Three birders, six field guides, three pairs of binoculars, one scope and two cameras set off last week for a fantastic day of Ontario June birding. Our targets were the sought after and harder-to-find breeding birds: Prairie Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler and Golden-winged Warbler.
When I say six field guides, these are just the ones I knew about! A certain member of a group had a penchant for multiple field guides.
Jon Ruddy of Eastern Ontario Birding picked me up at 7:30am. I actually requested this start time, but before you congratulate me, be aware that Jon’s regular tour starts at 5:30am! We picked up my Mother and drove 2 hours south-west of Ottawa to a spot near Kaladar. I complained that it was too cloudy for photography, but the gods must have heard me. The clouds cleared and made way for beautiful sunny skies that stayed with us for the rest of the day!
Ontario June Birding: First Stop of the Day
When we got out of the car, we were immediately welcomed to the area by a Chestnut-sided Warbler,
Pleased pleased pleased to meetcha!
The parking lot was full of White Admiral Butterflies and Jon mentioned they were “puddling”. I had never heard of this, but I learned that butterflies will land in muddy wet areas to drink minerals from the ground.
We began walking on a rocky trail that gained elevation above a beautiful lake below. As we came around the corner, a warbler sized bird flew from its perch and headed away from us. Jon called out,
that one is good for a Prarie Warbler!
Unfortunately none of us could get a good look at it, so we continued hiking along the trail hoping for better views.
We stopped at every clearing looking and listening, but none of us could hear the unmistakable ascending buzzy song of a Prairie Warbler. My Mother called out that she had a Scarlet Tanager in the open in great light! She wasn’t wrong:
After enjoying the Tanager, we decided to turn back. Amazingly, we saw a warbler-sized bird on the same perch we had seen it on at the start of the hike!
The perch (obviously its favourite) was annoyingly backlit, but we still had fantastic views of the bird. I was constantly fumbling around with my settings to try to get a decent shot in tricky lighting.
There were also some interesting dragonflies at this spot. That is, if you find dragonflies interesting 😉
Birding From the Car – Don’t Leave Your Camera in the Trunk!
As we headed to the next stop, Jon rolled down his window and began listening to the birds singing on either side of the road. I announced,
maybe I shouldn’t have put my camera in the trunk?
Right at that moment, a Black-billed Cuckoo (a lifer for me and a nemesis bird!!) flew in front of the car and landed in some shrubs at the side of the road. Jon slammed on the brakes and I was able to creep around to the trunk to retrieve my camera. Thankfully, the bird stayed close and I was able to get fantastic photographs and views.
A wonderful, but not entirely unexpected treat on a day of Ontario June birding!
Where 3 Breeding Territories Intersect
Our next Ontario June birding stop was the eastern edge of Hastings County at a place where Golden-winged, Blue-winged Warbler and hybrids of the two breed. At the start of the trail, we had excellent views of a male Eastern Towhee singing and doing a territorial display by fanning its tail out.
Further down the trail, we spotted our first Golden-winged Warbler! I’d only ever seen this species once at a great distance, so I was happy to get much better views this time.
Jon heard a Blue-winged Warbler singing further in the distance and we tried to move closer to the spot. It was on the other side of a field of long grass and, with the bad tick season we are having this year, I made the decision not to move closer! Luckily we didn’t have to as a Blue-winged landed on the ground behind us near a muddy puddle. It was trying to take a drink!
When we were heading back to the car, we noticed some movement in the bushes on the side of the trail. The Blue-winged Warbler was hanging off leaves and feeding on insects. A few moments later, a Chesnut-sided Warbler showed up. Then a Golden-winged joined the party and at one point all 3 species were in the same tree! I didn’t know who to photograph first. It was amazing to see each of the 3 trying to fend off the others. This is my territory, get out of here!
Common Loon Family
As we made our way back to Ottawa, we stopped periodically for the bird-life. I couldn’t believe how many great photography opportunities I had throughout the day. The icing on the cake was seeing a Common Loon family on the shore of a lake right beside the road:
All in all, it was a fantastic day of Ontario June birding and photography. Black-billed Cuckoo, Praire Warbler and Blue-winged Warbler were all lifers for me! I had never seen Common Loon babies before or had the chance to photograph adults Loons from such a close distance. This truly was the best of Ontario June birding!
Eastern Ontario Birding is running an extended version of this tour on June 30th.