Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Waterloo Region Nature Field Trip to Thickson's Woods, Whitby, ON

9 May 2016

Leader: David Gascoigne

Members: Miriam Bauman, John Lichty, Jim Huffman, Francine Gilbert

Guests: Peter McLaren, Carol McLaren

     We had four cancellations the night before the trip, but the people who participated were treated to a fine day of birding, with close encounters with a range of interesting species.
     The drive across Toronto was abysmal and it took us an hour longer than it did last year to make the same trip. Every time I visit Canada's largest city I shake my head at the gridlock. Soon this whole metropolitan area is going to grind to a total halt.
     When we arrived at Thickson's Woods we were all happy to get out of the car and stretch our legs. We were ready to start birding!

     It took us about a half hour just to get to the woodlot, the birding along the road was so terrific, with many warblers to keep us occupied, and several Baltimore Orioles Icterus galbula decorating the trees. 

     Barely had we entered the woods than we saw a flock of about fifteen Cedar Waxwings Bombycilla cedrorum seemingly content to simply watch the world go by.

     Black-throated Green Warblers Setophaga virens were both numerous and co-operative and the sound of cameras clicking was interspersed with bird songs, as many enthusiasts were able to get close-up shots.

     It is always a great pleasure to have Jim Huffman and Francine Gilbert accompany me on my walks. Jim quietly observes and is adept at spotting birds, while Francine is ebullient in her sheer delight at the panoply of nature's beauty spread before her.

     Ovenbird Seirus aurocapilla is a species not always easy to see; it does not show itself willingly. We were lucky indeed to be able to get pictures of this individual.

     Myrtle Warbler Setophaga coronata is one of our commonest wood warblers but it is a beautiful little bird and usually easier to find than most other warblers.

     White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis is a resident species but its presence in the breeding season enhanced the pleasure of our day.

     Surely one of the most stunning birds to enliven the spring woods is a Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea and we were all enthralled to see at least three of them. The individual in the picture below has not quite attained full breeding plumage and remnant green patches of non-breeding plumage may be clearly seen.

       It was a happy group enjoying the marvel of spring migration.

     It was quite a surprise to find a Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo in the woods. I have never seen one here before, although this species is proliferating and it really should not seem unusual to find one here in prime habitat.

     We decided to go over to Whitby Harbour to have our picnic lunch and it was on the way to the car that we spotted a singing male Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius, an uncommon species in the area.

     Whitby Harbour is a delightful spot to have lunch but there was a cold breeze coming off Lake Ontario and Peter and Carol decided to eat in the car. The rest of us braved the cold to sit at a picnic table, but when Francine offered to share her hot coffee I was happy to take a cup.
     After lunch we returned to Thickson's Woods.

     We had been seeing Black-and-White Warblers Mniotilta varia all day but never in a position where we could photograph them. Finally this individual enabled us to get a picture.

     The floor of the woods had several stands of ferns, all emerging in their characteristic fiddlehead shape.

     Leaving the southernmost perimeter of the woods proper it is but a short distance to Lake Ontario, where we scanned for ducks, cormorants and gulls.

      Back in the woodlot we were finally able to get a reasonably open Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca for a picture. As was the case with the Black-and-white Warbler we had seen this species several times, but always hidden by leaves and moving about very quickly.

     It was a great day's birding, thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. 
     Thanks are due to those who joined my outing and to Miriam especially who took all the photographs to leave me free to help the others to find and identify their birds. A complete list of all species follows below.

Species en route: Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Rock Dove, American Crow, Common Starling.

Species at Thickson's Woods: Trumpeter Swan, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Wild Turkey, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Swainson's Thrush, American Robin, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Ovenbird, Golden-winged Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Nashville Warbler, American Redstart, Blackburnian Warbler, American Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Palm Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Grackle, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Cardinal.

Species at Whitby Harbour: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Double-crested Cormorant, Ring-billed Gull, American Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, House Sparrow.

Total species: 59



  1. Oh wow, wish I could have been with you, so many species, what a wonderful day out all but the grid lock! I love the Scarlet Tanager we do not get such bright coloured birds very much here. Have a good week Diane

    1. Well, this just proves that you have to plan to come here in the spring and we'll take you with us.

  2. Hello David!:) What an enjoyable day out, with so many wonderful sightings in convivial company. Your fellow birder Miriam took great photos of all the birds, but I especially like the pics of the Scarlet Tanger, White-breasted Nuthatch, and the Ovenbird.:)

    1. Not only did she take the pictures, I got to sleep with her too - she is my wife!

  3. Preciosa sesión, unos pájaros realmente bellos. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  4. Hi David.

    Beautiful environment.
    It is very beautiful over there.
    And what many beautiful birds you can see, the red bird is really super nice.

    Groettie from Patricia.

  5. Dearest David,
    That was a very worthwhile birding day, hence the long list of birds you spotted.
    Glad that those Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) found enough food in our back yard for filling up to make the flight north. Our ilex trees got stripped of berries in two days!
    You wrote Bomvcilla but you meant of course Bombycilla...
    Those Scarlet Tanagers and Baltimore Orioles are so beautiful!
    Hope you enjoy many more of such days together with like minded.

    1. Thanks for noticing the typo, Mariette. I will make the correction.

    2. You're more than welcome David! At times those typos come from automatic correction on my Mac as well... When we type real fast and click it away without checking it. Have a nice day David!

  6. Great shot of the Ovenbird............

  7. Hi. Gorgeous place. Protected areas are really important. Amazing images of colorful birds.

  8. Hi David, Looks as if you had a most productive day after a tedious trip. Some wonderful images of your colorful birds, appears to be a delightful and productive area.
    Regards John

  9. Beautiful images of the birds. I love the Waxwings.

  10. Miriam did a great job, beautiful pictures. I've enjoyed the trip through your eyes.
    Gr Jan W

  11. Had I been available I would surely have joined in the day's birding. Such an illustrious leader too!

    Unfortunately I was taken up by a day watching Booted Eagles,Bee eaters and Red Kites in the heat of the Mediterranean sun. It's a hard life for sure.

    Now where did I leave that glass of Cava?

  12. Hi David,
    What a delightful place to watch all these birds, you even saw the Cedar Waxwings, A bird I would so much love to see.
    And the little Baltimore oriole is magnificent!
    The fern photo is very beautiful too.
    Warm hugs to the both of you, I cant' wait to be free again!!

  13. What a delightful days Birding,with superb birds,and company,it's what draws us back time and time again.
    Keep up the good work David.

  14. Such a lovely day and so many sightings ...
    Thicksons Woods looks a lovely spot ...

    All the best Jan

  15. Hi David,
    shame there were four cancellations because when I see these beautiful birds than have the people who have canceled much missed. Pity the journey towards it took so long and was so nice.
    Fortunately, the nature and the birds that you saw a great reward. Wonderful to see these beautiful colorful birds and nature.

  16. Beautiful photos, and so colorful birds. I have spended last two days in East Finland, watching arctic bird migration. It's amazing to see thousands and thousands birds flying over.

  17. Just found this again, David, and see that I never posted a comment - I felt sure I had. The first thing, having read the title, was I found myself speculating as to the origin of the name Thickson. Sounds like someone was being uncharitable somewhere down the line!

    Great work there by Miriam. It looks like a marvellous place. Don't worry! With that drive across Toronto, I'll not be wanting to subject you to that again! Don't you have orbital roads over there, so you can go round, rather than through?

    Our love to you both - - - Richard

    1. Highway 401 goes across the top of the city but it is now handling so much more traffic than it was designed for there is semi-permanent gridlock. There is a toll road but it is ridiculously expensive, but the next time we do this trip we will take it and split the cost between all the occupants of the vehicle.

  18. It was a long journey but well worth it when I see pictures like David.
    Splendour types you had the lens, beautiful pictures.
    Greetings Tinie

  19. Hello David, an impressive list of birds you have been able to spot. And next time take the toll road. Time in this case is worth the monny.
    Take care,

  20. I dream with yours pictures ! Amazing !!