09 May 2017
It's always a treat to visit Thickson's Woods in Whitby, ON where a prime day during spring migration can deliver a birding experience that is hard to beat.
Instead of our usual complement of eight, we were just six in our party, both Mary and Judy being otherwise occupied. They missed a grand experience!
Even walking down the road to the entrance to the reserve the birds were prolific and we notched almost twenty species before even getting into the woods, including Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
Along the way we found this tree interesting. We have narrowed it down a species of Yew, but have been unable to nail down its specific identity.
A botanist friend of mine says that it resembles Taxus canadensis but the berries don't look quite right.
We had not gone far along the paths before Jim Huffman spotted a bird skulking in the vegetation. Miriam was able to get this picture of a Wood Thrush Hylocichla mustelina, a species that one sees far less frequently than in times past as it faces threats to its habitat both in North America and on its wintering grounds in Central and South America.
Myrtle Warbler Setophaga coronata can at times ubiquitous in spring, but it merits a close look on every occasion.
Blue-grey Gnatcatchers Polioptila caerulea can be hard to spot as this tiny bird flits around in the trees, ever more hidden by emergent foliage, but Franc managed this shot.
Thickson's Woods sits right on the shore of Lake Ontario and this is the view out across the lake.
As I stood there looking across the water I started to reflect on the number of years I have been visiting this area - and it is over forty! Am I getting old? I think so!
There were many Red-breasted Mergansers Mergus serrator on the lake with a few Common Mergansers Mergus merganser also.
A Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina is a common species from spring through fall; it is delicate and beautiful, always a joy to see.
Trillium Trillium grandiflorum is Ontario's provincial emblem and the forest floor was carpeted with them. They bloom for such a short period in spring but it always fills me with contentment to see them. It somehow imports permanence and the sense of belonging to this wonderful Great Lakes Country in which we are privileged to live.
Marsh Marigolds Caltha paulstris bloomed prolifically in every wet spot in the forest, and in the borderlands alongside the marsh.
Again, it brought back memories. I used to pick these flowers for my grandmother oh so many years ago when I was just a little boy, and she would put them in an empty jam jar on the window sill. I loved them then and I love them now. Is nostalgia a feature of getting old? I suppose it is.
We saw several Hermit Thrushes Catharus guttatus, pumping their rufous tail in characteristic fashion. It is such a delicate little thrush, one of my favourites to be sure.
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis is a common resident species and this handsome male was searching for a mate. How could any female resist?
We saw but one Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheuticus ludovicianus, a member of the same family as Northern Cardinal, but it was a stunning male.
Just as we we were leaving to go to Whitby Harbour to have lunch we spotted a small flock of Wild Turkeys Meleagris gallopavo foraging in the grass. This species had been extirpated in Ontario and was reintroduced by stocking birds from Michigan. It has done spectacularly well and is now a common sight, sometimes even showing up at bird feeders in suburban areas.
It was a cool day and with the wind blowing across the frigid water at the harbour we decided to stay in our vehicles to eat lunch. About thirty Caspian Terns Hydroprogne caspia were ranged along the breakwater, with a couple of Common Terns Sterno hirundo, Ring-billed Gulls Larus delawarensis and a few sub adult American Herring Gulls Larus smithsonianus.
Franc managed to capture this individual as it zoomed by.
There was not much in the way of waterfowl in the inner harbour but a few Gadwall Anas strepera were interesting to watch as we munched on our sandwiches.
Having eaten, we returned to Thickson's Woods to see what else we could find.
A couple of Ovenbirds Seiurus auricapillus were especially elusive and despite patient stalking and waiting we were never able to get a complete body shot.
A Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens was eminently more cooperative.
We saw fourteen species of warbler, but photographs were hard to come by.
Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca quickly became Francine's favourite and she could barely take her binoculars off it. It is really too bad she doesn't converse in fluent warblerspeak for she was constantly talking to it, extolling its beauty!
Not as gaudy (I say that in the nicest way!) as a Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue Warbler Setophaga caerulescens doesn't take a back seat to anyone!
Palm Warbler Setophaga palmarum was frequently seen, pumping its tail in the manner for which it is renowned.
American Yellow Warbler Setophaga aestiva was not as common as one might have expected but this male first attracted us with its song.
The weather was decidedly cool for the time of year, and the light not always up to par, but we had a wonderful day of birding, as we always do. I am sure we will make a return visit next spring to renew our excitement at the spectacle of spring migration, when Ontario birding is at its very best.Take note all you world birders. May in Ontario is as good as it gets!
All species: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Mallard, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Wild Turkey, Double-crested Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Cooper's Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, American Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Sand Martin, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Winter Wren, House Wren, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Grey Catbird, Common Starling, Ovenbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler,Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, American Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Palm Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Pine Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, American Goldfinch.
Total: 67 species.