As our group walked further into the woods of Pointe Pelee Park, we saw birds on branches and trees that were only ten feet from us. The proximity made it much easier to determine whether a bird had a splotch of colour on its neck, or to pick up another characteristic by which a bird can be identified.
As birds flew away towards more distant trees, observing their flight as well as their body proportions were other important cues for determining what birds we had just seen.
We were following a well maintained path towards the eastern beach, 1 Km away. People at the front cleared away some of the snow but the path itself was quite level and without any obstacles. The woods were fairly thick and the only openings were areas where one large tree may have been felled by a storm, and since then only a few bushes had sprouted in the clearing.
Nothing but wooded areas in all directions.
At one point, one of the two hikers in front of me suddenly pointed at a tree. At first I did not see anything then yeah, I noticed how some type of shape was moving near the upper trunk of a large maple. It was a bird for sure, and the orangish spot led someone to say it was a female cardinal.
And so bird name and number sighted swiftly went into a bird count template form which Western student Gabi Foss had volunteered to complete. The form included well known names like starlings and gulls, but also lesser well known bird species such as merganser.
One species even provoked gasps of laughter each time it got pronounced: “Junco!”
—“Junco, where are you?”
—“Oh, don’t let me get started, Junco!”
Yup, the Western contingent was at it again.
It was sunny by the time we reached the beach. The sun rays were welcome warmth and they created shimmering effects on the lake and through ice floes that had cramped up along the beach.
Large birds could be seen in the vast expanse of sky above Lake Erie. Someone said that a bird with a light white spot on top of its head was a bald eagle.
A few minutes later, we saw more bald eagles!
Two were far away into the sun, perched on a branch near the horizon. You could barely make out their shadow against the sun, through the excellent view finder which park interpreter Andrew Laforest had set up for us to see in the distance, towards the edge of the park.