September 2nd 2017. Algonquin Island, Toronto ON. The Cape May Warbler has been a bit of a nemesis bird for me. It’s not particularly uncommon during those two short times of the year when they pass through, but somehow I seem to keep on missing them. I have quite a vivid memory of one from some years ago and I thought I had a photo too, but I can’t find it. This is the fall migration time for many warbler species and things changed today, not only did I see two or three Cape May Warblers but I had time enough to register what I was seeing and I came home with a few decent photos; here are two of them.
Like many warblers, it’s an even more eye-catching bird in May when the streaky-chested male shows handsome chestnut cheek patches encircled by a bright yellow face. At this time of year though the cheek patches are fainter, although with a bit of imagination you can make them out in the photos. This Cape May Warbler was my Bird of the Day, hard earned in a day of much walking and hard searching.
I had joined a group of bird enthusiasts exploring a cluster of islands lying a short ferry ride from the shining geometry of downtown Toronto. Appropriately named, Toronto Islands, are a recreational refuge covering a lot of real estate. It took us all day to walk, well saunter, from one end to the other and I estimate we covered nearly ten kilometres.
At one time our route took us hard alongside the perimeter fence of a commercial airfield and we were entertained by a metallic voice from a motion-triggered recording that told us sternly we were in a restricted area and had better leave right away; we just kept slogging along. Shortly afterwards a bored looking security guard drove past us, he on the inside we on the outside, and I’m not convinced that he saw us.
I think the group as a whole tallied about sixty-six species, I counted fifty-four including several other warbler species including Blackpoll Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Magnolia Warbler and Nashville Warbler, all shown below with photos from other late summer excursions.