Tuesday, 22 May 2018

A Big Morning on Amherst Island

On Sunday my Dad and I did our annual Amherst Island "Big Morning" that we officially started last year.  We catch the first ferry from the mainland at 6:30am and bird until we catch the 1pm ferry back.  Last year we had 100 species of birds in basically around 6 hrs, which isn't too shabby!  We wanted to beat our record and tallied 103 species just in time to catch the ferry back.

Highlights included some of the usual breeders such as Wilson's Phalarope and Upland Sandpiper, as well as a few winter stragglers such as Snowy Owl and Rough-legged Hawk.  We also had point blank views of a sneaky Virginia Rail!  We were not able to access Owl Woods in my Chevy Cruze, the roads were in very bad shape and I bottomed out and almost got stuck on the south access road.  This likely cost us at least a few species of birds.  The entire ebird list of species observed is shown below:


The island is currently under heavy construction due to the wind farm that is underway, making the roads a mess in several areas.  We barely recognized the ferry docks, as they have been re-built to accommodate their own barges.  We were happy we chose to bird the island on a Sunday rather than during the week, as we did not have to contend with any construction traffic.

I unfortunately didn't have much time to take many photos as we were busy hunting for birds.

Snowy Owl

Wilson's Phalarope
I can't wait to do this again next year!  I really enjoy the strategy involved in trying to see more birds than you did the last time.  I think I will try to plan a similar trip in the fall, maybe in late September!

Monday, 14 May 2018

Pelee 2018 (Part 2): Pelee Island - Bell's Vireo!

After a great time at the Point I was happy to get away to Pelee Island for some relaxing birding.  I enjoy birding at the national park, but there are so many birders there that it can be a bit annoying at times.  The island is great because there are far fewer birders, so you feel like you have the place to yourself most of the time, and the birding can be amazing!

I took the 1.5hr ferry ride across to the island on Wednesday evening and got there just in time to set up my tent in the campground along East Shore Road.  The real birding began on Thursday, and since most of the other NRSI crew weren't coming over until late in the afternoon, I was on my own for most of the day.  Thursday was a very good day on the island, and I managed to track down 112 species of birds including 24 species of warblers. 

As always, I started the morning at Fish Point, and was greeted with my first American White Pelican of the year floating in the waters off the point.

It was a good day for White-eyed Vireo on the island, I saw 3 different birds.

Blackburnian Warbler
 It was a real treat seeing this Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  I have seen both cuckoo species this year, which usually takes a bit longer in the year for me.

I went to Lighthouse Point in the early afternoon and was rewarded with hordes of birds.  There was a sign across the path that said 'Trail Closed', either because of fallen trees from last weeks storm or because Margaret Atwood was filming a documentary at the point.  I was slightly annoyed as they were flying a drone up the beach in peak migration, and watching the birds, it was definitely disturbing them as most were foraging on the edge of the scrubby vegetation near the beach.  I was very glad that I walked the trail anyways as I found a very exciting bird: Bell's Vireo!  My mind was racing as I was eliminating all the other more common species.  I had just seen a White-eyed Vireo and quickly realized it was not just a young WEVI!  I realized it was likely a Bell's Vireo, a bird I have never seen before and is recorded in Ontario very infrequently.  I was so excited I had a hard time getting a photo of this very secretive bird that preferred the densest tangles.  I soon lost the bird with only crappy record shots that showed only some of the features.  Most of the birds were moving north, so I went ahead to cut them off and managed to refind the bird 30 minutes later.  Eventually I got some shots that I was satisfied with and was even able to get a few other folks to see it.  As I had never seen this species before, I sent the photos to Ken to make sure I wasn't crazy!  Below are the sequence of shots I was able to get, with the last one being the best.

Bell's Vireo
An exciting bird made even more exciting since I found it on a largely abandoned beach!

Friday was very rainy and cold and not the best for birding.  One highlight was a roosting Common Nighthawk that someone else found and reported.

Common Nighthawk
I was a little sad that my week at Pelee was over, but I am already looking forward to next year.  I think I may spend more time on the island and less at the point!

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Pelee 2018 (Part 1): Point Pelee

I have just returned from a fantastic week down in the Pelee region.  I spent Saturday-Wednesday of this past week in the national park on the mainland and Thursday-Saturday on Pelee Island.  Point Pelee was excellent right out of the gate on Saturday, as the strong winds seemed to have brought in many southern overshoots.  I saw 2 Kentucky Warblers, 2 Worm-eating Warblers, 2 Yellow-breasted Chats and tons of other species!  Below are the highlights of birds I was able to get photos of from the Point.

Louisiana Waterthrush
This is the Kentucky Warbler found on Tilden's Woods that I was able to view along with hordes of other people.  As usual with this species, views were very hard to come by as Kentucky Warblers walk through the dense undergrowth, seldom popping into view.
Kentucky Warbler
 I walked some of the seasonal trails at the north end of the park and came across two people watching another Kentucky Warbler!  This one was much more cooperative and I got some shots that I am very happy with!
Kentucky Warbler

When Charlotte and Bryan arrived, we went back to try to re-find the Tilden's Kentucky and were treated with great views as it actually sat up on a perch!

Ken Burrell found this Worm-eating Warbler that attracted a huge crowd.
Worm-eating Warbler
 We later discovered another bird further north that we believed to be a different bird.
Worm-eating Warbler

 Hooded Warblers were more plentiful than I have ever seen. I believe I saw close to 10 in the time I was at the Point.
Female Hooded Warbler

Male Hooded Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Blue-headed Vireo
 White-eyed Vireo were also more common than I recall.  I saw 7 birds at the Point.
White-eyed Vireo

Yellow-throated Vireo

Great Crested Flycatcher

Gray Catbird 
Shorebirds were of course also of interest, with many species being seen at Hillman Marsh.

American Avocet

I always enjoy my time birding at Point Pelee, and can hardly wait until next spring.  Hopefully I will get back down again this May at some point.  The next post will detail the birds I saw on Pelee Island, including the major highlight of the trip!

Monday, 23 April 2018

Long Point Area - Spring has Arrived!

Well today was as spring-like a day as you could wish for after such a crappy April!  I am happy to see most of the snow is gone from Fergus!

Today I was down in the Long Point area for work and took some time to swing by the park to see what birds were around.  I had many 'First of Year' (FOY) birds.  It was great to see some warblers.  I had Yellow-rumped, Pine and a single Palm Warbler at the provincial park.  Below are a few shots of what I saw today.

Brown Thrasher

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Cooper's Hawk

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Phoebe

Hermit Thrush
I am excited for migration and feel that the big push of migrants is so close I can taste it.  I will be at Pelee this year from May 5-12 this year.  What are your spring plans?

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

iNaturalist - I'm hooked!

I decided to give iNaturalist a try after hearing about it from lots of other naturalist folks in Ontario, and I'm really enjoying it so far!  For those of you who don't know what iNaturalist is, it is a place to log observations of any type of plant or wildlife that you come across!  Data from iNaturalist is being harvested by various organizations such as the Natural Heritage Information Centre, so it is a great way to ensure that the data you are collecting doesn't go to waste!  I plan on using it for all of my non-bird observations, as I use ebird exclusively for logging bird sightings.

After posting an observation, other naturalists will verify your observation until it eventually gets to "Research Grade" level, meaning it has been vetted by enough people to considered verified more or less.

You can check out the website here and sign up!


Here are some of my favourite observations so far:

The nice thing about iNaturalist is that it is still really growing so you have the chance to feel like a pioneer, for example, this observation below of Bombus balteatus of mine in the Beartooth Wilderness is only the second in the continental U.S as far as I can tell!

Green Basilisk Lizard in Costa Rica

Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth in Costa Rica

The amazing thing about this program is how quick people are to verify your observations!  It is a really fun way share what you have seen, I encourage you to join!  It is particularly fun while we wait for spring to start here, since you can log all your old observations from past outings that is just sitting on your computer!

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Ross's Goose - Dufferin County

Today I decided to do a little local bird watching and check a few spots in the area.  After checking the Grand River near Fergus and not finding much I decided to go to Hillsburgh to see if I could find any interesting waterfowl.  On the way there, just southeast of Marsville I came across a large flock of geese and stopped to check for anything unusual.  I quickly spotted a Ross's Goose among the Canada Geese!  This is very likely the same bird that was reported from the Hillsburgh ponds in nearby Wellington County.  Dan Macneal let me know that this appears to be the first one reported on ebird within Dufferin, and checking on ebird I see that he is correct.  Neat!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Caribbean Nature Highlights

Last week I was down in the Caribbean and visited a few islands, when I wasn't floating on a giant piece of garbage (a cruise ship) with my brother, sister and Caitlyn.  Although I am starting to get sick of the Caribbean (imagine that), I still saw some cool things.  The biggest nature surprise of the trip was walking through the pool area while on the boat at 11pm at night and spotting a Tennessee Warbler fly into some artificial flowers! Clearly a migrant that thought it quite nice to take a break on a cruise ship while island hopping way out in the Caribbean.

Our first stop was Grand Cayman, where it rained nearly the entire day.

Smooth-billed Ani

White-winged Dove (On its way back to someones car in Rondeau?)
 Our next stop was in the Mayan Riviera to see the Chacchoban Ruins.
Chachobben Ruins in Mayan Riviera
 Bat Falcon was my highlight here, but I was also happy to see Keel-billed Toucan, Yellow-throated Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and several others.
Bat Falcon
 Baccalar Lagoon was quite scenic, highlights were the Ringed Kingfisher, lowlights were cutting my foot on a rock within 30 seconds of entering the water and tracking blood across the nicely kept dock.
Baccalar Lagoon

Great Kiskadee

Yellow-throated Euphonia
 Cozumel was a nice little island, we went to the south end of the island to a nature park and saw some cool stuff.


Roseate Spoonbill

Gecko? species

Highlights were the many egrets. Within this one swampy estuary I saw Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Reddish Egret, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Little Blue Heron, and Tri-colored Heron!
Reddish Egrets

Clapper Rail
American Crocodile

Tropical Kingbird