Sunday, 21 January 2018

Rare Waterfowl Roundup

Saturday was a perfect day.  I decided to head back down to the Hamilton area to try to clean up some of the waterfowl rarities that I had missed my last time down.  I was happy to be able to track down all 3 of my main targets.

First up was the female Harlequin Duck that has been hanging out on the Burlington side of the shipping canal.

I found it almost immediately towards the end of the pier.

Female Harlequin Duck
 A male Bufflehead seemed to be taking a shine to the Harlequin Duck and was following her around displaying.  She didn't seem very impressed.
Female Bufflehead, Male Bufflehead, Female Harlequin Duck, young White-winged Scoter
Next up were King Eiders.  I eventually saw two at Green Road, both were fairly far out.  A female and a nice young male bird as well.  Unfortunately they were too far for good photos.

After this I headed down to the Grimsby area to see the pair of Ross's Geese.  Quite a rarity in the Niagara Region!  I saw them out in the field with a flock of Canada Geese, and also bumped into some other familiar faces including Josh, Barb and Dave Pryor among others.  We enjoyed watching them circle around the farm fields before settling back into the flock.  The homeowners at this spot were very welcoming, allowing people to even walk onto their land to get better views!

Ross's Geese

After having a successful morning birding I decided to zip over to the Silverdale Gun Club to do some target practice with my relatively new 30-30 Lever Action Rifle.  Lets just say I am a better birder (or a luckier one) than I am marksman.

Either the sights are off or my eyes are crooked.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Bald Eagle Photo Op

I have had the pleasure of monitoring many Bald Eagle nests as a biologist.  Recently I got the chance to take some photos of one nice pair.

I snapped a few shots that I like.

I also snapped a few shots of other birds like this American Tree Sparrow below and a nice male Northern Cardinal.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Ducks and Snowy Owls

With another year upon us, it's time to get out and tick off some of those common birds again! The frigid weather has certainly not made it easy!  On Wednesday I went down to Hamilton to do a duck round up and got many of the expected species.  I was surprised that I wasn't able to turn up a King Eider, but there will be plenty of time to see them this year. The highlight of the day was a Red-throated Loon that popped up at the mouth of the canal.

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck and White-winged Scoter

Red-breasted Merganser

 I also birded the Metz area north of Fergus and Luther Marsh from the road on Thursday.  It was extremely cold, so my birding was entirely roadside.  Birds were few and far between, but I did find 2 Snowy Owls, including this one that perched nicely on a telephone pole, seemingly oblivious to the polar winds.  I was able to find a few other FOY ("first of year birds) including Common Raven and Ruffed Grouse.  I did not see a single other raptor while out.

Most of the roads were free of snow.

I also found this Porcupine trying to stay warm while out for a walk in the arboretum earlier in the week.  It was rolled up in a ball!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Having been busy with the holiday season, I haven't had much time for blogging.  I did get out to do some birding along the Niagara River over the Christmas break and saw a few birds of interest including Black Vultures, various gulls including a Little Gull at the Whirlpool and a good assortment of ducks and waterfowl.

Above the falls


Little Gull at the Whirlpool
Stevensville Conservation Area

Tundra Swans
Adam Beck was pretty good, with really good numbers of Iceland Gulls and a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
Lesser Black-backed Gull

Iceland Gull
Stay warm this holiday season.  Below are a few shots of Caitlyn's mom and uncles houses looking nice in this wintry setting.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Northern Gannet - Burlington

On Friday I was in the Guelph area for an appointment when I heard that the Northern Gannet (record-breaking Northern Gannet) was still being seen in Burlington.  I zipped down to the beach and immediately had the bird fly right by!  This was a first for me in Ontario, as this species is an ocean-going bird.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Two Rare Thrushes - Townsend's Solitaire and Mountain Bluebird

It has been a good couple of weeks for rare thrushes in Ontario with a Townsend's Solitaire in Dufferin County found by Dan MacNeal and a Mountain Bluebird near Waterloo found a few days later by Anthony Vandeheyden.  I was lucky enough to see both of these birds, although both took two tries.

Unfortunately, the solitaire stayed sitting in a tangle of branches, so no great photos.  You can see the grapes it was feeding on in the foreground.
Townsend's Solitaire

The Mountain Bluebird posed another problem, by sitting at the top of a tree in plain sight against an overcast sky, the backlighting was terrible.  This is a female bird, so it is very grey with a bluish tail and some blue on the wings.
Mountain Bluebird

I also had a Northern Shrike at the same location on my first try for the bird.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Netitishi Point 2/2 - Close Encounter With a Wolf Pack

Our birding at Netitishi wasn't really panning out and we were all feeling a bit discouraged at various points on the trip.  As our extraction date got closer it seemed as if the trip would end without too much excitement.  Things changed quickly on the last day of the trip, just as dusk was starting to settle in.  Kathryn, Todd and I heard a wolf pack start howling in the distance further west along the shoreline.  Todd and I howled back, and the pack promptly responded by howling back, closer this time.  I thought maybe they were moving out to the beach and I ran to the shoreline to see if I could catch a glimpse of these elusive animals.  Sure enough, maybe 1km away, I could see dark shapes emerging from the forest onto the beach. 

Todd and I ran down the beach towards the pack with our cameras and binoculars, using the mounds of sea ice as cover.  Luckily, the wind was blowing to us, meaning the pack couldn't smell us.  We finally found a good blind behind a large chunk of ice that was just short enough for us to peek over the top.  We watched with great excitement as not one or two, but eight large Gray Wolves sauntered down the beach towards us, no doubt looking for the source of those howls they had heard earlier.

5 of the wolves, more are off to the left

A few were quite playful, rolling on the ice just like your dog at home might do.

Todd and I watched as the pack got closer and closer until they were a mere stone's throw away from us (we estimated less than 50m).

The white wolf was enormous, and I wonder if this was the alpha wolf.

I like this one, you can see the wolf in the foreground licking its chops
 The hunks of sea ice made it tricky for both of us to see each other, although the wolves still seemed oblivious to our presence.

Eventually, the wolves were so close we could hear their paws crunching the snow and ice!  One of the pack hopped up on top of a chunk of ice to get a better view and promptly spotted us!

The photo below is full frame, no cropping!

 Although I was certain that wolves do not attack people, I thought they had gotten close enough and we withdrew, buzzing with excitement that we had shared a moment with this wild pack.  As we walked away the pack howled at us. 

They seemed curious about us, and it is possible that this pack has had very little contact with humans due to the remote nature of the James Bay coastline. 

The next morning we walked back to the area to see the tracks.  Below is a photo of the ice blocks we hid behind while observing the pack.

The tracks as expected were huge.  The photo below shows my hand, which is not small.

Truly the most amazing wildlife experience of my life, and I wouldn't trade it for even the rarest of bird sightings.  I left Netitishi Point fully satisfied, but not in the way I had expected.