Our fieldwork is well underway in spite of what has been a late arriving and slow moving spring season. The leaf-out is at least a week or two behind schedule and the woods have been unusually quiet for this time of year. However, migrants and returning breeders are appearing in small numbers. A pleasing variety of neotropicals was observed yesterday, which included Wood Thrush, Great Crested Flycatcher and Cerulean, Black-throated Green and Black-throated Blue Warblers. Of particular interest were sightings of Pine Siskin (two occurrences) and Evening Grosbeak – both rare but potentially nesting species in the park. Our official duties at this time of year focus on the Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla), which have been trickling back into Ontario since mid-April. Over the winter a thorough inspection of high resolution aerial photography was conducted, which revealed over 30 potentially suitable nesting sites within our core study area (not including sites visited in 2010). Needless to say I’ve got a ton of walking and canoeing to do in the next few weeks! I will update on our survey results throughout the month of May.
In addition to the LOWA reconnaissance we’ve been preparing switch our attention to Prairie Warblers in late May-early June. This year will involve a more extensive ground search of granite barrens in Frontenac Provincial Park for Prairie Warblers. We will also be assessing habitat, nest searching as well as colour banding and tracking males. The project represents our first in-depth look at a breeding species in the Frontenac Arch. The granite barrens scattered along the southern edge of the Canadian Shield in south-central Ontario have received relatively little attention but are important to several species currently in decline such as Common Nighthawk, Field Sparrow, Eastern Towhee and Prairie Warbler.
In order to safely capture and mark the birds we will be deploying a mistnet and using a playback/decoy method to lure territorial males. I contemplated various approaches to the construction of a reasonably lifelike decoy, none of which really fit my needs. Fortunately Seabrooke, being both crafty and creative, came up with this little guy, which was handmade from Sculpey – just the ticket ; )