Deep Forests and Small Farms

Barred Owl along Salmon Lake Road

Fieldwork has kicked into full gear as the action-packed month of June is just a week away. Our Louisiana Waterthrush surveys are nearing completion for the 2012 season. Soon I will be racking up the mileage while scouring the barrens for Prairie Warblers and other goodies in the southeast section of the park. It’s such a wonderful contrast to transition from damp mature forests to the hot and dry expanses of bedrock, poverty grass and junipers. Yesterday I found this Barred Owl in a wooded swamp about 40m from where my truck was parked on Salmon Lake Road. Barred Owls are easily the most common owl species in the area. Great Horned Owls are comparatively rare in the hardwood forests but are found with some regularity in mature mixed coniferous zones. Owl populations would be an excellent subject FBS in the future.

Violets in Arab Gorge

Louisiana Waterthrushes have been very scarce this spring, even more so than last year. The species was recorded at seven sites in 2010, our first year, but only evident at two sites so far in 2012. Fortunately, they are paired and probably nesting at the two sites. The steep sided stream corridors seem so empty without their voices.

Nesting Black-throated Green Warbler

Many species are well into their nesting cycles. While observing the Barred Owl I tracked a female Black-throated Green Warbler, which had just finished bathing in the swamp. After a bit of preening and some flitting it plunked itself into a fork at the main trunk of a young Yellow Birch. Raising binoculars to the spot revealed a surprisingly deep and bulky nest. The earliest nest record for this species in Ontario is June 5 so a nest with eggs on May 24 is quite early. This particular record is also somewhat unusual in its location in a deciduous tree species within purely deciduous forest. In Frontenac Provincial Park the Black-throated Green is more typically found in woodland with tall Eastern White Pine and/or Eastern Hemlock. However, a quick search of our point count data revealed that they are present, albeit in low numbers, within hardwood stands as well.

Female incubating

Below is a photo of habitat suitable for Golden-winged Warblers. This was taken just southwest of Westport, ON where there are many small, family-run farms with low-intensity agricultural practices. The presence of dense shrub cover at edges of property lines provides appropriate conditions for Golden-wings, which were designated as Threatened by COSEWIC in 2006. A total of six male Golden-winged Warblers were located yesterday morning with relatively little effort. The Frontenac Arch and the southern shield ecotone are important regions for the protection of this species. In these areas, the rugged terrain and shallow till have been effective deterrents to large scale/intensive agriculture, so far…..

Golden-winged Warbler habitat near Westport, ON
Golden-winged Warbler at MABO, 2011

Migration Update: May 4-6, 2009

Golden-winged Warbler- May 4, 2009

Spring migration along Canoe Lake Road continues to impress as new species arrive from the south with each passing day. Highlights of the census on May 4th include a Sora calling from one of the small wetlands along the roadside and the remarkably late first appearance of Hermit Thrush for the survey route this spring. Hermit Thrushes are now on territory and can be heard regularly, particularly along conifer-bearing shorelines of lakes in the area. There are few sounds in nature more haunting than the ethereal song of a Hermit Thrush on a calm spring or summer evening. Their vocalizations are uniquely complex amongst the songbirds as they, and other thrush species, possess the equivalent of two sets of vocal chords, which enables them to intertwine two songs at the same time. Donald Kroodsma, the heavily recognized authority on avian vocalization, has done some fascinating work on thrushes, a sample of which you can listen to in this clip from NPR’s Fresh Air program. The male Golden-winged Warbler pictured above has been recorded actively singing from the same “spot” since May 2 and appears to be setting up a territory for the summer. This species was recently listed by COSEWIC as threatened. The Frontenac Axis is a core breeding zone for this species in Ontario.

On May 6 a total of 36 species were tallied, which included season firsts of Wood Thrush, Savannah Sparrow and a pair of lingering Ring-necked Ducks. White-throated Sparrows and kinglets continue to elude our eyes and ears during the surveys, although a couple of White-throats and Ruby-crowns were observed on the 6th. There are roughly four weeks remaining in this year’s spring migration and the majority of local breeding species have yet to arrive. The Spring Migration Census program will continue on a semi-daily basis until May 31st when our core program, Frontenac Breeding Birds, will kick off.

Spring Species Total: 77
Average # individuals/census: 149
Average # species/census: 32