Tuesday, 27 June 2017

How Many Can YOU ID?

Below are some photos of birds that I have seen in Ontario.  I am in the position of knowing what each is, but can you figure it out from a single crappy photo?  Post your answers below.  









Saturday, 24 June 2017

The River is Raging!

I went out to try to do some dragonfly surveys on some rivers near the K-W area, but there was literally no bank to walk on, and in some cases, the river had burst its banks.

Conestogo River.  Normally this is a horse pasture, but the river has flowed right over the bank and in several hundred metres.

The normal bank of the river is the line of trees on the left.

Trailer park on the Grand River.

Grand River near Pilkington

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Dickcissel's Galore!

The last couple of weeks has seen an influx of Dickcissels.  This is a mid-western species that favours brushy, shrubby fields that are a little bit overgrown.  After our last heat wave they started showing up in abundance, possibly related to dry conditions further south.  

The individual below is one of 3 we saw at Camper's Cove this morning.  Although this one lacks the black throat, I can't help but wonder if this is a young male due to the bright rufous wing patches and because it was actively singing.  Anyone know?


Dickcissels also showed up in Waterloo Region, and at lunch, Ken and I nipped out to check if they were still there.  We quickly heard their distinctive sound.  I was able to get a few photos of this male.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Northern Ontario Adventures

This past week I was up in northern Ontario in the Sault Ste. Marie area to do some bird surveys at various sites near Lake Superior.  Ken and I had a great time and saw some excellent birds and sights. The bugs were voracious as expected for this time of year, but that didn't dampen our spirits.

We were tasked with doing early morning and evening bird surveys, which left us some time in the middle of the day to do some more bird watching (in between checking work emails).  Our first target was the Black-billed Magpie that has been hanging out near Echo Bay for a few years now.  I had tried for it with Pat a couple of years ago with no luck.  But on Monday Ken and I were able to track it down.  It was quite cooperative for a short time and I got a few pictures.  This was a new Ontario bird for me!

Black-billed Magpie

Wilson's Snipe
 This Red Fox was very friendly.  I think it wanted a hand out!

One of 5 Black Bears that I saw on the trip.  All of them very skittish except for this one that casually wandered down the gravel road in front of us.

The shot below is of the Montreal River from the hydroelectric dam.

After our surveys on Thursday, Ken and I had a bit of time to spare, so we went to try to find the extremely rare Violet-green Swallow which had been reported a few days prior in Thunder Bay.  I believe this is only the 5th record of this species in Ontario!  This female bird is mating with a male Tree Swallow.  Upon arrival, we quickly found it, a new Ontario bird for both of us!  In the picture below you can see the nest box she is using as well as her Tree Swallow mate!

Tree Swallow at the shared nest box
 The Violet-green Swallow was very content to perch for us while we took photos.
Violet-green Swallow (female)

Violet-green Swallow (female) 
It will be interesting to see if these two species will produce any viable offspring, and if so, what they will look like!  A really neat case of hybridization!

Canadian Tiger Swallowtails feeding on salts in the wet mud

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Blue Grosbeak - High Park

This weekend I was taking a more relaxed pace, not focusing on birds specifically.  However, I kept hearing about the awesome birds being seen in the GTA on Saturday, and I decided to make a quick trip to see if I could see any of them yesterday.

Cait and I started out at High Park to see if we could find the male Blue Grosbeak.  We searched with many others for over an hour, and I had given up and was on my way out when I spotted it sitting at the top of a short tree!  I called over the other birders, the first of which turned out to be long lost friend Kyle Holloway!

The Blue of the bird did not turn out in the backlit photos, and the bird appears blackish.  The wing bars were also hard to see at first, but the massive size of the bird and beak relative to a bunting was apparent from the get go.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak
The other treat of the day was a Connecticut Warbler in Marie Curtis Park that was found earlier in the day by other birders.  Fortunately there was someone present who had already tracked this bird down and I got several decent looks at it before it scuttled away.  No photos unfortunately!

Last week I was down near Erieau and stopped at the marina and pier.  Nothing rare, but I had a great chance to photograph a few shorebirds at close range.  The birds were busy picking bugs off the concrete.  If you look closely you can see some of them in the photos.

Ruddy Turnstone (back) and Semi-palmated Sandpiper

Semi-palmated Sandpipers

Semi-palmated Sandpipers




Monday, 22 May 2017

Amherst Island - A Big Morning (Marbled Godwit and Red Knot)

My dad and I got out to Amherst Island on the weekend, planning to do a big day.  Our version of a big day on the island is really a big morning.  We caught the ferry over to the island at 630am and birded all the usual spots and some others that we haven't paid much attention to in the past.  The winds were from the northeast, so we spent a bit more time in the southwest side of the island in hopes of picking up more songbirds where things were calmer.  The big surprise(s) of the morning came on the Martin Edwards Reserve property on the east end of the island.  While scanning the shorebirds we found a Red Knot!  However, the birds were quickly flushed by a Merlin.  Fortunately the birds returned.  While trying to refind the knot, we spotted a Marbled Godwit!  Another fantastic shorebird for the island!  We had hit 100 species of birds by around 1230pm and decided to head home on a high note.  A really great day and I can't wait to repeat it again next year!

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit
 I don't get to see Red Knots very often, and its large size was readily apparent next to the numerous Dunlin.
Red Knot with Dunlin

Another treat, although more expected, was seeing several Wilson's Phalarope.  The island is the only reliable spot that I know of to get this species and I always enjoy seeing them!

Wilson's Phalarope male (left centre), female (right centre) among Dunlin

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Pelee 2017 Part 2/2: The Island

I caught the Jiimaan Ferry to Pelee Island on Wednesday morning and was happy to be in a more secluded, peaceful spot.  The park is great, but it is crowded with mobs of people and I always appreciate the slower pace of the island. I spent the next few days birding all the usual spots: Fish Point, Sheridan's Point, Middle Point, Lighthouse Point, the winery trails etc.

Fish Point is one of my favourite spots to bird watch in Ontario.  The trails are idyllic and uncrowded and often reveal some great birds!

The tip of Fish Point was still somewhat intact, unlike at Point Pelee

Birding Fish Point in the evening is great.  The warblers come out to the edge of the short trees and the sunlight behind you illuminates them perfectly.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Scarlet Tanager

Cape May Warblers are one of my favourites. As their latin name 'tigrina' suggests, they indeed have striping and colouration like a tiger.
Cape May Warbler
 The trails at the Winery are always worth a check.

Lincoln's Sparrow
 Depending on the winds, Sheridan's Point can be crammed with birds or really slow.  Unfortunately this time it was the latter.

Veery were the most common thrush next to robins.

Fish Point trail
 Sometimes I like pictures that are a bit more zoomed out to show the habitat a bird is using.  I rather like this photo of the Great Crested Flycatcher at Fish Point.
Great Crested Flycatcher
 Indigo Buntings are one of those birds that non-birders go crazy for when they first see them.  And I have to admit, they sure are beautiful!

Indigo Bunting
 This shot of the Indigo Bunting is one of my favourite shots of the trip.

Fox Squirrels are only found on Pelee Island in Ontario.  They are large, almost like a small, fat, clumsy cat with a propensity for running in front of your car at the last second.  I nearly ran several of them over this past week.  I would have much rather hit that cat that I saw hunting Palm Warblers on the beach at Fish Point!

Palm Warblers were by far the most abundant warbler on the island.  They were literally everywhere some days, even on lawns.  I can see 7 in the shot below.

Bryan and Charlotte arrived on Thursday afternoon, and we continued out streak of finding Summer Tanagers, with our 4th of the week being this beautiful female!  Something about this rare bird that really gets me excited!

Summer Tanager
 She was very content to forage in our presence and at one point flew over our heads.

Female Scarlet Tanagers were also present.  Some people mistake the two, but note the smaller bill, lemon yellow body and darker wings.
Scarlet Tanager
 Raptors are always few and far between on the island.  But we did have this nice Merlin sitting near the tip.
 We didn't really look for herps this time, but did see several melanistic (black) Gartersnakes like this one below.

We visited the Stone Road Alvar briefly, a really unique spot.

The waves at Lighthouse point subsided as the weekend neared, allowing you to walk most of the way down the beach.

It was here on Saturday morning, before I had to leave, that we saw the young male Summer Tanager found earlier in the day (our 5th Summer Tanager of the week!).  This bird was also very obliging and foraged for flies and bugs over our heads.

Summer Tanager #5

The other special bird we saw on the island was this wonderful young male Prairie Warbler.  Thanks to Richard Pope for letting us know if was there!  We saw this bird on both Friday and Saturday.

Prairie Warbler

My only shot of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, they are too quick to photograph usually

On my last morning on the island I took this shot of the nearly full moon.

On the ferry ride back to the mainland I was trying to catch some sleep below deck, but when I looked out the window I saw an American White Pelican!  A great finale for a wonderful week in the Pelee Region!