In Association with:
CANADA 12th May – 26th May 1999
DAY 1: Wednesday 12th May
All but one of us met at Exeter airport 10.30am, introductions were soon exchanged and it wasn't long before we boarded our connecting flight to Toronto via Stansted. This is where we picked up Mark, our final group member. A smooth uneventful flight whisked us across the Atlantic, where spectacular ice flows could be seen, as well as the great wilderness of thousands of lakes that make this part of Canada so spectacular. We arrived in Toronto at 5.45pm local time, and no sooner had we sorted out the vehicles than we were on our way to Niagara. Arriving at our motel at 8.30pm just as dusk was falling the sound of Niagara Falls could be heard thundering in the distance. Everyone thrilled at their first American Robins hopping around the lawn and swapped notes on birds seen en-route to the motel. These included Common Grackle, Common Starlings, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Ring-billed Gulls and a colony of Double-crested Cormorants. Half the group retired to bed while the rest went out and had a meal followed by a short stroll to see the spectacle of these magnificent waterfalls which were bathed in coloured floodlights.
DAY2: Thursday 13th May
As ever the excitement of the first morning in a new country saw most of us up and out at an early 6.00am looking for birds in the nearby trees and grassy fields. Ring-billed Gulls were plentiful on our motel lawn as were Common Grackle, noisy Red-winged Blackbirds and several pairs of American Robin.
It wasn't long before we encountered our first species of warbler a male Yellow singing from a small bush, after which several more were seen and an enviable list of pre-breakfast birds ensued. American Goldfinch were found along with Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, and a male American Kestrel sat on a close pole. While in and beside a grassy meadow birds came thick and fast, Savannah and Song Sparrow, a male Baltimore Oriole, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Northern Flicker, several Yellow-rumped Warblers, Easter Kingbird and a fine male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. With a little more persistence we added a pair of Black-capped Chickadees, a Green Heron, Chimney Swift, Grey Catbird, several House Finch and Northern Mockingbird. Breakfast was next on the list followed by a short drive down to the falls where birds almost took second place. From our parked vehicles we walked across to the river via an area of trees and small pools. All the species of swallow and martin we were likely to see were soon found with Purple and Sand Martin, Northern Rough-winged, Barn, Tree and Cliff Swallow. On the fast flowing river above the falls we noted Great Blue and nesting Black-crowned Night-herons, hundreds of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls as well as a few Common Terns. Moving along to the falls themselves it was time for photographs and souvenirs. With beautiful weather and very few people around it was hard to tear ourselves away from this wonderful sight. However lunch time saw us heading off towards our next stop at Long Point.
En-route we saw Belted Kingfisher and Killdeer along with plenty of the now more familiar American species. We made a brief stop at a shop where rolls were made up with fillings of our choice. To say they were overfilled was an understatement. After parking at Long Point it was difficult to decide what to do first, eat the enormous rolls or identify the many warblers flitting around the car park. The birds won of course! One of the first species spotted by Nick was a super male Canada Warbler, which was soon to be replaced by a male American Redstart, Magnolia and Yellow Warbler. From the car park, having finished our lunch, we took a walk into the small wood surrounding the bird ringing area. There was a good variety of species including many Black-throated Blue and Yellow-rumped Warblers, with lesser numbers of Nashville, Chestnut-sided and Black-throated Green Warblers. There were up to fifteen Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and several Baltimore Orioles, while thrushes included two each of Swainson's and Veery, with single Grey-cheeked and Wood Thrush. As we walked out of the wood and around the nearby gardens, sparrows became more evident with White-crowned, White-throated, Lincoln's, Song and Chipping all being seen. A Grey Catbird hopped around a lawn and House Wren and four Bay-breasted Warblers were found. We then left this area and drove to a nearby causeway where we found several species of duck including two Redheads, eight Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck and a single Canvasback. The wind had now become quite strong and sheltered along the edge of the lake were three Lesser Yellowlegs, two Least Sandpipers and a Killdeer. We decided to continue to Chatham where we were to spend the next four nights.
DAY3: Friday 14th May
After our breakfast we headed straight down to Point Pelee. We got our passes and made our way to the visitors car park. Here we saw two Carolina Wrens and then had a quick look in the visitors centre to find out what recent bird sightings there were, after which we proceeded to the tram which would take us all the way to the tip. While waiting for the tram to depart we enjoyed a pair of Northern Cardinals and lots of White-crowned Sparrows. A leisurely five minute drive took us to the tip, this being the most southerly point in Canada and the first landfall for many a tired migrant. Yellow Warblers, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles were everywhere with Least Flycatchers soon forgotten as a stunning male Scarlet Tanager performed right in front of us, Blue-grey Gnatcatchers zipped around every tree and a Blue-headed Vireo sang. We walked towards the sand spit on the end of the tip where a few of our group saw their first Ruby-throated Hummingbird. On the water Great Northern Diver, or as the Americans call it Common Loon, was seen along with a huge raft of Red-breasted Merganser, Ringed -billed Gulls, hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls and a few Forster's Terns. As we strolled back it became obvious that birds were literally falling out of the sky. A Red-eyed Vireo landed beside us in a bush and a flock of Cedar Waxwings came to rest in a nearby tree, while a flock of nine Turkey Vultures and a Downy Woodpecker were also spotted. We caught the tram back to the visitors centre where our lunch included offerings from the weekend barbecue. After lunch we walked to the Tilden's Wood Trail. Within the first hundred yards Common Yellowthroat, White-eyed Vireo, Blackburnian Warbler, and beside a damp pool, Northern Waterthrush were found. Further into the woods we were kept busy with a small wave of warblers, which included several more Blackburnian, Black and White, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, two Northern Parulas, American Redstarts and a very obliging Ovenbird. Also present was a Brown Creeper, three Indigo Buntings, an elusive male Blue Grosbeak as well Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Downy Woodpeckers, lots of Baltimore Orioles and White-throated Sparrows. A Great Crested Flycatcher showed very well and we found another group of warblers including two Orange-crowned. On our return to the car park a male Hooded Warbler was only seen by our group before it disappeared from view. Moving on we drove to the Marsh Boardwalk, briefly stopping for another very close Great Crested Flycatcher. At the boardwalk we found the wind had picked up and was quite chilly so we made a fairly brisk walk around it's circuit. We found a few Swamp Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, Great Blue Herons and finally the bird we were looking for a singing Marsh Wren. After this good days birding we returned to our motel.
DAY4: Saturday 15th May
Half of us made an early morning visit to St Clair National Wildlife Area, which was about twenty minutes from our motel. We passed through open arable fields where two female Marsh Hawks were seen along with the regular Horned Larks and Grey Plovers. We then parked and walked along a causeway between two large lakes and found Forster's and three Black Terns. American Painted Terrapins sat around on logs while Yellow-rumped Warblers and Common Yellowthroats flitted amongst the reeds. In the distance we could hear the unmistakable trumpeting calls of one or more Sandhill Cranes, but it proved impossible to locate these birds as a line of trees obscured our view. In the car park we saw Warbling Vireo and on a telegraph wire sat a Brown Thrasher, while Spotted Sandpiper bobbed around on the water's edge. We decided to try and drive to where we could hear the cranes but again this proved fruitless. We did however find four Green Herons, two pairs of Cliff Swallow and a Pied-billed Grebe. After breakfast we all headed off towards Rondeau Provincial Park, first calling at a large house near Blenheim which was owned by the Woodcliffe's, an elderly couple who had been feeding birds, and in so doing had attracted a male Harris's Sparrow, an extremely rare bird in Ontario. This bird had been visiting their feeders for the last three days and we were made very welcome as they let us look around their garden. Baltimore Orioles and Rose-breasted
Grosbeak sang from the trees but the sparrow did not show. We decided to try again later on our return.
Once we had arrived at Rondeau we made our way towards the visitors centre with the inevitable stops for species, which included Eastern Towhee. We had a quick look in the centre before we set off along the nearby Tulip Trail. A female Scarlet Tanager was soon located as were a good variety of warblers. The star warbler was of course the Prothonotary; of which we saw several nesting pairs including one bird, which came so close, it had everyone reaching for their cameras. A Common Nighthawk roosting on a bare tree was also a good sighting, while Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, and for a couple of us an Eastern Garter Snake, proved added distractions. The call of the Eastern Wood-pewee echoed throughout the wood as we returned to the centre for our picnic lunch. A little bit of hot news that a Yellow-crowned Night-heron, another really rare bird for Ontario, was showing just down the road had us delay lunch by a few minutes. We drove to the spot and then watched this sub adult bird stalking around in a marshy pool. Back at the centre most of us sat in the sun enjoying our lunch and watching Clouded Sulphur butterflies while Nick, Mark, Nigel, Colin and Graham decided to try and find a Mourning Warbler. Around the back of the visitors centre was an array of feeders and on them a good variety of photogenic birds. Here we enjoyed several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, American Goldfinch, Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a variety of sparrows, a stunning male Blackburnian Warbler and an Eastern Chipmunk. The others then returned from their quest having seen the Mourning Warbler and a little later we all headed off to the South Point Trail. Here we quickly located a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers and watched as they flew back and forth from their nest hole high up in a rotten tree. We then drove slowly back along the coast road passing several gardens before Graham spotted the next bird on our hit list which was a dazzling male Eastern Bluebird, surely a good contender for bird-of-the-day. After this we continued on to the site where the Mourning Warbler was previously seen. No sooner had we all got out of our vehicles than we were watching this often skulking species just sat in the open singing it's heart out.
Other birds seen here included two Palm Warblers, Northern Parula, Warbling, Blue-headed, Red-eyed and Philadelphia Vireos and a Great Crested Flycatcher. We moved on and checked out the Spice Bush Trail where two Northern Waterthrushes were found and a stoat was seen carrying a mole. As we were leaving the park a White-breasted Nuthatch was spotted and showed very close before flying off.
Just outside the park on a causeway, between two areas of water, we found Semi-palmated Plovers, and Least Sandpipers as well as a Snapping Turtle sat on a floating log. We returned to the Woodcliffe's Garden and were invited inside the house to view the feeders so as to not disturb any birds, including the Harris's Sparrow which had been feeding for two hours just prior to our arrival. An anxious wait ensued before the bird appeared and we all went outside and enjoyed great views of this very smart, rare bird, a good end to the day.
DAY 5: Sunday 16th May
For the early birds amongst us we made another pre-breakfast visit to St Clair, this time walking right out to the observation tower where we soon located four Yellow-headed Blackbirds displaying from the reed tops. Two Least Bitterns put in an all too brief appearance, while Wood Ducks, Forster's and Black Terns flew around, and Northern Flicker sat on a dead tree. Returning for breakfast we passed Marsh Hawk, Horned Larks and a Green Heron.
Today saw us all heading back to Rondeau Provincial Park, but first we had a Bald Eagle to find. En-route to this site an American Woodcock flew across the road in front of us. After a quick stop we watched the bird as it made several short flights allowing us all to see this normally crepuscular species. We eventually got to our intended site and it wasn't long before we found a majestic Bald Eagle sat on it's nest. It was a little distant but nevertheless an impressive bird. To complete the scene as we watched, as Coopers Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk fought in the sky above. Moving on to Rondeau we had another quick stop, this time to watch a male Marsh Hawk quartering over some fields. Once at the Provincial Park we first checked the visitors centre information board to see what was around, after which we tried the old barn area. A small dried up pond produced a few birds including five species of sparrow, White-crowned, White-throated, Song, Lincoln's and Swamp, while nearby a Hairy Woodpecker was noisy beside its nest hole. Walking along the track towards a convenient picnic ground we found several small groups of warblers, one of which included two Tennessee’s and a Northern Parula as well as four or more White-breasted Nuthatches. Nick and myself then walked back to pick up our vehicles and drive to the picnic ground while everyone else waited. Not to be outdone they had found and all had excellent views of a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers. We sat down for lunch in beautiful sunshine with a Wilson's Warbler hopping around the hedge in front of us. What more could we want? Back at the visitors centre Ruby-throated Hummingbirds continued to perform, while a quick look on the sea produced several hundred Bonaparte's Gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers and a Canvasback. We then checked an area back near the old barn and managed to find a good flock of birds which included lots of Bay-breasted Warblers, Red-eyed and Philadelphia Vireos, Cedar Waxwings, another Northern Parula and two Yellow-bellied Flycatchers. Moving on again to the maintenance compound we soon found a male Canada Warbler, several Wilson's Warblers, Grey-cheeked and Swainson's Thrush, Eastern Wood-pewee, Eastern Pheobe and a singing Alder Flycatcher. A little further on Nick "pished" a Warbling Vireo to within five feet of us, while a nearby tree held both Arcadian and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, plus Red-headed Woodpecker. A surprisingly good day finished with us seeing 101 species.
DAY 6: Monday 17th May
Today we all had a lie-in and met for breakfast at 08.00 after which we visited St Clair. On the approach road to the car park a Belted Kingfisher and a Least Bittern were briefly seen flying from the waters edge to disappear from view. We walked out to the observation tower and everyone got views of up to three Yellow-headed Blackbirds as well as a Forster's and two Black Terns. Several terrapin species were watched sunbathing and these included Wood and American Painted Terrapins, while a gust of wind had blown Mark's cap off into the water and I had to brave what ever was hidden in the murky depths and wade out to rescue it for him. In the car park Warbling Vireo was singing and the nearby fields were full of Grey Plovers.
Leaving this site we headed north to the bridge that crosses from Canada to the U.S.A at Port Huron. After we had gone through the formalities of the immigration we were soon on our way towards Grayling in Michigan. En-route we stopped for our lunch and noted a Red-tailed Hawk and a Question Mark butterfly. Continuing our journey more Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures were seen with Nick's vehicle also spotting two Upland Sandpipers. We arrived at our motel late afternoon and after a rest some of us had a short walk into the nearby woods. By some rotten old trees we saw a Northern Flicker in its nest hole, we also heard and had distant views of a Pileated Woodpecker, while a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker landed on a close tree. A little further on we found a singing Purple Finch and a pair of Black-capped Chickadees. After our evening meal another quick look in the woods before it got to dark produced two White-tailed Deer.
DAY 7: Tuesday 18th May
Everyone was up for an early breakfast. After which we met for a slide show and talk on the management and conservation of North America's rarest warbler, the Kirtland's. We then followed the ranger to Hartwick pines, an area of Jack Pines where it was hoped we could find this exceptionally rare bird. It wasn't very long before we heard our first Kirtland's Warbler singing, but this individual frustratingly remained out of view. As compensation for waiting we saw a male Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Indigo Bunting and a Field Sparrow.
We decided to try a different area and were soon rewarded with views of three different Kirtland's Warblers with all of us eventually managing to see this prized species. Other birds present included an American Woodcock, Upland Sandpiper, Nashville and Palm Warblers, and Vesper Sparrow. When we were leaving we drove beside an open grassy area and had excellent views of two Upland Sandpipers right beside our vehicles. It began to rain so rather than struggle to birdwatch in what became horrendous conditions we decided to head back through Michigan. Daphne was lucky enough to see a wild Turkey as we sped south, and then with a lunch break taken at a rest stop half way back we were delighted to find a Tufted Titmouse coming to a new feeder, and in a scrubby field two Field Sparrows and another Turkey were seen. We drove back over the bridge into Canada and on to Paint Pelee where we were to spend the next four days. Arriving there in the early evening some of us went out and spent an hour at the sanctuary. Here we saw a Common Nighthawk flying around and had good views of Eastern Towhee, Orchard Orioles, Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, Swainson's Thrush, Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-eyed and Philadelphia Vireo, as well as five Black Terns flying along the beach. Back at our motel, American Woodcocks could be heard performing there distinctive display flights.
DAY 8: Wednesday 19th May
A few of us were out at 7.00am looking at the lake beside our motel. In the early morning light we watched a single Short-billed Dowitcher, two Least Sandpipers and a couple of Wood Duck while more distant waders included Semi-palmated Plovers, Dunlin, and Lesser Yellowlegs. Further along the road we found Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Kingbird, Savannah Sparrows, a group of Ruddy Turnstone, Great Blue Herons and a Redhead. Walking back for breakfast another quick look on the lake found us watching a very confiding drake Blue-winged Teal.
After our breakfast we headed straight into Point Pelee Park and on to the visitors centre. From here we first tried the Tilden's Trail and were soon watching an elusive Green Heron, and a showy pair of White-eyed Vireos while Broad-winged Hawks circled above. A female Blackpoll Warbler was a good find and showed very well, while another area produced male Scarlet Tanager and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Back by the visitors centre it was lunch time, and there appeared to be an obvious hawk migration taking place, a scan of the skies over the car park produced Coopers, Sharp-shinned and Red-tailed Hawks, up to thirty Broad –winged and a procession of Turkey Vultures. We then drove to Hillman's Marsh for a change of scene.
A walk around one edge of the marsh found us watching Spotted Sandpipers and a pair of
Blue-winged Teals, a Wilson's Snipe flew off and a female Marsh Hawk cruised by. In the grass edge to a field we were treated to, very close views of two pairs of bobolink, with one bright male performing song flights and feeding unconcerned for all of us to see. This particular bird was very much appreciated by Joan who bad earlier been studying it in her book. From here we returned to Pelee and went straight on to the tip area. Amongst the more familiar warblers there were now up to five Wilson's, another female Blackpoll, and numbers of Red-eyed Vireo and a party of Cedar Waxwings, two Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Eastern Wood-peewee, and Eastern Phoebe. Off the tip were the usual array of gulls and terns while butterflies now included Canadian Tiger, Pipevine and Tiger Swallowtail.
DAY 9: Thursday 20th May
A few of us made an early morning visit to Point Pelee where again we made straight for the tip. Here we saw an immature Lesser Black-backed Gull, a rare bird here, amongst the many Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s. On the water we also found: three Great Northern Divers.
Smaller birds were quite evident with good numbers of Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos,
Orchard Orioles, American Redstarts and Indigo Buntings. Plenty of other birds were present and made for a pleasant morning. We returned to meet the rest of the group who had just finished breakfast. We then set off to Harrow Sewage Lagoons about thirty minutes away. The first pool we checked was devoid of birds but the next two found us a good variety of waders including six Red-necked Phalaropes, which obligingly swam around right beside the waters edge right in front of us. We found a single Short-billed Dowitcher with half a dozen pristine summer plumaged Dunlin, lots of least Sandpipers, hundreds of Ruddy Turnstone, a few Semi-Palmated Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted and a Pectoral Sandpiper. We then returned to Point Pelee and had our lunch by the visitors centre, after which we took a very leisurely stroll along the road leading to the tip. Mark decided to stake out an area where a Connecticut Warbler had been seen and we continued on. A Canada Warbler was found with a Philadelphia Vireo and a female Marsh Hawk flew over. Canadian Tiger Swallowtails were everywhere and nests were seen belonging to Yellow Warbler, Baltimore Oriole and Eastern Kingbird. Leaving this area we drove to Black Willow where after ten minutes we found a male Blue-winged Warbler singing from a bare branch. This was a good end to the day and we returned to our motel to get ready for an evening meal. Myself, Nick and Mark decided to forego our showers and headed back to the park for an hour with the hope of seeing the elusive
Connecticut Warbler. We heard the bird singing amongst the thick under story but frustratingly it did not show. We then returned to join the others for our meal.
DAY 10: Friday 21st May
There was no early morning walk today but after breakfast we set off to visit Hillman's
Marsh. Today we tried the other side and first drove down to the beach where among a group of Bonaparte's Gulls sat a splendid Caspian Tern. As we were about to leave it took off, flew past and then dived into the water like an enormous arrow. A few Cedar Waxwings were seen before we headed five minutes down the road to a nest site of a pair of Bald Eagles. An adult and a large chick were seen on the nest and we all enjoyed long views of this magnificent species. Horned Larks ran around the fields beside us and a Ruby-throated Hummer buzzed past. We returned to Pelee once again for our lunch break. After this we chose a short walk in Tilden's Wood. The best finds here were a Canada Warbler and two Great Horned Owls. An adult and a fully-grown chick sat beside each other on a very distant tree. Butterflies proved a distraction with Spring Azure, and American Snout added to our list. Leaving here we decided to try a new site so we stopped at the De Laurier Trail. This proved to be a good decision for after a short walk to some museum buildings Graham found a Common Nighthawk roosting on a bare branch. This bird proved irresistible to Roy who managed to get some fantastic photo shots of it.
An Eastern Towhee showed very close while the wetter areas produced Racoon, Yellowthroats, Wood and American Painted Terrapins and finally a good view of a Willow Flycatcher. We took an early evening meal so that we could visit Hillman's Marsh with a view to finding a rail or two. After a good meal we arrived at the marsh at about 7.45pm and enjoyed a pleasant stroll. Our first Northern Shoveler put in an appearance and Colin did well by finding a feeding Wilson's Snipe. At the end of a boardwalk there was a shallow reed fringed pool. Here we saw a Great White Egret, seven summer plumaged Short-billed Dowitchers, Lesser Yellowlegs and a group of Dunlin. With only forty five minutes of good light left a Solitary Sandpiper was seen and then a very confiding Sora Rail came out of the reeds to feed right out in the open about twenty feet from us. Just as it was getting dark two Black-crowned Night-herons flew around and up to five Common Nighthawks hawked for insects .
DAY 11: Saturday 22nd May
We left Point Pelee in the pouring rain and proceeded with our journey to Huntsville, just outside of Algonquin Park. The journey took about six hours and by the time we reached this edge of the wilderness the rain had stopped and it was a lovely sunny day. We had time for a short walk near to our motel. Here in a small wood we heard the strange sound of a Ruffed Grouse displaying. We watched both singing Indigo Bunting and Common Yellowthroat and were amazed at the variety of dragonflies to be seen. Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, Spring Azure and Mottled Duskywing were among the butterflies, but pride of place had to go to the Connecticut Warbler that Graham saw perched in full view for a few seconds before typically disappearing, never to show again. Down beside the golf course a female Purple Finch caused some confusion while a distant Black Duck was a good find for Nigel.
DAY 12: Sunday 23rd May
An early breakfast was consumed after which we made the thirty minute drive to the entrance to Algonquin National Park. The countryside, very different from the south, was now beautiful and rugged with many lakes and ponds. We first stopped at the west gate where we collected our visitor's permits. While I was in paying for these everyone else was enjoying excellent views of Pine Siskin, and brightly coloured Evening Grosbeaks which were coming down to a feeding table. Our first stop in the park was at the Oxtongue river picnic ground. Here we were treated to a good selection of birds which included very good views of a pair of nesting Black-backed Woodpeckers, a bird normally shy and very difficult to see. More Evening Grosbeaks were seen, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird sat in a small tree for all of us to see, and Black-and-White Warbler, Purple Pinch and Hermit Thrush also put in an appearance while Puffed Grouse could be heard displaying. We then continued along the main road until an impromptu stop was made for a Moose, which was feeding in an open area beside the road.
Everyone got photos before it slowly walked off into the trees. We then drove towards
Arowhon Pines Lodge. In a thickly wooded area we stopped to look at three or four Hermit Thrushes which were chasing each other around and obligingly running along the road. A little further along a quick look at a couple of small ponds found us a Black Duck and a Beaver swimming towards it's lodge. Another emergency stop was made for a Ruffed Grouse which posed for us in the middle of the road, and at Arowhon Pines Broad-winged Hawk, Great Northern Diver, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and lots of Tiger Swallowtail butterflies were seen. At lunchtime we drove to the visitors centre for a drink and something to eat. An Eastern Phoebe was seen from the balcony while just outside by the car park a singing Mourning Warbler overshadowed the more commoner Magnolia and Yellow-rumped. With a relaxed lunch time over we drove to the nearby Opeongo Road where a walk along a dusty road produced relatively few birds, of which two Dark-eyed Juncos were the best. Giving up on this site we then tried a track leading down to a small lake behind the Algonquin Logging Museum. This turned out to be a good move as beside the wonderful array of old logging equipment on show, when we were down by the lake, Mary spotted the bird that everyone in the park seemed to been looking for, a Grey Jay, which at this time of year is very shy and hard to find. A pair of these exquisite birds were watched across the lake before they both flew over and landed in the trees above our heads giving us wonderful views. On the lake two Common Mergansers swam by as a fitting end to the day.
DAY 13: Monday 24th May
What a day! It rained continuously. We decided to visit the visitor's centre to see if it would ease. Everyone was very pleased with the many presentations on offer, which included wonderful walk through displays of all the wildlife, their habitats, seasonal changes and history. Several people watched a 1Film show and the gift and bookshop did a good trade.
With the rain reduced to a constant drizzle we drove to the Spruce Bog Boardwalk. Most of us sensibly stayed in the vans and ate lunch while myself, Nick and Mark ventured out with umbrellas to search the wood. After an exhaustive search of all the trees Mark and I returned despondent, only to be followed by Nick a short while later who had succeeded in one of the best finds of the tour when he joyfully proclaimed he had found a male Spruce Grouse sat in a pine tree. Everyone gave up thoughts of eating and jumped out of the vans where after a short walk we all got good, albeit wet views of this superb bird. Lunch was finished, wet clothes removed and we continued on to the old airfield to see if we could view from the vehicles. A short walk by myself and Nick only produced a scattering of sparrow species including a Vesper and a Dark-eyed Junco. Moving on again to Arowhon Pines a quick stop was made by the beaver pond where Graham soon spotted a distant Belted Kingfisher and myself and Mark followed the trail of a singing Pine Warbler. It was hoped the restaurant which had not been completed yet, may possibly be available for some shelter and a drink. It was not and we had to content ourselves with looks at Purple Finch and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Colin managed to find a feeder with several of these little gems constantly returning to feed, and also a group of Dark-eyed Juncos on the lawn. Our final sighting of the day was at another small pond where we found a pair of close, breeding plumaged Great Northern Divers. It proved to be most peoples best ever views of these superbly marked birds. It may have rained all day but we still managed to see some excellent birds before returning to our motel for an earlier than normal evening meal.
DAY 14: Tuesday 25th May
Today we drove straight to the Mizzy Trail and despite a little drizzle we walked the first few kilometres of this often productive area. We passed two other British birders who had not seen much. Luck would have it that as soon as they had disappeared a pair of Grey Jays put in an appearance, and a little further along we all enjoyed Golden-crowned Kinglets, and a family party of White-winged Crossbills feeding on the ground. The bright red male looked exceptionally good. Nashville Warblers were plentiful and in full song, while Pileated Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk and Olive-sided Flycatcher were only seen by a few. We walked a narrow footpath where after one hundred yards we had extremely close views of two Ruffed Grouse, one of which walked down the footpath towards us and was totally unconcerned even though it was only a few feet away. Colin then struck lucky when he bumped into some Americans who were watching a singing Cape May Warbler, the first of the tour, and a few of us watched as an Otter swam along the edge of Wolf Howl Pond. John and Colin saw a Fisher, an animal that personally I would have loved to have seen, and later a Ring-necked Duck was added to our final tally of birds. All too soon we had to start the journey back towards Toronto Airport for our overnight flight back to the U.K.
DAY 15: Wednesday 26th May
We arrived at Exeter airport at midday and duly said all our goodbyes, with only Mark staying on board for the journey to Stansted.
It was a super holiday, with so many memories of good birds and fun times that it will surely remain with all of us for a long while.
On behalf of Nick and myself I thank everyone of you for making this tour so special, and a real pleasure to lead.
Great Northern Diver