And just like that, they’ve arrived: strutting in the treetops, filling the air with song, dazzling us with their beauty; behold, the warblers are here, in all their glory!
Blackburnian warbler at Britannia Park on Mother’s Day, 2014
A sunny Friday, a day off school for the kids, and an air of spontaneity – who’s up for a day trip to Amherst Island?! The kids were gung-ho (there’s a ferry involved), my husband was all keen (there are migrating birds involved) and I had a new lens to play with – et on y va! Amherst Island is just west of Kingston, in Lake Ontario. A short trip in the car, and we arrive just in time to make the ferry – only a 20 min jaunt across the water.
There’s not much to the Island, which is what makes it so special. Some gravel roads, cows and sheep, an old cemetery (with dates from the 1800s), lovely views across the lake, and Owl Woods. We tried our darndest to find some owls, searching up and down the trunks of the cedars, but it’s the wrong season – we’ll have to try again over the winter. (Maybe next time we won’t have to bushwhack through the willows on our way out.) But the island didn’t disappoint with regards to avian diversity. Highlights included northern harriers circling overhead, a merlin perched above us, a mixed flock of warblers in the cemetery that included a northern parula, great blue herons hunting out in the fields (for grasshoppers?) and huge flocks of starlings hanging with the sheep. The starlings didn’t do their crazy dance in the sky (that’s on my bucket list to see), but they were entertaining nonetheless.
All in all, a great day out. We ended up in Kingston for dinner, and managed to do some stargazing out the window on the way home. Soul-satifying, it was.
A mixed flock of migrants, chipping and foraging through the trees, all in fall plumage – a guessing game to challenge me and my ID skills.
Some were more obvious – those that were singing: black-and-white warbler, blue-headed vireo, and ruby-crowned kinglet, and those that were more easily identifiable: yellow-rumped warbler, nashville warbler, and common yellowthroat. And at least one individual who did me the kindness to pose for my camera, so I could look up the ID later: this beautiful Magnolia Warbler.
A great resource for warbler identification, with downloadable pdfs to print and pack with you in the field, can be found here:
Opening the car door in the parking lot of the trailhead on Sunday, we hear an unusual song coming from the treetops overhead.
Can it be? No…really? It is! It’s a blue-winged warbler!
If you’re a twitchy birder like me, this is a pretty amazing sight (this happens to be only the second record ever for Ottawa – he’s a bit out of his range).
But even if you’re not, you gotta admit, he sure is beautiful.
(Sorry about the optics – I only had my 70-200mm lens, and he was way, way up).