Surprise Ceruleans at Maplewood

(Singing Cerulean Warbler-ZHEE ZHEE ZIZIZIZIZI zzzeeet)

Of the three MAPS stations we’re establishing for the Frontenac Breeding Birds project, I’ve definitely had the most difficulty finalizing a layout for the Maplewood Bog station to the north of Frontenac Provincial Park. This particular site seemed to have the most uniformly structured forest and the least number of readily identifiable edges. It was however, the closest thing to pure deciduous forest of the three, which presented our best opportunity to sample species typical of this forest type. My last visit on May 14th, just ten days ago, gave me a bit more confidence that a viable MAPS station could be conducted there but I still had some lingering doubts.

I returned to MABO (station codename) this morning with the hope that I might find some lovely rock outcrops, forest clearings or wetlands that I’d missed on previous visits and also that some new species had arrived since mid-May. Today was my day as I found both! The most notable change since the last visit was the rather sudden appearance of Cerulean Warblers at the site (second only to a mass irruption of Mosquitos!). I hadn’t encountered them previously at MABO but they have been numerous along Canoe Lake Road this spring. In Ron Weir’s latest edition of Birds of the Kingston Region, he makes note of a high count of 25 singing males along Canoe Lake Road on May 15, 1979. Cerulean Warblers seem to have a tendancy to aggregate into colonies, although the reasons for this habit are unclear. Each MAPS station is 20 hectares, inside of which standardized misnetting of breeding birds occurs within an 8 hectare plot. I was delighted to find a total of five singing males within the banding area itself, none of which were audible from the nearby road where the site is accessed. Some of these vocal males may be unmated bachelors but I was able to confirm two pairs and found some evidence of nesting. Ceruleans were located in younger portions of the woodland with an uneven canopy and open understory and seemed to be favouring spots with mature oak sp. protruding through the canopy. The Cerulean Warbler is one of the most heavily declining bird species in North America and is a species of Special Concern in Canada and Ontario.

In addition to the parade of Cerulean Warblers, I also found a great abundance of other deciduous species, the most conspicuous of which were Veery, American Redstart, Red-eyed Vireo and Scarlet Tanager. Other birds of note were Yellow-throated Vireo, Barred Owl, Wilson’s Snipe, Swamp Sparrow, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Magnolia Warbler. The foliage was markedly further along today than my last visit and this was a great help in finalizing the layout of the MAPS station. I didn’t have much time for nest searching but I was very happy to find a Scarlet Tanager nest about 10 feet above the ground at the edge of a blanket bog!

With the layout for MABO now having been properly visualized, we are set to begin site prep next week in advance of our first visit to all three sites in the first week of June. The MAPS work will operate in tandem with an extensive network of on and off-road point count stations throughout the 15,000 hectare study area. An intensive nest-monitoring effort will also commence during the first of June. It will be an eventful and probably very tiring two months of fieldwork but we are in an excellent position to deliver this exciting new initiative. I wonder how many Cerulean Warblers can be found in 15,000 hectares of forest in the northern Frontenac Arch?

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