Saturday 21 February 2015

Harlequin Duck- London

The first record of Harlequin Duck in Middlesex County (as far as I know) occurred last week when a beautiful male showed up on the Thames River in London.  Lucky enough for me, this bird stuck around long enough for me to see it today after I finished some work in the area.  Thanks to Chris Law for showing me the spot!  This bird was quite skittish, as reported, and combined with the thick brush along the river it made it difficult to get a good shot! It also didn't help that it was snowing.  So let me preface the photos by saying that they do not do this bird justice! Google Harlequin Duck if you want to see what I mean!  Undoubtedly one of the birding highlights so far this year!

Looking in the water

You can see how small the Harlequin Duck is in comparison to the Common Goldeneyes

Monday 16 February 2015

Ontario Trumpeter Swans

I went home to my parents in Kingston this weekend with plans to check Amherst Island.  Unfortunately I let the -30 temperatures and crazy snow depths dissuade me.  Driving along the lake shore it looks like Lake Ontario is nearly completely frozen over, hence, small areas of open water around the Great Lakes are sure to attract waterfowl.  I stopped quickly at the Kingston Invista ponds which are kept heated by some runoff from the plant.  Although I didn't have anything rare I did find a lone Trumpeter Swan, North America's largest waterfowl and one of our largest birds period.  This bird has tag number K29.

I joined the Ontario Trumpeter Swan Facebook group and was able to find out a bit about this birds history.  It is pretty neat to see where this individual bird has been.  This is what we know:

-K29 was tagged in Burlington Ontario at Lasalle Harbour (unsure of the date)
-On April 16, 2014 this bird was just south of Lake Simcoe and the bird had a brief fling with another tagged bird #J83 but after this the bird disappeared
-On May 17, 2014 the bird was sighted further north in the Kawarthas
-It seems the bird wasn't sighted for quite some time after this and reappeared near Cobourg early in the year (January?)
-I found the bird at the Invista Ponds in Kingston on Febraury 15, 2015.

Here is a map of the sightings and known dates:

The last Trumpeter Swan in Ontario was shot near Long Point in 1886! Restoration efforts began in 1982 based out of Burlington, Ontario's Lasalle Park at the western edge of Lake Ontario.  Now the population is back up to around 1,000 individuals. Unfortunately, this captive reared population has lost the urge to migrate, hence the hordes of Trumpeter Swans that hang out at Lasalle Park all winter.

I'm going to look through my old photos and see if I have any other photos of taged Trumpeter Swans.  It is fun to track the movement and recovery of this species in Ontario!

Waterfowl crammed into the Invista Ponds
Invista Ponds.  Lake Ontario frozen in the background

Wednesday 11 February 2015

2015 Travel/Adventure Preview and Bird Quiz #3

2015 is shaping up to be another great year for travel and adventure.  Here is a short list of trips that I will be taking this year and will most certainly be on the blog!

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico (March).  More a luxurious adventure than anything, but I hope to see some new birds and see some new sights!  I am really looking forward to the warm weather!

Point Pelee/Pelee Island (May).  I plan on doing some extensive birding in the Pelee region of Ontario this May.  As the winter drags on, I am starting to really crave some good birding!  Migration is just a few months away!

Algonquin Park (July-August).  I will be going on at least 2 canoe trips in one of my favourite Ontario spots with my dad and brother as well as Caitlyn.

Grand Staircase- Escalante, Utah (August/September).  This has been on my list for a long time and this is the year it is finally going to happen! My friends and I will be heading to Utah to backpack in the south of Utah in some of the most spectacular wilderness areas in America.  This is the country of canyons, desert, rivers and extremely rugged scenery.  I can't wait!

I am sure there will be many other trips, but these are some of the ones that I am sure of at this point.

I have had precious little for blog material lately, but here is another bird quiz to test your skills.  Can you guess them all?

Bird #1
Bird #2
Bird #3
Bird #4
Bird #5
Bird #6

Sunday 1 February 2015

Birthday Birds! Fish Crows and Black Vultures

Today is my birthday (and my wife's birthday) and so naturally I spent a little bit of time birding while visiting with my great in-laws down in Stevensville.  I always feel a little bit more lucky on my birthday when birding, and today was no exception! I had heard that Fish Crows had been reported in Fort Erie and so I went first thing to check it out for myself.  Driving with my windows down, I heard a small flock of American Crows and drove over.  As soon as I pulled up I heard that distinctive squeaky "uh-uh" call which is so different from the more common species.  I uploaded a video I took of them so you can hear the difference.  You will hear the American Crows first and the squeaky Fish Crow at around 3 seconds into the clip and then off and on.  I tried to get them in the frame but none of the birds I focused on in the video are Fish Crows, they were around the other side of the tree.

I eventually was able to see the birds that were making the ruckus and they immediately flew off.  I snapped a couple quick shots of them.

Fish Crow
Fish Crow
Apparently they have more pointed wing tips than American Crows and I guess I could see that in the photos, but I would not be comfortable calling them Fish Crows without hearing that call!

I had tons of ducks along the river and all the usual species including huge numbers of Canvasback!

I also had my first Ring-necked Ducks of the year, like this drake below.
Ring-necked Duck
At Dufferin Islands I stopped quickly to try and find some Titmice, but I was impatient and left without seeing them.  I did, however, find this wintering White-crowned Sparrow that was quite tame.

White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
After this I picked up Glaucous Gull at the control gates and an adult Iceland Gull at Adam Beck.  I decided to continue the fun and went as far as the Queenston overlook to try and find the elusive Black Vultures that sometimes hang out there.  After waiting for 15 minutes and using my spotting scope I found a cluster of Turkey Vultures.  Soon after I picked out 7 Black Vultures rising from the treeline and even at several kilometres away, the stocky appearance, fast wing beats and level wings were easily discernible.  A great end to another great birthday!

Queenston Overlook
 Part of a poem from Dylan Thomas on his birthday, quite appropriate for the birders among us (thanks Dad).

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name 
Above the farms and the white horses 
And I rose In a rainy autumn 
And walked abroad in shower of all my days 
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road 
Over the border 
And the gates 
Of the town closed as the town awoke.