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:
I’ve trained many birders in my past, as the head of a songbird research project, and now I’ve moved on to teaching kids of all ages some basic bird ID and diagnostic features, both by sight and sound.
These little guys are often a highlight of my talks – while their song isn’t all that memorable, and they’re simply a mish-mash of colours and features, once they turn around and flash that golden spot, you know you’re looking at none other than the lovely Yellow-rumped Warbler, a.k.a. Butterbutt.
Gets a howl out of the kids every time.
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).
After a too-long absence, we visited Gatineau Park this weekend for a spring hike. Considering how close we are to the park, it’s a shame we don’t make it out there more often. We weren’t the only ones enjoying the day – the trailhead was packed, and there were quite a few on the path; no complaints here – having others out appreciating nature is nothing but uplifting.
We parked at the P7 trailhead. It was 22 C out, the sun was hot, and the trail was dry except for a few pockets of snow and muck (fun for the kidlets). The forest was barely waking up – some buds on the trees, a few trout lily leaves appearing, and some great new birds for the year – Yellow-bellied sapsucker, Yellow-rumped warbler, and Pine warbler.
Over the next few days I’ll post some images from our jaunt in the woods, including a surprise at the end of the week!
Looking forward to spending more time in Gatineau over the next few months, and exploring more of the trails, in every season.