After getting into Cochrane in good time (~5pm), and gassing up, we drove another hour and half towards the Detour Lake Gold Mine on Hwy. 652 - about 150km north. We proceeded to set up camp quickly with the bugs swarming, before making a quick dinner and a leisurely drive on the Chabbie Lake logging road. We scored some Common Nighthawks, our only Olive-sided Flycatcher of the weekend, and a few Rusty Blackbirds, including one bird carrying food, however, the Northern Hawk Owls from 2016 were a no-show.
The next morning, dark and early, had us starting the Lower Tweed Lake BBS at 04:44. For the next four hours we completed the standard 50, 3-minute point counts along a roughly 40km stretch. This year, we were pretty right on, in terms of species and individuals, with 52 species (ave. 53.25) and 633 individuals (ave. 693 individuals). We had 3 new species for the route: Canada Goose, Black-billed Cuckoo, and a somewhat over-due Connecticut Warbler. Asides from the Connecticut, we had some other good boreal highlights too: 1 Bonaparte's Gull, 4 Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, 7 Gray Jays, 3 Boreal Chickadees, 3 Fox Sparrows, 1 Rusty Blackbird, and 1 Orange-crowned Warbler. Check out our eBird list for a complete totals breakdown: https://ebird.org/canada/view/checklist/S46876577
|Orange-crowned from last year. Interestingly, we've had a bird at the same point count on the last 3 years.|
Based on what I know, Fox Sparrows and Orange-crowned Warbler are at pretty much the furthest south part of there range, which is pretty neat.
Luckily on the morning of the 30th, the weather was quite good, and after quickly getting a coffee in Kapuskasing, we drove up the logging road 30km to our starting point. We had a great count, with 61 species and 650 individuals, with several excellent boreal species: 3 Greater Yellowlegs, 4 Bonaparte's Gulls (including one bird on a nest), 1 Black-backed Woodpecker, 1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, 2 Boreal Chickadees, and our top highlights: 3(!) Connecticut's and 4 Pine Grosbeak's (!!). Check out our eBird list for a complete totals breakdown: https://ebird.org/canada/view/checklist/S46901191
|Young male Pine Grosbeak singing away.|
Finishing up the Kapuskasing route, we decided that instead of driving back the way we came, we'd try to see if we could drive a few kilometres north and then over the Ontario hydro dams and then along the private hydro road to Fraserdale. No one was around, so we just drove on through, and is something I'd definitely recommend doing, if you can. The road was surprisingly great, with no issues and a bonus was a female Spruce Grouse along the way.
Once in Fraserdale, we continued south to Smooth Rock Falls to have lunch, before driving the 2.5hrs to Elk Lake, where our next BBS (Matachewan) awaited us on the 1st.
Again, dark and early, on the 1st we started our 3rd and last BBS of our northern Ontario adventure, just west of Matachewan. This is a uniquely different BBS from the previous 2 routes, as it follows the Montreal River, and is seemingly much more 'southern' in its bird diversity. Weather was not as conducive to doing the BBS as our previous two days (a bit windy), and as a result we had a bit lower species total and individual bird count of 56 species (ave. is 59.33) and 752 individuals (ave. is 885.5).
Nevertheless, we had some good highlights, including 5 Pileated Woodpecker, 11 Northern Parula's, 1 Black-throated Green Warbler, 1 Indigo Bunting, and 1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak. We also had a single new species for the route: an American Woodcock. Check out our eBird list for a complete totals breakdown: https://ebird.org/canada/view/checklist/S46939458
Afterwards, we booked it home, and were back into Kitchener-Waterloo for 4pm! A great way to spend the long weekend!
**If interested in running a northern Ontario BBS route, Bird Studies Canada provides grants of a few hundred dollars per route for surveyors to complete them. In return, you must sign up to complete the route a minimum of 3 years in a row and be proficient in auditory songbird identification. https://www.birdscanada.org/volunteer/bbs/