Ward’s Island, Toronto – Birding Rain and Shine

This was the hardest week ever. The rain served to deter week night trips. Friday was the first clear evening but we’ll talk about that later because I want to focus on my trip to Ward’s Island, Toronto.

Due to a scheduling conflict we are unable to embark on the field trip to the Toronto Islands next Saturday as hosted by Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO). Fortunately an exquisitely detailed PDF titled “The Toronto Islands Birding and Site Guide” by Norm Murr is posted on their website. With cerloxed copy in hand we headed to Ward’s Island on Saturday.

This was our first trip to Ward’s island. En route there were a number of long-tailed ducks in flight and on the water. Of course the omnipresent double-crested cormorants ensured we didn’t forget them.

Flock of Double-Crested Cormorants flying at Ward's Island, Toronto, ON

Flock of Double-Crested Cormorants

We chanced upon a good mix of tree and barn swallows along the Eastern Gap.

Barn Swallows at Ward's Island, Toronto, ON

Barn Swallows

We were on the hunt for warblers but they were difficult to spot and/or photograph in the thick brush. We managed to photograph the yellow-rumped warbler.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler on Ward's Island, Toronto, ON

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

It rained sporadically during the day. We noticed that once the rain stopped the insects seemed to multiply in number which in turn, attracted the birds.  One of our favourite new species of the day is the grasshopper sparrow.

Grasshopper Sparrow at Ward's Island, Toronto, ON

Grasshopper Sparrow

Not to be outdone the chipping sparrow made an appearance. Another new species for us.

Chipping Sparrow at Ward's Island, Toronto, ON

Chipping Sparrow

We loved the whimsically designed gardens and houses. On Algonquin Island we were amused to find a multitude of toys spread throughout a homeowner’s garden.

Toy in a garden Ward's Island

Toy in a garden

Toy in a bush Ward's Island

Toy in a bush

Using the PDF guide we learned to check trees thoroughly on Algonquin Island. Thankfully, our diligence was rewarded. Sitting atop the canopy of the tree was a Baltimore oriole, another new bird species for us. An islander asked what we found; we told him and he was ecstatic as days earlier he had placed two nectar-filled feeders specifically for the returning orioles.

Baltimore Oriole at Ward's Island, Toronto, ON

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole on Ward's Island, Toronto, ON

Baltimore Oriole

As we were walking along, we stumbled upon an EPIC battle between two male brown-headed cowbirds. They appeared to be fighting to the death. Interestingly, they fought in complete silence. They flipped, turned, rolled, scratched and ripped. They were completely oblivious to our presence. We watched for a good four minutes. One member of my party wanted to try and break up the fight by approaching even closer. The other member wanted a ringside seat. I wanted the fittest of the fit to survive. We did not wait to witness the outcome.

Male Brown-Headed Cowbirds Fighting on Ward's Island in Toronto

Male Brown-Headed Cowbirds Fighting

Male Brown-Headed cowbirds Fighting Ward's Island Toronto

Male Brown-Headed Cowbirds Fighting

On a happier note we watched this common grackle ready himself for a date.

Common Grackle bathing at Ward's Island, Toronto, ON

Common Grackle bathing

The above transpired during the first half our day on the Ward’s Island. We broke for lunch at the Rectory Café where we enjoyed a lovely lunch and hot beverages by the roaring fireplace. To be continued…

Toronto Harbourfront Skyline

Toronto Skyline

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