Mi­gra­tory birds fun­nel through Essex

The Delhi News-Record - - LIFE - PAUL NICHOLSON

Mi­grants filled the sky last week­end in and around Point Pelee Na­tional Park. I was bird­ing across Essex County and was impressed with large flocks of com­mon species as well as spe­cialty sight­ings.

Al­though the blue jay is com­mon, it was my favourite sight­ing last week­end. On Sept. 29, an of­fi­cial one-day count at Hol­i­day Beach con­ser­va­tion area near Amher­st­burg in south-west Essex County tal­lied more than 40,100 of these birds.

In the skies above Point Pelee, thou­sands of these jays flapped and flick­ered like di­a­monds in the sun. Even the vet­eran bird­ers who are usu­ally more ex­cited about rar­i­ties were star­ing at them. There also were large flocks of star­lings and red-winged black­birds along with sev­eral large ket­tles of turkey vul­tures.

Essex County can be de­scribed as the bot­tom end of a fun­nel. Most mi­grants fly­ing south across On­tario are steered by the Great Lakes to the west end of Lake Erie.

Some birds head out over Point Pelee, scan the environment, then de­cide they can make a run for it fly­ing south over the lake. In­ter­est­ingly, Pelee is a trap for other birds. Some have se­cond thoughts about cut­ting across the lake so they turn around, fly back up the point in an ap­par­ent “re­verse mi­gra­tion,” then head a bit fur­ther west and zip around the lake rather than across it.

The On­tario Field Or­nithol­o­gists had their an­nual con­ven­tion last week­end and I joined in on a num­ber of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s field trips. When­ever I’m in Essex County I will al­ways check out Pelee and Hill­man marsh. These are re­li­able bird­ing hotspots.

In the park, I did well on a hike led by Lon­don birder Tim Arthur. We saw a yel­low-billed cuckoo, a nice range of war­bler species in­clud­ing black-throated blue and black­poll, and some monarch but­ter­fly roosts. Rap­tor species we saw in­cluded sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, red-tailed, and broad­winged hawks as well as har­rier, bald ea­gle, Amer­i­can kestrel, and pere­grine fal­con.

Point Pelee Na­tional Park is 100 years old this year, how­ever the park is ag­ing well. Among the changes that are be­ing made are a 24 me­tre view­ing tower at the tip and a tur­tle-friendly nest­ing area at the marsh board­walk.

The fields north of Pelee yielded horned larks, pipets, and a buff­breasted sand­piper. At Hill­man marsh, a lit­tle fur­ther north, there were lots of great egrets and great blue herons. There were more bald ea­gles plus gull species and wood ducks.

High­light species at Wheat­ley har­bour in­cluded long-tailed duck, Caspian tern, and great black­backed gull. I birded with some other On­tario Field Or­nithol­o­gists at Two Creeks con­ser­va­tion area and Kope­garon woods closer to Wheatly. There were lots of blue jays here with yel­low-bel­lied sap­sucker and Swain­son’s thrush.

Other in­ter­est­ing mi­grants in­cluded other thrushes, both kinglets, and vireo species. I saw one late ruby-throated hum­ming­bird.

We will have seen the last of some war­bler species how­ever later war­blers such as yel­lowrumped, orange-crowned, Nashville, palm, and com­mon yel­lowthroats will con­tinue to be seen. Ac­tive mi­gra­tion through will con­tinue through Oc­to­ber in Essex County and else­where across South­west­ern On­tario.

Na­ture notes

• Two South­west­ern On­tario bird­ers were among the seven from across the prov­ince hon­oured by the On­tario Field Or­nithol­o­gists at their an­nual con­ven­tion. Or­ga­ni­za­tion pres­i­dent Lynne Free­man in par­tic­u­lar Steve Char­bon­neau’s com­mit­ment to sharing rare bird sight­ings and post­ing other up­dates on eBird and Ont­birds. Claire Nel­son’s many years of ac­tive sup­port of the OFO were also saluted.

• The Fa­tal Light Aware­ness Pro­gram Canada (FLAP) turns 25 this year. FLAP, works na­tion­ally and glob­ally to pro­tect mi­gra­tory birds from build­ing col­li­sions and other life-threat­en­ing dan­gers of hu­man-cre­ated en­vi­ron­ments. Sup­ported by a ded­i­cated group of vol­un­teers, founder and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Michael Mesure and a core team man­age FLAP pro­grams. In late Septem­ber for ex­am­ple they co-or­di­nated a global bird col­li­sion count week. To learn more about this reg­is­tered char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion’s many ac­com­plish­ments visit flap.org.

• If you want to plan a road trip to ad­mire fall colours some­time in Oc­to­ber, re­mem­ber the web­site Visit on­tar­i­oparks.com/fall­colour. The site is up­dated each Thurs­day. g.paul.nicholson@gmail.com twit­ter.com/Ni­chol­sonNa­ture

PHO­TOS BY PAUL NICHOLSON/ SPE­CIAL TO POST­MEDIA NEWS

In early Oc­to­ber, great egret sight­ings at Hill­man Marsh in Essex County are a slam dunk.

The black-throated blue war­bler is one of at least 18 mi­grat­ing war­bler species that have been seen in Point Pelee Na­tional Park in the last week.

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