Discovering a new birding hotspot is one of the pleasures of the hobby. Visiting an area with good habitat and plenty of birds can be a great experience. Upon visiting the Toronto Islands for my second time, I realize that this area has great potential for spring and fall migration and I look forward to birding the area again (hopefully not alone the next time so I can share the experience).
Weather conditions: sunny, slight winds
On September 8, I woke up early at 6:00am, something that hasn't happened since I moved to Toronto. Hopping on the streetcar, transferring to the subway, and finally boarding a transport boat (the ferries weren't running yet this early) to get over to the islands, I finally started birding around 7:30am. Almost instantly I found some interesting birds as a small group (4) of Gadwall (the males in eclipse plumage) swimming just offshore. I could hear a lot of bird activity so I immediately made my way to the housing area on Ward's Island (where the boat docked) and into the trails on this side. A few Blue Jays, a chickadee singing, a Mourning Dove and a Sharp-shinned Hawk flying overhead, and then BANG - a mixed flock of migrants all located within the vicinity of a few trees. I love the overwhelming feeling of a trail chock full of warblers and other small migrants when you're trying to identify as many as possible, ID'ing one bird, then quickly moving to the next, sometimes seeing the same bird three times. Within minutes, I had picked up over 10 warbler species, an Eastern Wood-Pewee, Downy Woodpecker, Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos, Red-breasted Nuthatch, chickadees, Northern Cardinal, a calling flicker, and goldfinches. There were numerous American Redstarts, both male and female, a handful of Black-and-white Warblers, 2 Wilson's, 1 female Blackburnian, 1 Canada (the highlight for me), 2 Magnolias, 1 Pine, 1 Nashville, many Blackpolls, and later down the trail, a solitary juvenile Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a single female Black-throated Blue.
As if this wasn't enough, after I hard circled Ward's Island and returned to the same spot, there were now a few additions to the group including a first year Northern Parula, a Cape May, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a few Swainson's Thrushes, and a calling Gray Catbird (I ended up seeing quite a few of these later in the day at Hanlan's Point, the western side of the Toronto islands). Warblers that I missed but could have been on the island include Black-throated Green, Chestnut-sided, Bay-breasted (there could have been some mixed in with the Blackpolls but if there were, I couldn't identify them), Palm, Tennessee, Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Yellow (early migrant), Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Connecticut, and Mourning (the latter two being very difficult anyway).
Being able to see all of these species was a considerable treat, especially since I missed out on spring migration this year at Point Pelee due to my early move to Toronto at the end of April. I really hope to get out to the islands at least a couple more times before fall migration has passed. This coming weekend, I'm heading home for a visit so I'll be able to bird my old stomping grounds, Point Pelee and surrounding area (though I heard from a group of Swedish birders on the islands who had visited the Point last weekend that the Stable Flies are in full force right now).
The rest of the day wasn't nearly as exciting. As the day wore on, the sun made everything a lot hotter, Center Island was full of people and noise due to a music festival held there that day, and by the time I reached Hanlan's Point, I was pretty exhausted. However, I did pick up White-breasted Nuthatch, a female Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, more Gadwall, and an Empidonax Flycatcher. Overall, a great day.
Double-crested Cormorant (20+)
Great Blue Heron (1 juvenile)
Green Heron (1 first year bird)
Mute Swan (20-25)
Gadwall (11 birds total)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (1 migrating)
Spotted Sandpiper (1)
Mourning Dove (3 total)
- possible Yellow-billed Cuckoo heard (too brief to identify for certain)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (1 female)
Belted Kingfisher (2)
Empidonax Flycatcher (unidentified)
Blue Jay (considerably more than I have yet heard and seen at High Park)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (many throughout the park)
White-breasted Nuthatch (one heard)
Swainson's Thrush (3 total)
American Robin (many juvenile birds present)
Gray Catbird (5)
Cedar Waxwing (flock heard)
European Starling (many juvenile birds present - a few migrating flocks)
Warbling Vireo (1)
Red-eyed Vireo (1)
Nashville Warbler (1)
Northern Parula (1 first year)
Magnolia Warbler (2)
Cape May Warbler (1 female)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (1 female along the beach)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (1 juvenile bird - heavy spotting, very slight yellow wash on the sides and rump)
Blackburnian Warbler (1 female)
Pine Warbler (1 adult)
Blackpoll Warbler (the most abundant species - 30+)
Black-and-white Warbler (5)
American Redstart (10+ mixture of females and males; with females outnumbering)
Common Yellowthroat (1 female)
Wilson's Warbler (2 males)
Canada Warbler (1 female)
American Goldfinch (many)
Total Warbler species: 14 - just shy of my goal of 15
Total Species: 48 - this is quite low compared to the reports coming from the Island of late as posted on the Ontbirds listserv, however I was not part of a group and only birded for the morning and not in the afternoon. With more time and more eyes, I don't doubt you could have an extremely successful day on the island during fall migration.