Friday 11 May 2007

Good times at Ontario's Rondeau Provincial Park - a while ago

As some might remember from one of my recent excursions into self-pity, I am somewhat busy birding at the moment and have difficulties keeping the blogging up to date. I had thought about posting this next week and start with "Once upon a time" to show some good humour but eventually decided that this was not all that funny anyway and got down to writing today.

This post is about a visit to the always beautiful Rondeau Provincial Park in southern Ontario, a park that marked the end of a 2 hour drive my wife and I undertook last Sunday in very fine weather, albeit a bit windy as a birder has always a reason to complain about the weather.
I like Rondeau very much and so does my wife, and even though last Sunday was only a short visit of around 4 or 5 hours, we are considering future visits. Furthermore, Charlie of the famousbirdblog here and I had the idea of writing about certain birding hot spots, comparable to the fun Waterthrush article we both wrote. So if I sum these things all up, the result is that this will not really be an extensive post about Rondeau, with all sorts of background information and useful links to everywhere that's connected with the park as you're used to encounter on this blog (sure thing). Nope, that will have to wait for later while this is only about our short trip. Sorry to disappoint and also apologies for this and that, but a link to the other might be a bit of a compensation...
Okay, on we go to Rondeau:

If I was to characterize Rondeau in one sentence, it would be:
Like Pelee but not so busy: less people, less rarity sightings.

Rondeau therefore seems to be the ideal place for someone who has seen it all and just enjoys watching whatever comes their way in the (often) solitude of some nice woodlands or marshes, but the park is not so ideal for the keen lister who likes the chase.
What makes this place so attractive, apart from the calm, quiet and less stressful birding, is that two true avian gems are very dependable there from mid-May onwards: Prothonotary Warbler and Red-headed Woodpecker.
So when we got there on a late Sunday morning just about at the beginning of the middle of May, we had certain hopes of spotting the super nova of the forest, the gaudy Prothonotary.
Well, our inquiry at the information office somewhat lowered these hopes ("There are rumours of the first bird having been seen today around the Pony Barn...") but that only meant we were up to the challenge of finding the first one on its breeding grounds along the TrippleT. Oh wait, no, that's not another action movie of the Tripple X series, no worries, that's the Tulip Tree Trail, and you try saying that three times in a row real fast.
That's why it's TrippleT.

TrippleT is a double-loop of boardwalks through a magnificent flooded forest right next to the information center and is really beautiful, as could be seen below if I'd finally work out how to take decent landscape pictures with the camera that aren't too white and harsh in their contrast...

Quite soon, my wife spotted a spec of bright yellow amongst the twigs low over the water! Excitement may one day take its toll on my heart, but a spot of yellow onTrippleT is worth the risk of skipping a few beats or increasing your pulse. Was it the one bird that pushes your retina to the limit? The one and only?
But then, fate played its nastiest card and revealed the bird to be quite yellow indeed but not quite as yellow as we had wanted it to be:

A Yellow Warbler along the Tulip Tree Trail, the only place on this planet where it is not really welcome - at all!!

And you see, the Yellow Warbler knew why it was placed there by fate and what its mission was, it knew it had us fooled and took further advantage of our weakness by always keeping a stick right in front of its face whenever it pretended to "pose" for a photo.
You say that stick on one shot is a coincidence and not a sign of bad character?
Well, think again as this below is another shot of the very same bird!

A bad example of a Yellow Warbler, when you're into photographing them

I am right, this is a mean member of its species!

Surprisingly, or rather not all that surprisingly due to the strong wind, there was not much action birdwise along TrippleT and we finally headed through the vegetated dune area seen below ... the lovely and wild beach, seen below.

On our way back to the car, we were finally rewarded with what was surely a sign of sympathy or even - may I dare - good will from the Yellow Warbler species as another bird performed some lovely and extensive posing in front of my camera and rewarded us with views of its beauty like this one:

A Yellow Warbler away from the Tulip Tree Trail where it is always a great pleasure to see

But then of course, North American birding in May isn't entirely about warblers (only around 95%), and this male Eastern Towhee was also highly priced by our party and fully deserved its fair share of our attention.

Eastern Towhee, Rondeau Provincial Park, appreciated where ever it may roam, unlike certain Yellow Warblers I know...

The most bird action however, and this may come as no surprise for experienced bird bloggers, was around the information centre's feeders.
Well, I am not particularly fond of feeder photos as you can mostly see they were taken at a feeder ("ah, that was easy, I could have taken that shot, seen it before" etc.) and are not very unique.
But if a Chipping Sparrow chooses such a great perch right besides you and you know that nobody will know that the background is the fence to the feeder area unless you tell them so, ...

Do I only feel or am I stupid?

Well, here are the pics:

Chipping Sparrow, out in the wild and far, far away from any feeder, seriously

What I do like about Chippies is that they are a) birds b) sparrows c) easily watched and d) just fun.
But their head pattern when seen head-on is really neat, as are 10 mega pixels on your camera that allow for heavy cropping:

"Don't call me Chippy!"

And something else about feeder pics:
You might have seen a picture of a White-breasted Nuthatch like this before, maybe even better than this:

A good old feeder pic of a White-breasted Nuthatch

But did you know what it looks like when you can see into a Nuthatch's bill when it is just about to swallow a bit of a peanut (or whatever it is)?
I bet not, but here it is, as Belltower Birding always thrives to increase your perspective on your hobby and the way you see birds:

A not-so-good but also not-so-old picture of a Swallowing White-breasted Nuthatch, new to science and exclusively on Belltower Birding

And finally something for the cute files at the feeder, a Chipmunk:

"There must be sunflower seeds around here somewhere..."

Apart from being a good place to be birding, Rondeau is also a very dependable place for viewing Raccoons during the day.

"What do you mean, a chipmunk is cuter?"

The Raccoon is called "Waschbär" in German, which translates to "Washing Bear", and who knew: these animals do know their bit of German! Cheers, mate, or is it "Danke schön"?

A Raccoon demonstrating language skills

And so ended another great day at this perfect destination, more to follow!


Larry said...

The thing I like most about birding is coming across the unexpected.You may go somewhere looking for a specific warbler and end up seeing shore birds instead like I did today.-Nice photos- forget about the stupid stick

Anonymous said...

The raccoon pictures are really very nice, Rondeau must be one of the nicest parks. Thanks Jochen!

Anonymous said...

Great yellow warbler pictures Jochen!

Anonymous said...

Rondeau was always one of our stops when we used to drive between Rochester, NY and Pt. Pelee (we lived in Rochester).

The Prothonotary was just one of many reasons we loved this park. When it had warblers in the spring, it HAD WARBLERS!!!!

Happy birding!

Jochen said...

Yes, Rondeau is fabulous for warblers and - frankly - any bird group. I once had all three regular Empidonax flycatchers there on the same day, which was the day I easily recorded 110 species.
It is a magic place, which is why I was so surprised it was so incredibly quiet regarding birds this time around. But there'll be more birdy days for sure!

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