Wednesday, May 17, 2023

WRN Outing to Hullett Marsh, Huron County, ON

 13 May, 2023

Co-Leaders: David M. Gascoigne, Curtiss MacDonald

Members: Miriam Bauman, Lisa Den Besten, Sharon Dillon-Martin, Mike Duchene, Bob Fraser, Victoria Ho, Jenny Lorette, Karl Malhotra, Kruti Patel, Tracey Rayner, Selwyn Tomkun, Mary Ann Vanden Elzen, Kathy Waybrant.

Guest: Owen Kimbauer

Kruti, Jenny, Tracey, Owen, Victoria, David, Selwyn, Sharon, Bob, Karl, Curtiss, Mike, Kathy, Mary Ann (missing: Lisa)

     Before COVID restricted the movement of all of us, Curtiss who was born and raised in Huron County, joined us several times for a day out at Hullett Marsh. So it was that we called upon his intimate knowledge of the area to renew the tradition and he graciously agreed, taking us to some excellent birding hot spots.

Curtiss MacDonald

     I can tell you that Curtiss is an exceptionally fine fellow and everyone enjoyed his company. He took three of the ladies in his car, and I was at a book club meeting subsequently with one of them, who told me how much she enjoyed his company, never having met him before. You're on the hook for this outing every year now, Curtiss!

SpruceHaven, St. Agatha, ON

     We received permission to gather at SpruceHaven to carpool and were all happy to see many Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) swooping in and out of the barn and chasing insects above the pond.

     A Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) looked down on us as we prepared to leave.

Hullett Marsh, Stop # 1

     Barely had our feet touched the ground than we were looking for birds.

     Birding was very productive and migrants were greeting us on all sides, including this sublime male Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus).

     The official name of this location is the Hullett Provincial Wildlife Area and it is traversed by creeks, streams and wetlands.

     An Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) found this habitat very much to its liking.

     I think that Sharon did too.

     It might be a little less comfortable for humans in a couple of weeks when mosquitoes start to emerge in their swarms.

     Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) holds the promise of succulent, delicious fruit later in the year.

     I doubt that we were ever out of earshot and rarely out of sight of Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), so familiar, yet always thrilling to encounter.

Red-winged Blackbird ♂

Red-winged Blackbird ♀

     Few birds are more familiar than American Robin (Turdus migratorius), and additions to the family are underway.

     We were all elated to be sharing a bright, sunny day together with pleasant temperatures, great birds and wonderful companionship.

     This dragonfly was well camouflaged and difficult to see, but how could it escape the keen attention of WRN sleuths? 

     It is a fine example of a Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta), a juvenile female, I believe.
     A Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) is common, beautiful and not hard to find - what a great combination!

     Ardent male American Yellow Warblers (Setophaga aestiva) trilled their love songs to every female who cared to listen.


     I don't know how many people have tried to eradicate Garlic Mustard ( Alliaria petiolata) over the years, but simply put, "It will never happen." 

     It thrives in disturbed areas, and once established in a forest it outcompetes native spring species, unfortunately. If only those early settlers wanting to spice up their salad could have known the consequences of their actions.

All Bird Species at Stop # 1: Canada Goose, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Killdeer, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, Tree Swallow, House Wren, Grey Catbird, American Robin, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Grackle, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak. 27 species.

Hullett Marsh, Stop # 2

     What could be more appealing than to be greeted by a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)?

     Judging by the attention this one received, not much!
     Thirsty Western Honeybees (Apis mellifera) gathered around a puddle to drink.

     A pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) is a sinister portent of what might be for industrious songbirds completing their clutch.

      Tent Caterpillars (family: Lasiocampidae) will generally not evoke expressions of glee and delight from humans, but they will make fine food for cuckoos and their young.

     "What species is this bee?", you might ask. I asked myself the same question.
     As best I can tell, it is an Eastern Honey Bee (Apis cerana), sometimes known as Asian Honey Bee, but I am far from confident, and if someone with greater expertise than I would clarify the ID, I'd be greatly appreciative.

     For a non-specialist bees are, to say the least, often very difficult to identify from a picture.
     Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) wheeled around in the air above the water, gathering up insect prey.

     At Hullett Marsh, in the past, I have seen Tree Swallows nesting in natural cavities, of which there are many - not without competition from other cavity occupants, however, both avian and mammalian.
     How about another Red-winged Blackbird to help make your day?

     "This is an Elephant Tick," said Mary Ann, tongue-in-cheek.

     It was in fact a tiny Painted Turtle (genus Chrysemys), barely bigger than a silver dollar. The grasses must have seemed like a forest to this plucky little warrior.
     We heard the emphatic whistle of a Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) and wasted no time in finding it.

     Just as quickly, Miriam had her camera cocked and ready, and it's portrait was preserved for posterity.
     Lisa, she of the sensitive ears and superlative song recognition, heard a Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) and quickly got her scope on it. It was far away, clearly identifiable through Swarovski optics, however, but the picture is less than satisfactory. It was the best Miriam could do given the distance and the backdrop of the sky, and I am including it here anyway.

     Stomachs were rumbling and we stopped for lunch. Unfortunately, hunters were in the area, and we were less than pleased to see them.

     Here is an indication of their mindset.

      Anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists I have no doubt, and the only two whose tattoos I could see sported thunder bolts and swastikas. 
     They were not our ideal luncheon companions, but we ignored the pop-pop of their guns as best we could and enjoyed our lunch together en plain air. 

All Bird Species at Stop # 2: Canada Goose, Pied-billed Grebe, Sandhill Crane, Great Blue Heron, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, American Crow, Tree Swallow, House Wren, American Robin, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Baltimore Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Grackle, Blue-winged Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting. 23 species. 

Hullett Marsh, Stop #3

     Mary Ann was anxious to read the sign.

     The habitats of Hullett Marsh are varied, productive and unique in subtle ways.

     Off we marched to see what we could find.

     Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) is a charming little duck and we were enthralled to find several of them.

     There are those who might have seen a snake in the grass (human or otherwise), and some prefer to smoke their grass. For us, a Mallard (Anas platyrynchos) in the grass will bring a smile every time.

     The highlight of this stop was a field of Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), both visually and auditorily, as questing males trilled their beguiling song over the grassland. 

      They were never especially close and photographs were difficult, but nothing could detract from the magic of the moment.

All species at Stop # 3: Canada Goose, Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Eastern Kingbird, Barn Swallow, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow Warbler. 12 species.

Highly-anticipated Special Stop

     On our various trips to Hullett Marsh it became a tradition that Curtiss would buy an ice cream for everyone at the end of the day. How could we permit such a tradition to end? Perish the thought.
     So, with reluctance and anguish I might add, guilty that we might be taking advantage of his good nature, we agreed to permit Curtiss to treat us to this sinful pleasure, although with a group this large he probably needed to extend his line of credit!
     We had never made this trip before on a Saturday and had no idea a small country store would close at 14h:00 on that day. As an illustration of Curtiss' influence on the world, he cajoled the owners into opening up so that we could all satisfy our craving.

     Now that's friendship!
David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.


  1. Thanks to your posts I am learning a lot about the wildlife and the nature. I think that in the near future, with my grandsons, I will join the local LIPU group to visit some natural reserve around here. In this period I enjoy to watch the swallows flying over the roofs: it's a real pleasure.

  2. ...David, what a day you had, there wasn't a thing that you missed. Good for you.

  3. The turtle has a difficult road.

  4. Hari OM
    Fabulous fun together and a sizable group. I do love a picnic... but not with a background of gunshots! Also, despite its supposed prevalance in the UK, I don't believe I have ever come across Garlic Mustard plants. There are other things here that are equally nuisance value though. YAM xx

  5. I am thinking you may have made the ice cream stores day! What a great outing. i love that frog and I did get photos of a black snake in our yard today. the yellow warbler is adorable and says joy. I would not like being any place near a convoy like that. we don't have mosquitos yet but the gnats are horrid already. my favortie photo is the thirsty bees and a close second is the picnic in the grass.

  6. What a wonderful outing you had and some fantastic sightings. Such a pleasure to see what you saw and read your narrative. Thanks, David.

  7. What a fabulous outing (except for the shooters). Thank you, Curtiss and Miriam so very much.

  8. Esos viajes en grupo, son para fotografiarlos. En ellos se hacen buenos amigos y se viven buenos momentos, que se pueden recordar a través de las fotografías.

  9. The MacDonalds are known for their generous hospitality and Curtiss sounds true to his name. I did once get a village cafe to open when I was leading a group of walkers. To be fair it didn't take much effort on my part:
    "I don't suppose you could open up?"
    "No, sorry"
    "Only I've got a group of 25 thirsty walkers....."
    "25! Of course we're open!"

    1. I am sure that our large group was the key too.

  10. a successful outing it seems to me. the only time I've seen a red winged blackbird was in Big Bend on the river and then only once. too bad you had to encounter nazis and what were they hunting anyway.

    1. I think that at this time of the year it would be Wild Turkey.

  11. What a wonderful walk you all had, so many fabulous sightings. Sorry about the idiot hunters. We have so many of these right wing conspiracy idiots here. They want to reintroduce the Kaiserreich from 1885, and are, of course, anti everything sensible, rational and good! Thanks for sharing the gorgeous hotos, hus, Valerie xxxxx

  12. What a wonderful adventure, aside from the hunter. We've too many of those around us.

  13. Beautiful birds and butterflies. Vanessa atalana must be the only butterfly we have in common, David. They are very beautiful.
    Hugs and kisses, Marit

  14. Great fieldtrip!....full of nature and friendship!.....Abrazotes, Marcela

  15. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

  16. Birds I've never seen before. Many thanks! I am sorry about the hunters. Very sorry. They can ruin an outing.

  17. It's always good to have someone with you who knows the area well, they are worth their weight in gold.
    Loved seeing the birds, nothing like a touch of red, makes those birds who have it stand out.
    Nice to see you do rest and eat together, there must be a lot of talking which is good.
    Take care.

  18. Always great and a joy to be in the company of people sharing the same hobbies.

  19. Great series of photos these are David.
    The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak is really beautiful, another species not found here.
    The Red-winged Blackbird and the American robin are also not found here.
    I am glad to see these species on your blog.
    I enjoyed your photos.
    Greetings Irma

  20. Great picture of the red-winged blackbird!
    Easy to see you and your friend had a great time along those paths.

  21. A beautiful fieldtrip for friends passionate of nature and birds !
    Without hunters...
    Gorgeous pictures !
    Have a shinny day !

  22. Hello David,
    Great reports and outings. Wonderful variety of birds. I love the Oriole, Grosbeak and the Bobolink. Beautiful photos! Sorry, I am late commenting! We are back from a trip to Ireland. Thanks so much for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a great day and the rest of the week! PS, thank you for leaving me a comment!

  23. Hi David.

    It's great that you can make these outings and that many people get to know nature.
    Beautiful birds pass by.
    The Blue-winged Teal is very beautiful.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  24. Apart from the lunch noise and hunters, it looks like a good day. Rick is seeing signs of similar (and I don't mean nature) up north. I don't know if it makes me sad, angry or both. I guess, both.

  25. What an amazing day! All of the variety of birds and other wildlife are simply amazing. Thanks for sharing all of the photos.
    As for the hunters, I'm surprised it is permitted in the spring when all of the wildlife are mating and raising their young.

    1. Since Ford was elected in Ontario, the spring bear hunt has even been resumed. How do we elect such morons?

  26. Todo se ve precioso, me encantó veros a todos comiendo. Abrazos.

  27. Whatever were those men with guns shooting?

    1. I think they are allowed to hunt Wild Turkeys at this time of year.

  28. I've seen a number of Redwing blackbirds lately. This time of year I try to give them a wide berth.

  29. Buenas tardes, apreciado amigo David, maravillosa salida de gente extraordinaria y gran cantidad de formidables avistamientos. Seguro que tu amigo Curtis no será ni el primero ni el último año que esa estupenda salida os acompañe de nuevo.
    He disfrutado con esta entrada y todo de cuanta belleza nos has mostrado.
    Recibe un afectuoso y cálido abrazo de tu siempre amigo y compadre Juan.

  30. Se me paso decirte que es lo que cazan esos cazadores y más en una zona transitada, ya que puede existir gran peligro, debería de estar totalmente prohibida la caza.

    1. Sin duda, amigo Juan. Estoy totalmente de acuerdo.

  31. Hello David, enjoyed this post with your nature friends and encounters of birds, damselfly and frog. Disturbing to have had your lunch with the popping sounds of gunfire from those hunters. Not at all my favorite kind of human beings. Read in the newspaper and on TV news that there are a lot of fires in Canada is that also the case in your area? I do hope they will manage to finish it soon.
    Take care,
    Warm regards,

    1. Hello, Roos: The fires are catastrophic, but they are in Western Canada, primarily in Alberta, with some fires in British Columbia too. The situation in Alberta is especially serious where basically, the whole province is either in the direct path of the fires or is blanketed by the smoke from them. It gets worse every year.

  32. Looks like a fun day with the perfect ending...Ice cream!!! Beautiful pictures of the birds and the bees..Wonderful variety..We (Eastern Pa) have had pretty sunsets due to those Canadian Fires...but at what price??? Sad to lose all those trees.

  33. I would love to be a part of your wonderful group. This is an amazing post. I have missed you and all of the nature. Have a wonderful day today

  34. That area would be high on my list, I would probably try to visit often. It reminds me a bit of our Laguna where I actually was walking this morning with a good friend. The tree swallows put on a show just for us when we finally rested on a bench. Thankfully no shooters were present, I wouldn't have liked that at all. I fail to understand the lure of it.

  35. What a wonderful group to go birding with, and plenty of birds to be viewed. A joy to travel with you in this post, although I missed out on the yummy ice cream cone. A gathering of friends like this is what makes life so enjoyable. Take care.

    1. They are great companions to be sure. Some of the people there have accompanied me on my trips to Cuba, and one couple is set to go on the next one in November.

  36. So many beautiful birds and other creatures. We should always take time to notice the smallest ones too. I saw a Black-throated Green Warbler today, first time for me. What a beautiful singer it is, sat in the conifer!

    1. Congratulations, Marie. Wonderful little bird, huh?

  37. I really enjoyed your post. There are so many interesting birds and other animals in your area!

  38. Hi David - what a wonderful day out ... it looks just amazing ... so many like- minded friends with delightful accompaniments to view ... good idea to go now, before the mozzies come out. Loved seeing all the pictures and to hear about Curtiss's generosity and influence - cheers Hilary

  39. You are continuing to twist my arm, David - this time by showing me a dragonfly and then to cap it all, ending with ice cream! I shall, nevertheless, remain steadfast in my reluctance to travel. Not much choice at the moment, however, as Lindsay is going through a rough patch and today I cancelled next week's booked stay in Dorset.

    My very best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  40. Looks like a great outing David 👌

  41. Hello David :=)
    The photos of your day out clearly demonstrate the comrardery amongst birding enthusiasts.How I would love to go with your group of friends on a field trip, and see all the lovely birds you shared, and as a new comer, the ice creams would be on me with the greatest of pleasure, The suggestion of port wine, bread and cheese, and you me and the birds sounded delightful. :=)
    All my good wishes hugs and kisses.

  42. Hi David,
    Great trip full of surprises and among good friends. I enjoyed this post!
    Regards, Maria

    1. Lots of fun, Maria - great birds, great friends and great ice cream!

  43. Regarding your comment on my blog, I found this online which might be of interest:

    1. Thanks, John. Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow so I will probably be spending time indoors and will look forward to reading it. David

  44. Hello David,
    Wonderful reports on your outings, beautiful birds and nature scenes are all captured beautifully. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a great weekend. PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

    1. Make a road trip to southern Ontario one of these days and join one of our outings, Eileen. I guarantee good fun, good birds and who knows, maybe even ice cream!

  45. Another excellent post as you have accustomed us. I am greatly comforted by the regularity with which you organize these fantastic ornithological outings in which, in addition to greatly enjoying bird sightings, you encourage coexistence among nature lovers, in spaces that are increasingly scarce and diminishing due to the the inaction of our politicians. Instead of protecting the species, it is more convenient for them to encourage hunting, even if it is of mammals that are clearly in decline, such as bears in spring. A big hug David.

  46. What a fantastic day! And such a great group for this outing. You really have a long list of sightings. I would love to see the Bobolinks here this year. I've only seen them once in Florida. Enjoy your weekend!

  47. Hey David, thanks for sharing this awesome bird adventure! It's incredible to see all these different bird species and the beautiful photos you captured. The Barn Swallows and Baltimore Oriole are such cool sightings. And that male Rose-breasted Grosbeak is simply stunning! By the way, these birds are so unfamiliar to us Europeans. Thanks for introducing them to us. Keep up the great work, ( or in Dutch: "ga maar lekker door") and I can't wait to see more of your nature explorations. Cheers!

  48. A wonderful way to spend a day with friends and fellow birders. So many birds ( this seems to be the perfect time of year to see a variety as many are coming and going from their winter habitat). Birds, frogs, turtles, bees and butterflies ... I really do love nature and love that you share so much of it with us. Most of the birds you see, I have seen when on my lake. Some were permanent residents others just passing through, but all were enjoyed for what ever amount of time they were willing to spend with us.
    A bit unnerving to have the ilk of hunters in your midst ... I hope you keep your distance because they are not to be trusted.
    Ice cream at the end of a days journey ... it doesn't get any better. Another educational and enjoyable post, David. And, I wish I had known you when I lived on the lake because I would have been able to exchange photos with you of nature in all its glory :)
    Safe trekking, David ...

    Andrea @ From the Sol

  49. Always nice to see so many in your group for the many and varied outings you do and go to. I certainly enjoyed seeing all of the photographs, thank you.

    All the best Jan

  50. hello David
    three different stops with great friends and the fourth stop says it all, you recognize the good friends. great squad
    Greetings Frank

  51. Hi David,
    Another succesful trip in an attractive environment. No wonder, there was a lot of interesting wildlife to see.
    Greetings, Kees

  52. An incredible day, a fantastic report.
    What a Spectacular Red-winged Blackbird .

  53. I thought that I had commented on these great photos, it seems like I was mistaken. Bisous Diane

  54. I'm smiling because I see some familiar faces in your group 😄.
    Every outing is a wonder David. Every corner has its species.
    You have to savor these moments.
    Big kisses.


Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.