With some changes in our plans, we decided to run an Ontario big day route on May 19th, a little earlier than originally planned (we had planned originally May 26/27, but with Lill and I moving on the 25th things were abit trickier), but nevertheless a great time of year to do an epic amount of birding in a single day.
I met up with Adam and Matt Timpf in Norfolk on Friday evening ready for our adventure up north. Shortly after meeting at Adam’s farm we drove up north, ready to start our big day.
Starting right away, we picked up the nesting Piping Plovers at Wasaga, before turning to Tiny Marsh, getting some marsh birds including Virginia Rail and Sora.
After an hour spent between Wasaga and Tiny, we zipped up to Algonquin, arriving early in the am. Before dawn arose, we picked up Northern Saw-whet and Barred Owl, but missed Long-eared where they were nesting. We definitely had one interesting bird, but just didn’t hear it well enough to confirm.
Arriving in the east end of the park we birded a few of the stalwart boreal locations, hoping to pick up the Algonquin grand slam. Unfortunately the dawn chorus was severely limited due to the cold temperatures (3 degrees) and the relatively early date. Many of the breeders had not arrived, and we only picked up a Gray Jay (of the grand slam specialties). We did, however, pick up a few goodies, including Common Merganser, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, lots of siskins and a few Purple Finches. Leaving Algonquin was a little underwhelming, as I had thought a good target would be close to 100 species – our total was at 69 sp!
Anyways, we quickly motored down to Carden, where we encountered heavy rain as we got within 20 minutes of Wylie Road! We were still able to pick up most of the specialties, including Loggerhead Shrike, Grashopper Sparrow, Upland Sandpiper, Golden-winged Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, and a surprise Northern Mockingbird!
We were able to spend a short amount of time here, before jetting down to Lake Ontario. Arriving on Lake Ontario we picked up the nesting Fish Crows, a few Red-necked Grebes, and our only Bonaparte’s Gull before making it to Hamilton. Hamilton turned out quite well, with Black Tern, Ruddy Turnstone, nesting Peregrine Falcon, White-winged and Surf Scoters.
We were able to quickly move through Hamilton, setting our sights on Townsend, which did not disappoint. Townsend was great, with lingering Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaups, Ring-necked Duck, and a good assortment of shorebirds, including Wilson’s Phalarope, White-rumped Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitchers, and a somewhat, out of place Upland Sandpiper. With Townsend under our belts, we were sitting at 130 species – definitely lower than I had expected we would be at, but still quite a number of species that were easy that we could get at Long Point.
We quickly booked it down to Long Point, where Adam and Matt’s expert navigation of the area proved excellent. Tufted Titmouse, Red-headed Woodpecker, Hooded Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch all quickly fell, before we made it Backus Woods. At Backus, we picked up both Prothonotary and Cerulean Warblers, and a clutch Hooded Merganser, however, the Louisiana Waterthrushes were a no-show. Acadian’s hadn’t shown up there quite yet.
Making our way to Long Point itself, we headed straight for Old Cut and the Provincial Park, where a great number of migrants awaited us. Bay-breasted, Blackpoll Warblers all quickly made appearances, as well as Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked Thrush, while a pair of Gadwall flew over! A Common Nighthawk calling from its perch was an added bonus too.
From here we checked out Big Creek, coming out with Least Bittern, American Coot, a late Green-winged Teal and the pair of Trumpeter Swan’s. With sunset fading we had added 55 species in a little over 4 hours! Long Point had definitely saved our bacon.
With only a few species left that we could realistically add, we checked a key spot for Great Horned Owl, before packing it in at Adam’s with Eastern Screech-Owl and a few Eastern Whip-poor-will’s. Our final total was 188 species – a not too bad count for an interesting day of weather and our first time running the route.
With our first Ontario big day under our belt, I can’t wait till next year to hammer out our route!!