Sunday 28 May 2017

Blue Grosbeak - High Park

This weekend I was taking a more relaxed pace, not focusing on birds specifically.  However, I kept hearing about the awesome birds being seen in the GTA on Saturday, and I decided to make a quick trip to see if I could see any of them yesterday.

Cait and I started out at High Park to see if we could find the male Blue Grosbeak.  We searched with many others for over an hour, and I had given up and was on my way out when I spotted it sitting at the top of a short tree!  I called over the other birders, the first of which turned out to be long lost friend Kyle Holloway!

The Blue of the bird did not turn out in the backlit photos, and the bird appears blackish.  The wing bars were also hard to see at first, but the massive size of the bird and beak relative to a bunting was apparent from the get go.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak
The other treat of the day was a Connecticut Warbler in Marie Curtis Park that was found earlier in the day by other birders.  Fortunately there was someone present who had already tracked this bird down and I got several decent looks at it before it scuttled away.  No photos unfortunately!

Last week I was down near Erieau and stopped at the marina and pier.  Nothing rare, but I had a great chance to photograph a few shorebirds at close range.  The birds were busy picking bugs off the concrete.  If you look closely you can see some of them in the photos.

Ruddy Turnstone (back) and Semi-palmated Sandpiper

Semi-palmated Sandpipers

Semi-palmated Sandpipers




Monday 22 May 2017

Amherst Island - A Big Morning (Marbled Godwit and Red Knot)

My dad and I got out to Amherst Island on the weekend, planning to do a big day.  Our version of a big day on the island is really a big morning.  We caught the ferry over to the island at 630am and birded all the usual spots and some others that we haven't paid much attention to in the past.  The winds were from the northeast, so we spent a bit more time in the southwest side of the island in hopes of picking up more songbirds where things were calmer.  The big surprise(s) of the morning came on the Martin Edwards Reserve property on the east end of the island.  While scanning the shorebirds we found a Red Knot!  However, the birds were quickly flushed by a Merlin.  Fortunately the birds returned.  While trying to refind the knot, we spotted a Marbled Godwit!  Another fantastic shorebird for the island!  We had hit 100 species of birds by around 1230pm and decided to head home on a high note.  A really great day and I can't wait to repeat it again next year!

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit
 I don't get to see Red Knots very often, and its large size was readily apparent next to the numerous Dunlin.
Red Knot with Dunlin

Another treat, although more expected, was seeing several Wilson's Phalarope.  The island is the only reliable spot that I know of to get this species and I always enjoy seeing them!

Wilson's Phalarope male (left centre), female (right centre) among Dunlin

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Pelee 2017 Part 2/2: The Island

I caught the Jiimaan Ferry to Pelee Island on Wednesday morning and was happy to be in a more secluded, peaceful spot.  The park is great, but it is crowded with mobs of people and I always appreciate the slower pace of the island. I spent the next few days birding all the usual spots: Fish Point, Sheridan's Point, Middle Point, Lighthouse Point, the winery trails etc.

Fish Point is one of my favourite spots to bird watch in Ontario.  The trails are idyllic and uncrowded and often reveal some great birds!

The tip of Fish Point was still somewhat intact, unlike at Point Pelee

Birding Fish Point in the evening is great.  The warblers come out to the edge of the short trees and the sunlight behind you illuminates them perfectly.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Scarlet Tanager

Cape May Warblers are one of my favourites. As their latin name 'tigrina' suggests, they indeed have striping and colouration like a tiger.
Cape May Warbler
 The trails at the Winery are always worth a check.

Lincoln's Sparrow
 Depending on the winds, Sheridan's Point can be crammed with birds or really slow.  Unfortunately this time it was the latter.

Veery were the most common thrush next to robins.

Fish Point trail
 Sometimes I like pictures that are a bit more zoomed out to show the habitat a bird is using.  I rather like this photo of the Great Crested Flycatcher at Fish Point.
Great Crested Flycatcher
 Indigo Buntings are one of those birds that non-birders go crazy for when they first see them.  And I have to admit, they sure are beautiful!

Indigo Bunting
 This shot of the Indigo Bunting is one of my favourite shots of the trip.

Fox Squirrels are only found on Pelee Island in Ontario.  They are large, almost like a small, fat, clumsy cat with a propensity for running in front of your car at the last second.  I nearly ran several of them over this past week.  I would have much rather hit that cat that I saw hunting Palm Warblers on the beach at Fish Point!

Palm Warblers were by far the most abundant warbler on the island.  They were literally everywhere some days, even on lawns.  I can see 7 in the shot below.

Bryan and Charlotte arrived on Thursday afternoon, and we continued out streak of finding Summer Tanagers, with our 4th of the week being this beautiful female!  Something about this rare bird that really gets me excited!

Summer Tanager
 She was very content to forage in our presence and at one point flew over our heads.

Female Scarlet Tanagers were also present.  Some people mistake the two, but note the smaller bill, lemon yellow body and darker wings.
Scarlet Tanager
 Raptors are always few and far between on the island.  But we did have this nice Merlin sitting near the tip.
 We didn't really look for herps this time, but did see several melanistic (black) Gartersnakes like this one below.

We visited the Stone Road Alvar briefly, a really unique spot.

The waves at Lighthouse point subsided as the weekend neared, allowing you to walk most of the way down the beach.

It was here on Saturday morning, before I had to leave, that we saw the young male Summer Tanager found earlier in the day (our 5th Summer Tanager of the week!).  This bird was also very obliging and foraged for flies and bugs over our heads.

Summer Tanager #5

The other special bird we saw on the island was this wonderful young male Prairie Warbler.  Thanks to Richard Pope for letting us know if was there!  We saw this bird on both Friday and Saturday.

Prairie Warbler

My only shot of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, they are too quick to photograph usually

On my last morning on the island I took this shot of the nearly full moon.

On the ferry ride back to the mainland I was trying to catch some sleep below deck, but when I looked out the window I saw an American White Pelican!  A great finale for a wonderful week in the Pelee Region!

Sunday 14 May 2017

Pelee 2017 Part 1/2: The Point

This year I decided to take a whole week off to do some bird watching in the Pelee region.  I spent the first 5 days at Point Pelee National Park  and surrounding area before heading over to Pelee Island for the weekend.  In this post, I will show you some of my favourite photos I took while at the Point. The winds were not optimal,with north and east winds for nearly the entire week, but on calmer nights the birds moved anyways!

I drove down to the area last Friday, in the midst of our drenching rainstorm that dumped a months worth of rain in 48hrs.  I wasn't expecting to find many birds in the rain, but was able to find a few good ones.

This Cliff Swallow looked so miserable, and must have been really cold as temperatures were in the single digits.
On Friday afternoon I walked around the park despite the rain, and found a few good species including Hooded Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat and Gray-cheeked Thrush, among others.  The chat was particularly co-operative and I saw this bird on 4 separate mornings (these photos were taken the next day when he had dried out a bit)!  They seem to be really around this year as several more have been seen throughout the park!
Yellow-breasted Chat

This Eared Grebe hung out on the east beach of the Point for a couple of days while I was there.  It floated by my quite close to shore, but large waves hampered me getting any great shots.

Eared Grebe

Baltimore Oriole

White-crowned Sparrow

Blue-headed Vireo
 The east beach of Point Pelee near the Sparrow Field

Barn Swallow posing for me

Red-headed Woodpecker

The famous "Serengeti Tree", the site of many previous Henslow's Sparrow sightings

Orchard Oriole

Magnolia Warbler
 We had a neat non-birding encounter with this weasel which I think is a Short-tailed Weasel.  At first I thought maybe Long-tailed but he was so fast it was hard to get a good look and harder to photograph!

On Tuesday May 9th the dam finally burst and we had lots of warblers and other great birds including 3 different male Summer Tanagers!  This one gave phenomenal views and appears to be a nearly fully adult bird.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager
 Among the warbler species seen this day were two Prothonotary Warblers.  We found this bird singing at the Woodland Trail away from the crowds watching another one at Bridge A.

Prothonotary Warbler
 The bird of the day for us was certainly this Kirtland's (not Kirkland's, for some reason this seems to be a popular misnomer) Warbler.  This is one of the rarest breeding songbirds in North America, that breeds mostly in young Jack Pine forests in Michigan.  This bird was so obliging and was content to forage along the beach in front of hordes of photographers.
Kirtland's Warbler

Scarlet Tanagers also arrived in good numbers.

Scarlet Tanager
We found this White-eyed Vireo on 3 separate occasions on the seasonal footpath north of Pioneer.  A really nice bird, but tough to photograph due to this species' preference for dense tangles.
White-eyed Vireo

In the next post I will detail the highlights from Pelee Island, stay tuned!