The Warblers of Jerry Lawrence Provincial Park
Jerry Lawrence Provincial Park offers both the novice and more experienced birder an opportunity to see and listen to a variety of birds. There are five main habitats to visit at the park; the mixed second growth forest of the picnic area between Round and Lewis Lakes, which has both a dry habitat and a wet habitat, the lakes themselves, the shrubby thickets alongside the St. Margaret’s Bay Trail and the creek and bog at the north end of Round Lake where the stream exiting Round Lake flows north.
Twenty-two neotropical warblers regularly nest in Nova Scotia. All of these warblers can be seen at Jerry Lawrence Provincial Park during migration especially in late May and early June. At least eighteen of these warbler species nest or have nested in this jewel of a park. Fourteen species are reliable annual nesters and can be seen or heard in June on a two hour walk around the park's circle road and along the St. Margaret’s Bay Trail. Four others are harder to find and may not nest in this area every year. This is a special place for these beloved little birds and well worth a visit.
The best way to experience these birds is to study and learn their songs before venturing out or bring along an experienced birder since many species are heard long before they are seen. Bird song tapes are helpful but the best way to learn song is to watch the bird as it sings. Remember to bring insect repellent and water along with your birding friends.
The mixed woodlands between the lakes provides some excellent woodland birding for Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Hermit Thrush, Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Winter Wren, Brown Creeper, Pine Siskin, Boreal Chickadee, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, American Robin, White-throated Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Canada Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Magnolia Warbler and Northern Parula.
Overhead above Round and Lewis Lakes keep your eyes open for the Osprey, our provincial bird, Broad-winged Hawk, Northern Harrier and Belted Kingfisher. On the lakes themselves you’ll find Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, Common Merganser and American Black Duck.
After studying the lakes and woodland follow the path from Round Lake to the St. Margaret’s Bay Trail and search the trailside thickets for Black-and-White Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Palm Warbler, American Redstart, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Black-capped Chickadee, Purple Finch and American Goldfinch, Dark-eyed Junco and Song Sparrow.
In the bog area north of Round Lake you’ll see and hear Swamp Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Alder and Olive-sided Flycatchers, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Common Yellowthroat. Look for the beaver dam and the occasional beaver and muskrat.
This list of birds is by no means complete but it would be a challenge for most birders to list even this bunch in a two hour walk, so good luck and enjoy your visit to Jerry Lawrence Provincial Park.
The park is open mid May to early October, from 8AM to dusk but it is always a good idea to check with Parks Nova Scotia as operating hours and dates often change. You can also park at the park gates and walk into the park which adds about two kilometres to the round trip walk. Another option is to park at the Head of the St. Margaret's Bay Trail off Highway #3 and walk the trail until you come to the first lake on your left, Round Lake. The trail to the park leads in near here but it is not marked.
This olive-green warbler has a white band over the eye and a black line through the eye.
Look for this bird anywhere in the mixed spruce forest along side the St. Margaret's
Bay Trail. The bright song of this bird is reminiscent of a car starting, with chip notes
turning over slowly at the beginning and then much faster at the end. Often this increase
in speed is in three distinct parts but in all cases this bird is a persistent and powerful
singer. Its may not nest here every year and its population size is largely affected by the
spruce budworm, its favourite food. This warbler winters in Mexico and South America.
The conspicuous white eyering and grey cap of this olive-green warbler are its field
marks. Look for this bird along the St. Margaret's Bay Trail near the beaver dam as this
bird often frequents bog edges. This is a reliable annual ground nester in mixed woods.
On occasion it uses porcupine quills as nesting material. The song of this species is
usually in two parts, several double notes followed by a trill, much like "whita, whita,
whita, whitwitwitwit". Look and listen for this warbler in the woods on both sides of
the St. Margaret's Bay Trail. Clearing of forests has created second growth habitat to
the benefit of this bird. It winters in Mexico and is found in the park annually.
Look for the greenish patch behind the head and neck and the distinctive black
band over a reddish band across the yellow chest. The female lacks these
bands. The white crescents above and below the eyes are distinctive. The song
of this bird is a rising and buzzing trill ending with a snap, or a series of
separated rising trills ending with a snap, much like, "ze, zee, zeee, zeeee,
ziiiip". It likes all wooded areas near water so look for this bird near Round
and Lewis Lakes and in the mixed forest that is surrounded by the circle road
The adult male of this bright yellow warbler shows vertical rusty-red striping on the chest which
the female lacks. It prefers wet thickets so look for this bird by the St. Margaret's Bay Trail near
the creek and beaver dam. The song can be interpreted to sound like "sweet, sweet, a little
more sweet". It winters in Mexico and South America. This is an annual nester and widespread
on the continent.
The adult male wears a bright yellow crown and has chestnut-coloured flanks. This
species prefers second growth forest edge habitat so it can be found alongside the St.
Margaret's Bay Trail. Farmland development has provided additional habitat so this
warbler is thriving. The song of this bird is variable and can be difficult to learn but is
often interpreted as "pleased, pleased, pleased to meet you". It winters in Central
America. This bird nests in the park every year.
Look for a white band across the tail and a yellow rump plus a striking black
necklace on the bright yellow chest, presenting a powerful overall appearance
of black and yellow in the woods. The forested centre of the park bounded
by the circle road is its favourite habitat, especially where where there is a
cluster of young spruce trees. The song is unremarkble and short often
interpreted as "wit, wit, wita", the louder "wita" part at the end is the
giveaway. This bird winters in Central America and the Caribbean.
Black-throated Blue Warbler
This is one of our special warblers in the area. Look for a black throat and a blue
head and back. The female is less distinctive but the best field mark for both sexes is
a small white spot on the folded wing. This warbler used to be present in small numbers
but has expanded its occupation of the park and now can be found all over but especially in the more mature mixed forest along the St. Margaret's Bay trail south of the beaver dam and in the mixed forest between Round and Lewis Lakes and along both sides of the entrance road. The song can be interpreted as "zoo, zoo, zoo, zeeeee", the "zeeeee" at the end being the most distinctive part of the song. It winters in the Caribbean and South Central America. This bird nests in the park every year.
The yellow cap, yellow side patches and yellow rump are the distinctive field
marks of this common and widespread warbler. This warbler is able to eat
wax-covered berries of bayberries so its winter resilence exceeds most other
warblers. Look for it in the central spruce and mixed forest between the
lakes. The song is a lazy trill often in two parts with the second part faster,
akin to "chick, chick, chick, Chichichichi". Ours winter largely in the
southeast parts of the continent, although some overwinter successfully in
Nova Scotia. This is a reliable annual nester and wide spread on our continent.
Black-throated Green Warbler
Look for a black throat on an olive-green bird. The black throat patch extends along both
flanks and wing bars are present. This is another common warbler. Look for it in the mixed
forest along the St. Margaret's Bay trail especially near hemlock trees. Both melodic songs of
this warbler are distinctive and once learned, easily remembered. The more common song
sounds like "zooee, zooee, zoo, zoo, zeeee". The other song sounds like "zee, zee, zee, zooo,
zeee". Look for this warbler in the central forest between the lakes. It winters largely in the
Caribbean and Central America. This bird nests in the park every year.
The Blackburnian Warbler is remarkable. Its flame red throat and bright yellow-orange chest with prominent white wing bars make it unmistakeable with any other species. It prefers mature coniferous forest habit so is usually only found between Round and Lewis Lake or the maturing forest west of the creek exiting Round Lake to the north. The song is easily confused with the Black-and-white Warbler, with a high pitched, "zip, zip, zip, zip, titititi, tseeee," and "teetsa, teetsa, teetsa, teetsa."
The rusty-red cap and yellow band over the eye are this warbler's
distinctive field marks. The wagging tail is a give away! Look for this
warbler alongside the St. Margaret's Bay trail, especially near the stream
exiting Round Lake. It prefers swamp and bog margins. The song is an
unremarkable trill easily confused with those of other trilling birds. It
winters in the southern parts of our continent and is a reliable annual
nester in our park.
This bird is strikingly marked in bold black and white stripes and can be
spotted creeping up the trunks of trees as it forages. Look for it in all
forested areas. The song resembles a squeaky wheel turning round and
round like, "weesee, weesee, weesee". Most winter in Central and South
America. It nests in the park every year.
This warbler flashes bright yellow or red outer tail feathers and the male
often fans its wings as it forages, earning it the nickname of 'butterfly
bird". The song is highly variable and difficult to learn since it often
sounds very much like several other warblers, especially the Black and
White Warbler. Look for it along the St. Margaret's Bay Trail in the
shrubbery and second growth forest. It winters in Mexico, the Caribbean
and South America. This bird is a reliable annual nester in the park.
This warbler haunts the understory of thick mixed woods, and walks, not hops, along tree limbs.
The central orange crown fringed by a thin black border is distinctive. Note the bright white
eye-ring. The song is a powerful and easily learned song emanating from the forest understory,
like "teacher, teeacher, teeeacher, teeeeeacher", louder and higher as it proceeds along. This
bird is often mistaken for a small thrush because of its ground foraging behaviour. Look and
listen for it in the dry forest understory all over the park, especially in the forest between the
lakes. It winters in Florida and points south. This warbler nests in the park annually and walks, not hops, along tree limbs.
Look for a yellowish band over the eye, a dark brown stripe through the eye and thin vertical chest
striping. Overall the bird is yellowish below to varying degrees. Look for it along the St. Margaret's
Bay Trail near the beaver dam, and alongside the creek that flows out of Round Lake. The song of
this warbler is often in three parts, like " wit, wit, wit, weet, weet, weet, what, what, what",
dropping in pitch at the end. It winters in Central and South America. This bird may not nest in
the park every year but it is highly territorial and boisterous when present.
The adult male of this bright yellow warbler is easy to recognize with its black mask,
"Zorro like", and a grey band over the mask. Look for the conspicuous yellow throat.
This warbler is found in the wet thickets alongside the St. Margaret's Bay trail near the
creek exiting Round Lake and towards the beaver dam. The song is akin to "whichatee,
whichatee, whichatee, whit". It winters in the southern areas of our continent. This is a
reliable annual nester.
This adult male of this diminutive olive and yellow warbler species sports a jaunty black cap.
Look for it in the thickets by the creek and beaver dam. Its song sounds like a slow trill, "chi,
chi, chi, chichi", often faster and lower at the end. It can be a powerful singer when agitated.
It winters in Central America. It may not nest in the park every year.
This is a much sought after warbler and nests annually in the park. A black necklace
and yellow spectacles are reliable fields marks for the adult male. This warbler is
often found near the small bridge on the St. Margaret's Bay Trail and along the wet understory everywhere in the park. It prefers moist woodlands with dense undergowth. The song is clear, melodic, rapid and short, "chip, chipity, chipity, chip, chipity, chip". The song is hard to describe but once
learned is easily remembered, and somewhat unwarbler like in its fine musical quality.
This warbler migrates here all the way from South America. It nests in the park
The Missing Four Warbler Species
Of the twenty two warbler species that nest in Nova Scotia only four species have not been found showing nesting behaviour in Jerry Lawrence Provincial Park; Cape May Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler and Mourning Warbler. Both the Cape May Warbler and Bay-breasted Warbler could nest in the maturing forest west of the creek and bog that exits Round Lake to the north. The song of these high pitched singers does not carry a great distance so if they are in this forest they would be very difficult to hear across the bog and creek. The Blackpoll Warbler would find suitable habitat north of Round Lake so it should have or does nest in the boggy fringe north of Round Lake. Again this high pitched singer would be hard to hear at distance. The Mourning Warbler will find suitable second growth habitat along the St. Margaret's Bay Trail but has not been encountered as yet. Finding these final four warblers showing nesting behaviour in Jerry Lawrence Provincial Park would be a coup.