miserable weather was forcing lots of birds in to bird feeders, making for great drive-by birding. We stopped at:
Pic River Mouth
Marathon, where we also walked part of the railway bed
Hurkett Cove Conservation Area
This strategy proved very successful as we found lots of common birds (sparrows were EVERYWHERE in towns) and some rarer things, like Clay-colored Sparrows in Marathon and Nipigon, Great Black-Backed Gull in Heron Bay and our first two OBRC review species for the north - Field Sparrow in Marathon and 15 Mute Swans in Terrace Bay (would be biggest flock ever accepted for the north)! Be sure to check the checklists out for pics of some of those birds.
The next day (May 22) we b-lined it straight down the Sibley Peninsula to the community of Silver Islet. We almost didn't make it since the road was closed due to flooding, but after a test walk-through we decided the good 'ol Corolla could make it. The town was pretty quiet but we found a couple feeders again that were quite active, including one with a Clay-colored Sparrow and a nearby Northern Mockingbird:
|Not quite my worst pic of a mockingbird...on beach in Silver Islet|
|Really bright Pine Siskin in Silver Islet|
|Clay-colored Sparrow in Silver Islet|
|Distant Eared Grebe at Chippewa Lagoons, Thunder Bay|
From there we were headed for Rainy River. Everyone settled in for the 4 hour drive and just after we passed the Hwy 11/17 split I noticed a bird perched on a post....a quick U-turn and we were all looking at a Townsend's Solitaire!!! At the end of the trip we all agreed this was our best bird, and certainly least expected.
|Townsend's Solitaire in middle of nowhere|
We arrived in Rainy River and made a quick check of the Emo Sewage Lagoons and then the Rainy River Sewage Lagoons. The highlight were the huge flock of Wilson's Phalaropes at RR; although we would top that number later in the trip. We also picked up our only American Golden-Plover of the trip at Emo:
|American Golden-Plover at Emo Sewage Lagoons|
|Hudsonian Godwit (and Blue-winged Teal) near Harris Hill|
|Brewer's Blackbird displaying near Harris Hill|
The next day (May 23) was kind of a blur...we spent the first couple hours of the day checking some migrant hotspots along Lake of the Woods (we were very impressed with the numbers of migrants) then driving some of the fields looking for Rainy River specialties. One of the most interesting birds was this male finch coming to the feeders at Harris Hill. I'll do a separate blog post about this bird in the future, but for now have a look yourself:
And of course we saw lots of other stuff!
|Cape May Warbler|
|Merlin with prey (Common Yellowthroat)|
|Franklin's Ground Squirrel, a Rainy River specialty|
|American White Pelican at Windy Point|
|Ruddy Turnstone at Windy Point|
|Piping Plover at Windy Point|
The next morning (May 25) we were up and ready to head further east. After a bit of driving we crossed back into the Atlantic Watershed:
|Proof that the Corolla made it!|
We said goodbye to the group and continued east, stopping at Red Rock and Nipigon before stopping for dinner (hot dogs roasted on a camp fire) and a couple unsuccessful fishing casts in Pays Plat. We spent the night outside of Terrace Bay.
The next morning (May 26) we were up first thing again and heading east. We made several stops along the way but the theme of the day was quiet; it was just so nice out that migrants didn't seem to have any reason to stop and many of the local breeders weren't back yet. We stopped at Terrace Bay, Neys Provincial Park (saw a Least Chipmunk), Marathon (and walked part of the railway again), and the Pic River Mouth before the highway veered away from Lake Superior. The next stop was Wawa Sewage Lagoons but they were pretty quiet too - we did have our first flock of moult migrant Canada Geese go over here though.
After Wawa we entered Lake Superior Provincial Park where we stopped a few times to enjoy the scenery and the re-appearance of Sugar Maple - definitely some pretty mind-blowing scenery here.
We spent the night on Batchawana Bay and tried a couple spots for owling just west/north of here. The traffic noise was a bit loud but we did get a couple Northern Saw-whet Owls to respond and even heard Long-tailed Duck and Canada Goose flying over.
We decided our last full day (May 27) would be spent birding the Sault Ste. Marie area. David Bell was kind enough to prepare a list of hotspots for us to check out. Based on his advice we focused on the area east of the city, stopping at places like Point Charles, Echo Bay, Bruce Mines Sewage Lagoons, and Pumpkin Point. We also birded along Hwy 638 between Echo Bay and Bruce Mines (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5). Birding was great, with most birds seemingly back on territory; much different than further north. We picked up a bunch of new species for the trip like Alder Flycatcher, Mourning Warbler and Canada Warbler that just weren't back yet in Rainy River or Thunder Bay.
We also spent some time in the afternoon driving around St. Joseph's Island but the birds had really died down by then. There was some pretty nice rich deciduous forest here though and we found some Nodding Trilliums:
|Nice deciduous forest...|
|Patch of Nodding Trilliums|
|Close-up of Nodding Trillium flower|
After St. Joseph's Island we decided it was time to leave Algoma District, but not before one last stop, the Spanish Sewage Lagoons. We didn't know about these on our way west so it was a new spot but unfortunately there wasn't a mega waiting for us. We got as far as Sudbury before calling it a night.
On our last day (May 28) we were on a schedule - Alvan had to catch a flight in Toronto and I had to be in Orillia for the annual Ontario Parks Natural Heritage Education workshop to try to get some new eBird recruits. So, that meant we only had a couple hours to bird around Sudbury before heading out. We headed for Fielding Memorial Park at the west end of Kelly Lake - we picked up Trumpeter Swans here and a Bay-breasted Warbler. The highlight though was a leucistic Yellow-rumped Warbler that looked like a ghost. Unfortunately, none of us had our cameras with us....From there we checked Chelmsford Sewage Lagoons (the north cell looks amazing for marsh birds!) and did a quick drive further up the road checking a field that had held some shorebirds earlier in the week - they were gone but lots of warblers were singing.
After that we were on our way but Ken managed to talk us into a detour to Noelville Sewage Lagoons - these lagoons were easy to check and looked decent for shorebirds but they were pretty quiet.
It was a pretty fun trip, with lots of birds! We saw 128 species in Thunder Bay District, 138 in Algoma District and 158 in Rainy River...for the whole trip we saw16,481 individuals of 198 species and submitted 315 eBird checklists. Here's our complete list:
Species/number of individuals/percentage of checklists/notes
|American Black Duck||-||9||-||1.59%|
|American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid)||-||2||-||0.32%|
|American White Pelican||-||265||-||4.13%|
|Great Blue Heron||-||25||-||5.40%|
|Great Black-backed Gull||-||1||-||0.32%|
|Great Horned Owl||-||2||-||0.32%|
|Great Gray Owl||-||1||-||0.32%|
|Northern Saw-Whet Owl||-||2||-||0.32%|
|American Three-toed/Black-backed Woodpecker||-||1||-||0.32%|
|Great Crested Flycatcher||-||13||-||3.49%|
|Northern Rough-Winged Swallow||-||1||-||0.32%|
|Cape May Warbler||-||14||-||2.86%|
|Black-throated Green Warbler||-||55||-||7.30%|
|American Tree Sparrow||-||2||-||0.63%|
|Le Conte's Sparrow||-||3||-||0.95%|