Bird Photography at Point Pelee National Park

We have not made a post on the blog in quite some time. In fact, we haven’t been doing much bird photography at all with such a scorching hot summer! With that being said, we had lots of time to recap our amazing trip to Point Pelee National Park back in May.

The ultimate bird photography location

Point Pelee National Park – May 2016

Our last post was the anticipation of our big birding trip for the year, Point Pelee. It was a great trip as always; hours of birding, hiking, and socializing with other birders and sharing our exciting finds. It was also our first time bringing along a GoPro with the intentions of vlogging our experience. This presented its own set of challenges ie. sacrificing your chances of a great photo for the opportunity to film the experience to share with others.

4 Days of Intense Bird Photography!

Palm Warbler during spring migration
Palm Warbler

Our trip to Point Pelee for the Spring Migration

Day 1

Our first day in the park, arriving around 9:30 am. There was plenty of time to get a long day of bird photography in. We drove straight to the park to catch up with the others who had likely been birding all day.

One of the first things that we noticed was that the branches were significantly more bare of leaves, which makes finding birds easier. Other years there have been more leaves on the branches by this time of year, so we tried to use this to our advantage.

The Bird Nerds hiking through a Point Pelee trail

We spent the day switching between the trails and the tip, waiting for that first great find! Nearing the end of our long trek on the Chinquapin Oak Trail, we found it. Looking up, not more than 6 ft. away from us was a Cape May Warbler. This was only the second time we had seen this species.


He let us observe and fire off shots for what felt like forever. In the moment, you make only the slightest movements and camera adjustments to not disturb the bird or cause them to fly away, only to realize you were holding your breath the entire time. When this happens, Trev and I just look at each other once it’s all over and smile. It’s hard to explain to most people the kind of adrenaline rush you get from shooting a fast moving, tiny object. It is a great challenge.

Polaris Optics Bird Watching Binoculars

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler

The elusive Hooded Warbler that we spent so much time looking for last year was also one of the first to be spotted this year. We were off to a great start.

The rest of the day was fairly quiet, stopping to take pictures of Yellow Warblers, which are not a rare find, but it is still a bright, vibrant bird that we haven’t seen since the end of summer.

We experienced another great moment on the first day, at the tip when we came across a Black and White Warbler. Photographers know the frustrations and challenges that come with shooting this type of Warbler that acts more like a creeper or nuthatch. Quickly creeping up, down and around the branches and trunks of trees foraging for hidden insects in the bark can cause a rapid-fire shutter to turn up empty of a clear, sharp shot. On the flip side, it is that much more satisfying when you do. This was one of those moments where we sacrificed getting the footage on video for the picture, something I’m sure we will get better at the more we vlog.

Black and White Warbler at Point Pelee
Black and White Warbler

Day 2

This was a really quiet day of bird photography! We started off in the spot where we spotted the Hooded Warbler, hoping for a better photo opp than the previous day, but no luck. We wondered most of the trails from the previous day and took the tram to the tip a few times and there was nothing particularly exciting. We took pictures of Yellow Warblers, heard plenty of Golden-crowned Kinglets and the other usual suspects but there was not much to report this day.

he most noticeable being the amount of Blue Jays that were present at the Tip. There were hundreds of them, and we couldn’t help but think that these “bully birds” were preventing other bird species from being active.

Day 3

Those with a keen eye may have noticed in our YouTube video, that we talk about day 3 being our last day, although we arrived on Thursday and left on Mother’s Day. The reason for this was a lack of content. Although we talk about the stormy weather, we never actually experienced any but again, there was little footage from this day. It was cloudy and overcast and we marched the trials looking for any action after such a slow Day 2.

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Chesnut-sided Warbler

We lucked out along the Tilden and Shuster Trail hearing an unknown but intricate call. Another birding couple informed us that this new bird we were hearing was a Marsh Wren, our first lifer of the trip. As we continued, we experienced a good ‘pocket’ of birds, spotting an American Redstart, Magnolia warbler, Chestnut-Sided Warbler, and Warbling Vireo.

Many of these birds were found high in the tree canopy, with limited low to the ground photo opportunities.

A tour guide with a spotting scope also showed us an Eastern Screech Owl (red morph) that was nestled in a tree cavity, snoozing away.

Day 4

Since there was not a lot of content for both days 3 and 4, we merged the end of day 4 with the beginning of day 3. Not ideal for those watching as it is not a true representation of the days as they unfolded but the decision was based on the fact that we were sick of telling the camera that it was always slow, slow, slow. The last day we spotted the White-eyed Vireo, which although was spotted by me, was captured by Trev. He got some great shots of this beauty. We shared this experienced with some other birders and pointed out the great find.

White-eyed Vireo during spring migration
White-eyed Vireo

It was shortly after this that I became frustrated with my inability to capture the White Eyed Vireo. He was so perfectly perched, he was right there and I still missed him. I couldn’t manage to get my focusing right and after trying the different modes, I let my frustrations get the better of me. As a photographer, I think it is important to remind myself to enjoy the beauty of this hobby and that it is not always about the photo. This is something that I admire about bird watchers, who just love the act of finding and seeing. We ended our day with some Palm Warblers hoping along tree roots and in amongst the leaves and it was time to head back to the campsite to pack up our gear and head home for mother’s day.

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler

Vlogging our experience was something new we wanted to try and it is something that we are working on and hope to get better at. Overall, we enjoyed doing it and our goal is to be able to give viewers and other bird photography enthusiasts a glimpse into our birding adventures.

Summer Bird Photography in Ontario

Typically, after our Pelee trip, our bird photography does slow down for us in the summer months. Trees begin to leaf out and visibility of the birds becomes more difficult. For photographers, this means that the bird needs to come out to the forest edge to get a clear view.

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler

Here in Niagara, we also experienced one of the hottest and driest summers on record. The humidity that we experienced made it almost unbearable to be outside during any long period of time, not an ideal birding climate. With that being said we still do make it out when we can, venturing to areas on or near the lake to help with the heat. This summer though, we experienced another barrier to limited our photography trips.

An unfortunate turn of events – Camera stolen

Probably the main reason we have not been out birding for a while would be that my camera (Canon 70D) was stolen in June. It is a long story and I will not go into the details here, but since we bird together, neither one of us have been out looking for birds. In the meantime, we have Trevor’s 7D and an old 5D that we have been using for landscape and portrait photography. I will take this opportunity to remind everyone how important it is to make sure that your valuable camera gear is insured!

Canon EOS 70D camera

I will take this chance to spring for an upgrade. I am looking at replacing my camera with the Canon 7D Mark II, a true birding camera.

Canon 7D Mark II & DJI Phantom II!

In addition to my camera upgrade, which will likely be happening this month, we have added yet another member to our gear. We now have a Phantom 2 Vision Plus drone that we will use to enhance our bird photography YouTube channel and vlog interest (where possible).

DJI Phantom Vision II Plus Drone

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