With one day to recover and run errands, I was headed back to Point Pelee. The previous day a Painted Bunting had been discovered visiting a feeder just outside the national park, but I was unable to chase it. I could only hope that it would stick around for at least one more day…
Here is my story…
I woke up at 4 am and was on the road by 430. By 645 am I was parked alone outside of Pelee Wings Nature Store staring at various sets of feeders. Shortly thereafter another birder came out and gestured with his thumbs up to see if I had found it. Well…YES, I SAW IT! The female PAINTED BUNTING was happily eating away at a feeder across the street. I took a few absolutely dreadful photos, as per usual! Another birder arrived, but while we were exchanging our hellos it had disappeared. When I returned later in the day there were all kinds of activity happening, so there were few birds at the feeders. I am so glad I saw it when I did, otherwise I would have missed it for the day. What a great bird to add to my year, and a new Canadian lifer!
Photo: Totally awful female Painted Bunting pic. Possibly my new “worst photo ever”
With the warm southerly winds overnight I figured it would be a decent day of birding in the park. I immediately headed to the visitor center and started walking down Woodland Trail. Shortly thereafter I heard word of a Henslow’s Sparrow down near the Tip. I finished walking the trail I was on and added BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, NASHVILLE WARBLER and NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH before heading down the road to the Tip.
Photo: One of many Black-throated Green Warblers today
I only vaguely knew where the sparrow was being seen, so I decided to head to the actual Tip of Point Pelee where there were several other groups of birders watching a great reverse migration. I joined for several minutes and watched as oodles of blackbirds, woodpeckers, warblers, and other migrants streamed south overhead, or circled back north. It was great to see multiple Red-headed Woodpeckers at a time, and nice warbler diversity.
After chatting with a local birder, I headed to where the sparrow was originally seen about an hour earlier. Along the way I added a male BLACKPOLL WARBLER to my list. It was a bit of a surprise, as they are generally a later warbler to arrive. I ended up seeing at least 2 throughout the day!
Photo: A nice male Blackpoll Warbler ‘mid-hop’, while feeding on roadway
Once I arrived at the right place along West Beach I started searching for the sparrow. There were several other birders in the area as well. In Canada, the Henslow’s Sparrow is an endangered species, so they are very hard to come by. This time of year at Pelee is one of your best chances to see one. After about an hour of searching I figured it was futile. I did add GRASSHOPPER SPARROW and RED-EYED VIREO for the year, so that was a bonus. As I was getting ready to leave I heard the two words every birder longs for…”found it”. I grabbed my scope and walked briskly to the lady who found it (I pictured myself running and tripping over my spotting scope legs, and I was not about to let that happen and ruin my chances of seeing this rare sparrow!).
I parked myself beside 6 other birders and waited. It disappeared. Then something small, brown, and extremely unidentifiable flew across the path. “Was that it?” we all asked ourselves? We waited. Then it was my turn. “Found it!”. We all re-huddled and there it was, a HENSLOW’S SPARROW! Another Canadian lifer for me! I think it was a lifer for a few others as well. We spent the next several minutes watching this amazing little creature walk and run its way through the grass. It was amazing how easily it could disappear. We all had crippling looks at the bird, and shared it with several other grateful observers as well. This was one of my most sought after birds for 2013, so I am extremely pleased to have been able to see this bird.
Photo: HENSLOW’S SPARROW!
I spent the rest of my time at Pelee walking some of the seasonal paths. I was able to add WARBLING VIREO, but that was all. I did find another Worm-eating Warbler (and it was even singing!) just north of Pioneer, which was a bonus. This is the first time I have seen multiple Wormies in the same year.
I decided to see what was happening at Hillman Marsh before I headed home. I was able to see the 2 LONG-BILLED DOWTICHERS that have been around for a few days, as well as the regular flock of Dunlin and Black-bellied Plovers. I also added a CHIMNEY SWIFT on my way out of Wheatley, another first of the year.
After such a great day, I figured I might as well stop at Rondeau on my way home, and see if I could get one of the Yellow-throated Warblers that are coming to various suet feeders. I didn’t have any luck at the feeders, so I decided to just walk along the roadway. When I neared the visitor center it happened. I heard a slightly different “chip” call…it was coming from the top of a White Pine…then I saw a small bird sallying for insects…then I saw it…it was…a YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER! Success! What a great way to end a very memorable day of birding.
Photos: These are both the same picture, but the bottom one is cropped. Not the best, but you can tell what it is! YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER!
So that was my day. It was filled with memorable birding moments. I also had the pleasure of meeting and saying hello to several other fantastic Ontario birders, many of whom found some of the great birds I was able to see today.
I already feel exhausted and it isn’t even May. I can’t wait to see what the next 31 days will bring!