Monday, June 26, 2017

Fort St. Joseph BioBlitz

Over the weekend, there was a BioBlitz run by Parks Canada at Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site.  I had been on the organizing committee for this event for the past few months as The Kensington Conservancy had been asked to participate.  Once they found out I was a bird guy, I was tasked with leading some birding hikes during the BioBlitz.  The Kensington Conservancy, as well as other organizations that were involved, had booths up the participants could visit.

Fort St. Joseph was an important site during the War of 1812 and that is what it is mostly known for, but the Parks Canada property is also federally recognized as a Migratory Bird Sanctuary.  It is located on the very southwest corner of St. Joseph Island.

The morning of the first day of the BioBlitz, I was there early to set up my booth and start birding!  I had 33 species before my first birding hike was scheduled to start, but nothing of note. 

The first bird hike that I was leading started at 1:30pm.  To my surprise, this was a very popular hike for the BioBlitz participants and I had 20 people join me for it.  It started out pretty good as a Red-shouldered Hawk came out of nowhere and was doing circles above us.  That got a lot of the people in the group excited.  Unfortunately, that was the highlight for the first 50 minutes or so of the 1 hour hike.  We got many of the usual suspects for that I had already recorded for the BioBlitz.  However, with only a few minutes until the hike ended, we got our highlight species.  Christine Drake, a Parks Canada employee from Pukaskwa National Park, who was down to help run this event, heard a strange call from the trees.  Then another member of the hike point up into the top of a tree.  Black-billed Cuckoo!  It hung around for a few minutes, giving everyone a great opportunity to see and photograph this cool bird.  I had seen this bird last week when I was doing some scouting, so I'm glad it showed itself again for the group.  Apparently staff at the fort have been seeing it around as well.  In total, my first bird hike produced 26 species.

Black-billed Cuckoo
For the rest of the afternoon, I hung around the booths and talked with people who came up to my booth.  The fort closed to the public at 5:00pm, so it was just BioBlitz participants left.  The evening bird and bug hike, being lead by Christine, didn't start until 8:30pm, so I had lots of time for birding until then.  My friend Christopher Zayachhowski and I drove down Fort Road and walked a few of the hiking trails that the fort has.  We got 29 species in total in about 2 hours.  Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Common Goldeneye and Eastern Wood-Pewee were the only new additions for the BioBlitz.

A group of seven of us walked the length of Fort Road in search of cool bugs and birds for the 8:30pm hike.  We hoped to call in a Barred Owl after it got dark, but we had no luck.  We did hear a couple American Bitterns and a Wilson's Snipe though.  We got 21 bird species in total for the hike.

I went back to my parents' house for the night and was back down at the fort at 5:30am for my 6:00am bird hike.  Despite the rain, a few hardcore participants made it out.  A few of the new ones we got were Red-breasted Merganser, Caspian Tern, Wood Thrush, Northern Waterthrush and Golden-crowned Kinglet.  The rain stopped and we dried out a little before heading out on the next birding hike at 9:00pm, this time lead by Jennifer Foote of Algoma University.  It only ended up being Christopher, Jennifer and I as the rain scared away the participants from the public and others decided to go on other non-bird hikes.  We got a couple dozens species or so in the hour hike, but nothing new for the BioBlitz.

In total, 74 species of birds were recorded during the 24-hour BioBlitz at Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site.  This was great as the current list of birds that Parks Canada had for the site was only about 10 birds long.  Despite the bad weather, it was a great weekend and everyone involved had lots of fun!

The Island Clippings, St. Joseph Island's weekly newspaper, wrote a front page article on the event, which features a photo of the group looking up at the Black-billed Cuckoo.  Read it here.

All species recorded during the Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site BioBlitz:

Canada Goose - Branta canadensis
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Common Goldeneye - Bucephala clangula
Common Merganser - Mergus merganser
Red-breasted Merganser - Mergus serrator
Ruffed Grouse - Bonasa umbellus
Wild Turkey - Meleagris gallopavo
Common Loon - Gavia immer
Double-crested Cormorant - Phalacrocorax auritus
American Bittern - Botaurus lentiginosus
Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias
Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
Osprey - Pandion haliaetus
Bald Eagle - Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk - Buteo lineatus
Sandhill Crane - Antigone canadensis
Wilson's Snipe - Gallinago delicata
Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularius
Ring-billed Gull - Larus delawarensis
Herring Gull - Larus argentatus
Caspian Tern - Hydroprogne caspia
Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
Black-billed Cuckoo - Coccyzus erythropthalmus
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubris
Belted Kingfisher - Megaceryle alcyon
Red-bellied Woodpecker - Melanerpes carolinus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus varius
Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus
Merlin - Falco columbarius
Eastern Wood-Pewee - Contopus virens
Alder Flycatcher - Empidonax alnorum
Eastern Phoebe - Sayornis phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo - Vireo solitarius
Red-eyed Vireo - Vireo olivaceus
Blue Jay - Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow - Corvus brachyrhynchos
Common Raven - Corvus corax
Tree Swallow - Tachycineta bicolor
Black-capped Chickadee - Poecile atricapillus
Red-breasted Nuthatch - Sitta canadensis
White-breasted Nuthatch - Sitta carolinensis
Brown Creeper - Certhia americana
Winter Wren - Troglodytes hiemalis
Golden-crowned Kinglet - Regulus satrapa
Veery - Catharus fuscescens
Hermit Thrush - Catharus guttatus
Wood Thrush - Hylocichla mustelina
American Robin - Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird - Dumetella carolinensis
Cedar Waxwing - Bombycilla cedrorum
Ovenbird - Seiurus aurocapilla
Northern Waterthrush - Parkesia noveboracensis
Black-and-white Warbler - Mniotilta varia
Nashville Warbler - Oreothlypis ruficapilla
Mourning Warbler - Geothlypis philadelphia
Common Yellowthroat - Geothlypis trichas
American Redstart - Setophaga ruticilla
Northern Parula - Setophaga americana
Blackburnian Warbler - Setophaga fusca
Yellow Warbler - Setophaga petechia
Chestnut-sided Warbler - Setophaga pensylvanica
Yellow-rumped Warbler - Setophaga coronata
Black-throated Green Warbler - Setophaga virens
Chipping Sparrow - Spizella passerina
White-throated Sparrow - Zonotrichia albicollis
Savannah Sparrow - Passerculus sandwichensis
Song Sparrow - Melospiza melodia
Swamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgiana
Scarlet Tanager - Piranga olivacea
Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalis
Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Pheucticus ludovicianus
Red-winged Blackbird - Agelaius phoeniceus
Common Grackle - Quiscalus quiscula

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