Friday 24 May 2019

Erieau Birding - Franklin's Gulls, Neotropic Cormorant, Red Knot and more!

This morning I was down in the Chatham area for work doing some bird surveys and decided to go birding at Erieau after.  While checking out the shorebirds at the fields north of McGeachy Pond I bumped into Allen Woodliffe and Rob Palin, two birders that I am long overdue for meeting! 

We looked over the hundreds of Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstone, and Black-bellied Plovers and eventually spied a Red Knot, a nice treat and my first of the year.  While watching the shorebirds we saw a dark-mantled gull with a full hood which at first I thought was a Franklin's Gull due to what I thought was a slight pinkish hue, then I changed my ID to Laughing Gull due to the really dark black wingtips.  Alas I changed my opinion yet again and I now realize that all 4 of the dark mantled gulls I saw were indeed Franklin's Gulls.  Still a great bird!  Side by side this would be a simple ID, but way out in a field with haze is a bit trickier for me...I guess I need to see more Franklin's and Laughing Gulls in Ontario!  Apparently there was an immature Laughing Gull seen at this same location just yesterday!

I also checked the Erieau waterfront with Rob, and he spotted the continuing Neotropic Cormorant hiding in a small willow with some other cormorants.  Another great bird!

Neotropic Cormorant - note the white chevron near the mouth!
There were lots of shorebirds on the beach too, mostly Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones and Black-bellied Plovers.

Sunday 19 May 2019

Amherst Island Birding Trip - May 2019

On Saturday, Dad and I took the first ferry over to Amherst Island for our 3rd annual May birding trip!  Typically we try to catch the 1pm ferry home, leaving us approximately 6hrs of bird watching.  In 2016 we had 100 species and in 2017 we tallied 103 species.  Our goal this year was to beat our previous record, and I am happy to report that we were successful...barely!  We got 104 species with only about a half hour to spare!

The highlight of the day was definitely a Least Bittern that we found on the edge of a marsh just a few metres away!  We were so happy that he sat there and posed for photos!  I always forget how small they are! They are indeed our smallest heron, being only the size of a robin!  They are quite secretive and I have heard far more than I have ever seen!

Immediately prior to finding the bittern we had great views of a Virginia Rail, another secretive marsh bird.  This individual was less cooperative as it was actively feeding, scuttling along the shoreline.

Other highlights were 18 species of warblers, Orchard Orioles, and a good number of shorebirds including at least a dozen Wilson's Phalarope!

Wilson's Phalarope

I can hardly wait until next year to try to get 105!

Saturday 11 May 2019

Pelee 2019 - The Point and the Island

I just returned from a glorious week in Canada's southern tip and island, down in Pelee.  This is a trip that I really look forward to every year and this year didn't disappoint!  I saw nearly 180 species in the Pelee area including some great rarities!  I spent Saturday to Wednesday morning at Point Pelee and then caught the 10am ferry over to Pelee Island.  Below are some of the highlights:

Point Pelee

Northern Parula

Black-and-white Warbler

Yellow-throated Vireo

Blue-winged Warbler

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (messy eater)

American Avocet

Pine Warbler

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Kentucky Warbler

Eastern Kingbird

Red morph Eastern Screech Owl


Hooded Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Kirtland's Warbler

Long-eared Owl

Prairie Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler on our deck!

White-eyed Vireo

The tip! The southern most tip of mainland Canada

The iconic Serengeti tree!

Prickly Pear Cactus
Pelee Island
I really like birding Point Pelee, but I LOVE birding Pelee Island.  You may end up seeing more at the point since there are hundreds (thousands?) of birders helping you in the scavenger hunt, but on the island there are very few birders, and it has a much more relaxed feeling...and the birding is awesome!  Our group had a fantastic time scouring our favourite spots for rarities and came up with some great sightings including Cattle Egret and the first island record of White-winged Dove!  The rest of the crew also had a Yellow-throated Warbler today after I left!

Red-headed Woodpecker

Scarlet Tanager

Black-billed Cuckoo

Eastern Bluebird
 I spotted this Cattle Egret across Lake Henry south of Lighthouse Point.  I saw something white and quickly realized it was a small white egret so I ran back to my car to retrieve my scope! Heather and Patrick were ahead on the trail but saw me running and came back and Charlotte and Bryan came back and also got good looks at it through my scope!
Cattle Egret
 We continued out walk through to Lighthouse Point which is extremely flooded this year due to high water.  On our way back Patrick spotted this White-winged Dove and we all got great looks! This is apparently the first record for the island! 
White-winged Dove
 The west side of Fish Point has been ravaged by storm and there are trees down everywhere!

Although I am a bit sad to leave Pelee for May, I know there is lots of great spring birding ahead! Next weekend I am down on Amherst Island for my annual big day!