Saturday 23 May 2015

Lark Bunting - Flamborough

I was down in the south of Guelph by chance this morning with my lovely wife and got word of a Lark Bunting in Flamborough, only about 25 minutes away!  Caitlyn graciously agreed to go on another chase for this bird.  You may recall last summer we successfully saw the bird that was found on Amherst Island, with my dad.

We arrived to see a few people pacing the side of Valens Road and were told that it had just been scared off by the landowner about 10 minutes before I arrived!  Wonderful.  But we looked for it anyways and after about 45 minutes, someone spotted the bird on a log right behind us!  The bird then flew right over our heads and landed on the road before flying up to a nearby shrub and giving amazing looks!  I was really excited!  I may have missed the Mississippi Kite yesterday, but this sure was a great consolation prize!

Lark Bunting

Monday 18 May 2015

White-faced Ibis and American White Pelican!

This weekend, I went down to visit the in-laws in Stevensville for a bit this weekend, and on Saturday I spent the better part of the day birding the shoreline from Waverly Beach in Fort Erie all the way to Port Royal to see the White-faced Ibises that have been there for a few days.

Along the way I stopped at all sorts of spots including the Mosaic Ponds near Dunnville.  As I pulled up, I could see a huge white bird standing on the berm, and when I got a look at it, saw that it was an American White Pelican!  This huge bird dwarfs the gulls, terns and cormorants surrounding it.  What a nice surprise to see one!  This species does nest in Ontario, but primarily in the extreme Northwestern part of the province near Lake-of-the-Woods, close to Manitoba!

American White Pelican

After this, I debated driving the extra hour or so to try to find the reported White-faced Ibises that had been staying at a small wetland near Port Royal.  I eventually decided to go for it and was happy I did! I got great looks at these birds.

White-faced Ibis

What a great day along the Lake Erie Shoreline!  Below are a couple of other photos I took along the way.

Scarlet Tanager at Waverly Beach
One of a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers at Waverly Beach

Morgan's Point Conservation Area

Saturday 16 May 2015

Pelee Island 2015

On Friday morning I caught the Jimaan Ferry to Pelee Island from Leamington.  Pelee Island sits nearly right on the Canada-U.S border in Lake Erie and is a fabulous place to go bird watching, look for other nature or just relax.  Relaxing was far from my mind, however, since I was there to see as many birds as possible!  My co-workers had been on the island for a couple of days while I was birding the national park and they had already found some great birds including Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated Warbler!  The general schedule of the days was to get to Fish Point for dawn and then check some of the other prime spots such as Middle Point, Lighthouse Point and Sheridan's Point.

Here are some of the highlights from Pelee Island!

Fish Point Trail
 As usual, the Fish Point trail was carpeted with wildflowers, a very scenic little spot!

We had heard that the island was pretty slow the day I arrived in terms of birding, but Chris, Amanda and myself headed out to Fish Point in the early afternoon anyways.  We were pleasantly surprised to find abundant warblers and a few other birds of interest!

Red-headed Woodpecker
 The highlight of the day for us was definitely spotting this young male Summer Tanager!!  Unfortunately he was facing the wrong way, but I still got a decent shot of his back!
Summer Tanager
 Another surprise was this Grasshopper Sparrow that flew up from the beach and perched secretively in these shrubs.
Grasshopper Sparrow
Later that day we received word that a Marbled Godwit was at Sheridan's Point! So we raced over to see this large shorebird.  You can barely make out the long, sword-like bill of this beautiful species!

Saturday morning started out a little slow at Fish Point but turned out to be an incredible morning!

Fish Point

Northern Mockingbird
 The highlight of the morning for me was another Summer Tanager! This one a female!  Not a great shot, but you can make out the yellowish/olive wash to this bird, the large bill and peaked head that distinguish this from similar species.

Summer Tanager
After a quick lunch a bunch of us headed over to Lighthouse Point.  The winds which had been blowing from the south the whole day had pushed great numbers of warblers and other birds to the northern section of the island.  Fish Point was incredible! I tallied 22 warbler species in a couple of hours!

Canada Warbler
Eastern Bluebird

As I was pulling into the campground on Saturday, I saw that Chris had caught a beautiful Eastern Foxsnake! We all got to hold it and take lots of pictures.  This mild tempered snake was pretty content to hang out on Chris's arm.  If you have never felt a snake before, the scales are incredibly soft and smooth, especially on the underside.

Eastern Foxsnake

Blanding's Turtles are pretty common on the island as well, we saw 3 without even trying.

Blanding's Turtle
While at Middle Point, I spotted a fox go into a den, and assumed it was a Grey Fox, as I was told that Red Fox were rare or absent from the island.  However, I came back later and quietly snuck up on the den site and saw 3 Red Fox kits happily playing.  I watched from no more than 15ft away and then left them in peace.

Check out this short video clip of the kits playing!

On the way home I stopped by Rondeau Provincial Park, and although I didn't have anything too unusual, I did see the provincially Endangered Prothonotary Warbler on its breeding grounds!  This one happily foraged for bugs in the tree branches overhead!

Prothonotary Warbler with a spider!

This year's trip to Pelee Island was certainly a memorable one, and definitely the best trip to the island so far!  I am already excited for next year!

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Point Pelee National Park (Part 2)

After a phenomenal Wednesday of warbler watching, Thursday and Friday also proved to be good days!  Some of the highlights included numerous shorebirds seen in and around Hillman Marsh and an Eared Grebe off of the west beach at Point Pelee.

This bird was a real thrill to see! Ken and I got phenomenal views of this guy as he swam around and dove often.  This is a rare bird in Ontario, and one that is more commonly seen in the midwest to the West Coast, but quite a few go astray every year and end up in Ontario.  This bird is transitioning to its breeding plumage.

Eared Grebe
Eared Grebe mid-dive!
While checking Hillman Marsh, we spotted this American Avocet, much closer than the birds I saw a few weeks earlier!

Out in some fields we also spotted some huge flocks of American Golden Plovers, the one day we counted over 600!

American Golden Plover
Large flock of American Golden Plovers
We also had great looks at this young Red-tailed Hawk perched near the tip of Point Pelee

Each morning I would rise at around 445am and make the drive to Point Pelee National Park and take the tram out to the "tip".  Here, along with many other birders, we would await the often large reverse migration that would happen as birds left Canada and flew back across the water to the U.S.  A phenomenon that occurs when birds seemingly overshoot their breeding grounds and scramble to adjust.

Sunrise at Canada's southern most part of the mainland
Literally thousands of birds pour south during reverse migration as birders try to pick out the rare ones!  It was difficult to get any decent shots of the smaller songbirds, but I did take this photo of a nice adult Surf Scoter (a type of diving duck).

Surf Scoter
In the next post I will detail the exciting time I had on Pelee Island, don't worry, I saved the best for last!

Monday 11 May 2015

Point Pelee National Park (Part 1)

I just returned on Sunday from a 5 day bird watching extravaganza down in the Pelee region which included trips to Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island.  In total I saw 161 species of birds while away bringing my 2015 total to 218 bird species!  The highlights included Kentucky, Hooded, Cerulean, Prairie and Golden-winged Warblers and Summer Tanagers!  There were too many highlights to discuss everything, so I will mostly let the photos do the talking.

I managed to take a few shots of the warblers with my trusty point and shoot, a real exercise in frustration at times due to the jerky movement of these species and their preference for dense tangles of vegetation.

Black-and-white Warbler
Palm Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
This Golden-winged Warbler along with a female gave a good show at close range for many happy bird watchers in Tilden's Woods at Point Pelee.  They liked to forage in the dead leaves, looking for tiny insects hiding within.
Golden-winged Warbler
Cerulean Warbler is probably one of my favourite warblers.  The light blue colouration on this young male bird was stunning!
Cerulean Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
We saw 2 separate Hooded Warblers at the Point including this bird that was quite secretive and hard to photograph.
Hooded Warbler
It gave me one excellent chance as it sat on a log, but my autofocus thought that the shrubs out front were far more interesting!
Hooded Warbler
Prairie Warbler! A bird we had been searching for in the morning, Ken and I finally got great looks at this male right along the main road!
Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Besides warblers, I saw many other beautiful and interesting migrants in the national park including these!  Scarlet Tanagers, although not as rare as the Summer Tanager are equally as beautiful.  This photo really doesn't do this bird justice.
Scarlet Tanager
This Whip-poor-will was sleeping right near one of the trails right out in the open, but you can see how it would be easily missed! The camouflage is amazing!  Most people are more familiar with this species at night when they come alive to feed on insects and sing.
Sleeping Whip-poor-Will
I have many more photos to come in the next few posts including some of the Eared Grebe that we saw and some other rarities, stay tuned!