Sunday, August 30, 2009

Point Pelee for an early fall migration day of birding

I went out birding Saturday, August 29th with Karl Overman and Robert Epstein to Point Pelee on a field trip for the Detroit Audubon Society led by Karl. A large group showed up hoping for lots of fall warblers and flycatchers. It was a strange day with an unexpected and unpredictable weather forecast - sun mixed with overcast skies, cool (only 65 - 70 degrees) and often very windy, especially by the water.

Point Pelee does have a pretty good point this fall. Gulls, including one Great Black-backed, terns - Common and Caspian - and Sanderlings were on the beach. Unfortunately, there were few passerine migrants to be found. We did run into a couple of pockets of warblers and flycatchers, but they were often high up, in poor light and just plain difficult to see.

Watching Sanderlings is incredibly entertaining as they work the beach in their wind-up toy style. Here it appears that I have captured three birds enjoying a foot race.

From time-to-time, the birds came quite close to the rocks where I was sitting.

Another attractive little creature was this Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus) found sunning itself on one of the boardwalks along the DeLaurier Trail.

But, the creature of the day were migrating Monarch butterflies. Though I've never seen this before, Point Pelee, especially along the East Beach at the tip, is a well-know congregating spot for Monarchs on their southbound migration to Mexico. We saw hundreds of Monarchs yesterday, and for me at least, it was spectacular.

Click on the image to enlarge and the congregating Monarchs show up very nicely.

Most of the Monarchs were fresh and seemed ready for the journey - above and below.

Below - Not all were going to make it. This worn and battered Monarch had seen better days. It came flying towards me with flight too ackward to flutter away. It landed and rested on the sand and its plight was revealed by its torn wing.

Shortly after noon we called it a day. Leaving Point Pelee we stopped at a wonderful deli on the main street in Leamington for a terrific sandwich. I had my favorite - something which I hardly ever allow myself - liverwurst with yellow mustard on a wonderful, fresh square loaf.

A final, quick stop at Ojibway Nature Center near Windsor also had no birds of note. However, as always, there was something to be found.

This beautiful Black Swallowtail caterpillar was spotted by Robert.

This Silver-spotted Skipper landed with its wings at least partially open to reveal the top wing markings instead of the silver spot of the underwing that makes this skipper the most identifiable of all skippers.

Following a summer of almost complete inertia - well, after my road trip out west anyway - it was great to be out in the field again.

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