Point Pelee here we come.
After a good nights sleep, we were all up and ready, looking forward to a new day in a new country, with lots of ticks awaiting us. The need to meet our landlords meant we were restricted to the local environs’, but that worked out fine as we walked as far as Hillman Marsh, North Beach and back. Mourning Dove, Myrtle Warbler, House Sparrow (!), Eastern Kingbird, and Double-crested Cormorants quickly joined the trip list, before a splendid Red-headed Woodpecker was enjoyed. Northern Cardinal and Rose-breasted Grosbeak soon followed along with numerous Yellow Warblers. A couple of Vireo’s required a bit of close scrutiny before they were nailed as Warbling. At the North Beach we found a pair of Downy Woodpeckers excavating a nest hole, with Tree Swallows using an old hole only inches higher up. A couple of Killdeers were on the beach, while groups of Red-breasted Mergansers and Black Scoters flew across the waters of Lake Eire.
Just as we were heading back, a car pulled up – local birders asking what was around. As soon as they found out we were out of towners and only just arrived, they informed us of a Great Horned Owl nest just up the road, and even offered us a lift to view it. It was, however, some 300m up the road, so we just walked, and joined a number of birders to look at the immense adult sitting on what looked more like a Woodpigeon nest that something substantial enough to support such a large bird. This spot also produced our first Indigo Bunting, a splendid male. A scan of the open fields behind us produced Dunlin, Semi-palmated Plover, Killdeer and a couple of Least Sandpipers.
The walk back to the cottage produced our first “catharus” thrush, a Swainson’s, and two more peckers – Hairy and Northern Flicker.
After meeting the Landlords it was off to the almost mythical Point Pelee (PP). Again MB’s in built sat nav took us straight there with a short stop just north of the PP area as Phil spotted a Yellow-headed Blackbird in a flying group of redwings. Unfortunately it could not be relocated as the group had flow over a ditch into the extensive reed beds of PP. A quick look around the area pulled in another Savanah Sparrow and several Blanding’s Turtles. A car that pulled up slightly further along the road turned out to be a couple of Brit birders, who we were to meet up with many times over the next week. While talking to them a Common Yellowthroat and an empid’ flycatcher were found. After close scrutiny we concluded the flick was a Least Flycatcher and hoped to have our id confirmed as another birder pulled up. Hope increased when we found out the birder was Canadian, but his response on our asking for confirmation was “If that what you think I’ll go with that”, left us rather bemused. Welcome to the World of Empid’ flycatcher id! Later sightings of Least at PP and elsewhere with more expert eyes confirmed our original conclusion / identity.
It was then into PP itself. Being a weekend, the park was very busy so we had to park in one of the car parks midway to the visitor centre. This proved to be very fortuitous as during our stroll down to the centre Phil spotted a Black-billed Cuckoo – the first seen on PP this spring, and that was quickly followed by a female Hooded Warbler. Butterflies were few and far between but we did pick up our first Spring Azure and Mourning Cloak (Camberwell Beauty) just after enjoying the Hooded Warb’.
A call into the visitor centre for a quick coffee then onto the “train” for the journey down t the Tip.
We’d hardly walked 20m from the drop off point when we hit our first bird wave. Chestnut-sided; Black-throated Blue, Bay-breasted, Nashville and Black and White Warblers, American Redstart along with Blue Grey Gnatcatchers (renamed “bagsnatchers” in memory of Mr Hogan), Red-breasted Nuthatches and Red-eyed Vireo’s. The walk towards the tip produced further new warblers in the guise of Magnolia and Black-throated Green. A couple of glowing male Scarlet Tanagers were found, followed by a drab female. Another drab tanager was soon located but the lack of contrast between the wings and the body plumage, and slightly larger bill, showed this was a Summer Tanager. The patches of red within the green plumage hinted at it possible being a 2cy male, but an older female couldn’t be ruled out.
Strolling back to the pick up point MJB picked up a bird flying towards us, over the trees. Both MJB and MB got onto the bird and were surprised to see it was a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, a rare overshoot from its breeding grounds in the Southern States. Unfortunately Phil and Rob were looking i the wrong direction at the time and neither Martin noticed they weren’t looking the right way.3 hrs into PP and one hard to find (the Cuckoo) and one rarity already in the bag.
Back to the centre for more refreshments, we were informed that a Scissor-tailed flick, either the one that flew over the two Martins heading South, or another, had been located at the Marsh Boardwalk. As Phil and Rob had missed the earlier one, we rushed back to the car and drove up to join the twitch at the Marsh Boardwalk. This time, having to park so far from the main car park worked against us as by the time we arrived at the Marsh Boardwalk the bird has disappeared, hiding from the rain and strong winds, about 10 minutes before we got there.
We were just pulling out of the Marsh Boardwalk car park when we noticed a group of birders working some tall trees next to the road. Window down, “what’s about?” and Phil was out the door before the reply of “Blackburnian” was out of the birders mouth. It was his most wanted for the trip. After parking up we joined Phil and the others, who were now chasing a Yellow-throated Vireo. The Blackburnian was soon found, and we left Phil to his moment of ecstasy…. Our first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the trip was then located, perched in the shade, so unfortunately not showing off its glowing iridescence. This was followed by the Vireo and a Northern Parula.
Eventually tearing ourselves away from PP, we decided to bird the lane behind our cottage, where several Smith’s Longspurs were being reported up to a couple of days before our arrival. Unfortunately there was no sign of the Smith’s, but several breeding plumage Lapland Longspur’s (Buntings in the real world) provided some compensation along with several Horned Larks (a potential split from Shore Lark).