Tuesday 31 December 2019

5MR Birding 2020!

This year I am trying a fun new birding challenge called the 5 Mile Radius or "5MR" challenge.  The concept is simple, it is to see how many species you can see within the calendar year within a 5 mile radius of your residence.  My hope is that it encourages me to get out and bird locally more often - something that I don't do as much as I would like!

My 5MR includes some decent habitats including small woodlands, wetlands and portions of the Grand River and Belwood Reservoir in addition to urban and agricultural habitats.  Below is my circle.

If you want to join this challenge, it is easy to sign up and not too late!  Just search for the 5MR Birding Challenge on Facebook and join!

There will be monthly updates on the facebook page, and I will give occasional updates on how I am doing on my blog.  Especially if I find anything interesting!

My best bird of the first day was this juvenile Bald Eagle!

Saturday 28 December 2019

Christmas Birding

I am currently right smack in the middle of my glorious Christmas holidays and I have had the pleasure of birding both near Kingston while at my parents as well as in Niagara while at the in-laws!  While in Kingston, I made a quick trip to Amherst Island.  It certainly is a different year on the island compared to last.  We only saw 1 Snowy Owl, and it appears the vole population is really down this year.  It will be interesting to see what happens on the Amherst Christmas Bird Count.

While in Niagara, I did the usual circuit of the river, focusing on trying to find the Black-legged Kittiwake that has been seen at the Whirlpool and other spots occasionally the last little while.  I checked the Whirlpool once in the late morning without success on Boxing Day, and then went back that same day on a hunch that it would eventually show up.  My persistence was rewarded, and I spotted the familiar field marks - black 'M' shaped wing markings, black collar and slightly larger size to the surrounding Bonaparte's Gulls.  I found it while it was still sitting on the water!  I even managed to get a photo of it among the Bonaparte's Gulls!

Black-legged Kittiwake- the best I could do with my point and shoot from way up above the Whirlpool!

Can you spot the kittiwake among the flock?  Where is Waldo?

Note the slightly larger size, heavy bill, black collar and dark wing markings
 The last kittiwake I saw was on September 30, 2016 at Van Wagner's Beach in Hamilton...certainly a long overdue re-acquaintance!

Monday 9 December 2019

The Niagara River Circuit

This Saturday I decided to head down to the Niagara River with a couple of friends for the gull pilgrimage.  My main target was Black-headed Gull along with some of the other goodies like Little Gull and white-winged gulls.  I enjoy the challenge of sorting through thousands of mostly similar looking birds to find the odd one out.  At the Whirlpool some folks who got there before us did the finding for us.  The Black-headed Gull is superficially similar to the numerous Bonaparte's Gulls but is slightly larger with wing and back colouration that is ever so slightly lighter than that species, and the clincher is the black colouration on the underside of the wing.  This is a European species that shows up in this part of Canada very rarely, although likely this same adult bird has been found annually on the river for several years. 

Black-headed Gull (top middle bird) with Bonaparte's Gull

Black-headed Gull - note the black under the wing
 While in Niagara we also stopped by to see the Black Vultures across the river in Lewiston NY (viewed from the Queenston overlook).  They were keeping warm on the usual church chimney.

We stopped above the falls and had 2 Little Gulls.  The biggest surprise was this crazy deer marooned out on an island right above the falls!  It must have swam out there and somehow made it to the island.  It is likely to either perish on the island or go for a ride over the falls...

As always, a great time on the river and I can't wait to spend some more time birding the area over the Christmas break.