Wednesday 16 July 2014

Northeastern Ontario Breeding Bird Surveys

A couple weekends ago Ken and my Dad and I headed north to do some Breeding Bird Surveys. Two of the routes Ken and my Dad had done last year and the third was a new one we were going to set up. Our three routes were all in northeastern Ontario - two northeast of Cochrane and one northwest of Elk Lake. Here's a map showing all fifty stops of each route:

As you can see, we got pretty well as far north as roads can take you in northeastern Ontario. We even made a "detour" to see the end of the road:
The Detour Lake Mine
This was a great chance to get up to some real boreal habitats and enjoy some of the birds (and a few other things). Here's my Dad and Ken setting up for our first night:

And here's a shot of a beautiful boreal wetland. Last year Ken and my Dad had a pair of Greater Yellowlegs here (not this year, though we did have some elsewhere).
Photo: Ken Burrell
The photo above is a bit deceiving as that was the only nice sunny time we had. The rest of the trip was quite grey with frequent rain. Luckily the weather cooperated for the the bird surveys each morning.

Most of the birding on the BBS is done by ear, but we did see a few birds too :) below is a female Ruffed Grouse that was carefully guiding her young across the road.
Momma Ruffed Grouse
 We saw several females with young of Ruffed and also Spruce Grouse. Here's a momma Spruce Grouse:

Momma Spruce Grouse
female Spruce Grouse close-up
And here's a shot of a young Spruce Grouse. I'm always surprised to see such small grouse chicks fly.
young Spruce Grouse
There are a couple species of shorebirds that breed in the boreal forest (besides Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers that also breed in southern Ontario). We were lucky to find several pairs of Greater Yellowlegs and even one Solitary Sandpiper. Both species were extremely vocal/agitated suggesting probable nests/young nearby.
Greater Yellowlegs
Solitary Sandpiper
Despite the mostly crappy weather I did see a few interesting insects too. I saw several large "ringed" type Somatochlora emeralds, but unfortunately wasn't successful in catching any (I did catch a Williamson's Emerald but that was pretty disappointing considering all the other species it could have been). Here are a couple highlights for a southern Ontario guy:
Western Tailed Blue
Greenish Blue (upperside)
Greenish Blue (underside)
All through the trip I was checking out the flowering Evening Primrose, hoping to find some primrose moths. Finally, near Elk Lake we found a few:

This was early in the morning and quite overcast, so the flowers hadn't shut yet. Normally, the flowers of Evening Primrose close during the day, providing a convenient day time roost for the moths that bear the same name. At night, when the flowers open, the moths feed on the nectar and serve as important pollinators for the plant.

Anyways, here are the combined results from the three BBS surveys. The top five species were White-throated Sparrow, Nashville Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Hermit Thrush, and Magnolia Warbler; all of which were detected on more than 50% of the stops.

Species Name Frequency
Canada Goose 0.67%
Mallard 0.67%
Common Goldeneye 1.33%
Hooded Merganser 0.67%
Ruffed Grouse 2.00%
Spruce Grouse 0.67%
Common Loon 8.00%
American Bittern 0.67%
Broad-winged Hawk 0.67%
Wilson's Snipe 1.33%
American Woodcock 2.00%
Bonaparte's Gull 2.67%
Common Nighthawk 0.67%
Belted Kingfisher 2.67%
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3.33%
Downy Woodpecker 2.67%
Hairy Woodpecker 6.67%
Northern Flicker 19.33%
Pileated Woodpecker 4.00%
American Kestrel 1.33%
Merlin 0.67%
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 5.33%
Alder Flycatcher 11.33%
Least Flycatcher 10.67%
Eastern Kingbird 0.67%
Blue-headed Vireo 15.33%
Philadelphia Vireo 0.67%
Red-eyed Vireo 63.33%
Gray Jay 6.00%
Blue Jay 1.33%
American Crow 8.00%
Common Raven 14.67%
Black-capped Chickadee 8.00%
Boreal Chickadee 1.33%
Red-breasted Nuthatch 6.67%
Brown Creeper 0.67%
Winter Wren 40.67%
Golden-crowned Kinglet 12.00%
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 14.00%
Eastern Bluebird 0.67%
Veery 14.00%
Swainson's Thrush 25.33%
Hermit Thrush 58.67%
American Robin 34.67%
Cedar Waxwing 28.00%
Ovenbird 19.33%
Northern Waterthrush 0.67%
Black-and-white Warbler 16.67%
Tennessee Warbler 8.00%
Nashville Warbler 68.67%
Connecticut Warbler 0.67%
Mourning Warbler 26.67%
Common Yellowthroat 9.33%
American Redstart 24.00%
Cape May Warbler 0.67%
Northern Parula 5.33%
Magnolia Warbler 51.33%
Bay-breasted Warbler 5.33%
Blackburnian Warbler 2.00%
Chestnut-sided Warbler 22.00%
Black-throated Blue Warbler 2.00%
Palm Warbler 4.67%
Yellow-rumped Warbler 28.67%
Canada Warbler 4.00%
Chipping Sparrow 37.33%
Vesper Sparrow 0.67%
Fox Sparrow 3.33%
Song Sparrow 5.33%
Lincoln's Sparrow 9.33%
Swamp Sparrow 6.67%
White-throated Sparrow 93.33%
Dark-eyed Junco 4.67%
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 0.67%
Red-winged Blackbird 0.67%
Rusty Blackbird 0.67%
Common Grackle 4.00%
Purple Finch 5.33%
White-winged Crossbill 2.00%
Pine Siskin 2.67%
American Goldfinch 2.00%
Evening Grosbeak 2.67%