Saturday 31 October 2015

Pacific Loons and Little Gulls! Minet's Point Lake Simcoe

Today I decided that I would finally make my way up to Lake Simcoe to try and find the Pacific Loon(s) that has been seen there off and on the past week or so.  Caitlyn came with me and we arrived at Minet's Point on Lake Simcoe at 8:55am and within 5 minutes, I had spotted a Pacific Loon out on the water a couple hundred metres away!  It quickly dove and disappeared and two other birders spotted a second individual!  The second bird was less far along in the molt process (transition from breeding feathers to winter plumage) and still had some of that silvery nape typical of this species!  I was thrilled to see both and stayed for over an hour watching them and trying to take a few distant record shots.  An added bonus were the numerous Little Gulls that were also present!

View from Minet's Point
Pacific Loon!
Pacific Loon in the foreground showing that silvery nape and head, Common Loon in the middle, Red-necked Grebe in the back.

Pacific Loon #2!  This individual has molted into wintering plumage.  Based on the dark head and white spots on the back I think this one is an adult as well.

Little Gull! Note the white wing tips.
Bonaparte's Gull for comparison, note the black on the trailing wing edge.
Common Loon - of course the common ones always come closer!
A fantastic day of birding! I hope all the folks who drove out to Ottawa to see Ontario's first record of Pink-footed Goose are lucky and find it!

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Greater White-fronted Goose - Floradale Woolwich Reservoir

Early this afternoon Ken Burrell found a Greater White-fronted Goose at the Floradale Woolwich Reservoir north of Elmira.  On my drive back to Fergus I decided to check it out, and sure enough, I found the bird in among several hundred Canada Geese!  Not great photos but I had excellent looks through my spotting scope.  The last Greater White-fronted Goose I saw was on March 31 near Point Pelee!

This species breeds in the high arctic from Nunavut west to Alaska and winters on the west coast of the U.S, Gulf Coast and Mexico.

Greater White-fronted Goose - front and centre.
Greater White-fronted Goose - right
Also, have you birders noticed the new feature where you can now upload photos directly to your ebird checklist!?  I have been waiting for this for ages!  The winter will be a good chance to get caught up and upload some photos to old checklists I have submitted.

Saturday 17 October 2015

Hawk Cliff - Golden Eagle and Cattle Egret!

Today I spent the morning and part of the afternoon with the KW Nature Club at Hawk Cliff near Port Stanley with the hopes of seeing a big push of migrant raptors.  I was not disappointed!

Check out this ebird checklist:

Highlights included large numbers of Turkey Vultures (3,460), Red-shouldered Hawks (21), Bald Eagles (15) and the bird that many of us were hoping to see...a Golden Eagle!  No matter how many times I see this bird, it always thrills me!  This was a young bird that gave great views to those present.  Unfortunately this bird (like many of the hawks) was quite backlit, giving mostly a silhouette in the photos.

Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk 

After Hawk Cliff we made our way along the lake shore towards Port Rowan where we had heard news of a Cattle Egret!  We saw it almost immediately foraging for bugs stirred up by the cows which it followed around continuously!  Ken said that this is the 3rd Cattle Egret they have seen in this same field, apparently it is a favourite spot!
Cattle Egret
Earlier in the day we also saw this nice Snow Goose!
Snow Goose
A really great day, I added 2 year birds to my list (Golden Eagle and Cattle Egret) bringing my yearly total to 255 species for Ontario.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Spotted and Jefferson Salamanders!

Here are a few more salamander photos from the most recent bought of rain which brought these guys out of the ground in southern Ontario.

Spotted Salamander
Spotted Salamander
Jefferson Salamander
Jefferson Salamander

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Stevensville Conservation Area - It's Thanksgiving!

This past weekend I was down in Stevensville for Thanksgiving with my inlaws, and although the weather wasn't great for birding, it was phenomenal for getting out and exploring!  This year we did our annual walk around the Stevensville Conservation Area and had the pleasure of taking in the sights of this lovely little spot.  Fall colours were just starting to pop!

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Cedar Waxwing

Monday 5 October 2015

The Little Things

Sometimes I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for the big wildlife species, forgetting that there is a fascinating micro world beneath our very feet!  I was out at a work site this morning and snapped a few pictures of some very special (and tiny) salamanders and newts.

First up were many of these Eastern Newts, which are called "Red Efts" during their terrestrial life cycle.  They are toxic to consume and they warn predators of this with their bright colours!  

I am used to finding Red-backed Salamanders while in the woods, but the diminutive size of this one took me by surprise!  It couldn't have been much more than 1cm long!  These are by far the most common salamander in the forest and you have a very good chance of finding one by flipping small rotten logs in any southern Ontario forest.  They are unique among salamanders in that they live a fully terrestrial life cycle, never spending time in the water.  Eggs are laid under fallen logs and are protected by the parents aggressively!

I put them both on the same leaf for a nice size comparison

And finally, the best salamander of all, an Endangered Jefferson Salamander! Without genetic analysis it is impossible to tell for sure if this one is a pure Jefferson Salamander since they occasionally interbreed with other similar species.  Jefferson Salamanders belong to a group called "mole salamanders" meaning they spend much of their lives underground.  

Don't forget to enjoy the little things in life!