Thursday, September 16, 2010

Birding the Tower Trail

August 17

During a visit to MacGregor Point last year, Jean and I discovered a trail while looking over a map of the provincial park. On that day, we limited our time to the area near the observation deck. Walking the 3.5 kilometre trail around the marsh would have to wait for a subsequent visit. Upon hearing we could vacation with my brother-in-law's family this year, Jean and I reserved a morning for hiking the entire length of the trail.

We accessed the Tower Trail from a public road bordering the southern edge of MacGregor Point Provincial Park. A Merlin greeted us from its perch as we entered the marsh. The small falcon was capturing dragonflies with ease.

This wetland was once a swamp created by beaver activity and in 1989, Ducks Unlimited Canada completed construction on a dike to prevent drainage of the wetland habitat. This was the first habitat development by Ducks Unlimited in an Ontario Provincial Park.

We walked along the dike, stopping occasionally to view the wildlife in the wetland. American Redstarts and Black-capped Chickadees flitted in the trees behind us. Before continuing our hike east of the wetland, Jean and I observed Mallard, Wood Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Belted Kingfisher and Great Egret in the wetland habitat.

Dragonflies and butterflies were abundant on the Tower Trail.

We were hoping to spot a Pileated Woodpecker while in the provincial park. There was plenty of evidence of their presence. Though some of it was very fresh, we neither heard or saw any Pileated.

Dense white cedar stands are common in moist areas surrounding the wetland.

After viewing a few Red-eyed Vireos, we did not observe many birds until reaching the observation deck. Climbing to the top of the platform, we met a family from Michigan viewing the marsh wildlife through their binoculars. The couple's son seemed interested in our scope and when I found a Wood Duck, I offered the budding birder a closer look at the bird. The family were camping in the park and during our conversation on parks and birds, we shared views of Belted Kingfisher, Pied-billed Grebe, and Green Heron. The boy was thrilled to see birds through the scope and I have an idea he may be a naturalist one day. I was even more convinced when Jean and I caught up to the family on the trail and their son pointed out a Monarch caterpillar he found on the underside of a Milkweed leaf.

Our hike concluded with no additions to the year list. We left the provincial park and the Michigan family as they continued their hike along the Tower Trail. Hopefully they had better luck finding a Pileated Woodpecker.

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