Friday 30 January 2015

Varied Thrush- Waterloo

Varied Thrush is a rare but fairly regular vagrant in this area, and we can usually bank on one showing up at some point in the winter.  Last winter I saw a nice female Varied Thrush at the Guelph Lake Dam, and a few days ago, Ken Burrell and I went to try and track one down that was reported at someones backyard feeder in Waterloo.  Fortunately there was a park that backed on to the area where it was reported, and we spent about 20mins walking around looking for it.  We were just on our way out when we spotted it in a dense stand of conifers and we watched it for several minutes.  Unfortunately it was very secretive and the best shot I got of the bird was pretty terrible, as you can see below.  You can still see some of the orange on the head coming through.  Despite not getting good shots of it, it was still pretty exciting to track this bird down!

Worst shot of a Varied Thrush...ever?

Just in case you forgot what this beautiful species looks like, here is the one I saw last year in Guelph.

Not the Waterloo varied Thrush.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Day Off Birding- Hamilton-Burlington

I had Friday off work and so I decided to head down to Hamilton once again to bird with a friend of mine, Chris Law.  We visited a bunch of places including Woodland Cemetery, Olympic Park, Royal Botanical Gardens, Lasalle Park, Burlington Shipping Canal, Windermere Basin, Red Hill outlet and a couple other spots.  It was a great day with plenty of first of the year sightings for me.  Here are a couple of photos from the day.

Merlin (Woodland Cemetery)
Young Red-tailed Hawk didn't want to look at me!
A weird whitish Canada Goose on the left
Probably the highlight of the day for me was finding this Yellow-rumped Warbler at Olympic Woods.  It has apparently been kicking around this spot for a little while, but it was a nice discovery for us!
Yellow-rumped Warbler
The usual ducks were in the Burlington shipping canal.

Long tailed Ducks and 2 White-winged Scoters
The Redhill outlet was quite productive and we saw many ducks including Ruddy, Green-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser and this Northern Pintail.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

The Curse of the Blue Goose

For the past few days, a blue morph Snow Goose has been reported from the Grand River just outside of Fergus.  I tried to find this bird on 2 separate outings on Saturday and Sunday but came up empty handed!  Today I was able to leave work a little bit early and I swung by the river for another try.  Almost as soon as I arrived I saw the bird sitting among a large group of Canada Geese in the water.  I snapped a few shots but wasn't really happy with them so I followed a fishing trail down to the rivers edge through the brush.  From a good vantage point along the river shoreline I was able to get a few shots that I was quite happy with.  My little point and shoot Sony HX50 continues to surprise me (am I right Pat?)!  These shots were the perfect compromise between getting too close and scaring the bird vs. being too far away and getting poor photos.  Because I realize that these photos are more for documentation as opposed to winning awards, I always avoid stressing a bird by staying a fair distance away.

Despite my noble intentions, nature did not return the favour, and on the way out I snagged my favourite Marmot down coat on a buckthorn and tore it wide open with feathers spilling out!  One more reason why this invasive species should burn (the buckthorn not the goose)!

Blue Morph Snow Goose.  Note the slate coloured breast for which this type gets its name

Monday 19 January 2015

Lunch Birding Route

Recently, Ken Burrell and I have been doing a driving route at lunch to help break up the day and see what birds might be found around our office in Waterloo.  So far, the highlights have been a Merlin, a White-throated Sparrow and today we had a male Pileated Woodpecker and a pair of Bald Eagles returning to their nest near the Conestogo River.  We are almost up to 30 species in just a few days of surveys and the route certainly has potential as a Snowy Egret was seen here just this past summer!  It's fun to pick a spot and bird consistently to see what you can turn up, it doesn't matter if it is Point Pelee or your own backyard, consistency is the key!

I managed to snap a few distant shots of the Pileated Woodpecker through some brush and one of the Bald Eagles.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Lake Ontario Birding Day

Since the Christmas break things have been fairly slow for me in terms of birding and nature outings.  I did have a real treat on my drive home from work yesterday, a Short-eared Owl flying overhead at a field near Elora! An exciting find, and a species that I missed seeing all of last year.

Today I finally decided to head out birding despite the cold, and my first stop was in Oakville to see the reported Painted Bunting.  I waited in the cold for 45 minutes and the bird unfortunately did not turn up.  I wasn't super disappointed.  Something about seeing a rare bird in someones backyard takes a bit of the excitement out of it for me.

I then stopped at a bunch of spots in Burlington and Hamilton to look for ducks.  I had most of the usual suspects but nothing rare.  Here are a few photos from what turned out to be a very pleasant day.

Bronte Harbour
Lasalle Park had most of the typical waterfowl including numerous Trumpeter Swans which are tagged as part of a research program helping to perpetuate this species.

One of my favourite ducks is Long-tailed Duck.  They are so photogenic and so exotic looking!

Adult Male (top) and Female (bottom)
Northern Shoveller

Thursday 1 January 2015

2014 Year in Review Part 2: Travel/Adventure

Now that we have seen some of the birding and nature highlights, here are a few of the interesting and adventurous places I visited this past year.  I am excited and hopeful for what 2015 may provide!

In chronological order:

Florida Everglades and Florida Keys- March
This was one of my favourite trips I have ever been on, the everglades were unreal, one of North America's must see nature destinations.  The keys were also amazing, with stunning vistas at every turn.

Pelee Island, Ontario- May
Pelee Island is one of those magical spots in Ontario.  It receives a fraction of the traffic of Point Pelee but still has some of the best birding around!  The sheer diversity of habitats is definitely part of the appeal, with rich carolinian forest, wetlands, alvar and shoreline habitat all in the same area.

Beausoleil Island, Ontario- May
This was my first trip to the sunny island and my first hardcore dedicated trip to look for some of Ontario's rarest reptiles and amphibians.  The island didn't disappoint! And we had huge numbers of beautiful snakes such as the Massasauga Rattlesnake and Hognosed Snake.

Beartooth Wilderness, Montana- August
My backpacking trips are always one of the highlights of my year, and I love looking over the photos from the previous trips and reminiscing.  The photo below makes me feel lonely and free, and I like it.

Frontenac Park, Ontario- September
Although only a day trip, the time was spent with my dad and brother and was a perfect way to spend a sunny fall day.

Best wishes to everyone in 2015, get out there and explore!