It was only mid-morning and the temperature was already at the daytime high when we left St. Catharines for Sudbury. I was looking forward to getting away from the humidity for a few days but after only 30 minutes of driving, we stopped for a brief moment in Hamilton. It was a planned stop. An American White Pelican had been observed in a few locations in Hamilton Harbour over the last few weeks and though it had not appeared on a recent post, a quick stop to look for the pelican from the parking area of the Canada Centre for Inland Waters seemed worthwhile.
I thought our best chance would be the three small rocky islands north of the centre. In August of 2008, Jean and I observed an American White Pelican (it could be the very same one seen this summer) near one of the islands. In October of the previous year, we observed our first Ontario American White Pelican at Cootes Paradise (the west end of the bay) while walking along a Royal Botanical Gardens trail known as "The Willows" to birders in the Hamilton area. This year we would not be as lucky. Only gulls, terns and cormorants on the islands. The pelican may have been relaxing in the Dundas Marsh but that chase would have to be put aside for another day.
We continued on through the regions of Halton and Peel and I thought of some of our memorable ticks as we passed the locations of the observations. In May of 2009, Jean and I travelled to Brittania Road to tick a lifer Ruff. At this time, only 13 species are required to reach my goal of 100 for Halton County. It seems I've caught the fever to observe 100 species in each county. Further east along the 407 is the region of Peel where we had observed another lost bird in November of 2009. It was a Phainopepla. Yes, a very lost bird and only the second record for Ontario. In addition to the silky flycatcher, Jean and I have also seen a Western Grebe and Harlequin Duck in Peel County. Only 16 species on a total of two checklists, so a great deal of birding is still required in Peel County.
Once we passed through Simcoe and Muskoka Counties, Jean and I were in new territory. Our first county was Parry Sound but sightings were limited to those seen from Highway 69. We observed only 5 species while in this region of Ontario, the best being a Broad-winged Hawk perched on utility pole near Byng Inlet.
The next county came as a surprise to me once it was entered on eBird Canada. We stopped at French River Provincial Park and when looking at my road map, yes I said road map, it appeared I was still in the region of Parry Sound. According to eBird Canada and maps found online, this area of French River P.P. is within the boundaries of Manitoulin County.
The provincial park follows the routes of voyageurs from Lake Nipissing to Lake Huron and we spent a 30 minute break in a small section of the park adjacent to Highway 69. We observed a few species, including Chestnut-sided Warbler and Warbling Vireo but nothing new was found.
Returning to our car, we heard a loud call that could only be from a member of the Picidae Family. Based on the woodpecker calls we have heard, I quickly eliminated all but the Pileated Woodpecker. This was a species we have observed only once. Though lifers are exciting, it was a distant view through the scope while on a birding-walk through the Hendrie Valley during the 2008 OFO Convention in Hamilton. I wanted to get a good look at this Pileated Woodpecker before committing to the tick. There were some dead trees with large holes near the parking area that suggest the woodpecker could be found at this spot. The bird disappeared deeper into the woods so we planned a return visit later in the week.
Once across the French River, we entered Sudbury County and upon reaching the city limits of Sudbury, we were in the region of Greater Sudbury. The county where the majority of our vacation ticks would occur.