Toronto Islands Birding and Site Guide

Created in January, 2012, by Norman C. Murr

303‐48 Laverock Ave.
Richmond Hill, Ontario L4C 4J5

NOTE: No part of this guide may be reproduced, changed or distributed in any form without the prior permission of the author. Permission to copy does not in any way give permission to revise or chage any part of the guide.

 

Introduction And General Information Section 1‐Ward’s Island‐Ferry Dock/Withrow St. To The Eastern Gap Section 2‐Ward’s Island‐ Withrow St. To The Algonquin Island Bridge
Section 3‐Algonquin Island Section 4‐Ward’s Island‐Algonquin Island Bridge To The Snake Island Bridge Area Section 5‐Snake Island
Section 6‐Snug Harbour Section 7‐Ward’s Island‐Snug Harbour Bridge To Centre Island Section 8‐Centre Island‐Sky Ride To Wildlife Sanctuary And Gibraltar Point
Section 9‐The Wildlife Sanctuary Section 10‐Gibraltar Point‐The Lighthouse Pond, Lighthouse Area And The Trout Pond Section 11‐Gibraltar Point‐The Dunes Path To North Side Of The Trout Pond
Section 12‐Hanlan’s Point‐North Side Of The Trout Pond Section 13‐Hanlan’s Point‐The Dunes Path From The Trail Opposite The North Side Of The Trout Pond To Tennis Courts Section 14‐Hanlan’s Point‐North End Of Tennis Courts To South End Of Airfield Fence
Section 15‐Hanlan’s Point‐South End Of Airfield Fence Including The “Sparrow Patch“ Section 16‐West Side Of The Airfield Fence Section 17‐Beach Area West Of The Airfield Fence
Section 18‐South End Of The Airfield Fence Section 19‐East Side Of The Airfield Fence Between The Southeast Corner Of The Airfield Fence And The Area Just South Of The Ferry Docks Section 20‐Hanlan’s Point‐Ferry Dock Area
Section 21‐Hanlan’s Point‐Lagoon Side‐Along Lakeshore Ave
Some Nesting or Resident Birds on the Islands List of Some Birds and Where You May Find Them Mammals, Turtles, Snakes and Amphibians
Some Butterflies Seen on The Islands Checklist of Birds Spring and Fall Early Arrival Dates

Introduction And General InformationTop

The Toronto Islands are a group of small islands located just off shore from the Toronto city centre providing shelter for Toronto Harbour. The Islands are connected to the mainland by several ferry services and they contain a small residential community on the east end, various recreational facilities and the Billy Bishop Airport on the west end.

The Islands are comprised of a variety of habitats from woodland and shrub‐land to meadow and sand dunes, ponds, lagoons and an extensive shore line. There is a good mix of deciduous and evergreen vegetation. For the birds arriving from the south in the spring the Islands are the first green space in the extensively built‐up waterfront and in the fall they offer a resting and feeding place for the birds before they start the crossing of the lake on their way south.

This guide is concerned mainly with the spring and fall migration periods‐March 15th to June 10th and August 15th to November 15th.

Note The birds seen and mentioned in the following pages are the result and summary of regular visits and observations over a 32 year period. One should not expect to see all or many of the birds during a given day, in fact you may not see some of them at all.

I usually go over to Ward’s Island early in the morning but you can go at a time that you feel comfortable going. My times in March are the 8:00 a.m. ferry, in April the 7:30 a.m. ferry and in May/June the 7:00 a.m. ferry. From Aug. 15th to Sept. 15th I go over to Ward’s at 7:00 a.m. and then switch to the 7:30 a.m. ferry and many times in October I go over to Hanlan’s Point first.

After Sept. 15th when the sparrows start to arrive, I often take the first ferry to Hanlan’s Point as that end of the Islands is one of the best areas for sparrows, wrens and Orange‐crowned Warblers.

Directions To The Ferry Docks

Olive-sided Flycatcher
Fall plumage
Photo: Jean Iron

From the TTC’s Union station, walk south on Bay Street (on the east side of the station) for about 1 km to the ferry docks at the foot of Bay Street at Queen’s Quay and you are there. The entrance to the ferry docks (well signed) is on the west side of the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel.

From the TTC’s Union station you may transfer to the #6 or the #6A Bay St. TTC bus on Bay Street (transfer or fare) just outside of the east entrance (southwest corner of Bay Street) to the GO Station. They both go down Bay Street to Queen’s Quay. GO passengers arriving by train or bus must pay a fare to use the TTC bus or streetcar.

There is a street car (#509 Harbourfront) that goes from inside the TTC’s Union Subway Station to Queen’s Quay (no transfer required for subway users) for those that prefer not to walk to or from Union Subway Station.

For those who choose to go down to the docks on Sunday before the subway opens you can catch the #97B Yonge St. Blue Night bus (Steeles Ave. to Queens Quay). This bus will let you off right across the street on Bay St. only steps from the ferry docks entrance.

You may also want to visit the TTC web page here for trip planning assistance.

From the Gardiner Expressway or Lakeshore Blvd, exit at Bay Street and drive south to Queen’s Quay; there a few parking lots nearby (fee). One of these parking lots is located just a block north of the ferry docks and another a block or so west of the ferry docks.

Ferry Fares And Daily Schedules

Web Site here

The fare at present is $6.50 for adults and $4.00 for students and seniors but check the above web site for an up to date fare schedule.

If arriving before 7:30 am you must obtain your ticket from a machine just inside the gate so be sure to have $1.00 and $2.00 and / or 25 cent coins before you arrive at the docks as there is no place to get change and the machines do not make change but they do accept some credit cards such as Visa as well as debit cards.

(Be sure to follow instructions carefully.)

To Ward’s Island, my preferred starting point, the 1st boat to Ward’s Island is at 6:35 am and the 2nd is at 7:00 am Monday to Friday. On Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays the 1st boat to Ward’s Island is at 6:35 am and the 2nd boat is at 7:15 am.

To Hanlan’s Point the 1st boat is at 8:00 am between the Easter Holiday weekend and Labour Day and the 2nd boat is at 8:30 am Monday to Friday. On Saturday, Sunday and Holidays during the same period the 1st boat to Hanlan’s Point is at 8:15 am and the 2nd boat is at 9:15 am.

Note If you are birding here between April 15th and the Victoria Day long weekend or after Labour Day the last ferry from Hanlan’s Point is at 4:15 p.m. and you will have to walk back to Centre Island if you miss it. After Thanksgiving Day to April 15th of the following year there is no ferry service to Hanlan’s Point or Centre Island either so if you bird from Ward’s Island to Hanlan’s Point at that time of the year you will have to walk back to Ward’s Island to catch the ferry.

Toronto Islands‐Food And Drinks

Food and beverages on the Islands are very expensive e.g. soft drinks $3.25 plus. You are better off to buy your lunch and beverages on the mainland.

If you walk through the Union Go Station and you are early and want to sit in the station before walking down to the ferry docks you can’t miss the dozen or so coffee shops.

There is a coffee shop (Treat’s Café) across from the ferry docks in the building on the northwest corner (opens before 6:30 am on week days but only opens at 9 am on the Saturdays that it doesn’t rain). You may also purchase do‐nuts, etc. here.

A new Second Cup Coffee Shop has opened in the southeast area of Bay St. and Lakeshore Blvd and opens at 7 am‐7 days a week.

Also just a little east on Queen’s Quay (less than a block) there is the “Kitchen Table” and they are open at 6 am‐7 days a week. Besides coffee you may also buy food and beverages at the Kitchen Table if you forgot to bring a lunch. There is now a small café (Island Café) on Ward’s Island and it is open daily. It is straight out from the ferry dock about 200 yards and hard to miss and the prices are much lower than the ones run by the parks dept. Opening and closing times vary with the season as well as the day of the week.

There are large maps of the Islands at both the Island side ferry docks and the City side ferry docks. A small brochure is now available at the ticket booth and in the schedule containers just inside the gate.

Washrooms And Water Fountains

There are washrooms and drinking fountains on the Islands as well as on the city side at the ferry docks. Following are the locations of the washrooms and drinking fountains on the Islands.

Washrooms / Toilets

One washroom is straight out from the Ward’s Island ferry dock (about 500 yards) and another one is on the west side of the island fire station. The next one is beside the paved path between the boardwalk and Snug Harbour. There are two on Centre Island, one beside the pier on the south side of the island and one between the north end of the flower gardens and the New Island School. On Gibraltar Point there is one at the southwest tip beside the lake. Hanlan’s Point has two more between the Trout Pond and the ferry docks, one is beside the tennis courts and the other one is alongside the lagoon halfway between the tennis courts and the docks.

Water Fountains

There is a water fountain at the Ward’s Island ferry, one on the east side of the fire station on Ward’s Island, just east of the bridge onto Snake Island, and another one just south of The Trap on Ward’s Island. Snake Island has a water fountain just after you cross the bridge. On Centre Island there is a fountain beside the washroom at the pier, another one just north of the pier in the flower gardens and another on the west side of the washroom west of the flower gardens. You will find one at the south end of the filtration plant alongside the road to the east of the old Island school. Hanlan’s Point has five between the Trout Pond and the ferry docks. One alongside the road just west of the Trout Pond, the next one between the Trout Pond and the tennis courts, two north of the tennis courts and the fifth beside the ferry dock washroom.

There are no washrooms or water fountains on Algonquin Island or Snug Harbour.

Notes

1‐The Toronto Islands in my opinion are one of the best if not the best birding location in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) though they remain one the most under birded areas.

2‐Over the years my fellow birders and I have found the Islands probably the best location in the GTA to find Olive‐sided Flycatcher, Orange‐crowned Warbler, Connecticut Warbler and Nelson’s Sparrow during migration.

3‐The fall migration is by far the best time to find all four of the above species but the spring migration period is a very close second. The first three of the four being the most likely to be found in spring but the Nelson’s Sparrow much less so.

4‐In the fall all four of these species are usually found by sight but in the spring you will find that the warblers are not shy about singing as they forage so you should familiarize yourself with their calls and songs. The Olive‐sided Flycatcher only calls once in awhile and the Nelson’s Sparrow not at all.

5‐Just a little heads up for those that are not comfortable birding with wet or cold feet. The Islands are probably 80% grass and brush covered and after a rain or a heavy dew it is hard not to spend most of the day with wet socks and feet unless you are fortunate enough to be wearing 100% water proof foot wear. This is not a problem during the warmer days of May / June and August / September but can be very uncomfortable during the cooler days.

6‐It is possible to walk and bird only on the paved roads or the boardwalk but most of the best birding areas are away from these paved areas.

Orange-crowned Warbler
Photo: Tom Thomas

Section 1‐Ward’s Island‐ Ferry Dock / Withrow St. To The Eastern GapTop

 

After exiting the ferry at the Ward’s Island dock, walk and bird straight ahead along or beside Withrow St. about 150 yards (135m) south from the dock to the first east/west paved path (Channel Ave.) and bird the bushes and tall willow and maple trees here. Check the trees and bushes carefully for flycatchers, kinglets, warblers, gnatcatcher, vireos, Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, Scarlet Tanager, Gray Catbird (in bushes), Eastern Towhee and Rose‐breasted Grosbeak.

You may be distracted by the many House Sparrows in this area so be sure to check them carefully as that bird you may think is a House Sparrow may not be. Check the lawn just south of here for Chipping Sparrow and be sure to look up at birds overhead for swallows, swifts, and migrating loons, raptors, etc.

When you have finished birding the above area, walk a few steps east to the bushes and trees at Channel Ave. and 5th St. Stand back and watch for the same bird species as above as well as thrushes and sparrows. Northern Waterthrush, White‐throated, White‐crowned, Lincoln’s and Fox Sparrows and Eastern Towhee may be found here and an Ovenbird sometimes skulks in the interior.

Be sure to pay attention to the tall Eastern Cottonwood tree rising above and behind these bushes for woodpeckers, Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, warblers and vireos. Black‐capped Chickadees and both Golden‐crowned and Ruby‐crowned Kinglets are usually present along with American Goldfinch and at times a House Finch or two as they nest in the area. Walk around to the north, or Channel Ave. / 5th St. side of the bushes and check the trees and shrubs at the cross streets. Both this area and the preceding one usually have some woodpeckers‐Downy Woodpecker, Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker and Northern Flicker. After satisfying yourself that you have seen everything here (you usually haven’t) walk south about 100 yards (90m) to the washrooms at Lakeshore Ave. and 5th St.

In May of 2011 a Cerulean Warbler and a Prairie Warbler (both uncommon) were found in this area near the washroom.

I usually walk along Lakeshore Ave. to the Eastern Gap as this area can be very birdy even though the sun may be almost in your eyes. The pavement may have many thrushes and sparrows on it and in the bushes and trees you may spot many flycatchers and warblers as well as thrushes, Scarlet Tanager, vireos and orioles. This is also a good place to find nesting Blue‐grey Gnatcatchers, and check the trees near the Gap for roosting Black‐crowned Night‐Herons. I have found Northern Saw‐whet Owl, a Wild Turkey (uncommon) and White‐eyed Vireo (uncommon) here. Carolina, Winter and House Wrens may be found or heard along this street and there is usually a Gray Catbird or three along here, as well as Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker. Also found along here were both Yellow‐billed and Black‐billed Cuckoos, Whip‐poor‐Will, Golden‐winged, Blue‐winged, Mourning and Connecticut Warbler (three in the fall of 2011) and Yellow‐breasted Chat (uncommon).

Another choice of birding from here and also before you get to the above area, especially during a fallout, is to bird among the houses as all of the streets are tree lined and have many ornamental shrubs and bushes as well as flower gardens. Watch and listen for many of the aforementioned birds as well as Ruby‐throated Hummingbirds at the flowers and flowering bushes.

Note: When birding amid the houses both on Ward’s and Algonquin Islands be sure to respect the privacy of the residents when looking towards their homes and try not to block the narrow streets when the residents are walking or cycling by.

If you haven’t noticed yet you soon will‐there are a lot of pet and stray cats roaming the streets as well as several off‐leash dogs. All are friendly though it may bother you to see so many cats with some of them hunting ground birds. The off‐leash bylaws do not seem to be enforced on the Islands, even though the Islands are designated a park and signs are posted about leashing your dog. The city bylaw about stray cats is also ignored both by the residents and the parks department.

Enjoy the cats and dogs as they are part of this area as well as Algonquin Island. You should not encounter cats anywhere else on the Islands but you will certainly see a few off‐leash dogs.

At the east end of Lakeshore Ave. you will come to the Eastern Gap where ships enter Toronto Harbour. Along the edge of the concrete you may encounter many of the previously mentioned birds. Walk south towards the lake (the land mass you see across the bay off the south end of the Eastern Gap is the Leslie St. Spit (Tommy Thompson Park) until you reach one of several paths on the right that enter Ward’s Island Park.

Along the way you may see and hear Caspian Terns as they fly past, and in the Gap you may spot a Pied‐billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Common and Caspian Tern and you can’t miss the many Ring‐billed Gulls, Long‐tailed Ducks and Double‐crested Cormorants. Viewing birds along here is sometimes good as you will have the sun almost at your back in the morning and birds may come out onto the concrete to search for food. I have found Louisiana Waterthrush (uncommon) and Summer Tanager (rare) along here. On April 3rd and April 8th, 2008 we found over 250 Bohemian Waxwings (uncommon) here and on May 9th, 2011 a Fish Crow (accidental) was seen here and watched and listened to for 25 minutes before it flew east over the Gap.

If you birded along the Eastern Gap area you will find a path or three into Ward’s Island Park (“The Wet Meadow”) off of the concrete. You can also enter this Park area along a path beside the washrooms at the south end of 5th St.

This is one of the best birding areas on the east end of the Islands and along with the preceding areas, you could spend hours here. Sometimes, depending on migration, you may also find it rather quiet but there is usually something to see.

As usual keep an eye on the sky, but that can be hard to do as this is a great area for wrens, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, warblers, Scarlet Tanager, sparrows and Brown Thrasher. Be sure to carefully check out the Red Osier Dogwood here as many birds feed in these thick bushes and may take patience to see.

Found here over the years were Northern Saw‐whet (uncommon now), Eastern Screech (rare) and Great Horned Owl, both Yellow‐billed and Black‐billed Cuckoo, Whip‐poor‐will (uncommon), Tufted Titmouse (rare), Olive‐sided and Yellow‐bellied Flycatcher, Yellow‐throated, Blue‐headed and White‐eyed (uncommon) Vireo, Mourning, Orange‐crowned and Connecticut Warbler, Yellow‐breasted Chat (uncommon), Fox and Nelson’s Sparrow (uncommon), and Orchard Oriole.

Almost all of the expected flycatchers, warblers, vireos, and thrushes can occur at times as well as Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark, if you are lucky enough to be there on a good day. Some of the nesting birds here are Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, House and Carolina Wren, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Northern Cardinal, Brown Thrasher, Song Sparrow and Baltimore Oriole. In the spring, watch for young raccoons in the trees; Virginia Opossum and Red Fox have also been seen.

Be aware that this is an area that during the warmer days can have what seems to be a carpet of red ants (European Fire Ant) underfoot and they may also be in the grass and on benches, bushes, tree trunks and tree leaves. The sting is not pleasant to say the least. Spraying sock tops and pant cuffs with insect repellent can help to keep them from climbing under your clothing, maybe. These ants occur throughout the Islands. On more humid days you may encounter mosquitoes here as well.

When birding this area you may want to walk around the trails more than once and be sure to check the beach area as at quiet times it may have shorebirds. I have found Red Knot (uncommon) here twice and offshore there may be a Horned Grebe. Looking south from here you can see the Leslie Street Spit (Tommy Thompson Park) and if the wind is right in the spring you will hear the tens of thousands of nesting Ring‐billed Gulls. Watch overhead for Great Egret and Black‐crowned Night‐Heron flying to and from the Spit. In March of 2011 a Snow Goose was seen overhead here migrating north with Canada Geese.

Note When you feel that you have seen all you want to see in Ward’s Island Park you may want to catch the ferry back to the city if time is limited.

Section 2‐Ward’s Island‐ Withrow St. To The Algonquin Island BridgeTop

 

If you decide to continue birding the Islands, you can walk west along the boardwalk or along Willow Ave. to the tennis courts and seniors’ building (Sunshine Centre for Seniors) areas.

Willow Ave. and the boardwalk between the Ward’s Island Park area and the tennis courts can be quiet but you should check the lake beside the boardwalk or the trees and bushes along Willow Ave. The flower gardens may have a Ruby‐throated Hummingbird or a Winter Wren and at times a Carolina Wren.

The area between the tennis courts and the seniors building can be very productive. This area consists of thick bushes, tall cottonwood, a small area of tamarack, spruce, maple and willow trees, a small allotment garden and flower gardens. Just west of the tennis courts between Willow Ave. and Cibola Ave. in an oval area of bushes and cottonwoods, you should check for vireos, thrushes, warblers and sparrows at appropriate times. Species found here over the years have included Philadelphia Vireo, all the thrushes, Blue‐winged, Mourning, Connecticut, Pine, Wilson’s, Northern Parula and Canada Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, as well as all the usual warblers.

The willow trees here can be very good and in the fall there may be large numbers of Northern Flicker, Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker, Ruby‐crowned and Golden‐crowned Kinglet, Hermit and Swainson’s Thrush, Yellow‐rumped Warbler and Baltimore Oriole. Mixed in among them you may find Brown Creeper, Red‐breasted and White‐breasted Nuthatch, flycatchers, Scarlet Tanager, Chipping, White‐throated and White‐crowned Sparrow and Dark‐eyed Junco. Check the tennis court fence for Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Kingbird and along the base of the fence you may find some of the above sparrows as well as Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Cross over Willow Ave to bird the thick bushes here. This area is really an extension of the previous area but with the addition of an allotment garden and more spruce and tamarack. A White‐eyed Vireo (uncommon) was found here a couple of years ago and it gives a better view of the sky to watch for hawks and swallows.

Be sure to check the large lilac bushes near the houses and check the trees for House and Purple Finch, Orchard Oriole and the allotment garden for the occasional Carolina, House and Winter Wren as well as Ruby‐throated Hummingbird, Indigo Bunting, Orange‐crowned Warbler, Lincoln’s and Fox Sparrow. Eastern Towhee can be reliable between here and the bridge to Algonquin Island. Check the grass and under bushes for all the thrushes, Ovenbird, Mourning Warbler and Northern Waterthrush. Black‐billed Cuckoo has been found in this area several times.

Woodpeckers such as Downy, Hairy and Red‐bellied (uncommon) should be watched and listened for here. Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker can also be common here as you walk to the Algonquin Island Bridge area.

Note If you have decided not to bird Algonquin Island then proceed to Section 4.

Section 3‐Algonquin IslandTop

On Algonquin Island the same respect for the privacy of the residents applies here as well and again try not to block the narrow streets. There is also a day care centre on the island (north end of Wyandot Ave.), so be aware and act accordingly.

This is a well‐treed island and birds may be found anywhere, you may want to spend some time here to walk the streets. A male Hooded Warbler (uncommon) was found along Omaha Ave. in the spring of 2011. There are many more evergreens on this island. Both nuthatches, Pine Siskin, House Finch. Purple Finch and White‐winged Crossbill (uncommon) have been seen and one year in the 80’s a male Yellow‐headed Blackbird (rare) was found here. As you cross the bridge watch for an Eastern Phoebe or two as well as Barn Swallow as both species nest under the bridge and after mid‐August you may spot several species of swallows on the bridge railings or the wires beside the bridge.

On the north side of the island scan the Toronto Harbour for waterfowl including grebes, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Gadwall, Black Duck, Mallard, White‐winged Scoter, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring‐necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Long‐tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, all three mergansers, Ruddy Duck, Gulls, Caspian and Common Tern. There are park benches here to take a rest or a snack break.

My favorite areas are along Wyandot Ave. and the Algonquin Island Park (The Dry Meadow") at the west end of the island. Wyandot Ave. is a narrow street bordered by cottonwoods, thick bushes and grass on one side and evergreens, hedges, lawns and gardens on the other side. This is another area of many House Sparrows, friendly cats and also friendly, curious residents. Take some time to talk with them, the residents and the cats.

The tall trees can be good for Scarlet Tanager, warblers and vireos and in the gardens Ovenbird and all six thrush species. Watch and listen for Mourning Warbler as this is a good place for them, both sides of the street, especially in the spring. Some days there are many flycatchers along here as well as most of the expected warblers and occasionally Golden‐winged, Blue‐winged, Orange‐crowned, Pine and Northern Parula Warbler. It is good habitat for migrating Mourning and Connecticut Warblers. Eastern Towhee, Ruby‐crowned and Golden‐crowned Kinglet can be seen and heard at times as they can be very common along here. Baltimore and Orchard Oriole nest here as do Warbling Vireo, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, House and Carolina Wren and of course Black‐capped Chickadee. It is always a good idea to walk this street two or three times when there are lots of birds and if time permits do walk the other streets as well.

Algonquin Island Park along with Wyandot Ave. are two of the areas that are not birded too often as they are off the beaten path between Ward’s Island and Hanlan’s Point but they can be very good in migration, sometimes better than some of the preceding areas.

You can access Algonquin Island Park from either end of Wyandot Ave. but try to avoid the Day Care Centre at the Algonquin Island Community Centre at the north end. This should not be a problem as the trail runs past it and there are no restrictions about using this trail. The trail circles the outside of this end of the island with a side trail cutting through the park.

From this trail you have a back view of the cottonwoods and bushes that border Wyandot Ave. and at times a better look at the warblers and vireos. All the thrushes can be found in and around the thick cover here and Scarlet Tanagers seem to like the tall trees. There are lots of Baltimore Orioles here and the occasional Orchard Oriole may be seen as well as Rose‐breasted Grosbeak, Great Crested, Yellow‐bellied, Willow, Alder, Least and Olive‐sided Flycatcher (check the tips of tall dead branches). Warbling Vireo nests here and you should see Red‐eyed Vireo and the occasional Yellow‐throated Vireo. Check the warblers carefully as there may be a Connecticut or a Mourning Warbler in the underbrush and most certainly you will see or hear a Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s or a Canada Warbler‐they seem to like this area during migration.

In the grassy areas look for Eastern Kingbird, Cedar Waxwing, many Yellow Warblers, along with Orange‐crowned Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Towhee, Vesper, Field and Chipping Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink and the occasional Eastern Bluebird. Northern Flicker can be found in big numbers on some days as they feed on the red ants and look for Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker, Downy and Hairy Woodpecker in the trees.

There is a clear view of the sky here so watch for migrating raptors, swallows, Cedar Waxwing, Chimney Swift, Blue Jay, crows and blackbirds. Also overhead you may spot a Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Black‐crowned Night‐Heron or Great Egret.

Section 4‐Ward’s Island‐Algonquin Island Bridge To The Snake Island Bridge AreaTop

If you have decided not to bird Algonquin Island or if you have birded there you may either walk straight ahead from the Algonquin Island bridge to the boardwalk or into the woods just west of the Rectory Café and west of the large house (Shaw House Seniors Co‐op) the last house you will see from here to the Hanlan’s Point Ferry Dock.

The boardwalk gives you a good view of the lake and off here you may find Horned Grebe (Eared Grebe (uncommon) at times), Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Black, Surf and White‐winged Scoter, White‐winged being the most likely, Hooded, Common and Red‐breasted Merganser, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Long‐tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead and at times good numbers of Common Loon plus Common and Caspian Tern and of course hundreds of Ring‐billed Gulls and Double‐crested Cormorants.

Walk along the boardwalk checking the trees and bushes for many of the birds mentioned above. At times you may see House and Winter Wren, Northern Waterthrush, Black‐capped Chickadee, a few warblers, swallows and a few flycatchers right on the actual boardwalk or the concrete wall catching gnats.

As you walk along here in the morning the light on sunny days is great and the birding can be very good in the bushes and trees, especially on days with a northerly wind.

If you do not want to walk the whole length of the boardwalk you can exit it at the fire station or further along opposite Snake Island (and the little wooden children’s fort).

The area between the bridge onto Algonquin Island and the Island fire station (between the boardwalk and Cibola Ave.) is a short walk through grass, goldenrod and Sweet Clover with maples, pine and spruce trees between the tall cottonwoods and thick bushes. The bushes on the lake side hide the old foundations of the cottages and break wall that used to be here until the 1950’s.

When you first enter this area, watch for American Woodcock and Mourning Warbler and there always seem to be a few sparrows. Check the bushes on both sides for Fox Sparrow and Eastern Towhee but especially the boardwalk or lake side. In season this walk could produce many flycatchers including Yellow‐bellied, Least and Great Crested Flycatcher. Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Wood‐Pewee can be common at all levels. Warblers and vireos are also common at times but may be hard to see in the thick evergreens and bushes. Both kinglets like this area as do many sparrows and thrushes in migration and Baltimore Oriole nests in the tall trees.

The west end of this area near the fire station has over the years produced several Connecticut and Orange‐crowned Warblers. Be careful when identifying the Connecticut Warbler as most often in the fall they are with or near Nashville Warblers and that can be confusing if you only get a glimpse of them in the tangles of grass, goldenrod and Sweet Clover, especially when juveniles of both species are present.

This area is also good for Red‐bellied (uncommon), Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker, Brown Creeper, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird and Brown Thrasher. Black‐capped Chickadees and both kinglets also like this area as even on windy days it may be calm here because the bushes and trees create a good wind break no matter what the wind direction is, sheltering many gnats for them to feed on. At least two Cerulean Warblers (uncommon) have been spotted here in the last couple of years..

Look closely at the thrushes as all of the species have at times been spotted in this area. In migration the trees can host many Cedar Waxwings and I have found flocks of Common Redpoll, American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin here as they stop and rest. You may also hear a Belted Kingfisher as it flies up and down the lagoon beside Cibola Ave.

After leaving this area, stop at the fire station if you want to take a washroom or snack break. Just before reaching the fire station there is a water fountain (beside Cibola Ave.) and at the fire station there are washrooms (clean and tidy), a soft drink machine and picnic tables on the west side of the building.

Do Not Enter the Station proper unless invited.

If you choose to take a break here keep an eye out as overhead you may spot a migrating raptor or a Great Egret. As migration progresses there can be many swallows and Chimney Swifts overhead as well. Check the grassy areas as you sit there and you may spot a thrush or two and maybe a Brown Thrasher. In the bushes on the boardwalk side you may see or hear chickadees, Least and Willow Flycatcher, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Towhee and both kinglets. In the trees you usually can see and hear Baltimore Oriole and American Robin and at the right time of the season Eastern Kingbird, Least and Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Wood‐Pewee. Common Grackle, Red‐winged Blackbird and American Goldfinch are often in the trees or on the grass. Listen for the Belted Kingfisher as it fishes or flies past over the lagoon.

In the lagoon in front of the fire station look for Ruddy Duck (uncommon), Long‐tailed Duck, Redhead, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Gadwall, Red‐breasted and Hooded Merganser, Pied‐billed and Horned Grebe and the usual Mute Swan, Canada Goose and Mallard.

After you have had your break at or walked past the fire station between the boardwalk and Cibola Ave. you will be walking on manicured grass flanked by thick bushes and medium to tall willows and cottonwoods with some pines along the way and some more pines and tamarack as you near the paved walkway between the boardwalk and the Snake Island bridge area.

This area is the start of and part of the Frisbee Golf Course so be aware and be ready to duck. There usually is no conflict between birders and golfers as we step aside for each other, but listen for a fore or heads up call. In May and September there is a Frisbee Golf Tournament so there may be many golfers passing through.

At the west end of this area is a small wooden children’s fort and swimming pool and in August you will encounter many children after 9:30 a.m. as they enjoy a Kiwanis Summer Day Camp. The day camp ends just before the Labour Day weekend.

There are a couple of paths along here that go out to the boardwalk if you want to check the lake or get out of a wind.

Note: This section covers the area close to the boardwalk but the area along Cibola Ave. and between Cibola Ave. and the lagoon should be checked as well if time permits.

The lagoon may have any of the waterfowl mentioned above plus Green‐winged Teal, Common Merganser and the occasional Pied‐billed and Horned Grebe.

Across the lagoon here is Algonquin Island and the eastern end of Snake Island. Check the shore line for Northern Waterthrush both on Ward’s Island and the islands across the lagoon. As you start out and especially if the area has not been disturbed watch for thrushes and Northern Flickers on the grass and sometimes a Brown Thrasher and Eastern Meadowlark and maybe a Red‐bellied Woodpecker (uncommon) in the trees. On several occasions we have spotted Mink in this area.

During the proper time of the season sparrows can be plentiful. Look for Fox, Savannah, Chipping, White‐throated, White‐crowned, Song, Swamp and Lincoln’s Sparrow, Eastern Towhee and many Dark‐eyed Juncos.

Warblers can be plentiful or scarce along this area. Check the bushes and trees for Golden‐winged, Blue‐winged, Orange‐crowned, Connecticut, Mourning, Blackburnian, Cerulean (uncommon), Prairie (uncommon), Pine, Northern Parula, Bay‐breasted, Cape May and Blackpoll Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Redstart, Ovenbird and most of the other more common warblers. Vireos are also to be watched for and Yellow‐throated, Blue‐headed, Philadelphia, Red‐eyed and Warbling (nests here) Vireo have all been found along here.

Other birds that may be seen are both nuthatches, both kinglets, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Brown Creeper, Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker (sometimes in big numbers), Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow‐billed and Black‐billed Cuckoo, Baltimore Oriole, Gray Catbird (nests here), Carolina, Winter and House Wren, Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager and Rose‐breasted Grosbeak.

Flycatchers can at times be well represented along here. Watch and listen for Great‐crested, Acadian (rare), Willow, Alder, and Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood‐Pewee, and Eastern Kingbird.

Like some other places on the Islands this area has plenty of open sky above you so watch for raptors, herons and Great Egret along with all six swallow species, Common Nighthawk (uncommon) and Chimney Swift as they pass in migration or just circling overhead. In the fall Blue Jays pass in the thousands, here and all through the Islands.

The area shown in the photo at the right is looking west just before you reach the children’s fort and swimming pool. There is a thick stand of willows, alders, tamarack trees, Manitoba Maples and on the left (not shown) some ornamental pine trees. There are also some vines and where not mown the grasses, etc. are quite thick.

A lot of the preceding birds can be found here and it is a good place to check for Black‐billed and Yellow‐billed Cuckoo. Flycatchers and Carolina Wren also seem to like this area as do Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher (nests here) and of course the usual Black‐capped Chickadee.

In places you are able to see the ground beneath the bushes and here you should watch for thrushes, Fox Sparrow, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Mourning and Connecticut Warbler as they feed on the ground under these bushes or low tree branches.

Just beyond or west of the children’s fort and swimming pool is the bridge over to Snake Island.

Adult winter Bonaparte's Gull at Barrie in November. Photo: Jean Iron

Note If you do not intend to bird Snake Island then proceed to Section 6.

Section 5‐Snake Island Top

 

After 9:30 a.m. in August until the Labour Day weekend on Ward’s Island around and beside the swimming pool there are small children attending a children’s Kiwanis Summer Day Camp. You may also encounter them on Snake Island or passing under the bridge in canoes. The usual rules of respect for the rights of other users apply.

As you cross over the bridge and onto Snake Island check the lagoon for waterfowl like Horned and Pied‐billed Grebe, Hooded Merganser, Long‐tailed and Wood Duck, Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead. Eastern Phoebe nests under this bridge in some years.

This is another area that can be feast or famine but when it is good it is very good. The island is a great place to find all of the flycatchers like Olive‐sided, Least, Willow, Alder (uncommon), Acadian (rare), Least and Great Crested, Eastern Wood‐Pewee, Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Kingbird.

Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird, Carolina Wren, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Warbling Vireo, Song Sparrow, Common Grackle and Yellow Warbler all nest on this island and Cooper’s Hawk nested in 2008 and 2009.

Most if not all if the common warblers have been seen on the island and some times in large numbers. Watch and listen for Pine, Canada, Wilson’s, Connecticut, Mourning and Orange‐crowned Warbler, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, and Northern Waterthrush. In the past I have found Yellow‐breasted Chat (uncommon) and in May of 1990 and 1993 I found singing Worm‐eating Warbler (rare) at the northwest side of the island. You should also have no problem finding both kinglets and Black‐capped Chickadee and check the trees for Brown Creeper and the occasional Orchard Oriole.

Keep an eye overhead for migrating raptors. In August of 2009 a Black Vulture (rare) was seen low overhead. Also overhead at times you may see Great Egret, Common and Caspian Tern, any of the six swallow species, Chimney Swift, Northern Flicker and Belted Kingfisher and in the pines and spruces watch for both nuthatches.

On the north side of the island you could find Savannah, Chipping and Vesper Sparrow. Song, White‐throated, White‐crowned, Lincoln’s and Swamp Sparrow may also be present. Look and listen for Fox Sparrow and Eastern Towhee in the bushes throughout the island. At times you could flush a roosting Common Nighthawk (uncommon) resting on the sand. This looks like it should be a great place for Owls but over the many years I have only found one Northern Saw‐whet Owl (uncommon) and one Long‐eared Owl (uncommon. Both of them were seen in 2008. Another uncommon sighting was a Pileated Woodpecker also in 2008.

On May 9th, 2011 I received a reliable report of a female Chuck‐will’s‐Widow (very rare indeed) being flushed from the heavy bushes, a long overdue bird on The Islands.

Be sure to check the Harbour on the north side for Pied‐billed, Eared (rare), Red‐necked and Horned Grebe as well as Canvasback, Redhead, Long‐tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, all 3 mergansers, both Lesser and Greater Scaup, Ring‐necked Duck, White‐winged Scoter and the occasional Ruddy Duck. Double‐crested Cormorant, Canada Goose and Mallard are almost always present here. Check the shore for Spotted Sandpiper and Northern Waterthrush. Yellow‐billed and Black‐billed Cuckoo may also be found on Snake Island especially in spring.

Before you leave Snake Island go to the southwest side and check the lagoon here between Snake Island and Snug Harbour. Look for Killdeer, Solitary Sandpiper, Green Heron, Black‐crowned Night‐Heron and Northern Waterthrush.

You will have a great view into the lagoon in the center of Snug Harbour and the bushes and trees above this side of Snug Harbour. In the lagoon look for Mute Swan, Gadwall, Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser and Black‐crowned Night‐Heron.

Check the tips of the dead or live trees on Snug Harbour as this is a very good place to see Olive‐sided Flycatcher, Eastern Wood‐Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Willow and Great Crested Flycatcher. Eastern Kingbird may be seen or heard in the willows and cottonwoods. Northern Flicker and Baltimore Oriole also like to pose on the tips of the trees there. You may also spot Northern Cardinal, Yellow Warbler and Cedar Waxwing in the bushes across the lagoon and the occasional Northern Waterthrush or Green Heron on the narrow Snug Harbour beach.

After crossing back onto Ward’s Island from Snake Island turn right and walk the short distance along the lagoon to the Snug Harbour Bridge at Chippewa Ave.

This area along the lagoon between the bridges can be very productive. Be sure to check the bushes along the lagoon and the lagoon itself. Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher nests in this area and many warblers may be in the willow trees and thrushes and sparrows on the grass.

Look across the lagoon to check Snug Harbour for birds in the trees and bushes as you walk along. Olive‐sided and Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird and Tree Swallow can often be seen from Ward’s Island at the tips of the dead branches on Snug Harbour and Green Heron, Solitary Sandpiper and Northern Waterthrush have been seen on the narrow beach.

Look for Black‐crowned Night‐Heron that sometimes roost in the willows along the lagoon (both sides) and Belted Kingfishers may be seen over or perched beside the lagoon.

Note If you do not intend to bird Snug Harbour then proceed to Section 7.

Section 6‐Snug Harbour Top

Snug Harbour (the accessible part) is an overgrown small area that has some very dense bushes and an almost complete overhead canopy surrounded on all 4 sides by lagoons and is accessed via a small stone bridge at Chippewa Ave. just west of Snake Island.

Note This bridge is halfway (about 1½ km) between the Ward’s and Centre Island ferry docks.

After crossing the bridge onto Snug Harbour you will see a brown electrical enclosure (box) on your right. This is the start of a faint path into the interior of Snug Harbour. If you do not want to enter here, walk along the paved path to the end (at the locked gate). A path on your right along the lagoon will also take you into the interior.

This is also one of the mosquito‐rich areas and be careful of red ants as well. You may find that if Snake Island is lacking in migrant birds Snug Harbour may be the same, but sometimes it can be very good. Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Willow Flycatcher, House Wren, Carolina Wren, Yellow Warbler, Baltimore and Orchard Oriole and the occasional Song Sparrow nest here. In the trees you may find a few roosting Black‐crowned Night‐Herons.

If you luck into a good day then vireos, warblers, thrushes and sparrows can keep you busy although unless they are in the tall trees you will have a hard time seeing some of them.

Over the years Northern Waterthrush, Louisiana Waterthrush (uncommon), Mourning, Connecticut and Hooded Warbler (uncommon) have been found here. Watch also for Rose‐breasted Grosbeak and Scarlet Tanager in the trees.

There always seem to be Winter Wren and both kinglets here and this is a good place to find flycatchers, check the snags high above for Olive‐sided Flycatcher and Eastern Wood‐Pewee.

One day in April 2009 as we walked across the bridge back onto Ward’s Island we spotted three Sandhill Cranes (uncommon) overhead.

Section 7‐Ward’s Island‐Snug Harbour Bridge To Centre Island Top

After leaving Snug Harbour turn right and walk west towards “The Trap", a heavily wooded area that was surrounded by manicured lawns and small bushes. Many birds seemed to have been attracted to this area and Centre Island through the area between Cibola Ave. and the walkway alongside the lagoon. Take your time as this stretch of Ward’s Island can be very productive and may hold a few surprises. Be sure to check the bushes along the lagoon just after you leave or pass the Snug Harbour Bridge as wrens, warblers and sparrows often hide in these bushes. A Sedge Wren was found here in October 2010.

This area is part of the Frisbee Golf Course so be aware of flying objects.

The vegetation consists of islands of bushes, some pine trees, tall cottonwoods and willows, Manitoba Maples, chestnut and a few tamarack trees and some tall spruce trees.

Blue‐gray Gnatcatchers nest in this area and it is usually not hard to find American Goldfinch, House Finch, Warbling (nests here) and Red‐eyed Vireo, Yellow Warbler (nests here), Song Sparrow and of course Black‐capped Chickadee.

Watch for Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker, and at times many Northern Flickers, both nuthatches, Brown Creeper, Philadelphia and Yellow‐throated Vireo, Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, Winter, House and Carolina Wren, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird (uncommon), both kinglets (high counts at times), Olive‐sided (on tips of dead branches), Willow, Yellow‐bellied, Alder (uncommon), Least and Great‐crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood‐Pewee and Eastern Kingbird, all the thrushes and you may also spot a beautiful Scarlet Tanager. Both cuckoos have been seen along this stretch and Baltimore Oriole is usually present from May to September. Check the sparrows for Fox, Lincoln’s, Swamp, Chipping, White‐crowned and of course Song and White‐throated Sparrow and Dark‐eyed Junco. Eastern Towhee can be seen or heard at times in the bushes and many warbler species may be seen along here. Look for Golden‐winged, Blue‐winged, Mourning, Canada and Wilson’s and Northern Parula Warbler.

Check the lagoon alongside this area for the occasional Horned Grebe, Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser. Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Long‐tailed Duck, Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye may also be present.

The area in and around “The Trap” besides many of the above birds that you hopefully spotted as you approached, has produced American Woodcock, Common Snipe, Red‐headed and Red‐bellied Woodpecker (both uncommon), Acadian Flycatcher (rare) and Hooded Warbler (uncommon).

“The Trap” over the years has been good for both Mourning and Connecticut Warblers though both are elusive and hard to find especially in the fall. If you know their songs you may be lucky enough to hear one in the spring. Carolina Wren and Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher some times nest in “The Trap” and Winter Wren occurs during migration and House Wren may be found as it nests in this area. Fox Sparrows and thrushes like the thick understory and many warbler species shelter and feed in the trees and bushes. You can get into the center of “The Trap” and just stand and watch the birds as they feed. In the 1990’s a Harris’ Sparrow was found on the south side of “The Trap”. American Woodcock some times can be found here and if you check the tall cottonwood trees you may spot a sleeping Raccoon. Mink is often seen around the outside of “The Trap”.

The area that we call “The Trap” has been greatly damaged around the outside edges as the Frisbee people have been cutting back the bushes, small trees, low branches of larger trees and grasses to better the Frisbee Golf Course for themselves at the cost of much of the wildlife habitat. The west side of “The Trap” is now wide open and to some extent the south and east side are also open. You can now see straight through from one side to the other and I feel that many of the more secretive birds will no longer be as common as in previous years and many of the plants may suffer because of the exposure to the direct sunlight now able to penetrate the interior.

I do recommend that you circle the outside of “The Trap” at least once and preferably twice when many birds appear to be present during the migration period. The east and west sides of “the Trap” can be very productive even when there are few birds inside “The Trap”.

During some of our circling of “The Trap” we have found all of the thrushes, many sparrow species, White‐eyed (uncommon), Yellow‐throated and Philadelphia Vireo, Northern Parula, Hooded (uncommon), Blue‐winged and Golden‐winged Warbler.

On the west side of “The Trap” between “The Trap” and the Aerial cars is an area of tall willow trees and some thick bushes. These tall trees can have many flycatchers, vireos, and warblers at times and the bushes are a good place for thrushes, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Wilson’s and Canada Warbler. Over the years I have found several Connecticut Warblers under and in these bushes (some of these bushes have also been cut back by the Frisbee people).

Also on the west side of “The Trap” at and around the Aerial cars (Sky Ride) fence there can be a good number of species present. This is a good place to find flycatchers, wrens, thrushes, warblers, vireos, and sparrows and in the tall willows here although hard on the neck you can usually find more warblers, vireos and flycatchers and on the trunks may be a Brown Creeper or two so be prepared to spend some time here as well before proceeding onto Centre Island.

For the purpose of this guide the Aerial car turnaround area ends Ward’s Island. This may not be historically or geographically correct but for this guide and my records it is the dividing line between Ward’s Island and Centre Island.

Note If you choose not to continue on to Gibraltar and Hanlan’s Points then stay to the right and proceed along the paved path beside the lagoon and on past the boat rental building and dock to the bridge over to Centreville or Island Park and the Centre Island ferry dock.

If you plan to continue on to Gibraltar and Hanlan’s Points proceed to Section 8.

Section 8‐Centre Island‐Sky Ride To Wildlife Sanctuary And Gibraltar PointTop

 

The walk across Centre Island on the lake side can be relatively bird free most times but at least your eyes can get a rest.

As you approach the snack bar, washrooms and the pier on the south side of Centre Island, watch for the Cliff Swallows that can often be seen overhead. This species nests under the pier.

Check the lake for waterfowl and gulls and if the area isn’t disturbed by boats you may spot a Horned Grebe and Common Loon. Caspian and Common Tern can usually be seen flying past.

If this is the route you chose, walk straight west towards Gibraltar Point and proceed to Section 10 but before choosing either of the two routes you should check the area of goldenrod, Queen Anne’s Lace and brush at the very start of Centre Island for Nashville, Magnolia, Palm and Orange‐crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and sparrows,

If you choose the lagoon side then the lagoons should be checked (especially near the Island church and the Island school) for Cormorant, Horned and Pied‐billed Grebe, Mute Swan, Trumpeter Swan (uncommon), Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Redhead, Canvasback, American Wigeon, Green‐winged and Blue‐winged Teal, Ring‐necked Duck, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Northern Shoveler (uncommon), Wood Duck, Long‐tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded, Red‐breasted and Common Merganser and the occasional White‐winged Scoter.

After checking the lagoons near the church keep an eye on the sky for Barn Swallows as they nest on the boat rental building and a little further on Cliff Swallows nest under the bridge to the Centre Island ferry docks.

In the fall and at times in the spring the willows between the flower gardens and the Island school (on the lagoon side) can be very good for flycatchers, warblers (especially Yellow‐rumped) as well as many Red‐eyed and Warbling Vireos and the grass may have a good number of thrushes and sparrows. The Island school has a Purple Martin house on its roof and a feeder (hard to see when the bushes have leaves) on the lagoon side of the building near the entrance to the Sanctuary. There are washrooms between the flower gardens and the Island school.

The area beside the school now has dense bushes both on the north, east and south sides of the school. During the school week stay on the paved path beside the lagoon (the teachers here can be very touchy about anyone wandering too close to the school and the children) but on the weekends these bushes and trees should be thoroughly checked. There are small ponds here that are attractive to Yellow Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrow and Swamp Sparrow.

Note: During fall migration when there is a northerly wind (northwest is best) I often sit on one of the benches (in the flower garden area) that face north and observe the many (at times) raptors flying west low overhead. One year when sitting there I observed part of the hundreds of Black‐capped Chickadees moving west through the bushes and trees on the Islands, quite a sight.

Section 9‐The Wildlife SanctuaryTop

At present the Sanctuary is Off Limits to everyone. There are large NO TRESPASSING signs on the entrance gate and fence and if you are spotted trying to enter you will be asked to leave.

In the past this was a must area to bird with many uncommon birds among the Passerines and was good for waterfowl. At one time it was also a very reliable place to find Long‐eared and Northern Saw‐whet Owls and the occasional Great Horned Owl and one year a Boreal Owl was found at the back of the Sanctuary, a rarer find back then before the development of the Leslie Street Spit. Common Nighthawk (uncommon) could also be seen overhead and many times one could flush a Whip‐poor‐Will (uncommon) or American Woodcock while walking the trails. It was also a great place to find Fox Sparrow in migration along with several flycatcher and woodpecker species and both Marsh and Sedge Wren (uncommon) have been recorded. Around the ponds there one may have found Great Blue Heron, Black‐crowned Night‐Heron, American Bittern, (one year a Least Bittern (a rare visitor), American Coot, and many waterfowl species during migration.

Some of the birds that nested there in the past were Wood Duck, Cooper’s Hawk, Yellow‐breasted Chat (uncommon), Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Warbling Vireo, Carolina and House Wren, Brown Thrasher, Baltimore Oriole and Eastern Towhee.

In the last few years the Sanctuary has gone down hill since the new school was built. The feeder is occasionally filled, the foot bridge is falling over and the trails are overgrown. There has also been a slow but steady expansion of the maintenance (junk) yard area. From a small foot print the maintenance yard now takes up a large portion of the back of the Sanctuary with the corresponding increase of truck and park vehicle traffic.

Even before the NO TRESPASSING signs were put up we more often than not bypassed the Sanctuary in the last few years as it no longer was very productive except for waterfowl at times.

Section 10‐Gibraltar Point‐ The Lighthouse Pond, Lighthouse Area And The Trout Pond Top

 

After crossing Center Island (by which ever route you take) to the southeast corner of the Filtration Plant fence you are on Gibraltar Point.

Along the south side of the fence on Lakeshore Ave. you may find Northern Flicker, Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker, House Finch, Eastern Bluebird, a few warblers, vireos, thrushes and sparrows. Check the fence for Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Kingbird and across the road look for Caspian and Common Terns over and off the beach and listen for Killdeer on the beach.

Song, Swamp, Chipping, White‐throated and White‐crowned Sparrows and the occasional Orange‐crowned Warbler may be in the grasses across the road (south side) opposite here and some of these same sparrows may be found along the Filtration Plant fence as well.

Occasionally Red‐tailed Hawk, Sharp‐shinned Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon can be seen perched on the towers behind (to the north of) the fence.

On the west side of the Filtration Plant is the Lighthouse Pond and across the road is the old Island School and beyond the school is the School Woods.

The Lighthouse Pond is best in the spring when the lagoons are still mostly ice‐covered in mid‐March, the Lighthouse Pond has some open water near the road and at the water entrance to the Trout Pond. Waterfowl that may be found here are Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Black Duck, Redhead, Canvasback, Ring‐necked Duck, both Scaup, Long‐tailed Duck, Ruddy Duck (uncommon), Hooded and Common Merganser, Bufflehead, and Common Goldeneye.

The nice thing about this pond is that you get to see the birds relatively close up. At the back side of the Lighthouse Pond near the maintenance sheds is a new Purple Martin house that is used by a few Purple Martins.

The School Woods (west of the old Island school‐now The Gibraltar Point Centre for the Arts) consist of mostly mature cottonwoods with an understory of dogwood with a few spruce, pine and cedars mixed in and it is sometimes very wet under foot. There is an overgrown trail that runs from just south of the Radio Tower on the west side of the school to the southwest corner of the woods.

This wood lot was once a very good place to find Northern Saw‐whet Owl, American Woodcock and Whip‐poor‐Will in migration but for the last five years or so it has not been very productive.

You may still want to check the woods out if you feel that there are a significant number of birds elsewhere on the Islands or around the Lighthouse during the day you are there otherwise it is another one of those areas bypassed more often than not.

You should check the outside edge of the woods on the west side where the willows and dogwoods may hold a fair number of birds even if the interior does not. You can check this area after checking the Lighthouse and Trout Pond areas as the Lighthouse path exits near there.

The path to and past the Lighthouse is just past (west of) the fence around the Filtration Plant. It is a wide grass‐ covered path flanked by thick dogwood, some spruce, cedar and pine trees, willows and tall cottonwoods.

Sometimes you have to be quick with your binoculars along here to spot the birds on the path before they fly into those thick Red‐osier Dogwood mostly never to be seen again. A slow walk here is recommended as some of the birds feeding in the grass may include both Ruby‐crowned and Golden‐crowned Kinglet, Wood, Swainson’s, Hermit and Gray‐cheeked Thrush, Veery, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Carolina, Winter and House Wren, Fox and Lincoln’s Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Dark‐eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, and some of the more common sparrows. Baltimore Oriole and Warbling Vireo nest in the taller trees, Willow Flycatcher and Yellow Warbler in the bushes.

Look for Blue‐headed, Red‐eyed and White‐eyed (rare) Vireo, both White‐breasted and Red‐breasted Nuthatch, both kinglets, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Scarlet and Summer Tanager (rare) and the usual Black‐capped Chickadee. Warblers are sometimes well represented along this path, both in the bushes and the trees and you may hear a singing Mourning Warbler or Northern Waterthrush in the spring. Watch and listen for Orange‐crowned and Connecticut Warbler, Northern Parula and Ovenbird.

Flycatchers also like this area with all the regular flycatchers present at times as well as Eastern Kingbird. Way back in 1993 a very, very rare Variegated Flycatcher (accidental) spent the month of October around the Lighthouse. At the time this was only the second North American record of this great bird from South America.

Like at any place a rarity could show up at any time though probably not as rare as the Variegated Flycatcher but on May 17, 1996 a beautiful male Western Tanager (rare) was found along here and in November of 2010 White‐winged Crossbills (uncommon) were observed.

As on most of the Islands watch overhead here for migrating raptors because Gibraltar Point is the westernmost part of the Islands, where most raptors (and other birds) may circle before turning north away from the lake towards Hanlan’s Point.

This used to be another of the good places to find Northern Saw‐whet Owl but the area has matured and they do not seem to stop here anymore. The Leslie Street Spit is the preferred stopping place now even though the owls are being greatly disturbed over there.

As you walk along the path you will come to a bench and a view north over the Trout Pond. The pond is best from mid‐March to late April and again from mid‐September to late October when there are usually migrant waterfowl present though Mute Swan, Mallard, Gadwall and a few male Canvasbacks always seem to be there.

Some of the migrant waterfowl using the pond could include Pied‐billed and Horned Grebe, Ring‐necked, Wood, Ruddy (uncommon) and Long‐tailed Duck, Redhead, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Blue‐winged and Green‐winged Teal, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded and Common Merganser. Double‐crested Cormorants drop in some times as does the occasional Herring Gull.

Check the north shore of the pond as you sit or stand here for Great Egret, Great Blue and Black‐crowned Night‐Heron. A Cattle and a Snowy Egret (both rare) were seen here a few years ago.

There is a Common Tern raft in the centre of the pond that during nesting season can have up to 50 terns on and over the raft (for some reason the terns did not nest here in 2010). Caspian Tern and Belted Kingfisher often visit the pond.

Tree Swallow (nesting nearby) and Barn Swallow frequent the pond and an occasional Northern Rough‐winged Swallow appears during migration and in fact over the season you should see all six swallow species over the pond.

From the bench you have a nice view overhead for spotting raptors as they migrate east or west depending on the season. American Kestrel, Sharp‐shinned and Cooper’s Hawks are the most common, but check for Northern Harrier, Red‐shouldered and Red‐tailed Hawks and the occasional Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon.

Around the edges of the pond look for both kinglets, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler, Great Crested, Willow and Least Flycatcher, Red‐winged and Rusty Blackbird, Winter and House Wrens. Marsh and Sedge Wren (uncommon) have been seen along the pond edge.

From the bench area you can see some dead trees sticking up high over the north side of the pond. Quite often in late August and early September you may see an Olive‐sided Flycatcher perched and hunting from these trees. If you have a problem identifying the birds on the tips of these trees you can check them a little later on if you bird the north side of the pond.

Photo 6. First winter Northern Shrike in March with a dull blackish mask. Note retained barring on underparts never found on Loggerheads in spring. Bracebridge in March 2005.
Photo: Eleanor Kee Wellman

Note: the area under, on and around the bench usually has a full complement of red ants so be aware when sitting or standing there. They love to climb up under your pant legs and the bites are very annoying to say the least. When you are done checking the Trout Pond and the surrounding area, walk west towards the lake. This is another area that can be feast or famine but you should at least find Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler and Baltimore Oriole.

This area also may have Great Crested, Least, and Yellow‐bellied Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood‐Pewee and Eastern Kingbird, Carolina, Winter and House Wren, Brown Creeper, both nuthatches, both kinglets, Warbling, Red‐eyed, Philadelphia, Yellow‐throated and White‐eyed (uncommon) Vireo, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Scarlet Tanager, Rose‐breasted Grosbeak, Fox Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow and Eastern Towhee in the bushes and trees. Summer Tanager (rare) has been seen here at least twice over the years.

On the grass, if you are lucky, you may see Eastern Bluebird, Gray‐cheeked, Swainson’s, Wood and Hermit Thrush, Veery, several sparrow species that included Grasshopper one year, ant‐eating Northern Flickers, and in the air, many Chimney Swift, Barn and Tree Swallows.

In the past this was a reliable place to see Red‐headed Woodpecker (rarely now) but now you may have to be satisfied with an occasional one or an uncommon Red‐bellied Woodpecker. Downy and Hairy Woodpecker should be watched for along with at times many Yellow‐bellied Sapsuckers.

Warblers are some times well represented here in the bushes and trees. Watch for Orange‐crowned, Mourning, Magnolia, Nashville, Northern Parula, Black‐throated Blue, Black‐throated Green, Blackburnian, Cape May, Blackpoll and Bay‐breasted Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat and Ovenbird. The bushes and understory here has grown over the years so Connecticut Warbler should be watched and listened for, even though it would be hard to see.

Raptors on some days in the fall can be numerous as they reach the lake and circle. Watch for Sharp‐shinned, Cooper’s, Red‐shouldered and Rough‐legged (uncommon) Hawk, Northern Harrier, Northern Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, American Kestrel and the occasional Turkey Vulture and Bald Eagle.

The lake can be viewed from a couple of places, one being the tip behind the washroom building. You can usually find Long‐tailed Ducks and Red‐breasted Mergansers in March and April and again after the middle of September here.

The lake can also be viewed opposite the start of the dunes path.

After checking the lake for Red‐throated and Common Loon, Horned and Red‐necked Grebe, White‐winged Scoter, Red‐breasted and Common Merganser and other waterfowl turn north to take the short walk up the dunes trail/path to opposite the north end of the Trout Pond.

Section 11‐ Gibraltar Point‐The Dunes Path To North Side Of The Trout PondTop

This part of the dunes trail/path has been a good place to spot Eastern Bluebird over the years as they encounter the lake before moving on. It is also a very good place for seeing all the regular flycatchers at times and if lucky you may find a stalled flock of Scarlet Tanagers or Rose‐breasted Grosbeaks. It can be thin for warblers but watch and listen for Orange‐crowned, Mourning, Blackpoll, Blackburnian, Black‐and‐white, Magnolia, Nashville and Yellow‐rumped Warbler, Yellow‐rumped Warbler being the most common along here. Thrushes are not too well represented on this stretch but woodpeckers, Winter Wrens, Brown Thrasher and Black‐billed Cuckoo may be found. Brown Creepers, both kinglets and Black‐capped Chickadee can be here in numbers.

During fall raptor migration (northwest or north wind) many Sharp‐shinned and Cooper’s Hawks, Merlin and American Kestrel may be seen overhead here and if you are lucky an occasional Bald Eagle, Osprey, Northern Goshawk, Rough‐legged and Red‐shouldered Hawk and Peregrine Falcon (Turkey Vultures and Broad‐winged Hawks are not seen very often over the Islands). You could be there the day that many hundreds (to thousands) of Blue Jays, American Robins, Red‐winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and hundreds of House Finches, American Goldfinches, Yellow‐rumped Warblers, Brown‐headed Cowbirds and Rusty Blackbirds pass overhead as well as many Eastern Bluebirds. All of these birds are usually heading north up Hanlan’s Point avoiding crossing the lake here and after passing on up the Hanlan’s Point shoreline they turn west and continue on their way but you will notice that the Blue Jays and Blackbirds sometimes do cross the lake towards the Humber Bay Park area as do some of the Ospreys, Northern Harriers and falcons.

Northern Flicker, Eastern Kingbird, Brown Creeper, Black‐capped Chickadee and both kinglets as well as not a few Yellow‐rumped Warblers pause here to rest and feed on some days. Keep in mind that you are approaching the Clothing Optional Beach and you may encounter the occasional nude person laying near or wandering on the Dunes Path even though this is not allowed, but it happens.

When you reach a dirt path opposite the north side of the Trout Pond head across the paved roads to that area or continue up the beach trail/path if time is important.

Note If you do not plan on birding the north side of the Trout Pond or are running short of time or would rather stay on the dunes path then proceed to Section 13.

Section 12‐Hanlan’s Point‐North Side Of The Trout PondTop

The north side of the Trout Pond is another of those under‐birded areas like Algonquin Island but can be very good at times and really should not be bypassed unless you feel there are not many birds on the islands or you are running out of time.

As you start into this area north of the Trout Pond along the wide grassy path you may encounter Eastern Bluebirds, flycatchers, thrushes, vireos and warblers right away and Black‐capped Chickadee, American Goldfinches, Ruby‐crowned Kinglet, Warbling Vireo and Yellow Warbler almost for sure.

Some of the birds to look for here are Red‐headed (rare), Red‐bellied (uncommon), Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker (reliable here), both Black‐billed and Yellow‐billed Cuckoo, Olive‐sided (check the tips of the tall trees), Yellow‐bellied, Least and Willow Flycatcher, Eastern Wood‐Pewee, Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Kingbird, both Red‐breasted and White‐breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter and Carolina Wren, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher (nests here).

Thrushes, vireos, warblers and other birds observed here include Veery, Wood, Swainson’s, Hermit and Gray‐cheeked Thrush, Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, White‐eyed (uncommon), Yellow‐throated, Blue‐headed, Red‐eyed and Philadelphia Vireo, Golden‐winged and Blue‐winged Warbler, Orange‐crowned Warbler, Mourning, Blackpoll, Connecticut, Pine, Palm, Parula, Bay‐breasted, Cape May, Nashville, Prairie (uncommon), Hooded (uncommon), Canada and Wilson’s Warbler, Ovenbird, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Fox, Lincoln’s, Chipping, Swamp, Song, White‐throated and White‐crowned Sparrows, Dark‐eyed Junco, Eastern Towhee, Scarlet Tanager, Rose‐breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole and Indigo Bunting and the occasional American Woodcock.

While here you can get another view of the Trout Pond. Be careful as you approach the pond here as most of the waterfowl, etc, are usually at this side of the pond and may be easily flushed.

There is an area of benches here that can accommodate 15 to 20 people and is a good place for a group to stop for a rest and maybe a snack.

The area across the lagoon here is the Wildlife Sanctuary and you may see an occasional Black‐crowned Night‐Heron on the beach or in a tree or an Osprey hunting the lagoon or perched beside it. I have on several occasions heard Carolina Wren singing in the Sanctuary as I stood by the lagoon.

Waterfowl in the lagoon may consist of Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Long‐tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common and Hooded Merganser and watch for Caspian and Common Tern, Belted Kingfisher and swallows flying past or over the lagoon.

As you leave this area to either go back to the beach trail/path or up the paved road on the west side of the island be sure to check the grassy area on your right (between the two roads) for Eastern Bluebird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, thrushes or Eastern Towhee and sparrows.

I usually walk straight back towards the lake and the dunes trail again but if you are trying to catch a ferry boat or don’t want to bother with the beach trail then take the right hand paved road (the one at the start of the path into this area) as this is the shortest of the two that start just south of here.

Birding can be good along this road to the ferry dock as well, especially flycatchers, and warblers.

Be sure to check the lagoon for waterfowl (See Section 12)

When open there are two washrooms and one park‐run snack bar between here and the ferry docks as well as a couple of water fountains. Some of the best birding areas are around the two washrooms.

Note A reminder once again‐If you are birding here between April 15th and the Victoria Day long weekend or after Labour Day the last ferry from Hanlan’s Point is at 4:15 p.m. You will have to walk back to Centre Island if you miss it and after Thanksgiving day to April 15th the following year there is no ferry to Hanlan’s Point at all, so if you bird from Ward’s Island to Hanlan’s Point at that time you will have to walk back to Ward’s Island to catch a ferry.

Section 13‐ Hanlan’s Point‐The Dunes Path From The Trail Opposite The North Side Of The Trout Pond To Tennis CourtsTop

This stretch of the dunes trail/path is from just opposite the north side of the Trout Pond to the boardwalk at the north end of the tennis courts that are south of the south end of the airfield fence.

Be aware that the beach on your left here is a “Clothing Optional Beach” and that you may also encounter unclothed persons on or close to this trail/path as well as on the beach. If disturbed the beach here is not very productive.

The path between the dirt path to the north side of the Trout Pond is through bush and tree covered sand dunes and can be a tad warm in late May and August but well worth it some days. There are mature willow, cottonwood and birch trees along the way with a few Silver Maples and Wild Grape vines thrown in.

For those that do not want to walk up this sandy trail/path a lot of the birds can be seen or heard below from the paved road that parallels the path several yards to the right. As you walk along the paved road be sure to check the area on your right (towards the lagoon) for Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Orange‐crowned and Palm Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Rose‐breasted Grosbeak, Eastern Towhee, Indigo Bunting and Baltimore Oriole.

Some days there are many Northern Flickers along the dune trail/path eating ants, and in the trees you may also see Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker, Downy, Hairy and Red‐bellied Woodpecker (uncommon). Both Black‐billed Cuckoo, Yellow‐billed Cuckoo and Ruby‐throated Hummingbird have been found along here as well as both nuthatches, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher (nests here), both kinglets, Brown Creeper, Marsh, House, Winter and Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird (uncommon), all six thrushes (sometimes in large numbers) that includes the American Robin.

Other birds seen here include White‐eyed (uncommon), Yellow‐throated, Philadelphia, Blue‐headed, Red‐eyed and Warbling Vireo (nests here), a large selection of warblers including Northern Parula, Orange‐crowned, Mourning, Palm (can be common), Pine, Magnolia, Yellow‐rumped (many at times), Canada, Wilson’s and Blackpoll Warblers, Ovenbird and in three different years a Yellow‐breasted Chat (uncommon) was found in the bushes.

Brown Thrashers bred here in the past but the area is much disturbed since the “Clothing Optional Beach” but they can be found during migration. Sparrows can be well represented along here with White‐throated Sparrow, White‐crowned Sparrow and Dark‐eyed Junco being the most numerous. Watch also for Fox, Lincoln’s, Chipping, Swamp and Song Sparrow and Eastern Towhee.

At the start of this path I found a Grasshopper Sparrow (uncommon) one year and in that same area at other times Vesper Sparrow and this is also a good place to see Scarlet Tanager and Baltimore Oriole at close range.

In the fall especially, check overhead for migrating raptors and swallows, thousands of Blue Jays, many hundreds of Cedar Waxwing, American Crow, American Robin, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Yellow‐rumped Warbler, Red‐winged Blackbird, Common Grackle and smaller flocks of Purple Finch and Rusty Blackbird.

The area to the east of the dunes path (across the paved road) can be a very productive area as well for vireos, thrushes, warblers and sparrows. Watch also for Eastern Bluebird, both nuthatches, Scarlet Tanager and Rose‐breasted Grosbeak and in the fall there can be a large number of both kinglets in the goldenrods and trees.

After reaching the south end of the tennis courts you will be entering the next stretch of the beach trail/path between the boardwalk at the south end of the tennis courts to the boardwalk at the north end of the tennis courts. The area here is more open than the preceding section of the path and is flanked by tall cottonwoods, thick bushes and dogwood on the paved road side and brush covered sand dunes on the lake side.

Again you may choose to walk the paved road instead of the path and that is a good idea too as many birds can be found in the cottonwood and willow trees there as well as the bushes and also in and under the pine and spruce trees beside the tennis court fence. Savannah, Chipping, White‐crowned, White‐throated, Field, Vesper and Fox Sparrows are often spotted beside or on the fence and if you choose the path watch for pretty well most of the birds mentioned on the first stretch of the path. You will also have a better view of the sky here. There are some nice evergreens in this area that the Red‐breasted Nuthatch, American Goldfinch and some warblers frequent.

This area seems to act as a sort of trap or gathering place for tired and feeding birds both working their way down from the ferry dock area or up from Gibraltar Point and over from other parts of the Islands depending on the season.

Some of the good birds found here were American Woodcock, Whip‐poor‐Will (uncommon), and Common Nighthawk (uncommon). In the fall of 2009 a Virginia Rail (uncommon) was in the grass beside the road. Look for Red‐bellied Woodpecker (uncommon) and Red‐headed Woodpecker (rare), both cuckoos, Olive‐sided Flycatcher, Winter, House and Carolina Wrens, White‐eyed (uncommon), Philadelphia and Yellow‐throated Vireo, Blue‐winged, Golden‐winged, Mourning, Orange‐crowned, Cerulean (uncommon), and Connecticut Warbler, and Vesper, Nelson’s (uncommon), Clay‐colored (uncommon), Fox, Chipping, Lincoln’s and Field Sparrow, Eastern Towhee and sometimes Purple Finch. Check the Finches closely as House Finch can also be found in this area.

Section 14‐Hanlan’s Point‐North End Of Tennis Courts To South End Of Airfield FenceTop

 

From this area you again have a choice of either staying between the cottonwood trees and the sand dunes or walking up the outside (or right side) of the cottonwood trees. Either way can be good. The area covered here is between the boardwalk at the north end of the tennis courts and the south end of the airfield fence.

Whichever route you take to the airfield fence you will have a great view of the sky so watch for migrating raptors and passerines, passing terns and the occasional Great Egret, Black‐crowned Night‐Heron and Great Blue Heron and it will be hard to miss the many cormorants going to and from the Leslie Street Spit nesting colony. Most of the swallow species may be seen overhead as well and at times Chimney Swift can be abundant.

Some of the birds you may see depending on your route are Whip‐poor‐Will (uncommon), if you are real lucky, American Woodcock, Northern Flicker, Red‐headed (rare, more likely in the fall), Red‐bellied (uncommon), Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker (may be many), Ruby‐crowned and Golden‐crowned Kinglet, Red‐breasted and White‐breasted Nuthatch, Winter and House Wren, most of the flycatchers including Olive‐sided (tips of trees), Great Crested, Yellow‐bellied, Willow and Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe (can be common), Eastern Wood‐Pewee and Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Bluebird, all six of the thrush species and Brown Thrasher.

Other birds frequenting this area are Yellow‐throated, Blue‐headed, Philadelphia, Warbling and Red‐eyed Vireo, many warbler species including Golden‐winged and Blue‐winged, Mourning, Northern Parula, Connecticut, Palm (may be many), Magnolia, Blackpoll, Blackburnian, Cerulean (uncommon), Prairie (uncommon) and Orange‐crowned Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Rose‐breasted Grosbeak, Northern Mockingbird (uncommon) and many sparrows at times that could include a LeConte’s (rare), Clay‐colored (uncommon), Fox, Vesper and Lincoln’s Sparrow.

One day in May of 1997 before the pine and spruce trees were no more than a few feet high a Virginia Rail (uncommon) was found under a pine tree and in October 2010 two Wild Turkeys (uncommon) were spotted in this area. Only one Wild Turkey seems to be still on the islands as of December 2011 and could be seen anywhere but this area is a good bet especially between mid-October to late March when the number of visitors to Hanlan’s is much lower than other parts of the islands.

If you chose the sand dune side, when you reach the wide path between the beach and the south end of the airfield fence, turn right or east and bird towards the “Sparrow Patch”.

This short path can be very productive as it is lined on one side by spruce and pine trees and deciduous trees and dogwood on the other side.

No matter which route you took (between the dunes and trees or east of the trees) be sure to approach the area we call the “Sparrow Patch” at the southwest corner of the airfield fence slowly and you may spot a few sparrows or warblers on the tips of the grasses, goldenrods or on the fence there.

Check the grassy area on the east side of the trees (south of the airfield fence) as some times Northern Flicker, Horned Lark, Eastern Meadowlark and Bobolink and the usual Red‐winged Blackbird, Common Grackle and Brown‐headed Cowbird can be found feeding here and if there are any large puddles check for Green‐winged Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Killdeer, Solitary Sandpiper and Wilson’s Snipe. I spotted the two Wild Turkeys (uncommon) here feeding among a few hundred Canada Geese.

Section 15‐Hanlan’s Point‐South End Of Airfield Fence Including The “Sparrow Patch” Top

The “Sparrow Patch” is a small area of Lamb’s‐quarters, White Sweet Clover, goldenrod and other plants and grasses flanked on the east side by a large patch of lilac bushes and dogwood. On the west side there are tall pine, spruce, maple and cottonwood trees. On the north side by the airfield fence, there are goldenrods and dogwood, and on the south side, a few Manitoba Maples, some benches and a fire pit. The “Sparrow Patch” is actually a mound of dredged sand and small stones from the beach, left there by the parks department for some unknown reason. They never came back to remove it and over time plants covered and hid it.

Many of the birds often fly to or may be on the fence if they detect your approach so check these carefully as Sedge, House and Winter Wren, Ruby‐crowned and Golden‐crowned Kinglet, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, Orange‐crowned, Nashville, Yellow, Yellow‐rumped, Magnolia and Palm Warbler, Savannah, Grasshopper (uncommon), Lincoln’s, Fox, Clay‐colored (uncommon), LeConte’s (rare) and Nelson’s (uncommon) Sparrow have been seen on the lower part of the fence. American Kestrel, Merlin, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Baltimore Oriole, Eastern Meadowlark and Bobolink have all been seen on the top of the fence.

The list of sparrows that prompted the name of “Sparrow Patch” is impressive (17 species) and includes American Tree, Chipping, Clay‐colored (uncommon), Field, Vesper, Savannah, Grasshopper (uncommon), Le Conte’s (rare), Nelson’s (uncommon), Fox, Song, Lincoln’s, Swamp, White‐throated, and White‐crowned Sparrow, Dark‐eyed Junco and Eastern Towhee.

Also found lurking and feeding in the patch have been Mourning Dove, Sedge (uncommon), Winter and House Wren, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red‐eyed Vireo, both kinglets, Black‐Capped Chickadee, Red‐breasted Nuthatch, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, House and Purple Finch, Gray Catbird, American Robin, Least and Great‐crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Brown Thrasher, Hermit and Swainson’s Thrush, Northern Cardinal, Ruby‐throated Hummingbird, Nashville, Magnolia, Yellow‐rumped, Orange‐crowned and Wilson’s Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Baltimore Oriole and Red‐winged Blackbird.

The surrounding trees and bushes can have, besides some of the preceding birds American Crow, Eastern Bluebird, Bobolink (yes, in the bushes), Northern Parula, Blackpoll, Black‐and‐white, Blackburnian, Black‐throated Blue, Black‐throated Green, Bay‐breasted, Cerulean (uncommon), Prairie (uncommon), Pine and Cape May Warbler, American Redstart, Yellow‐bellied Flycatcher, Eastern Wood‐Pewee, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Scarlet Tanager, Rose‐breasted Grosbeak and Purple Finch. Listen for the occasional Lapland Longspur (uncommon), Horned Lark or American Pipit migrating overhead and again be sure to check any birds on or beside the fence as mentioned above.

In the spring of 2009 a Fish Crow (accidental) was heard and seen low over this area being chased by a resident American Crow (providing good comparison of voices and size between the two species), and in the fall of the same year a Western Kingbird (rare) was found perched on the lilac bushes beside the “Sparrow Patch".

All in all a place not to be bypassed and you should also check the trail from here to the beach for flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, warblers and sparrows. Both kinglets, Palm and Yellow‐rumped Warblers can be common along this trail.

When done birding here you again have a choice of where to go. You can either head along the fence to the east side of the airfield then on up to the ferry dock (Section 19) or you can walk the path up along the west side of the fence (Section 16) and out onto the beach at the far (north) end of the path or you could walk straight out to the beach along that wide path between the “Sparrow Patch” and the lake (Section 17)

 

Section 16‐West Side Of The Airfield FenceTop

If you choose to walk up the west side of the airfield fence be sure to check the fence top itself as well as any bird perched below the top. If birds are below the top often you will only see their head or rear end and tail sticking through the chain links.

The first hundred yards or so of this path is through a mix of trees and bushes that come close to the fence. Watch for vireos, thrushes, warblers and sparrows along here‐especially Savannah, Song, Fox, LeConte’s (rare) and Nelson’s (uncommon) Sparrow.

Checking the fence top may reveal an American Kestrel, Cooper’s, Sharp‐shinned and Red‐ tailed Hawk , Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Black‐capped Chickadee, Ruby‐crowned and Golden‐crowned Kinglet, Magnolia, Palm and Yellow‐rumped Warbler, Eastern Meadowlark and Bobolink as well as the sparrows.

Once you come to the area (see photo at right) where the field starts you will right away notice some Tree Swallows overhead or on the fence. There were several swallow nest boxes in this area. Barn Swallows also frequent this area.

Be sure to check the airfield itself as you go along for Killdeer (nests here), Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Lapland Longspur (uncommon), Horned Lark, Eastern Meadowlark and Bobolink as all are known to spend some time here during migration and over the airfield you will often see a American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon or a Red‐tailed Hawk hunting and Merlin is a frequent visitor as is Northern Harrier.

Some days you will wonder why you bothered with this area but at other times you will be glad you did. It can be a quiet walk or a busy one; and on some days they are doing aircraft engine testing right near the fence along here so be prepared for a wall of sound on occasion, very annoying to say the least.

On the good days you may encounter large numbers of Northern Flicker, Eastern Kingbird (mid to late August), Eastern Phoebe or Palm Warbler (especially late September to mid‐October). Other birds you may find besides most of the same sparrow species as in the “Sparrow Patch” are American Bittern (uncommon), Northern Harrier, Sharp‐shinned, Cooper’s and Red‐tailed Hawk, Merlin, American Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon, Killdeer, Short‐eared Owl (uncommon but at least one or two are found each fall or spring), Horned Lark, Hermit Thrush (can be common at times), Yellow‐rumped, Nashville and Magnolia Warbler, American Pipit (usually overhead), Bobolink, and Eastern Meadowlark.

If you walk through the grass here you will probably flush Song and Savannah Sparrows and if you do they most often fly to the left into the heavy brush and dogwood on the west (beach) side of the area where they are usually hard to see.

This area on the west side of this area has standing water most years and here you may find Common Snipe, American Woodcock, Willow Flycatcher, and Swamp Sparrow, Yellow Warbler (nests here) and Common Yellowthroat. In late September, 2005 a Dickcissel (rare) was found here.

Again I want to remind you to watch the sky for the some times large flocks of Blue Jays, American Goldfinch, House Finch, American Robin, Red‐winged and Rusty Blackbird, Common Grackle, and Brown‐headed Cowbird and smaller flocks of American Crow, Eastern Bluebird, American Pipit and the occasional Lapland Longspur (uncommon) or two as they migrate past.

When you reach the north end of the fence here it turns sharp left (west) and goes out to the beach. Along this stretch Eastern Phoebe, Palm Warbler, Swamp, Song, Savannah, White‐throated and White‐crowned Sparrows, and Dark‐eyed Juncos can be common beside and on the fence and check the blackbirds for Rusty Blackbird.

The area on your left along this short stretch of the path is quite thick and birds can be hard to see. The trail is sometimes flooded and if you are not wearing waterproof footwear you may have to return back down the path to the “Sparrow Patch” area and walk out to the beach from there, see Section 17.

Section 17‐Beach Area West Of The Airfield Fence Top

Although this stretch of the beach is well north of the “Clothing Optional Beach” you may still encounter an unclothed person or two either on the beach (walking or sunbathing) or in the bushes.

Besides the sand and lake there are sand dunes covered by brush, short trees and grass and close to the lake is a semi‐permanent pond/slough and at times after a storm or strong westerly winds small pools form on the beach as a result of the high waves. Check these pools for waterfowl, shorebirds and gulls.

Waterfowl to look for on the lake are Common and Red‐throated Loons (uncommon), Horned Grebe, Mute and Tundra Swan (uncommon), Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Black and Long‐tailed Duck, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, White‐winged Scoter, Red‐breasted and Common Merganser and Double‐crested Cormorant and on and over the lake and beach look for Common and Caspian Tern, Bonaparte’s and Great Black‐backed Gull, and all six swallow species. In March and in late October and into November look for Iceland, Glaucous and Lesser Black‐backed Gull (rare), March is your best bet for these. A Pomarine Jaeger was seen here in October of 2010 and in the spring of 2011 a juvenile Iceland Gull, a juvenile Glaucous Gull, an adult Lesser Black‐backed Gull and an adult Thayer’s Gull were on the beach among the Ring‐billed Gulls. The first three of these nice gulls stayed to at least the 19th of May.

Shorebirds that have been seen are Spotted, Baird’s, Least, Semipalmated, and Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin, Sanderling, Whimbrel (uncommon), Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot (uncommon), American Avocet (rare), Black‐bellied, Golden and Semipalmated Plover and Killdeer. In the spring of 2005 a Piping Plover (rare) spent part of a day here and in the spring of 2008 another Piping Plover spent two days here and again one was found here on May 9th of 2011.

There is a slough or pond on the beach partly flanked by small willows and several species use it to rest or feed including Great Blue Heron, Mute and Trumpeter (uncommon) Swan, Mallard, Gadwall, Wood Duck, Northern Shoveler, Canvasback, both Green‐winged and Blue‐winged Teal, Ring‐necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, several shorebird species including many Spotted Sandpipers (nests here), Solitary Sandpiper and Killdeer (nests here). Sometimes a Belted Kingfisher looks in as there are tiny fish in the slough but some days the slough can be completely empty of birds.

In the willows watch for Yellow, Palm, Yellow‐rumped, and Nashville Warblers, Song, Vesper and Savannah Sparrows and the grass and bushes should be checked for Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Orange‐crowned, Magnolia, Nashville, Yellow, Yellow‐rumped, and Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Song, Savannah, Nelson’s (uncommon), LeConte’s (rare), Vesper, Chipping, Swamp, Fox, White‐throated and White‐crowned Sparrow and in the shorter grass or on the beach American Pipit, Horned Lark or Lapland Longspur (uncommon).

In the fall of 2006 two Chestnut‐collared Longspurs were well seen as they walked through thin grass near the slough and occasionally an American Bittern (uncommon) or Short‐eared Owl (uncommon) is flushed from the grass as are Eastern Meadowlarks and in October 2011 a Virginia Rail. All six species of swallow may be seen here on a good day and except for Centre Island this is the best place to spot Cliff Swallow. Many birds migrate past up or down the beach depending on the season. Many raptors and a great number of Blue Jays pass by and some days the sky is filled with Chimney Swifts.

Section 18‐ South End Of The Airfield Fence Top

If you are done checking the west side of the airfield fence or the beach or if you just want to head for the Hanlan’s Point ferry after checking the “Sparrow Patch” be sure to check along the south side of the airfield fence (see Section 15 and below for a list of birds that may be seen on the fence).

In early spring there may be a flooded area just east of the lilac bushes that over the years has had both Green‐winged and Blue‐winged Teal, American Wigeon, Killdeer and Common Snipe.

On or beside (both sides) of the fence check for American Kestrel, Least and Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Sedge (uncommon) and Winter Wren, Gray Catbird, Hermit, Swainson’s, Gray‐cheeked and Wood Thrush, Veery, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Orange‐crowned, Nashville, Magnolia, Yellow‐rumped and Palm Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Nelson’s (uncommon), Le Conte’s (rare), Grasshopper (uncommon), Savannah, Lincoln’s, Chipping, Song, Fox, Swamp, White‐throated and White‐crowned Sparrow, Dark‐eyed Junco, Eastern Towhee, Bobolink (sometimes they are on the grass between here and the tennis courts to the south), and Eastern Meadowlark. Watch overhead for passing Caspian and Common Tern, Great Blue and Black‐crowned Night‐Heron, Great Egret, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin and the occasional Osprey. All six species of swallows may be seen here but Tree and Barn Swallow are the most common.

Section 19‐ East Side Of The Airfield Fence Between The Southeast Corner Of The Airfield Fence And The Area Just South Of The Ferry Docks Top

The walk up the east side of the airfield fence is an easy walk on a manicured lawn but don’t let that fool you as this can be one of the best and busiest walks during your Island visit. The area close to the fence consists of dogwood, sweet clover, goldenrod, lilac bushes and mature willow and maple trees. These trees will make you wish you were wearing a neck brace at times as you stare high into the trees trying to identify (or even see) the vireos, warblers, etc.

As you walk along watch and listen for birds in the brush and trees and watch for the variety of birds that sit on the fence and on some days the grass may be host to a large number of Northern Flickers and at other times all of the expected thrushes, especially Hermit and Swainson’s. Killdeer some times nest here and if so then the parks people occasionally cordon their nest site off depending on who is informed as not all employees are so kind.

There are always a few birds here on slow days but if you luck into a day when many birds are present then watch and listen for Red‐headed Woodpecker (rare‐fall seems to be the best time) and Red bellied Woodpecker (uncommon), Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker, Acadian (rare), Willow, Alder, Great Crested and Olive‐sided Flycatcher, Eastern Wood‐Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, all six swallow species, Winter, House, Marsh, Sedge (uncommon) and Carolina Wren, Brown Creeper, both nuthatches, both kinglets, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow‐throated, Philadelphia and White‐eyed Vireo (uncommon), Eastern Bluebird, Veery, Wood, Gray‐cheeked, Swainson’s and Hermit Thrush, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher and Northern Mockingbird.

Warblers, sparrows, finches and blackbirds are also well represented here. Connecticut, Mourning, Orange‐crowned (sometimes common), Parula, Cerulean (uncommon), Prairie (uncommon), Blue‐Winged, Golden‐winged, Canada and Wilson’s Warbler, (pretty well all the eastern warblers have been seen along here) Clay‐colored (uncommon), Nelson’s (uncommon), LeConte’s (rare), Grasshopper (uncommon), Lincoln’s, Vesper, Swamp and Fox Sparrow , Eastern Towhee, Scarlet and Summer Tanager (rare), Indigo Bunting, Rose‐breasted Grosbeak, House and Purple Finch, Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, Eastern Meadowlark, Red‐winged and Rusty Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown‐headed Cowbird and Bobolink.

Some of the rarer birds seen here over the years have been an American White Pelican overhead in October 2010, two Sandhill Cranes overhead in April 2011, Yellow Rail (flushed near fence by two experienced birders), Black‐backed Woodpecker, Yellow‐breasted Chat and Kentucky Warbler.

On peak fall migration days (northwest winds) a large number of raptors pass over and through this area and some hunt the area as well. Birds such as Turkey Vulture (uncommon), Osprey, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Cooper’s, Sharp‐shinned, Red‐shouldered and Red‐tailed Hawks, Northern Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin and American Kestrel. Broad‐winged Hawk and Golden Eagle are a rarer sighting but do occur occasionally.

Also during peak migration watch overhead for large flocks (at times) of Chimney Swift, American Crow, Blue Jay, Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird (smaller flocks), Red‐winged and Rusty Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown‐headed Cowbird, House Finch and American Goldfinch. You may also see Great Egret, Green Heron, or hear American Pipit and Lapland Longspur with luck and the occasional Common Nighthawk.

Be sure to check the airfield as you walk along for Killdeer, Northern Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink and sometimes just a foot or so inside the fence and on the lower part of the fence you may spot Savannah, Field, Swamp, Chipping and Song Sparrows.

Section 20‐ Hanlan’s Point‐Ferry Dock AreaTop

The Hanlan’s Point Ferry Dock area is a great place to bird if a fall out has occurred or it can be fairly quiet.

Many birders start their Island birding from here and if you luck into a medium or large fall‐out of birds you may not get past the Trout Pond or even the south end of the airfield fence.

Be sure to check the area at the docks beside the lagoon before heading to the west or fence side of this area.

I start here in late September and through October for the variety of sparrows and the later arriving birds. In my opinion Hanlan’s Point is probably the best place in the GTA to find Orange‐crowned Warbler, especially in the fall. The area has large mature willows and cottonwoods, some cedar, pine and spruce trees as well a thick ground cover of grasses, Sweet Clover and goldenrods. In front of the ferry docks are thick dogwood and lilac bushes as well as pine and spruce trees with a many smaller trees such as birch and chestnut.

The birds to be found here are about the same as the preceding area along the east side of the airfield fence with the exception of some of the rarer birds mentioned and watch for about the same overhead birds as along the fence and on the ground, in the grass, bushes and trees watch and listen for Red‐headed (rare), Red‐bellied (uncommon), Downy or Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow‐bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, all six swallow species, Chimney Swift, both nuthatches, both kinglets, Olive‐sided, Yellow‐bellied, Willow, Least, and Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe (may be common, especially on the fence), Eastern Wood‐Pewee and Eastern Kingbird.

This area has been good over the years for many other species such as Sedge, Marsh, Winter, House and Carolina Wren, Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow‐throated (uncommon), White‐eyed, Red‐eyed, Warbling and Philadelphia Vireo, Wood, Swainson’s, Hermit (may be very common), and Gray‐cheeked Thrush, Veery, Eastern Bluebird (on the fence), Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird and Northern Mockingbird,

Also seen here were Golden‐winged, Blue‐winged, Orange‐crowned, Mourning, Connecticut, Parula, Palm (can be common), Pine, Prairie, Black‐throated Blue, Black‐throated Green, Blackburnian, Bay‐breasted, Cape May, Canada and Wilson’s Warbler, Ovenbird and Northern Waterthrush, Scarlet and Summer Tanager (rare), Rose‐breasted Grosbeak, Northern Cardinal, Fox, Vesper, Lincoln’s, Swamp, Clay‐colored (uncommon), Song, Savannah, Chipping, White‐throated and White‐crowned Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Dark‐eyed Junco (can be abundant), House and Purple Finch, Baltimore and Orchard Oriole and Bobolink (check the fence area). One of my fellow birders found a Pileated Woodpecker here one fall. LeConte’s Sparrow (rare) should occur here. In early October of 2011 I found two Nelson’s Sparrows in the northwest corner of the airfield fence.

Check the dock area for Canvasback, White‐winged Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Long‐tailed Duck, Common and Caspian Terns, and the occasional Horned Grebe.

Section 21‐Hanlan’s Point‐Lagoon Side‐Along Lakeshore Ave. Top

If you have the time or have missed the ferry boat, you may want to check the area along the lagoon between the docks and the washroom about 300 yards or so south of the docks.

In the lagoon along here you may find Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Black Duck, Redhead, Canvasback, Northern Shoveler, Ring‐necked Duck, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Green‐winged Teal, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, White‐winged Scoter, Hooded, Red‐breasted and Common Merganser and American Coot.

Osprey, Common and Caspian Tern, Belted Kingfisher and swallows hunt the lagoon and occasionally a Great Blue or Black‐crowned Night‐Heron may be spotted on the shore across the lagoon on Mugg’s Island. If there is still some ice on the lagoon in March check the Ring‐billed and Herring Gull groups for Great Black‐backed, Iceland and Glaucous Gull loafing on the ice.

Cooper’s Hawk, Red‐tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, American Kestrel all watch for a chance to get a meal here.

Pretty well all of the preceding birds are possible here but sparrows and thrushes can be quite common. Dark‐eyed Juncos, White‐throated and White‐crowned Sparrows can be very common on the grass and under the bushes and in October especially you almost have to kick them out of the way. In September of 2011 we found a Hooded Warbler behind the washrooms and across the road from the washrooms are bushes that usually have warblers like the two Golden‐winged Warblers found together in May of 2011.

In the spring these birds are even in the tops of the trees when the blossoms and catkins are sprouting and this area seems to be a magnet for Yellow‐rumped Warblers.

Some of the trees are small enough here that you can see a lot of the birds at or just above eye level.

If you only plan to spend a half day birding and you came over on the Hanlan’s ferry your route could be through the area to the right (west) of the ferry, down the fence line and over to the Sparrow Patch, down to at least the tennis courts area (or Trout Pond) and then back to the ferry up the lagoon side.

Note: Since Porter Airlines and Air Canada have started to use the airfield the noise level has gone up drastically, especially in the morning after 8:00 a.m. We have noticed the birds are put to flight when airplanes start their run or use their reverse thrusters at the east end of the airfield. The noise continues for quite some time and the birds usually do not return to the ferry dock area.

You could also be assaulted with a wall of sound when a Porter airplane parks at the south end of the airfield and the ground crew winds the engines to a loud roar when testing those engines.

Some Nesting or Resident Birds on the IslandsTop

Double-crested Cormorant

Downy Woodpecker

Gray Catbird

Mute Swan

Northern Flicker

Brown Thrasher

Canada Goose

Eastern Wood-Pewee

European Starling

Mallard

Willow Flycatcher

Warbling Vireo

Canvasback

Eastern Phoebe

Yellow Warbler

Cooper’s Hawk

Purple Martin

Northern Cardinal

Red-tailed Hawk

Tree Swallow

Chipping Sparrow

American Kestrel

Cliff Swallow

Savannah Sparrow

Killdeer

Barn Swallow

Song Sparrow

Spotted Sandpiper

Blue Jay

Red-winged Blackbird

Ring-billed Gull

American Crow

Common Grackle

Herring Gull

Black-capped Chickadee

Brown-headed Cowbird

Common Tern

Carolina Wren

Baltimore Oriole

Belted Kingfisher

House Wren

House Finch

Mourning Dove

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

American Goldfinch

Rock Pigeon

American Robin

House Sparrow

List of Some Birds and Where You May Find ThemTop

Horned Grebe–On the lake off of the Ward’s Island boardwalk, Trout Pond on Gibraltar Point, off Gibraltar and Hanlan’s Points and in the lagoons from Centre Island to Hanlan’s Point.

Eared Grebe–(Uncommon)–On lake off Ward’s Island and Hanlan’s Point

Red‐necked Grebe–On the lake off the Ward’s Island boardwalk and off Gibraltar Point and on Toronto Harbour off Snake Island.

Common Loon–Overhead throughout and on lake off Ward’s Island, Gibraltar and Hanlan’s Points.

Red‐throated Loon (uncommon) – On the lake off Gibraltar Point.

Great Egret–Overhead throughout in small numbers (they nest on the Leslie Street Spit).

Green Heron–Snug Harbour and the Trout Pond.

Black‐crowned Night‐Heron–Ward’s Island–Some times roosting in trees along Lakeshore Ave. near the Eastern Gap east of the washroom. They roost in the internal lagoon at Snug Harbour and by the Trout Pond.

American Bittern (uncommon)–Hanlan’s Point–Occasionally in the grass on the west side of the airfield fence and the beach area grass.

Wood Duck–Same as Green Heron but check the lagoons throughout.

Redhead, Ring‐necked Duck, Canvasback (maybe nesting here), American Wigeon–Trout and Lighthouse Ponds but check the lagoons throughout.

Hooded Merganser–Often present in the Snug Harbour internal lagoon as well as in the Trout and Lighthouse Ponds and the lagoon just south of the Hanlan’s Point ferry dock.

Scoters–On lake throughout but best place has been off of the Ward’s Island boardwalk and in the Hanlan’s Point ferry dock area. ‐ Raptors–around airfield on Hanlan’s Point–Cooper’s Hawk hunts throughout as it nests on the Islands.

Other raptors including eagles–watch overhead throughout during northerly winds in the fall and during spring Migration. In 2009 two Black Vultures were seen overhead on two separate days. ‐ Peregrine Falcon–Nests in Toronto and is often seen hunting the airfield on Hanlan’s Point but can be seen overhead almost anywhere throughout.

Merlin–Could be spotted overhead anywhere throughout during migration but shows up more often in the airfield area on Hanlan’s Point.

Wild Turkey–New resident species for the Islands (only one left on the Islands)–Seen on Hanlan’s Point and wintered in the Sanctuary during the 2010/2011 winter.

Shorebirds and Gulls–best place is the north end of Hanlan’s Point Beach when not disturbed by humans.

Black‐billed and Yellow‐billed Cuckoos–Could be encountered anywhere but best places seem to be Ward’s Island Park, Snake Island, the Trap area and anywhere between the Trout Pond and the Hanlan’s Point ferry dock area.

Owls–The Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is closed to the public at present. Some day it may again be open to birders. I mention the Owls there as someone always asks me about them.

Short‐eared Owl–(uncommon)–On the west side of the Island Airfield fence.

Red‐headed Woodpecker–(Rare)–Ward’s Island Park and Hanlan’s Point.

Red‐bellied Woodpecker–(Uncommon)–Throughout–listen for its call.

Olive‐sided Flycatcher–Ward’s Island Park, Algonquin Island Park, Snake Island, Snug Harbour, Lighthouse area on Gibraltar Point and on Hanlan’s Point from the north side of the Trout Pond to the Ferry Docks.

Northern Rough‐winged Swallow–Ward’s and Centre Island lagoons and the Trout Pond.

Cliff Swallow–Overhead throughout but easily found at Centre Island as they nest under the pier on the south side of the Island. Also at times there may be many over the Hanlan’s Beach area west of the airfield fence or over the grassy area at the south end of the airfield fence. During August this species and the other five species may be overhead in numbers throughout the Islands.

Purple Martin–Seen overhead in migration but best place is around the new School on Centre Island as they have a Purple Martin house on top of the school. There is also a Martin house on the north side of the Lighthouse Pond.

Carolina Wren–Nests on Ward’s (residential area mostly) but also in the Trap area, Algonquin and Snake Islands, Snug Harbour and the Sanctuary. May be seen or heard anywhere on the Islands but at this writing it is hard to find.

House Wren–Same areas as the Carolina Wren.

Blue‐gray Gnatcatcher –Nests throughout but best places to see it is in Ward’s Island Park, Algonquin and Snake Island, the Trap Area and the north side of the Trout Pond.

Eastern Bluebird–Occasionally at Ward’s and Algonquin Island Parks but best areas are west of the Trout Pond and anywhere along the airfield fence (east, west or south sides) on Hanlan’s Point.

Gray‐cheeked Thrush–Anywhere but most often at Ward’s Island Park and along the east side of the airfield fence on Hanlan’s Point.

Brown Thrasher–Ward’s Island Park, Snake and Algonquin Islands, between the fire station and the Snake Island bridge, Lighthouse area, north side of the Trout Pond, and along the Hanlan’s Point beach trail. Numbers have decreased due to human disturbance since the opening of the Clothing Optional Beach.

Northern Mockingbird (uncommon)–Could be found anywhere in migration but most often at Ward’s Island Park and along the beach trail north of the Trout Pond.

American Pipit–Over Ward’s Island Park, over beach (and on the beach) and fence on west side of the airfield and over the airfield.

White‐eyed Vireo and Yellow‐throated Vireo–Ward’s Island Park, north side of the Trout Pond, Hanlan’s Point tennis courts area, along the east side of the airfield fence and in the Hanlan’s Point ferry dock area.

Blue‐winged and Golden‐winged Warblers–Almost anywhere but the best areas are Ward’s Island Park, the Trap area, anywhere between the Trout Pond and the Hanlan’s Point ferry dock, especially just to the west of the tennis courts on Hanlan’s Point.

Orange‐crowned Warbler–Almost anywhere but best areas are Ward’s Island Park, just east of the Island fire station, Algonquin Island Park, the Trap area, area of rough grass and Sweet Clover just south of the Aerial cars (Sky Ride) on Centre Island, west of the Trout Pond, anywhere around the airfield fence (east, west or south sides) on Hanlan’s Point, the beach area on Hanlan’s Point west of the airfield fence and especially the area just west of the ferry dock on Hanlan’s Point between the dock and the fence.

Prairie Warbler (uncommon)–Has been seen along the boardwalk and in the washroom area on Ward’s Island, on the north side of the Trout Pond and on Hanlan’s Point between the tennis courts and the ferry dock.

Pine Warbler–Ward’s Island Park, Snake Island, Snug Harbour and any treed area on Hanlan’s Point.

Cerulean Warbler (uncommon)–Same areas as the Prairie Warbler and just west of the fire station on Ward's Island.

Mourning Warbler–Ward’s Island Park, Wyandot Ave. On Algonquin Island, between Lenore Ave. and Centre Island in the boardwalk area, Snake Island, Snug Harbour, the Trap area on Ward’s, the area beside the Sparrow Patch on Hanlan’s Point and in the Hanlan’s Point ferry dock area. Heard more often than seen in the spring.

Connecticut Warbler–Ward’s Island Park, just east of the Island fire station on Ward’s Island, Snake Island, the Trap Area, area between the tennis courts on Hanlan’s Point and the south end of the airfield fence and in the Hanlan’s Point ferry dock area.

Yellow‐breasted Chat (uncommon)–Has been seen at Ward’s Island Park, Snake Island, between the north side of the Trout Pond and the tennis courts on Hanlan’s Point and along the east side of the airfield fence on Hanlan’s Point south of the Hanlan’s Point ferry dock area.

Summer Tanager (rare)–Individuals found beside the Eastern Gap on Ward’s Island, just west of the Trout Pond on Gibraltar Point and along the east side of the airfield fence on Hanlan’s Point.

Grasshopper and Nelson’s Sparrows–(both uncommon) Best places are the Sparrow Patch at the south end of the airfield fence on Hanlan’s Point and anywhere along the airfield fence (east, west or south sides) on Hanlan’s Point.

LeConte's Sparrow (rare)–Same areas as the Grasshopper and Nelson's Sparrows.

Clay‐colored Sparrow (uncommon)–Same areas as the above three sparrows but mostly at the south end of the fence.

Vesper Sparrow–Ward’s Island Park, the Sparrow Patch and the west side of the airfield fence on Hanlan’s Point.

Fox Sparrow–Almost anywhere in areas with cover for them to forage in. Ward’s Island Park and the area east of the Island fire station are good areas as is the beach path, Sparrow Patch and airfield fence line on Hanlan’s Point.

Eastern Towhee–Same as the Fox Sparrow but heard as often as seen.

Lapland Longspur–On and over the airfield on Hanlan’s Point and the beach area west of the airfield.

Eastern Meadowlark–Same as the Lapland Longspur but also check Ward’s Island Park.

Rusty Blackbird–Overhead anywhere during migration. Some times stops at the small ponds on the southeast side of the Island School on Centre Island but the wet area on the west side of the airfield fence on Hanlan’s Point can have a few as well.

Orchard Oriole (uncommon)–Ward’s Island and Algonquin Island parks and along the east side of the airfield fence from the Hanlan’s ferry dock to the south end of the fence.

Purple Finch–Almost anywhere during migration. Check the area on the north side of the Trout Pond, the Sparrow Patch on Hanlan’s Point and the Hanlan’s Point ferry dock area. This bird can sometimes be found feeding in the grass.

Note: Some of the birds may not always be found in their expected or preferred habitats. Birds during migration some times when tired come down where ever they can. For example I found a Nelson’s Sparrow in the woods in the Sanctuary and Margaret Liubavicius found one in the woods near the Hanlan’s Point tennis courts. Other seemingly out of habitat birds were a Virginia Rail under a pine tree, one in the grass beside the same tennis courts as above, a Marsh Wren in a pine tree, a Whip‐poor‐Will on a house step on Ward’s Island, etc.

Mammals, Turtles, Snakes
and AmphibiansTop

Raccoon–Fairly common throughout, most often seen asleep in a tree on Ward’s Island.

Gray Squirrel–Common throughout but decreasing due to predation by nesting Cooper’s and Red‐tailed Hawks.

Eastern Chipmunk–Uncommon but may be found in the area of houses on Ward’s and Algonquin Islands.

Red Fox–Bred in the Sanctuary in the past–You could bump into one anywhere but mostly you will just see the tracks.

Coyote–Occasionally comes over on the ice in the winter (Leslie St. Spit resident). Any cat gone missing or found dead is blamed on this animal and there are many hear say sightings of 1 to 5 animals. I have never encountered one or their tracks on The Islands during migration nor in the winter myself nor met anyone that has.

American Mink–Increasing throughout. Watch for it hunting and playing anywhere along the lagoons and beside or in the lake. Often seen at the ferry docks.

Virginia Opossum–Two were seen beside Ward’s Island Park at Lakeshore Ave. in 2008.

Beaver–Not too common but you may see one swimming in the eastern Gap or off the Ward’s Island beach, they breed at the Leslie Street Spit.

Muskrat–In lagoons throughout as well as the Trout Pond. Often seen while up on any ice left in the lagoons in the spring.

Cottontail Rabbit–Have not seen one on the Islands for a number of years.

White‐tailed Deer–May 2010–there were 2 does (maybe more) on the Islands. This is a first for the Islands. One of the does may have arrived on The Islands while she was pregnant and that may account for the second doe being slightly smaller.

Note: In 2011 I was informed that the carcasses of two deer were found in the Wildlife Sanctuary. A sad and mysterious end for those two beautiful animals.

Turtles–Best places to see Eastern Painted, Blanding’s or Eastern Map Turtles is the internal lagoon in Snug Harbour and in the Trout Pond. Red‐eared Slider and Snapping Turtle were often seen in the Sanctuary in the past. Look into the small bay opposite the Centre Island School as well for Eastern Map and Eastern Painted Turtles.

Snakes–Mostly Eastern Garter Snake (including the melanistic (black) form) that may be spotted anywhere and there are also some Brown Snakes on the Islands. These animals are not common at all on the Islands.

Frogs and Toads–Leopard and Green Frog and American Toad are hard to find anywhere on the Islands but there may be some still in the Sanctuary.

Some Butterflies Seen on The IslandsTop

I do not list Butterflies seen on The Islands myself but several other birders do and following are some of the butterflies seen over the years by others.

Many thanks go to Alfred Adamo for the following list.

Silver-spotted Skipper

Northern Cloudywing

Least Skipper

European Skipper

Fiery Skipper

Peck´s Skipper

Tawny-edged Skipper

Crossline Skipper

Northern Broken-Dash

Little Glassywing

Hobomok Skipper

Dun Skipper

Black Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Checkered White

Cabbage White

Clouded Sulphur

Orange Sulphur

Little Yellow

Harvester

Gray Hairstreak

Eastern Tailed Blue

Spring Azure

Summer Azure

Silvery Blue

American Snout

Variegated Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary

Tawny Emperor

Pearl Crescent

Northern Crescent

Question Mark

Eastern Comma

Compton Tortoiseshell

Mourning Cloak

American Lady

Painted Lady

Red Admiral

Common Buckeye

White Admiral/Red-spotted Purple

Viceroy

Little Wood-Satyr

Common Wood-Nymph

Monarch

Best places to see butterflies I am told are the flower gardens between the Centre Island ferry dock and the pier over the lake at the south end of the Island as well as the Children’s Garden just to the east of the Island School.

Of course butterflies can be found throughout the Islands not just in the above gardens.

Checklist of BirdsTop

Spring and Fall Early Arrival DatesTop

AcknowledgementsTop

This guide would not be possible without the valuable editing, suggestions and critiquing by my friend Andrew Jano.

In the 1990’s the Island birding was made more enjoyable because of the great company of Alfred Adamo, Craig McLauchlan, Larry Morse, Naish McHugh and Stan Bajurny and several other birders who joined us on occasion. In the last few years I birded along with Ian Cannell, Margaret Liubavicius, Alfred Adamo, Peter McParland, Bill Smith and Gunnar Bessel and a few other birders who joined us off and on.