Lake Erie Travel Diary - p 2

Scarlet Tanager (76681 bytes)10 May 2005
Everyone hurries to Pelee at dawn, but the best birding comes in late afternoon at the Sanctuary, in the north section of the Park.   Most birds in the area pass through here on their way north out of the park.   The trip's only Scarlet Tanager, one of North America's most beautiful birds, showed up here just as it began to rain.

Kirtland's Warbler (74179 bytes)11 May 2005
The big excitement today was Kirtland's Warbler, one of the rarest of all warblers.  It also proved to be the tamest, puttering around near ground, oblivious to humans.  I first saw it in an area near the beach, completely surrounded by dozens of birders and photographers, the latter firing away with machine-gun speed.  It later turned up where I was trying to photograph Palm Warbler.   I took about a dozen photos.  Ironically, the only satisfactory one was taken in natural light because my flash had not re-charged.
     Kirtland's Warbler has evolved itself into a corner, so to speak.  It winters solely in the Bahamas, and nests only in a few counties in central Michigan in habitat that must contain jack pine not less than 10 feet tall or greater than 20 feet tall.  I wonder what the taxpayers would say if they knew how many millions of their dollars have been spent over the years to maintain the proper habitat for this finicky little bird?

Yellow Warbler (66950 bytes)

12 May 2005
Warblers are easy to see as they flit about in the trees, and often take no notice of humans, flying down to within 10 feet or less.   But they are always in motion - now in the open, a second later in thick vegetation.  The most common warbler here is the Yellow Warbler, whose song is rendered as "Sweet, sweet, sweet, I'm so sweet."  But it isn't sweet.  The Yellow is in fact a demon in feathers, who takes special delight in tormenting photographers who think they'll get an easy photo.  Somehow the little imp always manages to fly just as you press the shutter button, or is too far away, or too close, or just behind that twig.  Many chances come and go before one obliging Yellow Warbler finally strikes an acceptable pose.


Rose-breasted Grosbeak (75332 bytes)13 May 2005
My last stop on the trip is Rondeau Provincial Park, 40 miles east of Pelee.  Like Pelee, it extends out into Lake Erie.  It has the same bird life, but fewer birders.  At the Visitor Centre,  sugar-water feeders attract Baltimore Orioles who fight and chase each other just like hummingbirds.   To the seed feeders come American Goldfinches, Blue Jays, White-crowned Sparrows, as well as Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.  But the stars are the handsome male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  They are relatively tame along the trails as well, and seem to move in slow motion compared to the hyperactive warblers.


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