Lake Erie Travel Diary - p 3
14 May 2005
Rondeau, the most attractive of the Lake Erie migrant
traps, preserves Carolinian forest, rich in basswood and maples. The forest floor is
carpeted with violets, trilliums, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, which reminds me of the Smoky
Mountains. Unlike the Smokies, Rondeau is flat.
Its many pools and sloughs are good
habitat for Common Grackles and Prothonotary Warblers, the latter eagerly sought by
Canadian birders. The sloughs are fairly open, making it easier to photograph
more warblers, including the Black-throated Green Warbler and another favorite, the
Warblers originated in the American tropics.
Almost 50 of the 114 total species in their family, Parulidae, evolved to migrate
into the insect-rich forests of North America during the breeding season. Their
colors and songs seem to be variations on a theme. Most have a dark and white
pattern, with bold colors such as orange or yellow thrown in. Warbler songs are
usually a short series of warbles and trills, not very musical, and maddeningly
similar when you try to learn them. If you really want to impress the other birders,
learn to identify warblers by their songs.
17 May 2005
The two previous days were cold and windy,
miserable for birds and birders alike. Today, my last at Rondeau, dawned sunny, and
the temperature soared to 59°F, which could be a heat wave for this time of year in
Ontario. At any rate, it certainly enlivened the warblers. Although they
apparently cross Lake Erie at night, early morning is still poor for birding, much better
in late afternoon. One theory is that warblers become more active as the day warms
and insect activity increases . My first good bird today was Blackburnian Warbler,
whose brilliant orange throat always elicts wows from birders. It spent quite some
time working the high limbs of a maple, then fluttered down, almost like a falling leaf,
onto an open branch.
The last warbler of the trip is one that, like
me, came from far away. The Blackpoll Warbler winters in South America, to northern
Brazil and Ecuador. When Blackpolls migrate north, many won't stop until they reach
Alaska or Labrador. Of all warblers, it travels the farthest to breed. It is a
thoroughly charming little bird, active and inquisitive.
In the tropics I've seen birds more colorful than warblers, but
something about them strikes a deeper chord. All who enjoy birds eagerly await the
first migrant warbler of spring. Whether as migrants or summer residents, these
visitors from the tropics add color and liveliness to the season.