This has to be my favourite spot in all of the FBS study area – Hemlock Lake. Officially, the lake has no name but the abundance of hemlock here made for a convenient and appropriate namesake. I always visit in May, even though we haven’t conducted any fieldwork here since our trial MAPS station was shut down in 2009. It’s just one of those places. It has skinks and otters, lots of Winter Wrens, Brown Creepers and other South Frontenac goodies. On the downside it does seem to have a lot of Deer Ticks. I’ve been bitten twice, both times requiring doses of Doxycycline. It would be an incredible spot for a cottage if not for the aforementioned bloodsuckers and also the tangled mess of downed trees and thick coverage of raspberry canes (the site has endured what appears to have been an outbreak of Hemlock Borer). It’s a rugged place indeed. So rugged that it forced us to discontinue our MAPS station here after only two visits. At the end of each of those field days we felt well and truly knackered. I do hope that no road or cottage ever ends up at Hemlock Lake – it’s rampant wildness is its charm.
After a prolonged and complicated change of address it felt good to stroll through Frontenac woods again! The field season has begun. Our plans are full, as usual, but our focus will shift from the more specific pursuits of recent years back to the bigger picture. Point counts, point counts and more point counts are in order. In addition to widespread surveying there will also be demographic monitoring (MAPS and nest searching/atlassing) and a role in a collaborative project with Bird Studies Canada and Canadian Wildlife Service to examine the current population status of Cerulean Warblers in Ontario. The Frontenac Arch is THE hotspot for Cerulean Warblers in Canada. About a half dozen were heard singing this morning amongst the emerging foliage of the forest canopy.
I still marvel at the number of species with provincially or nationally critical connections to the Frontenac Arch region. The Gray Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides) is a perfect example. This is Ontario’s largest snake, growing up to 2.5 meters in length. This species has retracted considerably from its historical range but they seem to be holding on in the Arch – a familiar trend. I found this meter-long individual warming itself on the road this morning. After a bit of resistance from it I was able to move it off the road to safety. Unfortunately, collisions with vehicles are one of its main threats.
Time flies when you’re having fun studying birds! We launched FBS with our first season no less than five years ago. This year, our fifth consecutive, we will be branching into some new and exciting territory and also revisit all of the familiar survey routes that we established way back in 2009 – it promises to be a big year for FBS. Read on for more information on our activities this season.
In 2009 we completed surveys at over 150 point count stations throughout our study area. We surveyed along roadways, off the beaten path, and in everything from rock barren habitat to mature Sugar Maple-Oak forests. This June we will return to these routes for another round of counts, which will be a key contribution to our growing dataset on local population trends.
Since the beginning we’ve made it an annual priority to address locally occurring rare and declining species through monitoring and research. After three years dedicated to Prairie Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrushes, we are now turning our attention to Cerulean Warblers in collaboration with an Ontario-wide initiative led by Bird Studies Canada. Cerulean Warblers are now considered Threatened in Ontario and have been recommended as nationally Endangered by COSEWIC. Frontenac Provincial Park has a substantial percentage of Canada’s breeding Ceruleans, further evidence of the importance of the park and the Frontenac Arch overall to Species at Risk.
Filling in the Gaps
As if we need more to do! Our focus on Prairie Warblers and Louisianas over the last four years has carried us to familiar haunts, largely the rock barrens and pristine stream valleys in Frontenac Provincial Park. Key sections of the 5000 ha wilderness park have yet to be explored and as a result, some of the less common nesting species have only been rarely encountered if not missed altogether. Providing that our feet can take the punishment, our plan is to close some of these gaps with exploratory searches for these “missing” species in 2013.
For the past three years we’ve had great success with our annual Frontenac Biothon, which was both a valuable data gathering event and also a fundraiser. This year we will stay true to the same basic formula but with a focus on collecting breeding evidence for the park’s bird species – essentially a 24-hour mini-atlas! Thanks a bunch to all who have supported us in the past. We hope you’ll make another pledge this year! Click here for more information and/or to make a donation to the Frontenac Avian Atlas Day.
As always, you can follow our progress throughout the spring/summer field season via our blog and twitter and Facebook. Please note that our mailing address has changed (see below for new address).
The 2012 season of our Frontenac Breeding Birds program is officially wrapped. All reports and data have been submitted and our attention has already shifted to 2013. We are particularly excited about this upcoming season, our fifth, as we will be turning our attention to new subjects after having just completed three consecutive years of monitoring Louisiana Waterthrush and Prairie Warbler. We will reveal our plans in the coming months once our preparations are completed.
A big thanks are due to all of our readers, sponsors and friends who continue to make FBS possible!