Cerebral Escape

a photo journal of my escapes

Bruce Peninsula – Tobermory Side Trip – July

Back in July, we took a nice extended vacation at MacGregor Point Provincial Park.  One rainy morning, we thought should take a nice drive up the Bruce Peninsula, making a few quick stops along the way to pick up a few birds for our trip list.  I was hoping to add Upland Sandpiper, maybe Brewer’s Blackbird and a few more.  A couple days before, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was reported about half way up the Bruce on a side road so we were definitely going to look for that bird!

Where the bird was previously seen was a gorgeous area with large expansive fields, which I suppose is pretty common on the Bruce and many other areas in Southern Ontario, but it just seems to have a different feel to it.  It’s hard to explain but I really enjoy just staring out at the fields, wondering what might be lurking in the tall grass.  We did add Savannah Sparrow here.  I thought I might have heard a Grasshopper Sparrow but wasn’t sure and it stopped singing.  Unfortunately, we didn’t relocate the target bird but we watched the Bison for a while.


We continued on a little further for our next target – Upland Sandpiper.  We had found a few down Everatt Side Rd, just north of Ferndale, the previous year so I thought that it might be a good spot to check.  Just as I turned down the road and drove maybe 50 metres Sarah yelled out, “There’s one right there – beside the road!” Great spotting Sarah!  This bird gave killer looks.  I’ve never seen one this close before.


Upland Sandpiper

After that success, we decided that would should give Emily a snack.  We pulled over into a little farmers field turn off.  Here you could hear Eastern Meadowlarks, American Crows mobbing something far off in the distance, and a few other passing birds.  I was watching a very curious Ring-billed Gull that seemed to be plucking flowers at the side of the road.  It must have been insects or something he was after.  I watched it for a while.  Unfortunately a few minutes later when I had my back turned, I heard a car racing up the road and a loud thump.  I knew it was the Gull.  I don’t think the driver even attempted to miss the bird.  It was a bit of a bummer on the trip especially because I was just watching and laughing at the Gull’s behaviour about 30 seconds earlier.

RIP Gully

RIP Gully

After uttering a few choice words at the fleeing car, I thought it was time to move on to help bring the mood back up for this trip.  It was still early in the day and Emily was being a trooper so we thought, heck, let’s just keep going up to Tobermory.  The weather was very dreary but the drive was nice.  I hadn’t been up to Tobermory in many years – since I took the Chi-Cheemaun ferry over to Manitoulin to go to my friend Trey’s cottage.


Lunch in Tobermory


Chi-Cheemaun Ferry

We drove around a bit, had a nice lunch, and even watched the ferry leave port on its way over to the island.  We made one last stop at the Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor Centre to have a look around and climb the tall lookout tower.  We added a new bird here – a Caspian Tern flew right over the high tower.  Sarah and I have always talked about wanting to hike the entire Bruce Trail so we chatted more about this and how we’d love to be able to do it with Emily some day.


Bruce Trail Terminus – Tobermory


Emily At Bruce Peninsula Nat. Park Visitor Centre

It was time to head back to the campsite to get Emily to bed and light the fire.  This was a great little mid-vacation side trip.


After Work Rarities

On Monday, Dan Greenham reported a Snowy Egret at Holiday Beach to WEPbirds.  This would be a year bird for me so I really wanted to go look after work. In between packing for my work trip for this week, I cleared enough time to make a quick run out to look for the bird. I’m glad I did! Just as I started climbing the Hawk Tower, I noticed a very small egret hunting in the shallow pond. That was it – quickest twitch I’ve ever had!




This week’s work trip ended up working out perfectly because it gave me the chance to twitch another bird being seen in a Toronto park. A juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron had been seen by many at Col Sam Smith Park. This would be a new “Canada” bird for me!

Well I guess I still had some luck left for this week. After walking around the pond for a little while, a young Night Heron perched right out in the open for me. Everything checked out. I had the bird! I went to find the others who were looking but unfortunately by the time we got back to the spot, it was gone. I stuck around for a while, but I don’t think it showed itself for the rest of the evening.  However, the bird was seen again this morning so if you haven’t had a chance to go for it, you still have time.

I didn’t bring my camera with me on this trip but I managed to get a few digi-scoped pics of the bird with my iPhone.  This was the “best” ID shot I had.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron


I wonder what else will show up this week?

MacGregor Point – Family Camping (with a little birding) Trip July 2014

This year we decided to book a week long camping trip at MacGregor Point Provincial Park after the great time we had last year at the same time of the year.  If you’re not familiar with MacGregor, the park is located on the shores of Lake Huron, just south of Port Elgin.  It’s a perfect location for swimming, biking, hiking and of course birding.  It’s also a great home base to explore further up on the Bruce Peninsula.  We were there from July 12 – July 20.

This trip was going to be the first true test of the ‘project’ tent trailer that my brother and I bought and worked on over the winter (more on this at another time).  Sarah and I have always tented it when camping so this is going to be new to us.  We’ll still do the wilderness camping, canoeing and backpacking, but we wanted a little more convenience for the car camping trips and it worked out absolutely perfectly.  Emily loved sleeping and exploring and even checking out my handy work in the trailer.

Emily inspecting the tap

Emily inspecting the tap

The weather was a bit cool most of the time, but was perfect for hiking and exploring.  The songs and sounds of American Redstarts filled the entire park.  I had forgotten about the huge numbers of Redstarts there!  One thing I noticed within a few days was that the bird diversity seemed to be much lower compared to the same time last year.  Not sure if it was the weather or just maybe last year was exceptional.  I was expecting more evening calling birds but I only heard one Hermit Thrush, a few Veerys, and a faint Great Horned Owl.  Last year, evenings were filled with singing Hermit Thrushes and Whip-poor-wills.  But not this year.  I’m not complaining – it was just something I noticed.

We did take a trip over to Port Elgin beach to see the reported nesting Piping Plovers.  We saw both adults and 4 hatchlings (which I hear have done well).  It was great to hear from the MNR person watching over the birds about the cooperation from the town and the people about closing off some of the beach to protect them.  While we were watching the birds, several children came up and were genuinely excited that these endangered birds chose ‘their’ beach to nest.  There is hope for the next generation after all!


Emily seemed to really enjoy herself on this trip.  She loves the outdoors.  Her daycare workers are always commenting on how she loves to be outside. We must be doing something right!  She, like most toddlers her age, is so inquisitive and I find it fascinating just to watch her explore.  When she’s touching a tree or a leaf, she needs to study every angle of it.  When a Gull runs by on the beach, she points and says ‘bird’ I think just to make sure I noticed it too.  This is going to come in handy when she’s spotting all the birds for me!

Oooh a leaf

Exploring the leaves

Emily checking out Severus, the Milk Snake

Emily checking out Severus, the Milk Snake

What a fantastic park and a fantastic trip.  During this vacation, we decided that we want to take Emily camping at every Ontario Parks location.  We’ll probably start a little scrapbooking blog for her to keep track.  So far 2 down and about 100+  to go!


Rather than bore you with more text, here are some pics of the trip. Excuse the poor quality of some as these are a mishmash of 3 cameras including an iPhone.  Also, one rainy day, we took a trip up to Tobermory.  Look for more on that little side trip soon!  Click on a pic to bring up a larger image.

A Little Birding


Leps and Stuff – still have to check the IDs.  Please feel free to correct me or comment below , especially about the “What am I?” one!

The Fam

The Park / Scenery

Beggin’ Baby Barn Swallows

Early this morning I was outside watering some plants when I heard some light “cheeps” coming from the roof.  I looked up to see 3 young Barn Swallows perched on the eavestrough.  They were begging for food and the parents were obliging – delivering mouthfuls of Fishflies.

Pre-work Birding – Dickcissels in A’burg!

Last night I received an Ebird Essex County needs alert for a Dickcissel.  My interest was tweaked and I thought about possibly doing some pre-work birding in the morning.  Paul P reported seeing 4 singing males in an Essex County field known to support grassland breeding birds such as Meadowlark, Bobolink, etc.  I have heard good things about this field on the 4th Concession but never had the chance to check it out.  The sun was shining this morning and I was up early so I headed out.

The field is currently being cut but a lot of the tall grasses/crops remained this morning so it was still prime habitat.  As I pulled up, I heard the unmistakable song of the Bobolink, many Savannah Sparrows and what I thought could have been one of the Dickcissels.  I couldn’t pick it out again so I wasn’t about to count it.  I thought I may have imagined it.  After walking up and down the road, I finally heard one call from way back in the field.  I was hoping for a visual or maybe even some pictures just because it’s not a bird I see all that often.  Sure, you can make the drive out to Hwy 3 and Camper’s Cove Rd and pretty much be guaranteed to see one, but it’s not Essex County!  Yes I am a lister.

I did however luck out as I turned the car around to head home.  A singing male perched up high in a tree close to the road.  It was a little back lit so it wasn’t perfect for photography but that’s ok.  I watched him sing away for a while.  It was nice to be out, but reality quickly set in… time to get home and go to work.


For details on how to get to this field, check out my post on Wepbirds.com.

A Golden Father’s Day

For Father’s Day, Emily and I spent the early afternoon at Point Pelee. Unfortunately Sarah had to work so it was just the two of us.  The weather was absolutely beautiful and Emily was so happy to be out in it!  I loaded up the stroller and headed south down the tip road in search of the Prothonotary Warbler that was reported at Bridge F on the Woodland Trail.

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

As we got closer to the bridge, I could hear the bird clearly singing across the slough.  Well that was easy!  Well it wasn’t so easy.  It took a little while to get a visual on the bird as he was singing high up in the foliage.  He eventually came down to the forest floor to look for food, offering stunning views.  The golden colour of the bird never ceases to amaze me.  I did see him carry food to a nest cavity but I didn’t see a female.   Do males bring food to a female on a nest?

Nest Cavity

A perfect Father’s Day!


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