Wednesday 23 September 2015

September This and That

I have been trying to get out to bird watch as much as I can despite busy weekends and work schedule.  My Ontario year list is sitting at 250, a respectable number, but it will be tricky to reach my goal of 270 bird species by the end of the year!  Here are a few shots to show some of the spots that I have visited recently. Enjoy!

These days, the birding hotspot for me is Hamilton!  At this time of the year during suitable weather conditions (east winds), gulls and other birds out on Lake Ontario are pushed close to the shoreline.  I have visited Van Wagner's Beach twice this fall and was rewarded a couple of weeks ago with this Lesser Black-backed Gull and a couple Parasitic Jaegers!
Lesser Black-backed Gull
 Jeagers are fascinating birds. They nest high in the arctic and stop over in this part of the province on their way south.  These birds preferred method of hunting is to harass other gulls that have already caught and consumed food and force them to regurgitate it by aggressive pursuit after which they consume their prize.  They are notoriously hard to identify and they are a group that I am still struggling with!

Parasitic Jaeger (trust me on this one)
Last weekend I had the pleasure to visit my inlaws down in Stevensville north of Fort Erie.  This is one of my favourite parts of the province, partially due to the fantastic birding opportunities along the Niagara River and Lake Erie shoreline.  The birding was slow this weekend but I did find a nice little hidden gem along Thunder Bay Road that I think is called Centralia Park.  A small pull off and a short walk through a beautiful bush and you reach this small private beach.  I only saw a handful of birds, one of a which was a species #250 for my year list, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a species that I surprisingly had missed this spring!

Another favourite spot of mine is Waverly Beach (or Erie Beach as the locals call it apparently).  This can and has been a fantastic birding spot, but not on this morning unfortunately,  I still saw a Great Egret and a Black-bellied Plover.
Scope view of the Waverly Beach
Great Egret
Black-bellied Plover
That's all for now, I am hoping to get back down to Hamilton again this weekend at least for a few hours.

Friday 11 September 2015

Eastern Ontario Highlights

This week I was away for work in Eastern Ontario with Pat, and we had a great time bushwacking and exploring this unique part of the province.  I've posted a few pictures for your enjoyment!

A large Beaver dam

Our reward for traipsing through the bush and up the hills, a nice view from the top!

We also saw lots of butterflies!

Bronze Copper
Leonard's Skipper
And finally, the wildlife highlight of the trip, a Five-lined Skink!! We flipped a rock and there she was!  Extremely fast and hard to catch, but her bright blue tail didn't do her any favours in hiding!

Five-lined Skink!

 This is the habitat that this species can be found in, rock barrens with lots of rocks to hide under.

Another great trip in Eastern Ontario, I can't wait to be back!

Saturday 5 September 2015

The Grand Canyon

On our way back from Utah to Phoenix we decided to swing by the Grand Canyon to see what all the fuss was about.  We camped in one of the many campgrounds that dot the south rim of the Grand Canyon for one night and explored a little bit.  We walked a little ways down into the canyon, but not very far since we were still recovering from backpacking in Utah.  It was indeed a beautiful spot, quite surreal to stand at the top of the canyon looking down.  That being said, the south rim was a bit of a commercialized tourist trap, and I much preferred being in the smaller but no less spectacular canyonlands of Utah away from the masses.

I saw a few interesting birds while I was there including Zone-tailed Hawk, Rock Wren and Western Tanager.  No California Condors unfortunately!

Zone-tailed Hawk - note how similar it is in profile and tone to the Turkey Vulture below.

Turkey Vulture

Rock Wren

Pygmy Nuthatch

Pygmy Nuthatchs

Pygmy Nuthatchs

Western Tanager
I saw this little gem on one of the signs in the Grand Canyon, poor guy, that's a lot of fluids to lose!