Sunday 24 January 2016

The Warblers of Winter

On Saturday I did a little half day of birding with Ken in the Hamilton-Oakville area.  Highlights of the day were the many first of the year birds such as White-throated Sparrow, Carolina Wren, various ducks and Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers at Sedgewick Park in Oakville.

I snapped a few shots of the warblers in Sedgewick Park which are attracted to the area by the presence of the sewage treatment facility which keeps the water warm year round and produces a small crop of insects for these warblers to feed on.  The warblers would run along the edge of the concrete gleaning insects from the wall, oblivious to people walking by, some with barking dogs. I guess when it comes to survival, food comes first, concealment second.

Being an insect-dependant warbler in Ontario in January is no easy task, and the Yellow-rumped Warbler was looking a little haggard.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

The Palm Warbler on the other hand appeared to be doing much better, running along quite actively, pumping its tail all the while.

Palm Warbler with a small fly of some sort, mmm sewage fly!

Ducks were also in good order and I got several first of the year species.


Friday 22 January 2016

The Thrushes of Winter

It has been too long since my last post!  I have not really been up to too much exciting nature-wise lately.  Last week I was down near Belle River (Essex County) to look for winter raptors.  Today I was also down in the Cambridge area scoping out some Bald Eagles.  On both of these visits I had an encounter with a couple of thrush species.

In Belle River I came across this beautiful male Eastern Bluebird.  People often forget that bluebirds are a thrush and are in the same family as robins!

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird

Today in Cambridge I came across an enormous flock of American Robins.  I counted around 140 individuals but I bet there were closer to 200!  They were attracted to the area by the abundant Hackberry Trees that were loaded with berries.  I was hoping for Varied Thrush or a Townsend's Solitaire (two rare thrushes which occasionally can be found at berry sources in winter).

mmm Hackberries!
How many Robins can you see?
I am planning on heading out somewhere to birdwatch tomorrow and will hopefully have some good shots of anything interesting that I find!

I got out on some of the trails around Fergus this afternoon to do some cross-country skiing and saw a my first Pileated Woodpecker of the year.

In other news, I will be heading to Costa Rica for a week in March with Caitlyn!  This seems to be the year to do it, as 2 other staff at NRSI are heading there too!  Pat is there now, Charlotte in February and me in March!

Sunday 10 January 2016

Niagara River - Black-legged Kittiwake, Black Vulture and...Fish Crows

This weekend I went down to Stevensville for a Euchre tournament with the inlaws (no I did not win) and found some time on Saturday to do my first real birding of 2016.

I took my usual course from Fort Erie north to Queenston, and had a lot of the usual good river birds such as Thayer's Gull, Iceland Gull, Lesser-black-backed Gull, Black Vultures and Fish Crows.

But undoubtedly the highlight of the day was re-finding the Black-legged Kittiwake that Henrique Pacheco found earlier in the day at Adam Beck!  It was over two years ago when I saw my last one, so it was a real thrill to see and take some distant photographs!  Note that distinctive black "M" shaped marking that stretches across each wing, indicating that this is a juvenile bird.  Taking photos of gulls at Adam Beck is very challenging since most are far away and other gulls are constantly swirling around.

Black-legged Kittiwake
Black-legged Kittiwake
A couple of other firsts for the year for me were Tufted Titmouse at Dufferin Islands and Common Loon near Fort Erie on the river.

Common Loon - in winter garb
It was a great day along the river, and an excellent way to kick off 2016!

Saturday 2 January 2016

2015 Wrap-up and Highlights

2015 turned out to be another great year!  I saw 264 species of birds in Ontario, which although it was below my goal of 270, was still respectable considering I let my foot off the gas towards the end! Below are a few of the bird highlights in chronological order (that I was able to get photos of).

Harlequin Duck - February 21, 2015 - London
Harris's Sparrow - March 10, 2015 - Burlington
Eurasian Collared Dove on nest - April 1, 2015 - Leamington

Neotropic Cormorant - April 4, 2015 - Hamilton
American Avocet - April 21, 2015 - Hillman Marsh
Eared Grebe - May 7, 2015 - Point Pelee National Park
Summer Tanager -  May 8, 2015 - Pelee Island
Marbled Godwit - May 8, 2015 - Pelee Island
American White Pelican - May 17, 2015 - Dunnville
White-faced Ibis - May 17, 2015 - Port Rowan
Lark Bunting - May 23, 2015 - Flamborough
Snowy Egret - July 10, 2015 - Hamilton
Golden Eagle - October 17, 2015 - Hawk Cliff
Cattle Egret - October 17, 2015 - Long Point
Pacific Loon - October 31, 2015 - Lake Simcoe
Yellow-throated Warbler - November 14, 2015 - Fort Erie
Red Phalarope - November 21, 2015 - Bronte Harbour
Cave Swallow - November 21, 2015 - Bronte Harbour
Fish Crow - December 5, 2015 - Fort Erie
Vermilion Flycatcher - December 22, 2015 - Wallaceburg
And of course 2015 was also great for many other reasons!  Caitlyn and I traveled to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico in March, I went on a few canoe trips to Algonquin Park with Caitlyn, my dad and brother and did a backpacking trip in Utah's Escalante.

White-crowned Parrot - Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
Moose - Algonquin Park
Utah Escalante Wilderness
I am expecting 2016 to be an even better year with many adventures (and good birds and wildlife) at every turn.  I am already planning a trip to Vancouver Island for the end of July, somewhere tropical in March and a few other surprises, so stay tuned!  Happy New Year folks!