Canada 2014

...with Simon Papps

10th - 17th May

This was a very enjoyable and highly productive tour, logging 180 species in total, including 29 species of American wood warblers. Among the numerous highlights were frequent big 'falls' of migrants, great views of Cerulean, Prothonotary, Blue-winged and Worm-eating Warblers and both waterthrushes, Eastern Whip-poor-wills flying around us at no more than arm's length, displaying American Woodcocks, Wild Turkeys, booming American Bittern, and Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos in the same tree. Not to mention fantastic accommodation with very welcoming hosts, where Eastern Screech-Owl, Orchard Oriole, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpeckers were among the garden birds.

Saturday 10th May

The flight from Heathrow landed on time at Toronto just as dusk fell. The transfer to our accommodation ran smoothly and we arrived shortly before midnight.

Sunday 11th May

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at point-blank range was one of the first birds to welcome us on our first beautiful sunny morning in Canada. Other birds seen from the B&B balcony as we enjoyed our morning cup of tea included Lincoln's Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, Nashville, Tennessee, Yellow and Cape May Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Tree Swallow, Chimney Swift, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Grey Catbird, as well as several Common Loons flying high overhead.


At nearby Booth's Harbour Forster's and Caspian Terns and Red-breasted Mergansers were visible in the bay, a Belted Kingfisher perched on wires and mixed flocks of hirundines included many Purple Martins and Barn Swallows and single Northern Rough-winged and Cliff Swallows. Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Eastern Kingbird also showed well. Back at the B&B both Red-headed and Downy Woodpeckers were seen briefly following a hearty cooked breakfast.

Down at Long Point's Old Cut Field Station were we told that it was a "quiet day" and then proceeded to find about 10 stunning wood warbler species in the next 10 minutes, including American Redstart and Black-and-white, Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided and Cape May Warblers. A Grey-cheeked Thrush lurked under a bush and Red-breasted Nuthatch and House Wren showed well. From the Causeway viewing platform we enjoyed views of Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Great Egret, Swamp Sparrow and Common Yellowthroat.

After lunch, an ice cream and a pair of Bald Eagles in Port Rowan we continued to the nearby Bird Studies Canada centre where mixed rafts of wildfowl out in the bay included hundreds of Lesser Scaup, Redhead and Ruddy Duck plus lesser numbers of Canvasback, Greater Scaup, Bufflehead, Gadwall and Pied-billed and Horned Grebes. Bald Eagles were almost constantly in view cruising overhead. Exploration of the Port Rowan Cemetery area produced Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Warbling Vireo, Common Nighthawk, Lincoln's and Song Sparrows, many Yellow-rumped Warblers, Green Heron, Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal and an elusive Louisiana Waterthrush which eventually showed very well after a patient wait.

Our final stop of the day, at Port Rowan Sewage Lagoons, yielded seven Buffleheads, two Mallards, Ruddy Duck, Northern Shoveler, 20 Least and two Spotted Sandpipers, and a vagrant Eurasian Wigeon (a fine drake). All of which brought the bird list for our very memorable first day in Canada to an impressive 104 species and it was time to relax with a beer and a dinner of freshly-caught trout on the barbecue with our very welcoming hosts.

Monday 12th May

The morning began with a 'clean-up' of all our target species at Backus Woods. First a male Cerulean Warbler showed very well, followed swiftly by a male Prothonotary Warbler. A singing male Hooded Warbler and a pair of Northern Waterthrushes gave great views and the 'supporting cast' included Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided and Black-and-white Warblers, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Wood Duck and Veery.

Back at St Williams two Cedar Waxwings were showing in the B&B garden. After breakfast we went to Old Cut to discover that it had 'rained' thrushes during the night! Hermit and Wood Thrushes and Veery were seen well in the ringing area and a single garden in Lighthouse Crescent held Grey-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes and Veery. A couple of gardens along the feeders held Indigo Bunting, Lincoln's and White-crowned Sparrows and American Goldfinch. The many warblers included Bay-breasted and Chestnut-sided. A walk along the road into Long Point Provincial Park produced immature male Orchard Oriole and Blue-winged and Hooded Warblers.

Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink, Savannah Sparrow and Horned Lark all showed well during a roadside stop near Port Rowan. A very productive watch at the Causeway viewing platform yielded sightings of Least Bittern, Sandhill Crane, Marsh Wren, Swamp Sparrow, American Coot and Pied-billed Grebe, while an American Bittern called from out in the marsh.

A look along the lake shore from Hastings Drive added Bonaparte's Gull to the tour list and Red-breasted Merganser and Spotted Sandpiper to the day list. Nearby a fine Wilson's Warbler showed beautifully at the Old Provincial Park and Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing and Chestnut-sided and Magnolia Warblers were also seen.

An evening return to Old Cut offered further views of various species of warblers and thrushes, with the most notable being a fleeting appearance by a Worm-eating Warbler. The highlight, though, was a memorable performance by several American Woodcock, with one individual repeatedly showing off on the ground and during parachuting display flights. Another fabulous day was rounded off with close views of a pair of Eastern Screech-Owls by the front door of our B&B.

Tuesday 13th May

Overnight thunderstorms resulted in an impressive fall of migrants at Old Cut this morning and our pre-breakfast visit proved to be very productive. A single tree held three Philadelphia and four Red-eyed Vireos and Orange-crowned, Canada, Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue and Blackburnian Warblers. A walk around the 'woodlot' produced Blue-headed Vireo, American Redstart and Bay-breasted and Black-and-white Warblers.

Following a complete absence until now, Empidonax flycatchers were much in evidence and we saw several Least, one 'Traill's' (it didn't vocalise and enable us to determine whether it was Alder or Willow) and a Yellow-bellied. Thrushes also featured prominently with good views of Wood, Hermit, Swainson's and Grey-cheeked. Another highlight was watching yesterday's rarity, the Worm-eating Warbler, being processed by the ringers. Other species noted included House and Carolina Wrens and Common Yellowthroat, while a Sandhill Crane flew over the Causeway on the drive back to Port Rowan.

Rowanwood Sanctuary was our next destination. A pair of Eastern Bluebirds was prospecting for a nest beside the entrance road and, after initially appearing elusive, we enjoyed excellent views of Field, Vesper and Grasshopper Sparrows in a rough field. Red-tailed and Broad-winged Hawks, American Kestrel and Eastern Towhee were seen at the same spot. A walk into the woods produced Hooded and Blue-winged Warblers and a double fly-past by a Pileated Woodpecker.

Back at Old Cut we enjoyed a fine show put on by a Red-headed Woodpecker and more great views of a variety of warblers and flycatchers. We also added Blue-grey Gnatcatcher and Brown Thrasher to the day list. A stroll into Long Point Provincial Park produced Eastern Phoebe, adult male Orchard Oriole and Bonaparte's Gull.

An evening visit to the Turkey Point Lookout area was worthwhile for excellent views of two more Blue-winged Warblers, as well as Sandhill Crane, five Wood Ducks, singing Eastern Towhee and Common Nighthawk, while a quick visit to Normandale Fish Hatchery resulted in more displaying American Woodcock before a thunderstorm caught up with us and a torrential downpour brought another great day's birding to an end.

Wednesday 14th May

More overnight rain and a misty morning saw us back down at Old Cut first thing. Birding was quiet to begin with but soon livened up as the mist lifted with 16 species of warbler noted, including four Cape May in one tree, Wilson's and our first Northern Parula. Other good birds included a couple of Swainson's Thrushes, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Least Flycatcher and a pair each of Northern Flicker, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Scarlet Tanager. A pair of Pied-billed Grebes was seen from the Causeway and a Pileated Woodpecker flew low over the vehicle near Booth's Harbour.

A visit to Townsend Sewage Lagoons was intended to fill in some wildfowl and wader gaps on the list and the site certainly delivered. On the first pool we encountered 90+ Short-billed Dowitchers, 40+ Dunlins, several Least Sandpipers and Lesser Yellowlegs, three Semipalmated Plovers and singles of Pectoral and Semipalmated Sandpipers and Grey Plover. The remaining three pools held deeper water, and as a result they were great for wildfowl with Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, three American Wigeon, 40+ Lesser Scaup, 16 Bufflehead and 90+ Ruddy Duck. Savannah Sparrows were common and showed well around the boundaries of the site. In the afternoon we visited the Nanticoke area in an unsuccessful search for Upland Sandpipers, but we did encounter several Horned Larks, a Belted Kingfisher, a surprise Northern Mockingbird and a number of Red-tailed Hawks. Nearby at Peacock Point we came across hundreds of Red-breasted Mergansers on Lake Erie, and with them were several Common Mergansers and three American Black Ducks. Gulls and terns were much in evidence here with 100+ Ring-billed, 100+ Bonaparte's, 20+ American Herring and 3-4 Great Black-backed Gulls, 20+ Common and 10+ Caspian Terns. A migrant Wilson's Warbler in the bushes was seen off by an aggressive Common Yellowthroat.

A heavy downpour cleared just in time for a dusk excursion and we were treated to a pair of Eastern Whip-poor-wills flying past us so close that they almost brushed us with their wings as we stood on the edge of a clearing in the woods. Two Common Nighthawks were also seen, Field Sparrow and American Woodcock were heard, and another whip-poor-will was watched on the side of the track on the way home, its eye-shine standing out thanks to the car's headlights.

Thursday 15th MayA cuckoo double-act was a fine start to the day at Wilson Tract, with first Black-billed and then Yellow-billed Cuckoos watched in the same trees in quick succession. A walk along the track resulted in a good list of birds and among the highlights were Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Wood and Hermit Thrushes, Rose breasted Grosbeak, a pair of Scarlet Tanagers, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted and Black-and-white Warblers and numerous Ovenbirds and Red-eyed Vireos. Common Loons and a Great Blue Heron passed overhead.

Following our now customary substantial breakfast, a visit to a private site north of St Williams paid dividends with close views of a couple of pairs of Eastern Bluebirds and an Eastern Phoebe. Feeders drew in many species, including Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatch, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and Field, Chipping and Song Sparrows.Three Red-breasted Mergansers were seen close inshore at the Causeway viewing platform, and other birds there included a Ruddy Duck, a couple of Pied-billed Grebes and a couple of dozen Forster's Terns. Old Cut was heaving with birds and the light drizzle meant that many had descended to close to ground-level, with rough counts being 15 American Redstarts, four Common Yellowthroats, 10 Bay-breasted, 10 Magnolia, 10 Chestnut-sided, six Black-throated Blue, four Black-throated Green, a single Cape May and three Black-and-white Warblers. 10 Red-eyed, one Philadelphia and two Blue-headed Vireos added to the mix.

Heavy rain in the afternoon hindered birding but we added a pair of Buffleheads and a pair of Spotted Sandpipers at Port Rowan Sewage Lagoons and Belted Kingfisher, Common Tern and 30+ Caspian Terns at Booth's Harbour. An hour or so spent watching the feeders at our B&B resulted in good looks at Orchard Oriole, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Red-bellied Woodpecker plus great views of many of the common species such as Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Grey Catbird and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.


The harbour at Port Dover turned up a surprise in the form of a drake Long-tailed Duck in summer plumage. The jetty there held hundreds of Ring-billed and Bonaparte's Gulls and dozens of Caspian and Forster's Terns. At Normandale a Belted Kingfisher flew past and a mixed flock of Common and Red-breasted Mergansers was on the lake.

Friday 16th May

At least three Ruffed Grouse were performing their 'drumming' display at St Williams Forest Reserve this morning. A Blue-winged Warbler showed very well, as did a singing Eastern Towhee and a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Indigo Bunting, Ovenbird, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Scarlet Tanager were among the other birds seen here.

It was yet another busy morning at Old Cut with warblers once again to the fore. Hooded, Bay-breasted, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Chestnut-sided, Tennessee and Nashville Warblers were seen, along with Common Yellowthroat and American Redstart. Carolina Wren and Brown Thrasher showed well. Vireos were also much in evidence with Philadelphia, Blue-headed and several Red-eyed again present. Lighthouse Crescent was very productive and interesting birds included Dark-eyed Junco, Veery, Swainson's Thrush and Lincoln's Sparrow. A foray into 'new' Long Point Provincial Park was well worthwhile for good views of Northern Mockingbird and a pair of Blackpoll Warblers. Next we called in at the Old Provincial Park, where three Scarlet Tanagers showed beautifully and Wilson's and Canada Warblers also performed well.

A large raft of wildfowl off the Bird Studies Canada centre in Port Rowan held Redhead, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck and Bufflehead, while a Green Heron was around the small reedy pond and an American Mink and a female Blackpoll Warbler by the lake shore. Cliff Swallows and Chimney Swifts joined the swarms of Sand Martins hawking for insects. A Groundhog near St Williams was another interesting mammal sighting.

An evening excursion was rewarded with great views of three Wild Turkeys, American Golden Plover, Eastern Meadowlark and Savannah Sparrow in a field near Port Rowan. We ended the day at the Causeway viewing tower, where an American Beaver was feeding in the pool and Sandhill Crane, American Black and Caspian Terns, Marsh Wren, Swamp Sparrow, Wood Duck and American Black Duck were among the birds seen. Best of all, though, was a 'booming' American Bittern which we watched for 20 minutes prior to dusk and which shook and flicked its head and neck during every utterance, making a magical finale to yet another great day.

Saturday 17th May

Our final visit to Long Point began at the Old Provincial Park, where three Cedar Waxwings showed well along with Scarlet Tanager and a pair of Belted Kingfishers. Old Cut was a little quiet compared with previous days but still produced a good selection of migrants, with three Cape May Warblers and a Northern Parula among the highlights. An Osprey passed by carrying a large fish.

We revisited Townsend Sewage Lagoons en route to Niagara and it proved to be well worthwhile. Seven Bobolinks, including six males, showed well at close range along the entrance track. Wader numbers were down on those from a few days ago but we did find Short-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and Dunlin plus, notably, two new species for the tour in the shape of Long-billed Dowitcher and White-rumped Sandpiper. Hirundines and Chimney Swifts swarmed over the pools and gave excellent close views. Wildfowl was much in evidence with dozens of Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck and Bufflehead and smaller numbers of Green-winged and Blue-winged Teals, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Wood Duck and American Wigeon. Two female Hooded Mergansers were a good addition to the tour list and a male Northern Harrier quartered the fields just south of the site.

At Niagara we took in the magnificence of the Canadian and American Falls and took the opportunity for some final birding, adding Black-crowned Night-Heron and Peregrine Falcon to the tour list and also watching Red-breasted Merganser, Lesser Scaup, Horned Grebe, Great Black-backed Gull and numerous Ring-billed and American Herring Gulls, Common Terns and Double-crested Cormorants before heading back to Toronto airport to conclude a highly successful and thoroughly enjoyable tour.

The Top 10 species voted for as 'bird of the tour' were as follows:

1. Eastern Whip-poor-will 30 points
2. American Woodcock 20
3. Black-billed Cuckoo 13
4. Yellow-billed Cuckoo 11
5. Bay-breasted Warbler 9
6= Worm-eating Warbler 8
6= Blackburnian Warbler 8
8= Wild Turkey 7
8= American Bittern 7
8= Chestnut-sided Warbler 7
8= Ruby-throated Hummingbird 7

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at

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