Saturday, 15 December 2018

A Dump Bird but not a Dirt Bird! Slaty-backed Gull

Today was the day I finally caught up with a Slaty-backed Gull!  A species I have tried for a few times now, but always came up short. Amazingly, two Slaty-backed Gulls have been down near the Brantford dump for a few days, so I decided to make the trip down today to try my luck.  I signed in at the weigh scales and drove to the designated viewing area.  I ran into Dan Riley and Josh Vandermeulen as I was pulling in and we went looking for the birds together.  We quickly picked one out among the hundreds of other gulls.

This is a very rare (but increasingly more regular) vagrant from northeastern Asia! 

I snapped a few photos.


bird on the left is Slaty-backed, bird on the right is a Great Black-backed


In addition to the star attraction, there were a few other interesting species including several Glaucous, Iceland and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.



Sunday, 2 December 2018

Backyard Birds - Common Redpoll

Although I have yet to get a bird feeder up and running at my new place in Fergus, I still have seen a few birds of interest out the window.  Yesterday, I had a flock of 16 Common Redpolls that were foraging right at the edge of my lawn in some weeds.  This winter has already been a really exciting one for winter birds, including finches.  These Common Redpolls all appeared to be of the most common subspecies: The "Southern" or Flammea subspecies that breeds in the low arctic.

I snapped a few pictures through the window, so they didn't turn out too clear, but still fun to watch!









Friday, 30 November 2018

Late Fall Birding

Last weekend I was down in Niagara to pick up some furniture for the new house, and squeezed in a bit of bird watching along the Niagara River.  The gull watching was not as good as I was expecting for this time of year.  I had no white-winged gulls and overall abundance was lower than I would expect for this time of year.  Hopefully it is better for this weekends gull outing for OFO.  I still had a few interesting observations, including a Dunlin out on the rocks above the falls - I was surprised and disappointed when I looked closely and saw it was not a Purple Sandpiper!  I also had  Red-necked Grebe on Lake Erie near Point Abino.

Lots of Horned Grebes were present along the river and on both Lake Ontario and Erie

Tundra Swans were present in good numbers along the river
The area near the falls was coated in a thick layer of ice from all the freezing mist, it was quite scenic.


Point Abino
Yesterday I went up to Luther Marsh before work to look for some winter birds that Dan MacNeal had spotted.  I found the Bohemian Waxwings, as well as this Northern Shrike and some Common Redpolls but did not find the Pine Grosbeaks unfortunately.

Northern Shrike
 I have never seen so many Bohemian Waxwings at one time before.  The flock was easily at 200 birds.
Bohemian Waxwings

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Balcony Birds: Cackling Geese

It is always a bonus to see interesting birds without even really trying.  While up at the Latornell Conference this week I scanned a flock of Canada Geese from my balcony and low and behold found 5 diminutive Cackling Geese!  A fun game of 'Where is Waldo'.

Besides that stubby beak and smaller size, the white collar really helps clinch any questions about the ID.  I also find Cackling Geese in Ontario are paler overall than Canada Geese.




Sunday, 11 November 2018

Black-throated Gray Warbler - LaSalle Marina

Well it has been a busy time the last few weeks with the move to the new house, but today I found some time to zip down to LaSalle to see the celebrity bird: the Black-throated Gray Warbler!  People were watching the bird as we walked up and had great views at quite close range. Photography was challenging in low light and the tangles the bird liked to frequent.



Most of my shots look like this!

A new Ontario bird for me and one I have always wanted to see!

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Guelph Lake Outing

I unfortunately have not had much time to enjoy birding or nature much this fall due to a very heavy work schedule combined with the sale and purchase of our house in Fergus (I am staying in Fergus).  However, I decided to head over to Guelph Lake this afternoon since I had heard that there were 4 Brant reported yesterday.  I scanned the shoreline for about 15 minutes with no luck.  After leaving and wandering around the trails for a bit, I returned to the parking lot and saw Elaine and Ethan Gosnell who tipped me off that the birds were back! I'm not sure where they were hiding, but I went back out to the beach and there they were in plain view.


I was on my way out when I came across a large mixed flock of sparrows and other passerines foraging along the roadway.  I stopped and had a great time enjoying the variety and abundance of songbirds present.  The highlight was probably the lone Orange-crowned Warbler I found.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Field Sparrow

Orange-crowned Warbler

The White-crowns seemed to enjoy foraging around my car.
A great day to be out enjoying the fall colours and some good birds too!

Thursday, 13 September 2018

A first for Ontario and Canada: Great Kiskadee + a surprise!

I had work down in the Rondeau area on Wednesday and made the wise decision to swing by the park to see the celebrity bird that was found there on the weekend, the Great Kiskadee!

This is a bird that anyone who has spent some time in the tropics would be very familiar with, but is virtually unheard of in the northern latitudes, and this is the first time one has been found in Canada!

As I was pulling up to the park I got word that it was being seen again, and I hurried toward the marsh boardwalk.  I was able to get some great views of the bird as it foraged for frogs and other food along the edge of the water.




A bird I didn't expect to see on the way to find the kiskadee was this poor loon marooned on the side of the highway!  As I was flying by I spotted it sitting on the side of the road and pulled over to help it out.  Loons have legs that are so far back on their body that they can't take off without running along the water - great for swimming, useless on land.  A nice lady also stopped to help and gave me gloves which were very helpful as he enjoyed stabbing me with his long beak.  I wrapped him in a towel and put him in the trunk after seeing he was unharmed and drove to the lake to release him.  He seemed in good health and immediately disappeared under the water!  I was glad to help this bird, which is a special species to me, as I have spent a lot of time up in Algonquin where the loon is synonymous to me with wilderness and great times with family and friends.