Friday 31 January 2014

Blast From the Past: Algonquin 2013

Well it has been too long since my last blog post and I I have yet to get some new material to post, although if the weather permits I hope to do some birding down in the Niagara area this weekend.

Nonetheless, here are a few photos from a trip at the end of September to Algonquin that my dad, my brother and I made.  We traveled to our favourite spot in Algonquin, Sunbeam Lake (although this trip was anything but sunny).  Our favourite route goes up from Canoe Lake through Little Doe and into Vanishing Pond, which had pretty much vanished by the time we arrived.  We eventually made it out of Vanishing Pond and into Sunbeam Lake after a couple of hours dragging the canoe through the muck.

Paul got out of the canoe to lighten the load, as we were scraping bottom

He thought he could make the jump...

Our shelter in anticipation of heavy rain

The kitchen

View from the "castle". This is one of our favourite sites on Sunbeam Lake

Ghostly view looking down Sunbeam.  After the first night, there wasn't another soul on the lake

One of a pair of young loons hanging out by our site

Making a way

The last day dawned sunny and cold.

Fall colours were starting to get good.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Spotted Towhee Hunt

Ken Burrell and I braved the snow this morning to go look for the Spotted Towhee in Glen Morris.  We arrived just before 10am, around the time this rarity has been seen.

After a few seconds of creepily watching the house where it was last seen, Ken spied the bird on the front porch with his binoculars.

It took me a second to locate the bird since it would hop out from under a small conifer shrub to get seeds, and then hop back in.  I soon found it myself and got good looks at it.  A beautiful bird, and the first one I have seen in Ontario. This is a western species, that I saw many of when I was in New Mexico, but it seldom shows up as far east as Ontario.  Unfortunately I couldn't get any decent shots since the shrubbery around the porch was too dense and I draw the line at creeping through the undergrowth on someone elses property to see a bird.

Sunday 19 January 2014

King Eider!

I made a road trip to Ottawa this weekend to see a Senators game and made a detour to see a rare bird, dragging my two travelling friends (Alex and Matt) along with me.

I had heard reports of as many as 3 King Eiders near the Burlington lift bridge canal and was hoping that I might be able to see some.  This species breeds in the high Canadian Arctic and normally winters in the ocean off both the east and west coast.

After scanning through the abundant common waterfowl which included long-tailed duck, greater scaup, common goldeneye, red-breasted merganser, white-winged scoter, bufflehead and redheads I spotted 2 immature/female type King Eiders swimming together further down the canal!

We took the scope down a bit closer and I even managed to get a few shots of one.  Not sure where the other one took off to...

Swimming beside a white-winged scoter and a long-tailed duck.

Hawkesville Red-shouldered Hawk

2013 marks the 11th year that a Red-shouldered Hawk has overwintered in Hawkesville, a small town northwest of Waterloo.  Red-shouldered Hawks are occasionally seen in Ontario during the breeding season and abundantly during migration, but rarely during the winter.  Normally this species would be wintering further south into the U.S, but for some reason, this beautiful adult bird has decided to call this aptly named town home for over a decade.

I wonder how old this bird actually is!? The record for the oldest known wild Red-shouldered Hawk is just over 22 years!

I tried 2 other times to spot the bird which had been seen earlier in the winter without any luck, but the 3rd time was a charm and I eventually spotted it on Thursday January 16th.

I managed to snap this record shot as the hawk was chased into the open by crows.

After this, the hawk flew up into a tree and I got a nice shot of its backside showing the distinctive black and white barring on the tail typical of this species.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Bronte Harbour

Today I had some field work in Oakville and after we finished up at our nearby site, my colleague Pat and I decided to check out Bronte Harbour to see if we could find a snowy owl that had been reported here the past few days.

When we arrived at the marina I was surprised to see so much open water!  There was a ton of ducks everywhere including redhead, long-tailed duck, greater scaup, common goldeneye, bufflehead, gadwall, red-breasted merganser and white-winged scotor!  I managed to get a few record shots.  Please forgive the quality, most shots were taken at the limit of my zoom and are heavily cropped.

Long-tailed Duck


White-winged Scotor

Mute Swan.  A gross non-native species, but pretty nonetheless.

After watching the ducks for a while I scanned the break wall and picked out a gray lump, which turned out to be a snowy owl! It was very dark and likely is a juvenile bird.

Trust me when I tell you that this lump is a snowy owl.  It was very far away.

We turned and headed back to the truck and had a Peregrine Falcon fly right over our head! A great ending to the day!

As we were about to get in the truck, a mink ran down the embankment towards the water and I snapped a few pictures and a short video.  Cute little guy!

Sunday 12 January 2014

Elora Gorge

I went into the Elora Gorge this morning to redo a small hike I did the previous year.  Last year when I went into the Gorge it was extremely icy which made for some awesome icicle formation.  This year was decidedly less spectacular, I think I may revisit in late winter when the meltwater should freeze.

Nonetheless, a fun little hike.

Just me and the coons down in the gorge today.

I hope to go look for some owls this afternoon.  If I get any pictures I will post them on the blog.

Sunday 5 January 2014

Blast From the Past: Lost Creek Wilderness

I haven't had much time to get out birding lately, so I thought I would recap a trip I took this spring.

This blast from the past takes us back to my most recent U.S backpacking trip that I took with Kyle, Jensen and Mike this past May.  We decided that we would mix things up and head a bit further north than the previous year when we visited New Mexico.  After some extensive research I came up with Lost Creek Wilderness in Colorado.  This wilderness area has numerous trails and spectacular mountain scenery.

The drive this time was a mere 24 hours, which we did non-stop (again), with a small detour to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore, at Mike's insistence.  This time Mike and Jensen drove down with me and Kyle had to make the trek from Calgary all by himself.

We stayed in Denver the night we arrived and started out bright and early to our starting point at the Goose Creek Trailhead.  After getting lost and asking for directions, we finally found it, and were immediately rewarded with a stunning vista.

The hiking the first little while was easy with mostly down hill sections.  Our goal was to make it to the "shafthouse" area that was supposed to have some good spots to camp.  Along the way we encountered the occasional patch of snow and saw some cool birds including Dusky Grouse, Mountain Chickadee, Townsend's Solitaire and Stellar's Jay.

The "lost creek" that tumbles over boulders and disappears occasionally beneath the mountains.

Mountain Mike perched on a boulder.

Mike and I sitting on one of the many gigantic boulders that Lost Creek is known for, at our first campsite.

Lost Creek carving it's way through the rocks.

The second day of hiking was by far the hardest of the trip.  I may have done more grueling things before, but at the time I was having a hard time remembering them.  The trip reminded us of our earlier trip to Gila, with several significant differences: steeper mountains, higher elevation and deep snow!  That night I was lucky enough to hear two Flammulated Owls calling right near our camp!

The next day the trail rapidly climbed towards the sky, topping out near 11,000 feet.  Here we encountered plenty of snow, with drifts nearly as deep as our waists!

Kyle "post-holing" his way through some snow.

Our goal for this day was to reach McCurdy Park, a flat area surrounded by even higher peaks.

Nearing McCurdy Park.

Lynx tracks!

As we were arriving at our camp spot it started to drizzle, and with temperatures hovering near freezing we tried to make some serious ground on looking for a suitable spot to pitch the tents.  We eventually settled on a rocky overhang that provided us some shelter from the rain and wind.

Trusty Marmot tents hiding under the rocks.

We started a fire and tried to dry out, hoping the rain would stop soon!  Jensen's boots were soaked as well as Kyle's.  We tried to dry them out as fast as possible, and Kyle melted his boots on the fire while he wasn't paying attention, much to the rest of the groups amusement!

Drying out.  Note the pictograph on the rock wall showing the burnt boots.

Trying to dry out.

The scenery at this site was great as usual.

View from camp.

The next day dawned sunny and bright (and cold), and we quickly packed up and got ready to hit the trail.

Mountain Chickadee

This would be the last trip for Jensen's boots which gave him nasty blisters!

We headed out, planning to take the high pass across Lake Park to get down to less snowy elevations.

Photo credit to Kyle

As we arrived at Lake Park, we discovered a note at the trailhead.

Kyle and I voted to take Lake Park, which was the most direct route, the other two recommended taking a slightly longer trail that would quickly take us down to lower elevations.  We decided to to head off the mountain in order to ensure safety.  It actually turned out to be a much more pleasant hike, although it did mean we had to climb back up over 2000 feet once we descended.

Long story short, we hiked for a long time, and eventually found a suitable campsite after getting poured on by a freak hail storm.

The next day we climbed a nearby talus slope up to the summit of a cliff for fun.

Me on the cliff edge getting some shots. Photo credit to Kyle.

On the last day we headed out of Lost Creek and saw some cool birds including Mountain and Western Bluebird and Red-naped Sapsucker.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Mountain Bluebird!

At the trailhead we realized we were supposed to have a permit...too late!

Photo credit to Kyle

On our way out after another great trip!

The ride home went smooth, except for getting pulled over in Nebraska.  The cop noted that Mike was weaving out of his lane, and tried to convince us that we were in fact high on Marijuana.  After threatening to search our vehicle he eventually wised up and let us go.  What is it about 4 guys from Ontario that makes the highway patrol want to pull us over.

Anyways, a great trip, and Jensen found a dinosaur to ride at a sketchy gas station. Bonus!