Monday, August 01, 2016

Life Birds and More on Manitoulin Island

Baltimore Oriole (f), E. Bluebird (juv), Fritillary butterfly, Singing Swamp Sparrow

I enjoy birding on Manitoulin Island in the summer as much as my husband enjoys fishing. We have not been there since 2013 as we vacationed in other places the past two years. For eight years or so, we booked the cabin at the beginning of July. Many of the migratory birds were still very territorial as breeding season was beginning. The males were easy to see as they sang loudly from hydro wires, tree tops and open branches, marking their nesting area. This year we went to Lake Manitou the last week of July. I could hardly find any birds the first day or two. There were many young birds around who had fledged but who still needed help finding food. These young birds are very vulnerable to predators and generally stayed hidden in thickets and brush. The adult birds were very secretive too. 

American Bittern

One bird I have searched for unsuccessfully in every marsh is an American Bittern. They have likely seen me, but I have never seen them. This bird stands very still with its head in an upward position in the reeds. Imagine my surprise when I saw one in a MEADOW by a creek behind the cabin. There was not a cattail in sight. I had about 10 seconds to get a blurry shot on my camera before it flew away.

Lincoln's Sparrow or Juvenile Chipping Sparrows? (answer is JCS)

The camp is bounded by a lake, creek, meadows, farmland, dogwood thickets and woodland. The varied habitat attracts a great variety of birds. I counted 74 species this year that I could identify within a one square kilometer area. Juveniles are very confusing so there were some I could not name.

A small sparrow caught my attention more than once. It had a streaked breast but was not a Song Sparrow. It did not have the eye markings of a Savannah Sparrow, nor was it a Swamp Sparrow. It liked to peck along the gravel roadway. (We found a dead one that had been recently hit by a car). I was hoping it was a Lincoln's Sparrow, which does nest in the area, but it was likely a juvenile Chipping Sparrow. Sparrows can be confusing even if they are mature.

Approximately 12 Sandhill Cranes occupied the farm field across the road. They are as persistently noisy as a rooster and made a fuss if we looked at them. Here is a 15 second clip of their call. Unlike roosters, they were quiet until after sunrise.

The eBird app on my phone was very useful while birding and I submitted checklists twice a day. Every week of summer is different for birding. Black birds are already flocking in preparation for migration. I have seen one third of the birds that have been identified on the island so there are a lot more yet to find.


  1. A place with so much bird life would be a great vacation spot.

    1. The cabins are "rustic" but they are better than sleeping on the ground in a tent. If it was more developed, there would not be as many birds for sure. It is rather perfect for our interests. Lots of bass fishing for DH.

  2. I like the geometry in the first photo -- a unique way to collage them.

    1. I use an app called LiveCollage on my phone or iPad. It offers a number of automatic configurations.

  3. Sounds like an ideal vacation.
    eBird? I will have to look that up. I have an app to help identify bird calls...and, frankly, it sucks.


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