Tuesday 28 October 2014

Cattle Egret- Tilbury Sewage Lagoon

Today I decided to check the Tilbury Sewage Lagoons and was rewarded with a long overdue sighting, a Cattle Egret! This rare bird is typically found in the southern U.S and only shows up in Ontario as a vagrant.  This bird was originally found by Brandon Holden and I have been on the lookout for it the past few weeks.  Needless to say it was quite satisfying to finally find it myself!

Cattle Egret!

Sunday 26 October 2014

Beartooth Wilderness Insects

As the season has started to slow down I have had a bit of time to ID all those butterflies and bees that I photographed while in the Beartooth Wilderness this past August.  At that time of year, the alpine meadows were carpeted with wildflowers, and were full of pollinating insects.  I only managed to photograph a handful, but here they are.  The photos are not great, but they were enough to get positive identifications in most cases!  Always so exciting to go to new places, because the wildlife is often completely new!

Arctic Blue- a tiny species that ranges from Canada south to the US in the Rocky Mountains
Relict Fritillary- took a while to ID this guy with the bites out of it's wings and the many different fritillary species out west
Pink-edged Sulphur as far as I can tell!
Theano Alpine, a bad picture of a really neat species that outside of Alaska, northern BC and the Yukon is only found in a few places in the US.  I chased this one down a mountainside for this crappy shot!
Common Checkered Skipper
Juba Skipper.  This one was on top of Bald Knob at 11,000ft!
Mariposa Copper
Painted Lady
As far as I could tell this is a Pearl Crescent, nothing else seemed to match!
Horrible shot of a Western White in the crevice of this rock, taking shelter from the winds at 11,000ft
Bombus balteatus- one of two bumble bee species identified in the Beartooths
Bombus frigidus

Thursday 23 October 2014

Point Pelee and more

The other day I was working at a site near Point Pelee National Park, so I took a quick trip at dawn right to the southernmost tip of Canada.  At this time of year the park seems virtually deserted particularly when compared with the spring when this place is overrun by eager birders.  On this particular day I arrived in the dark and was greeted by a pair of Great Horned Owls calling.  I walked all the way to the tip and watched the gulls and ducks stream by.  Good numbers of birds but not anything unusual.

Canada's southernmost point of land!

Raptor migration is winding down, but I'm still looking for a Golden Eagle for the year.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Odds and Ends

Well things have been quite slow for me lately in the nature and adventure category but I have hopes for finding some good birds this week since I will be once again down in the Windsor Area.  As always I will keep you posted!

In the meantime, here are a couple random videos, one of the Husonian Godwit and another from the Beartooth Wilderness from this past August.  Make sure to click the little wheel on youtube to get the HD video, the quality is way better.  At first I thought that the bird video was sped up since the birds look so hyperactive up close, but no, that is their actual speed!

Friday 10 October 2014

Godwits and Yellow-headed Blackbirds!

I had the pleasure of carrying out more field work in Ontario's deep south today with a friend of mine, Pat Deacon.  We heard a report of a Hudsonian Godwit at the tomato factory on Comber sideroad, so we nipped over there before work this morning and were lucky enough to get phenomenal views of this elegant bird!  Here are a few shots I took of it.

Hudsonian Godwit, the big guy towering over the Lesser Yellowlegs and Killdeer
Hudsonian Godwit

Hudsonian Godwit, you can really see that distinctive godwit beak, upturned.
 After this we got down to business with our work for the day, and just around 1pm I spotted a large blackbird flock and we stopped to search for Yellow-headed Blackbirds which sometimes hang out with other blackbird species during the fall.  In just a few seconds Pat had spotted one!  A real beauty, appears to be a 1st year male bird based on the markings.  It was hard to get a shot of it since the massive blackbird flock was constantly moving as the birds fed on leftover soy beans.  Also of note were a partially leucistic (albino) starling and cowbird with white tail feathers.

Yellow-headed Blackbird.  You can see how they could be hard to pick out in a flock of several hundred blackbirds!
Much more visible here!
It is always a treat to see rare birds, especially when you can combine it with work!

I almost forgot, here is a bonus Great Horned Owl that we spooked from some trees today.  Gotta love those piercing eyes!

Great Horned Owl

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Fort Erie - Niagara River

Last night I was looking at my schedule and determined that a day off to chase birds in Fort Erie and the Niagara River was an absolute necessity.  Rare birds have been reported in abundance here in recent days due to great southwest-west winds that are pushing lots of gulls and other species to the end of the lake.  I left Fergus bright and early and arrived at Waverly Beach in Fort Erie around 7:15am.

Waverly Beach sunrise
I sat on a bench and scanned the horizon and lake for about an hour and a half and had great numbers of Common Terns, Bonaparte's Gulls, Surf Scoter, Common Loon and others.  My primary target for the day was to find a Sabine's Gull, but it wasn't happening at Waverly so I moved on to Mather Park.  I sat on the beach with my spotting scope and binoculars here for 2 hours as a big storm rolled in, pushing plenty of birds into the river mouth.  I scanned through piles of Common Terns and Bonaparte's Gulls until my eyes were bugging out, and finally I spotted a small gull about the size of a Bonaparte's Gull but with a distinctive brown saddle and black leading edge and wing tips.  A very distinctive pattern and one I immediately recognized as a juvenile Sabine's Gull!  I tried to snap a few photos of this guy but it was too far out, at least 1km away.  I did get this shot.

Sabine's Gull is that black speck on the right. Trust me...
Zoomed in you can see the brownish head of the Sabine's.
I stayed at Mather a little while longer and then made my way north up the river.  Gull numbers dropped off steeply as I moved further from the river mouth.

An odd site on the Niagara...a domestic goose.
Horned Grebe in winter plumage.  Can you make out the red eye?
Gull and cormorant feeding frenzy
My last stop of the day was the Queenston overlook just north of the Brock Memorial.  This spot has routinely had Black Vultures reported, but try as I may, I have not been able to track them down...until today! Soon after arriving, I quickly found a vulture that I knew was not a Turkey Vulture.  Black Vultures are stockier birds, with silver wing tips and a black head.  I snapped a few identifiable shots.  This is my 241st bird species in Ontario this year, I think I can hit 250 before new years!

Black Vulture incoming! Note the way that this bird holds its wings flat when gliding as opposed to Turkey Vulture which holds them in a slight V.
Note those silver tipped wings of the Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture for comparison. Note the red head and uplifted wings.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Niagara River never disappoints and it is one of my favourite birding spots in Ontario!  Lucky for me, Caitlyn and I are heading to her parents for thanksgiving in Fort Erie this weekend.  Birds, family and food (in no particular order).

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Blenheim Sewage Lagoons

On my way to work the other day I was diverted off the 401 by a car accident, as luck would have it, my detour took me right by the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons. There were plenty of shorebirds to be had including several White-rumped Sandpipers and a Short-billed Dowitcher among others.  It was pretty dark out and I didn't venture too close for fear of spooking them.

Lots of Dunlin were present, including the one with his head up here
The big guy in the middle is a Short-billed Dowitcher.
A White-rumped Sandpiper at the back left here.
Plenty of Bonaparte's Gulls at the lagoons that day!

Thursday 2 October 2014

Tomato Birds and Great Egrets

I was down near Lake St. Clair today for work, which is a fantastic birding area, but I unfortunately only had a little bit of time before and after the surveys to check some of the nearby spots.  One location that proved to be quite productive were the fields off of Comber Sideroad near the tomato factory.  Here I found a mix of shorebirds in the flooded fields including American Golden Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper and Killdeer.  A bit of an odd scene to see some of them foraging among the tomatoes!

Killdeer in front, Pectoral Sandpiper in the back

I counted 27 Great Egret at this sewage lagoon!