2023-05-24 Tiny Marsh, Ontario

Hairy Woodpecker - Dryobates villosus
During my stay near Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, most locals I met spoke fondly of a location called Tiny Marsh. On March 24th, I spent most of the day there and learned for myself why it is loved by so many folks.
Canada Goose - Branta canadensis
The goslings are coming, the goslings are coming!
Common Snapping Turtle - Chelydra serpentina
Living dinosaur!

I spent Wednesday at Tiny Marsh. It was my ‘last hurrah’ in the region, and Thursday morning I began my exodus. I met several enthusiastic birders during my tour. A report of a Blackpoll Warbler drew them in. Nobody I spoke with had seen the bird, and neither did I. But my agenda is not chasing rarities. I wanted to experience the ‘place’. And the place did not disappoint.

The first bird that caught my attention was a Least Flycatcher, and there was no shortage of them. Vireos sang from on high, and I found both the Warbling and Red-Eyed Vireos during my explorations. As is the norm here, Black-Capped Chickadees scolded boldly from all quarters. 

There are miles of trails throughout the reserve, too many to explore in a single visit. Everyone who spoke to me about Tiny Marsh mentioned the “Boardwalk”, and after speaking to birders I met on the trail, I learned how to find its location. Its entry was not near the office and parking area, as I assumed. Rather, it was a mile away through the woods on a well-groomed, but soggy trail. 

Perhaps fifty feet past the start of the boardwalk was a twenty foot wooden tower with a commanding view of the wetlands. I carried my camera gear up the narrow stairway and enjoyed the view. At the far side of the wetlands, and too distant to identify over several wide sections of open water, we could see frequent relocation flights of shorebirds. They might have been Yellowlegs. Closer to me were a pair of Eastern Kingbirds that I enjoyed photographing from my elevated position.

From the tower, I could see below me, Common Carp in the shallow channel swimming by. Most interesting to me was a Common Snapping Turtle swimming slowly by. I estimate its carapace (shell) was about twelve inches from neck to the base of its tail, and over two feet from nose to the tip of its tail. It seemed enormous to me. But after speaking to locals, I learned this was only a medium sized turtle.

When I completed hiking the Boardwalk trail, I circled back to the bridge at its beginning. While I was resting and listening to birds high in the canopy, a gang of fuzzy goslings in the company of several pairs of adult Canada Geese came marching down the path I’d just left. There were dozens of young birds; too many for the mob to get past me. I was surprised the parents let them approach me as they did. But when they came to a small clearing, the entire group slipped into the channel and swam around me before resuming their walk back on the soggy path.

I had been meeting Downy Woodpeckers at nearly every stop since I said goodbye to Arizona, and Tiny Marsh was no exception. Hairy Woodpeckers on the other hand, were more elusive. So it was a pleasant surprise on this day, that minutes after enjoying a Downy Woodpecker foraging, a Hairy Woodpecker introduced itself to me. As a bonus, while I was enjoying the company of the woodpeckers, a Brown Creeper showed up and began racing up the trunks of the broadleaf trees bordering the wetlands. Brown Creepers only climb upwards on the trees while foraging. After reaching their chosen summit, they fly down to the base of the next tree and repeat the process.

After exploring the trails at Tiny Marsh all day, I returned to my van and headed back to the cabin. Having met American Redstarts, American Robins, Baltimore Orioles, Black-Capped Chickadees, Brown Creepers, Canada Geese, Common Carp, Common Grackles, Downy Woodpeckers, Eastern Kingbirds, Great Blue Herons, Hairy Woodpeckers, Least Flycatchers, Ospreys, Red-Eyed Vireos, Red-Winged Blackbirds, a Common Snapping Turtle, Trumpeter Swans, Warbling Vireos, and Yellow Warblers, I considered the day a success.

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