Thursday 30 August 2018

Ontario Life Bird Double Vision: Reddish Egret and Swallow-tailed Kite

Well the saga of southern rarities continues in southern Ontario with two fantastic birds kicking around for our viewing pleasure.  Ontario's first EVER Reddish Egret showed up in Oliphant in early August and has given phenomenal views for birders, and a cooperative (!) Swallow-tailed Kite has been present in Wasaga Beach for at least a week as well!

On Monday afternoon I made time despite my crazy hectic work schedule to risk the drive to Wasaga to chance finding the kite.  I arrived to see a few birders on the roadside, and as I got out I was told it was soaring super high in the air.  I found it with a Turkey Vulture, a mere speck in the sky.  I waited around for 25 mins and it wasn't making an appearance so I turned to leave and immediately Barb Charlton yelled at me that it was right out in the field!  I ran back and got incredible views! My first ever for Ontario!

The Swallow-tailed Kite was gracefully cruising over the soy bean fields catching insects!

After this 2hr drive I thought, what the heck, you've already screwed this day for work, lets do another 2hr drive to Oliphant to see the Reddish Egret!  I arrived at 6pm and started scanning the shoreline wetlands of coastal Lake Huron.  After around 15 minutes I had the bird, all to myself quite close!

Reddish Egrets have a fascinating foraging strategy unlike many of our other herons and egrets.  They are very active, often running around like an insane person trying to startle fish and then grabbing them.  This is a young bird, so not very reddish.

A very rare day indeed when I get 2 Ontario "Life Birds"!

Saturday 18 August 2018

Rare Herons x 2: Yellow-crowned and Little Blue

Rare herons have shown up in Ontario with several Yellow-crowned Night Herons (all young birds) and the star of the past week, an immature Little Blue Heron!

I was able to track down both of these species.   The Yellow-crowned in Cambridge and the Little Blue near Harrington.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Little Blue Heron

Great Egret on the left, Little Blue Heron on the right.

Thursday 16 August 2018

Sawtooth Mountains Backpacking Trip Report- Idaho

Last week I visited Idaho to do some backpacking in the Sawtooth Mountains with Caitlyn and my friends Kyle and Angi.  I've had my eye on the Sawtooths for awhile now, so it was great to finally cross this one off my list!

Cait and I flew into Boise where Kyle and Angi graciously picked us up at the airport before we headed north to the small town of Stanley, Idaho where we stayed at the Stanley High Country Inn - a popular jumping off spot for hikers into the Sawtooths.

The area was a bit smoky, with forest fires burning in areas around the Sawtooths.  You can see a bit of the haze in some of the photos.  The dry and hot conditions continued while we were there and we did not have any rain while out.

The balcony from our room!

You can just see the mountains in the smoky haze
The next day we were up bright and early driving the gravel road to the Hell Roaring Trailhead where we would start our trip.

Everyone did great the first day, and we made it to Hell Roaring Lake in excellent time! We decided to press on to Imogene Lake.

The "Finger of Fate" at Hell Roaring Lake.

We found a small spot on the eastern shore of Imogene Lake and set up camp for the first night.  We were so heated up from the hike that we went for a quick dip to cool off in the frigid ice water!

No bears, but we did have to contend with determined squirrels and other small mammals!

Imogene Lake was beautiful, especially when the sun was just coming up, casting a pinkish hue to the jagged peaks surrounding the lake.

Our second day we had some serious climbing to do to get to Lake Edna for our next two nights.  This photo doesn't do this pass justice, it is actually quite daunting, towering about 1000ft above where we stand in this picture.  We got our fill of "switchbacks" on this day!

Gray-crowned Rosyfinches were a welcome sight on the climb over the pass.

This is the view from the top of the pass.  You can see the switchbacks winding back and forth below us.  The spot we were standing looking up at the pass in the earlier photo is at the edge of the far trees in this pic.

The bird of the trip for me was this Prairie Falcon that I spotted hunting the Pikas in the talus slopes below the pass.  A life bird for me!

After getting over the first pass we had to climb 600ft down only to climb 800ft back up to go over Sand Mountain pass.

The team at the top of Sand Mountain pass.

After a long day of hiking, we made it to Edna Lake, where we decided to stay for two nights to rest and recuperate.  This was a beautiful little lake and we got a prime site right at the end of the lake with a great swimming area!

This toad shared the swimming area with us.

We played many games of Euchre.  Unfortunately the guys lost.

On our "rest day" we hiked up to Hidden Lake where we ate lunch surrounded by the splendour of the Sawtooth Mountains.  I wish we had a bit more energy, and we could have camped here for the two nights.  The lake was beautiful, and we had it all to ourselves!

California Tortoiseshell
 On our fourth day, we decided to head back to Imogene Lake in preparation for exiting the wilderness area on the fifth day (due to our flight which had been bumped ahead a couple of hours).  We got up really early to do the hardest part of the trek back in the cool of the morning.

Clark's Nutcracker
 This panoramic is one of my favourite shots of the trip; the small trio huddled together on the edge of the mountain surrounded by the vastness of the wilderness.

Imogene Lake was noticeably busier this time, as we were now running into weekend warriors out for a couple of days.  Kyle and I decided to do a further hike up to a few alpine lakes that were off-trail.   Despite going quite a ways from Imogene Lake, we still bumped into quite a few people including some old guy who had busted his kneecap open scrambling on the talus scree and a nutty couple trying to help their dog navigate the boulders and crevasses of this rugged landscape.  I don't think I will be back to the Sawtooths, they are a bit over-busy for me.

Kyle and I had a brief scare while climbing up to the lake, when a good sized boulder broke off and started rolling down the mountain valley towards us, eventually splitting into a few pieces before getting too close.

This trip report and pictures only scratches the surface of what was a really good trip with great friends.  Everyone enjoyed themselves and did really well, and we are all excited to do it all over again somewhere new!

Friday 3 August 2018

Algonquin Park 2018 - East Side!

Last weekend I took a few days off to go on our annual family canoe trip to Algonquin park with my dad, brother, wife and niece.  We decided to do the east side of the park, which was a bit further drive, but well worth it! We started out in Achray on Grand Lake, staying our first night on Stratton Lake followed by Opalescent Lake and finally the Barron River before heading out at Squirrel Rapids.

Highlights for me included an Olive-sided Flycatcher calling in a burn on High Falls Lake, a pair of Barred Owls calling on Opalescent Lake, High Falls waterslide and the Barron Canyon!

Below are a few of my favourite scenery shots from the trip.

We enjoyed watching this young Northern Watersnake hunting along the edge of the shore.  It had a good chase on some minnows and almost got one!

My niece Emma took this photo of this Great Blue Heron sunbathing.  Great shot Emma!

It had been a few years since I had seen the Barron Canyon, and my first time seeing it from the river level!  Spectacular cliffs!

High Falls is spectacular, we all enjoyed going down this natural rock water slide! What a blast!  Here Emma goes down on the bumpy side.

I always enjoy this trip and hope we can keep up this tradition every year!