Breaks Bird Photography
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Ontario and Quebec, CANADA
22nd July – 12th August 2009
Arrived in Toronto shortly after 13:00hrs from Anchorage, Alaska before meeting up with the family as Nicola, Margaret and Brian appeared at the arrivals (15:30hrs) after travelling from Manchester all excited about the family holiday ahead. We eventually picked up our rather large rental car a Ford Flex and headed south out of the airport onto the mean roads of Toronto that were full of traffic, what a surprise! Birds seen from the slow moving traffic were Red-tailed Hawk, Chimney Swift, Killdeer, Double-crested Cormorant, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird and House Sparrows. Travelling just east of Grimsby now along the south shore of Lake Ontario we arrived at our Bed and Breakfast destination. A stroll around the property in the evening yielded many American Robins, Chipping Sparrows, American Goldfinches as well as an Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Meadowlark, White-breasted Nuthatch and a Hairy Woodpecker. We all called it an early night after a long day travelling.
On our first morning we awoke to consistent rain. At the breakfast table the garden outside came alive with birds visiting the feeders. Mainly American Goldfinch with a couple of Blue Jays, House Sparrows, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and a cracking male Northern Cardinal. After getting our fill we headed off in the car getting views of a Great Crested Flycatcher on route to a river where there was a Spotted Sandpiper sat with 4 Mallards on a small island with many swallows hawking low over the water. The swallows included Northern Rough-winged, Bank, Cliff and Barn. A glance to the left just a little further downstream revealed a large plume of mist rising from a waterfall, in fact it was the world famous Niagra Falls! Walking downstream views were amazing of the very dramatic falls even on a dull wet day. Heading further along the gorge below the falls 2 Black-crowned Night Herons were picked up flying past along with the numerous Ring-billed Gulls, Double-crested Cormorant as were a family a three juvenile Peregrines. Pottering on and we found ourselves getting very wet most likely because we were on the Maid of the Mist having awesome views of the falls. On the way back some time was spent chasing around an assortment of different coloured Grey Squirrels. The weather had cleared slightly until a large thunderstorm arrived shortly after noon!
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Niagra Falls
Heading further north along the river we made several stops searching the parks for birds. Indigo Bunting, Baltimore Oriole, Gray Catbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Downy Woodpecker and more Northern Cardinals were a few of the birds noted as the weather started to clear up even with a little sunshine. The day finished at Niagra on the Lake with a scan out over the mouth of the river where just Common Terns lingered.
Indigo Bunting Northern Cardinal
A bright and sunny start to the day was much better than yesterday and meant an early morning walk around the B&B’s garden was very productive with Red-bellied Woodpecker along with all of yesterdays birds. Margaret then located a singing Carolina Wren next to the house that continued to sing well for the rest of the morning whilst skulking around in the undergrowth. After Breakfast a wider search of the surrounding area only found us a House Finch different but we were happy chasing numerous dragonflies and butterflies around the place including Widow & Twelve-Spotted Skimmer, Monarch and many more yet to be identified.
Carolina Wren Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Back at the B&B we added Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Northern Flicker. Shortly after noon we found ourselves at the nearby Short Hills Provincial Park where we enjoyed many more dragonflies and butterflies along the trail but birds were far and few between. Best finds were Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Common Yellowthroat and Field Sparrows. An evening drive through agricultural land recorded 6+ Eastern Meadowlarks, 6 Bobolinks and a ploughed field that had a minimum of 50 Killdeers.
It was time to leave the south as we drove north on a showery day. As noon arrived so did we at another of Ontario’s tourist hotspots, here once again we joined the crowds out on the longest fresh water beach in the world but we had a different itinerary from everyone else! We were there in search of a small wader that breeds on the sand but sadly when speaking to a volunteer we learned that they had last been seen on Wednesday. We looked anyway finding several Killdeer’s, Least Sandpiper, Caspian and Common Terns along with many American Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. Later we heard that two had been seen in the morning.
Carrying on we headed east to our old rustic cabin that will be home for just two nights. We had time for some evening birding so we headed out to the Carden Plain and started by heading south down Prospect Road just as the heavens opened! Birding from the car we soon saw a Wild Turkey followed by a female Black and White Warbler. The road then dropped down to a large marshy area where we spotted two Northern Harriers, a Moorhen whilst a Marsh Wren could be heard singing. Further on the large grasslands held Savannah Sparrow, Wilson’s Snipe, Eastern Meadowlarks, Bobolink (including a male just starting to moult) and many Eastern Kingbirds. As the light faded we went in search of food passing a couple of Osprey nests with birds present.
We were all up early on a relatively bright morning as we headed back to the Carden Plain but on the way we made a stop at a roadside lake that produced a Pied-billed Grebe, 12 Wood Duck, 2 Common Loon, an Osprey with young and a Musk Rat. Continuing on we made it to Wylie Road and the intensive hunt for birds began! The first part of the road was mainly grassland scattered with small trees here we soon picked of all the common birds along with Sedge Wren, Brown Thrasher, Grasshopper and Clay-coloured Sparrows as well as brief views of two Loggerhead Shrikes. This is the bird that the area is best known for so we were happy to pick them up before arriving at the main publicised location. Once at nest box 10 we couldn’t see any shrikes but a female Eastern Bluebird actually entered the box as a juvenile watched from a nearby tree. Shortly after a Solitary Sandpiper flew over calling.
Solitary Sandpiper Grasshopper Sparrow
Continuing up the road we found several birds drinking from puddles along the road, mostly sparrows with a couple of Baltimore Orioles and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. A stop for lunch in a wooded area found a mixed passerine flock made up of a Chestnut-sided, Yellow-rumped, 3 Nashville and several Yellow Warblers, as well as Field Sparrows, Warbling Vireo and Blue Jays. Little else of interest was spotted until we arrived at a marsh alongside Cranberry Lake where we were mobbed by a protective Black Tern shortly after a Turkey Vulture had been seen off. On the tree edge were Swamp Sparrow and Great Crested Flycatchers.
Black Tern Chestnut-sided Warbler
After a long day working the road systems we decided we would just follow last nights loop once again but in reverse. The first leg drew a blank and we were half way along Eldon Station Road when Margaret shouted stop! There on a roadside post sat a large wader and to my relief we had finally bumped into an Upland Sandpiper. The bird stayed on the post showing very well calling for some time until a vehicle whizzed by and it dropped into the field at which point a well developed chick was sighted briefly in the ditch. A thunderstorm started to brew as rain showers hit us, we continued up Prospect Road finishing off with a Blue-winged Teal on the last little marsh.
We were on the move again arriving at a cloudy Algonquin Provincial Park. Heading straight through to the visitor center we picked up a Slate-coloured Junco and found out a couple short trails that may be worthwhile walking. First we started on the spruce bog trail shortly after noon but the woods were extremely quiet until about 100 metres from the end when we spotted a cracking male Chestnut-sided Warbler feeding quietly low down next to the path.
Chestnut-sided Warbler Algonquin National Park
Moving on we hoped that the beaver pond trail would be more productive and we were only a short way into the trail when we came across a few Black-capped Chickadees, looking for some Boreal’s when Nic shouted “what’s this?” as a male Black-throated Blue Warbler popped up in front. Seconds later and there was an explosion of birds all over in every tree we could see. After some time examining every bird we came up with a rough tally of:
1 Blue-headed Vireo
10+ Red-breasted Nuthatch
2 Brown Creepers
14+ Golden-crowned Kinglet
8+ Nashville Warbler
1 Northern Parula
3 Chestnut-sided Warbler
2+ Magnolia Warbler
2+ Cape May Warbler
4 Myrtle Warbler
3 Blackburnian Warbler
8+ Black and White Warbler
1 American Redstart
1 Canada Warbler
Northern Parula Red-breasted Nuthatch
Needing a rest from looking up after we all got achy necks we carried on to an open marsh where several Swamp Sparrows were flitting around. Back in the woods we came across a couple of small feeding flocks containing mainly of Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches. We also found a couple of warbler families with Magnolia preceding that of a Black-throated Green Warbler concluding the end of a great little trail.
We returned to the park and headed out on the Mizzy Lake trail for an 11 kilometre hike. Within the first few metres we came across a Veery hopping down the trail. As we continued the woods were generally very quiet except for a few families of Black-capped Chickadees that held the odd Magnolia or Black-throated Warbler. The trail took us past many ponds that had been created by beavers. On these ponds the only water birds noted were a family of Ring-necked Ducks and 2 immature Hooded Mergansers but the fringes were alive with Swamp and White-throated Sparrows with a few Common Yellowthroats.
White-throated Sparrow Swamp Sparrow
The main highlight of the entire walk was two inquisitive families of Gray Jays that sought out our location. Once the birds found us they started calling and perching in the trees close by waiting for some food! Surprise, surprise a sacrifice had to be made as the little jays entertained us. Elsewhere around the wood were a couple Boreal Chickadees, singing Winter Wrens and a Northern Waterthrush popped up briefly. The day ended with a thunderstorm.
The day started with a stroll around Peck Lake back in Algonquin Provincial Park. We were first in the car park and arrived on the lakeshore to find an amazingly approachable Common Loon. Further on we came across some noisy frogs and then a large passerine flock right in a dense section of the wood. We managed to pick out a couple of new birds that were a Purple Finch and Least Flycatcher among the usual warblers. As we finished the trail the number of people had rocketed from what was a quiet start.
After lunch we pulled into spruce bog car park where a kind gentleman informed us of a Moose just seconds down the road. We got back in the car and travelled the mile or so down the road and joined the gathering of people stood watching a cow Moose with her calf feeding happily at the back edge of a pond. Whilst taking many photographs a pair of Snapping Turtles also kept us entertained at the front edge of the pond. Happy with our views we travelled back up the road just as a Broad-winged Hawk flew low overhead. Returning to spruce bog we failed to improve on our last visit.
The day was ended with a drive up to Opeongo Lake which turned out to be the most scenic road in the park that we found. We also managed a couple of new birds from the car with a Hermit Thrush hopping down the road and a singing Alder Flycatcher. Once at the end of the road a warbler flock was discovered with more of the same along with a two families of American Redstarts. On the lake was a pair of Common Loons with two small babies.
A gorgeous sunny day dominated by driving as we headed east heading for Quebec. At noon we came across signs to Alfred Lagoons so took the slight detour. Walking up to the platform we could scan over two large pools that were filled with waterfowl, many of which had young families, especially the Ruddy Ducks, Redheads, Gadwalls, Mallards, American Coots, Moorhens and Pied-billed Grebes. Also present were a few American Wigeon, two Pintail, Shovelers, Ring-necked Ducks, Green-winged Teal as well as a Lesser Yellowlegs circling around later joined by a small group of sandpipers. Patrolling the pool edges were a Merlin and Northern Harrier.
Returning to the car we carried on crossing over the river into Quebec the skirted around Montreal before making a stop at Pointe de Yamachiche. Here we headed out on a very new high raised boardwalk through the woodland and out to view over the marsh. From the viewpoints we could only see birds in the far distance, mainly 36+ Black Terns hawking low down. Seen flying around the perimeters of the marsh were Great Blue Herons along with a single Green Heron and an American Bittern. Back on the main path we found a Tennessee Warbler with some Yellow Warblers along a muddy brown river bank that held 3 Musk Rats. We ended the day at Shawinigan.
A day in La Mauricie Provincial Park on a cloudy but dry day. First stop was the visitor center where we immediately found a warbler flock low down in the trees for a change. Nothing new but good views of Northern Parula, Black and White, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, Magnolia, Nashville, Myrtle and American Redstart. Continuing on we walked a small trail around the woods to lake Étienne where a mother Hooded Merganser had six ducklings, back at the picnic site we were treated to a close show by a family of Blue Jays.
Blue Jay Black Duck
After lunch we moved further around arriving at the cascades trail and straight away bumped into 6 very approachable Black Ducks. The nearby trees were full of warblers with the same as earlier plus the additions of 2 Canada’s and a male Blackburnian feeding young. The actual trail proved to be very quiet except for a Musk Rat and a Garter Snake.
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All Images taken by Nicola, Margaret and Mark Breaks, Copyright - © Breaks Bird Photography