May is a great month of the year, if you are a birder or bird photographer in Ontario or the northern USA. it is the time of year when warblers and many other bird species are migrating north to their breeding grounds. Recently I visited three areas that are hot spots for warblers during spring migration: Rondeau PP, Ontario, Point Pelee NP, Ontario, and Magee Marsh, Ohio. In fact Magee Marsh celebrates this time of year with The Biggest Week in American Birding festival, which was held from May 6 - 15 this year.
On the morning of May 12, I headed out in search of a life bird for me, Henslow’s Sparrow, at Grimm Prairie (Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge) in Oak Harbor, Ohio. This restored prairie provides excellent habitat for this and other bird species, such as Grasshopper Sparrow. I walked along one of the hiking trails and about 20 minutes later I could hear the distinctive song. According to Chris Earley’s book Sparrows & Finches of Ontario, Roger Tory Peterson described the Henslow’s Sparrow’s song as “one of the poorest vocal efforts of any bird, a hiccoughing ’tis-lick’”.
The Curlew Sandpiper, a Eurasian species, is a rare migrant along the Atlantic coast and a casual species elsewhere in North America according to eBird and the ABA (American Birding Association) coding for the ABA Checklist Area. For those unfamiliar with these terms, the ABA defines a rare species as one that occurs in very low numbers, but annually in the ABA Checklist Area. Casual species are not recorded annually in the ABA Checklist Area, but with six or more total records - including three or more in the past 30 years - reflecting some pattern of occurrence.
Last weekend I returned to Colonel Sam Smith Park in Toronto, Ontario along Lake Ontario in an effort to locate a HADU that had been seen in the marina area. Sure enough upon arrival on the scene, a beautiful adult male HADU was swimming quite close to shore in the marina. Every winter and early spring I look forward to photographing this species somewhere along Lake Ontario. HADUs, which are an attractive sea duck are seen occasionally in this part of the country and you can usually count on the odd one or pair hanging around for part of the winter.
When I head out to photograph birds, things don't always work out as planned. In fact, it rarely goes as planned, but that doesn't mean it's all for naught. Take this past weekend when I set out to photograph a Western Grebe that was reported near the harbour in Port Credit, Ontario along Lake Ontario. Western Grebe is not very common in this part of the country and I thought if I headed out reasonably early in the morning I might have a chance of capturing a nice photo if it happened to be near shore. I quickly spotted it upon my arrival using my scope and observed it for quite some time.