Tuesday 13 December 2016

Winter Sightings

I really enjoy this time of the year.  The bird watching is usually still pretty good (at least in the Niagara area) and we have had our first few snows of the year which make things fun for cross-country skiing.  I hope to get out a little bit this weekend if the weather holds!

I was down in Haldimand County this past week with Ken and we had lots of interesting sightings including a juvenile Northern Goshawk (chasing a Red-tailed Hawk), a couple Northern Mockingbirds, and this Northern Shrike!

Northern Shrike
I was also down in Niagara last Thursday and saw some of the typical Niagara River specialties (somehow missed the Black-headed Gull) including two male Harlequin Ducks.  Can you spot them in the photo below?
Harlequin Ducks - way out in the rapids
Caitlyn and I went to the Arboretum on Sunday after church and had a few hardy birds out in the snow including this beautiful male Purple Finch.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Western Grebe - Midland

There have been a lot of rarities popping up throughout Ontario lately including the Thick-billed Murre, Crested Caracara, and the Western Grebe.  I decided not to chase the first two since they were too far for me and settled for the Western Grebe today since I had some extra time!

I made the scenic back roads drive from Fergus up to Midland on Georgian Bay in just around 2 hrs and I am glad I did! I saw the bird immediately after I stepped out of the car and had phenomenal views of this awesome species.  I was able to snap a few pictures for the record.

Western Grebe

Sunday 20 November 2016

The King of Eiders

This weekend I was at my parents in Kingston with Caitlyn and had the pleasure of doing a quick bird outing to Millhaven with my Dad to try and find a previously reported King Eider.

This is a species that I have had a lot of success with "twitching".  This species doesn't seem to move around all that much and will often stay in the same area for several days or weeks.  We found this bird quite quickly upon arriving, and on the way back also picked out a Cackling Goose among a larger flock of Canada Geese! This particular eider stayed well out from the shoreline and although we had fantastic scope views of the bird as it floated and occasionally dove, I only managed a couple identifiable photos.

King Eider is a species of Arctic breeding duck that typically winters in the coastal waters of the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean but also shows up regularly in the Great Lakes during migration.

Female King Eider - Millhaven Nov.19/16

The photo below is of a male I saw two years ago in November in St. Catherines.  No wonder it is called the "King Eider!"
Male King Eider - St. Catherines Nov. 29/14

Saturday 5 November 2016

Chatham Hawk Watching

I decided to take Friday off of work and go bird watching with Ken at Zion Road near Wheatley.  We were hoping to see large numbers of migrating raptors and we had a decent selection of species including a couple of surprises.  Our best birds of the day were a Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk and a big surprise of a super late Broad-winged Hawk!  Unfortunately most of the hawks were really high, and the largely blue sky made it difficult to spot them.

The lookout from the end of Zion Road
Red-shouldered Hawk

A small "kettle" of Turkey Vultures
 I also made a quick stop at Blenheim Sewage Lagoons to see the continuing Cattle Egrets, which seem to be showing up everywhere this fall!

Cattle Egret pair - minus the cattle
Cattle Egret are not a native species in North America, but actually spread to the Americas by flying over from Africa!  A neat example of colonization without human facilitation apparently.  Below is a map I pulled off wikipedia showing the spread of this interesting little egret species.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Lake Simcoe - Pacific Loon, Little Gulls etc.

I decided to head up to Minet's Point on Kempenfelt Bay to try and find the Pacific Loon(s) that had been reported a few days earlier.  Although they hadn't been reported in a couple of days, I figured that they were still around.  It was this weekend last year that I went up to try to find the very same birds and was successful.

When I got to Minet's Point, the sun was shining and steam was rising from the lake surface into the frosty air.  I scanned through the flock of hundreds of Common Loon several times but was not able to spot any Pacific Loons.  I took a bathroom break in the nearby port-a-potty and then came back for another try.  This time I spotted a smaller loon with a narrow, pointy bill diving with a group of Common Loons.  The silvery nape and back of the head confirmed Pacific Loon!  Unfortunately it was too far away to get any pictures.

Common Loons
 I also saw some Little Gulls flying around Kempenfelt Bay!
Little Gull - note the dark underwings
 I like the shot below.  Three species are present in this photo- our largest gull species Great Black-backed Gull next to one of our smallest - Bonaparte's Gull.  A few Herring Gulls are also in the background.

I tried to get a shot of the Bonaparte's Gulls diving for fish, but all I got was this bird under water!
Here are a couple shots of the two Pacific Loons I saw on Kempenfelt Bay last year:
Pacific Loon (2015)

Pacific Loon (2015)

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Waterloo Sightings - Golden Eagle

At lunch today, Ken and I went over to check Laurel Creek Reservoir in Waterloo to look for waterfowl and whatever else might be on the water.  We saw a few ducks including Long-tailed Duck as well as a fair number of gulls.  After watching for about 5 minutes, the whole flock of gulls took off.  We both looked around to see what might have startled them and Ken guessed an eagle, maybe even a Golden Eagle.  As if on cue we spotted a juvenile Golden Eagle soaring high above the reservoir!

There are very few records of Golden Eagle in Waterloo Region and ebird does not show any from within the city proper.
Juvenile Golden Eagle - note the white patches on the wing

Long-tailed Duck among gulls

Monday 17 October 2016

Cackling Geese - Fergus

Fall is a great time to see large waterfowl concentrations in Ontario.  Greater White-fronted Geese seem to be popping up everywhere these days.  I heard a report of Cackling Geese in Fergus at the Nexans ponds over the weekend, so I decided to check it out.  I found at least two, but I think there may have been more mixed in with the flock.

For those of you not into bird watching, Cackling Geese are a tiny species of goose that looks to most people like a miniature Canada Goose.  The stubby bill, small neck, white collar (sometimes visible) are good ID features for this species.

The bird dead centre exhibits some classic features of Cackling Goose, I didn't get good looks at the two birds to the left, but they may be Cackling Geese as well.  Note how big the Mallard behind appears.

Cackling Goose behind the Mallard
Canada Geese have such a range of forms that I still find some birds tricky to ID.  I think it is easier to judge size when the birds are on the water, than when they are on land.

Monday 10 October 2016

It's Thanksgiving! Fort Erie and Area

This Thanksgiving long weekend was spent down in the Stevensville and Fort Erie area.  On Saturday we got permission to check out Marcy's Woods on Point Abino.  It was the first time I have been there and I was impressed with the scenery!  Below are some scenic shots from our walk.

The sand dunes were definitely a highlight of this area.  We saw a few Monarchs sheltering in he dunes, this one happened to fly by as I was taking the shot!


Birds weren't making much of an appearance here, so I photographed a few mushrooms, to be ID'd at a later date...unless you know what they are?

I also spent Sunday and Monday morning birding a little bit around the Fort Erie shoreline and Niagara River.  I walked through the beach grass and stirred up whatever I could.  I didn't see anything rare but managed to find lots of sparrows, the odd warbler, pipits, Wilson's Snipe, Marsh Wren, a late House Wren and lots more!

Mather Park Sunrise

A sample of the beach grass I walked through
Song Sparrow (left) and White-crowned Sparrow (right)
Chipping Sparrow
Gray Catbird
Greater Yellowlegs among Ring-billed Gulls
I found the long staying Red-throated Loon at the Catherine Street parkette.  It was neat to see it still has some of the red on it's throat!

Coming back from my bird watching trip, this little bird greeted me at the door.

It was a great Thanksgiving weekend spent with great people, food and of course...birds.

Saturday 1 October 2016

Fall Outings

Unfortunately I have not had a lot of interesting things to post over the last little while; at least, nothing that I was able to capture with pictures for the blog!

I'm sure most of you within the birding community are aware of the spectacular birding happening out of the Hamilton area this past week, the highlights being a Shearwater!, all 3 Jaegers, Sabine's Gulls and Black-legged Kittiwake among others.

I went birding after work on Thursday and Friday this week, and saw lots of very distant Jaegers, but unfortunately none came in close enough to ID.  We did however, get awesome looks at a juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake that whipped by.

The winds were fierce on both days, building the waves to over 2m.

I also stopped by Thickson's Woods last week looking for birds and instead found this Giant Puffball mushroom!  There were several of them scattered throughout the woods.

I also found this cute little female Black-throated Blue Warbler.

I'm looking forward to a nice Thanksgiving with my inlaws in Stevensville next weekend!

Monday 5 September 2016

Labour Day Weekend Bird Watching - Merlin vs. Kingfisher

On Saturday morning Ken Burrell and I headed down to Hamilton to do some bird watching.  We started out at Edgelake Park and had loads of warblers!  Magnolia Warblers were by far the most common, followed by redstarts.  We also had a Canada Warbler and a couple Wilson's Warblers.  We had some good luck with shorebirds at the Tollgate Ponds where we saw Whimbrel, Sanderling, White-rumped Sandpiper and American Golden Plover among others.  At Windermere we were surprised to see the Marbled Godwit! We saw over 80 species in a few hours, unfortunately most birds were too far (or quick) to get photos of.

I've been enjoying my new spotting scope, the Vortex Razor HD!

Lesser Yellowlegs
We spotted this cute Yellow-bellied Flycatcher at the Grimsby Sewage Lagoons.

This morning, Cait and I went to Luther Marsh to see what we could find.  Below are a few shots from the trip.

Sandhill Cranes
Trumpeter Swans
We stopped at our last spot before heading home and I saw a Merlin (a small but mighty falcon) fly across the pond.

I was just showing Caitlyn a Belted Kingfisher through the spotting scope when all of a sudden the Merlin appeared in view and tried to attack the Kingfisher, which dove into the water several times to escape.  This went on for about 30 seconds before they both perched in opposite trees.  In the shot below you can see the Merlin in the top right and the Kingfisher bottom left.

The Kingfisher got bold and flew directly into the tree and sat right above the Merlin!  I thought it was pretty ambitious of the Merlin since the Kingfisher is about the same size!  After a brief standoff, the Merlin darted out across the pond looking for easier fare and quickly caught a dragonfly.

Kingfisher sitting above the Merlin