Thursday, 21 November 2013

Elegant Tern at Fort Erie?!? I want it!

So there is an Elegant Tern on the Niagara River right now. I am not 100% sure if it has been officially seen over Ontario water but if/when it is, it is/will be Ontario's first ever record for this species!! Wow, two first records in Fort Erie this fall!
I wish I was there right now (or could afford to go today). I have a dentist appoint that I already last-second rescheduled for today and they were nice enough to not charge me, so I don't want to push it. I also had a lot of school work to do last night, the time that I would have otherwise been using to drive to Niagara. I wish much luck to Josh, Alan, Marcie, and anyone else trying to see it today. Maybe if I'm lucky enough it will stick around until Sunday. I know what I'll be doing Saturday night if it is still around: drive to Niagara! Hopefully I can follow up on this with a sighting and some photos. If not, oh well! Good birding!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Long time no post! Moosonee Trip!! (1)

At the end of September and into the beginning of October, I joined my friends Alan Wormington and Josh Vandermeulen on a week-long trip to Moosonee. Moosonee is slightly south of James Bay, near the mouth of the Moose River. It is a very small town (to me it seemed tiny, but it's not so small compared to other northern towns) and the only way to get there is by train, boat, or aircraft. We had to drive about 1000 km to a town called Cochrane, then the famous Polar Bear Express train took us the rest of the way to Moosonee.

Here is my first journal of the trip. This is what we did and saw on our way to Moosonee:

Thursday, 26 September, 2013
Midnight to supper time: we drove and drove and looked at many spots such as sewage lagoons, a garbage dump, and a few open field areas. We didn't see anything too crazy today, and I didn't sleep the previous night so I was too tired to look very hard, but also too tired to care about not looking. We did see a Black-backed Woodpecker, which was a lifer for me! I only got a quick glance at it after Josh and Alan noticed it, so I would love to see another one sometime soon.

We saw this Sora at the Powassan sewage lagoons, I believe:

Friday, 27 September, 2013
We drove on a highway (at a very, very fast speed) to Abitibi Dam then to Fraserdale, and we stumbled upon a few Gray Jays, about 15 Spruce Grouse, and 5 Ruffed Grouse, which were all new life-list species for me! We got very close to some of the grouse and took some beautiful photos of them. Below are some of my nicer Spruce and Ruffed Grouse photos from the trip.

At Abitibi Dam, we looked pretty hard for Northern Wheatear, as we did at many of our stops, and came up with very few birds, period. I did see and photograph my first Wood Frog and a rather interesting dragonfly.

This is a Boreal Snaketail dragonfly (thanks Bill Lamond for the ID, and Alan for asking him!). We saw a couple of these at Abitibi Dam. They were a bit wary, but stayed low and were much less flighty than darners. It appears that their flight time ends in September, so I guess this sighting pushed a bit late seeing as this was one of the last days of September. Regardless, a very nice looking species!

This compound (too big to call a house) was abandoned, and there were large areas of uncut grass all over the place so we naturally looked around for birds. Like in an eerie movie or something, an old man showed up out of no where while we birded that area (all of a sudden he was just standing there near our car!) and in a Clint Eastwood sort of way asked, "They doin' anything with that place?" We didn't know... We just wanted a Northern Wheatear! He went on to tell us that it was apparently being built for about $50 million, and after about $25M, the owner ran out of money and stopped construction. Wow, that's a big house and a lot of money! Needless to say, the three of us turned to look at something and when we turned back, the old man was gone. Okay, so maybe it didn't happen in such an eerie way, but his Clint Eastwood demeanor made me imagine it that way. Lol.

Here are a few neat flowers that I saw. The first one is an Oxeye Daisy and the second is a Common Tansy. Thank you Alan for those identifications!

Around lunch time we boarded the Polar Bear Express from Fraserdale to Moosonee. This was my first time riding a train and it was a lot of fun! It was less bumpy than driving a car, and the windows were huge - perfect for finding and viewing birds! We saw 5 Sharp-tailed Grouse (lifer!) and Josh taught me about many of the tree species that we passed.
 At the moment I took this photo, I was very excited. I was about to take my first choo-choo ride!

Thank you for reading!

Next blog: Moosonee!

More Rare Birds Welcome Spring in the Point Pelee Area (as if I haven't seen enough rares lately)

Here is a blog that I wrote in April as a draft and forgot to post it! Hello again blog! Hopefully I find some time to write about some of my recent shenanigans.

This is from late winter:

     Where to begin... I can't believe how well birding is going lately! I already felt rewarded enough with the Eurasian Wigeon in the Onion Fields and Bewick's Swan in Ridgetown, but this week my lucky streak indeed continued!

     I spoiled myself with Eurasian Wigeons over the past week, although I did not manage to get close enough to any for a particularly nice photo :(. Oh well, we can't get everything on the first try or else life would be boring! Back to the wigeon: I saw it Friday night, a few hours after it was first found, and then again on Sunday with my girlfriend Nadia. Male Eurasian Wigeons are characterized by a bright red-coloured head with a creme-coloured stripe down the middle of the forehead (very similar to American Wigeon, which has a light brown and green head with a creme coloured forehead stripe). In a field of corn stubble and 1200 similar ducks, the head is the easiest and probably only way to identify them. The interesting thing about this second visit was that although it was in the exact same field as two nights before, this one looked different. Its head was still bright red, but its forehead stripe was much shorter, and did not extend to the top of its crown like it did previously. I was pretty sure that this could not have been the same bird as I saw before, but had no way of proving it, so I just shrugged it off and headed to Hillman Marsh. I bet that`s not the last we hear of my Eurasian Wigeon adventures!

     This is a photo of an American Wigeon I captured in Kingsville in February (this is the common American version of the Eurasian Wigeon):

     At least a few days per week, I have been visiting the South side of Hillman Marsh to get in some face time with Greater White-fronted and Snow Geese, two pretty rare species for the area, before they migrate North. In fact, here is a photo I captured on March 23 of a number of both species together. Can you tell how many of each are in the photo?

     On March 18, I took a trip to... guess it... my favourite local marsh again, Hillman Marsh! On this day, I was really hoping to see a Sandhill Crane, or maybe a first-of-the-year migrant gull or shorebird, and I was far from disappointed. Upon arriving, I noticed a tiny gull with a black head standing fairly close to where I was. My first thought was "Yeah! This must be a Bonaparte's or Little Gull!" (I know, newbie move, they're not really similar to each other, and neither have a dark mantle, dark legs, or a white eye ring like the bird I saw) Good thing I took a few quick photos, because within minutes all the gulls took off when a Bald Eagle flew over. I managed to watch this small hooded gull fly for a bit and saw that it had uniform dark gray on its upper wings with a white trailing edge and black tips. "Dark wings? Yay, this must be my first Little Gull of the year and second ever!" I was WAY OFF! This was a Franklin's Gull, a pretty rare bird for the area and a new species for my life list! My friend Alan told me that my sighting broke the 'early record' for this species in the Pelee area by 10 days (previous early record set on March 28, 1987). Here is a photo of it among Ring-billed and Herring Gulls before taking off:
     And just for fun, here is a photo of a bird I saw a few days later. For a second, before I used my binoculars, I thought it was my Franklin's Gull. I'm sure you'll see why I thought so:

     I think this is long enough for this blog! Enjoy!

Monday, 22 April 2013


Hi readers, I'm sorry I have not posted a blog in a number of weeks. This is only because I am in the process of writing my university final exams for the semester and have been diligently studying. Naturally, the rest of my time has been swallowed up by bird watching, hanging with my girlfriend, sleep, and a few shifts at Pelee Wings Nature store, my summer job. By coincidence, I just noticed it has been exactly one month since my last posting, so what better a time to say something!

Well, as I'm sure you have all seen by now, bird migration is very active with increasingly warm days, south winds, and some much needed rain. Most of the wintering diving ducks, geese, and swans have disappeared from the Essex County area back to their breeding grounds, and dabbling ducks  such as Widgeon, Pintails, Gadwall, and Teals (and some diving ducks like Ring-necked Ducks, Bufflehead, and Ruddy Ducks) have filled the area. At the beaches and harbors lately, there are good numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls, Forster's Terns, loons, grebes, and Double-crested Cormorants. I also saw one Caspian Tern at Hillman Marsh recently, and an immature Little Gull last Sunday in front of Point Pelee's entrance, which was only my second Little Gull ever and my first self-found! The flooded fields and mudflats at places like Hillman Marsh now contain many Pectoral Sandpipers, Dunlin, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson's Snipes, and the odd Spotted Sandpiper. Friends of mine have also seen a Least Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plovers, and even a Ruff lately! I spent hours looking but could not relocate the Ruff :( oh well, next time!

In the forests and fields, there have been oodles of Golden- and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, along with many Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Meadowlarks, Eastern Towhee (these names are making a geographical pattern... Lol). Two weekends ago I counted 7 sparrow species at the DeLaurier Homestead parking lot!

Monday, 18 March 2013

March 15 - 2 Awesome Rarities In 2 Days!

     Migration is still just beginning but it's already a lot of fun and has brought me some very rare birds in the last two days. On Thursday, March 14, I saw a message from my friend Jeremy Hatt about a Eurasian Wigeon in the Onion Fields North of Point Pelee, so on my way home I took a bit of a detour since it was still light outside and with a combination of directions from a couple of friends, I spotted it in minutes among hundreds of ducks! It really stood out with its bright red head and light coloured stripe down the middle. Its body was also notably grayer coloured than the American Wigeons. Since my photos of this species look like garbage, here is a short video of the Eurasian Wigeon foraging:
     The next day(today), March 15, I left Leamington to meet up with my girlfriend Nadia and my best friend Chris in London, to bird Fanshawe Conservation Area. I must have been distracted thinking about birds or something, because I made a wrong turn in Wheatley and found myself on Talbot's Trail, the slow way to London! Darn, so I figured I'd make a quick stop at Ridgetown Sewage Lagoon before getting on the 401. Since I had not read any rare bird reports from this location in a while, I did not expect much, but I expected at least a variety of migrating ducks or something. I got my scope out of the car and noticed only a small number of ducks and geese, but no swans at all. This was a big change from the 2-4000 swans I was seeing here regularly in December.
     I noted the small numbers of migrant ducks including Ring-necked Ducks and Buffleheads, as well as a Pied-billed Grebe, then heard something all too familiar to this location: flight calls of Tundra Swans! There were 3 flying towards the lagoon and I quickly noticed that one had a peculiar amount of yellow on its bill. It reminded me of swans I have seen in zoos (but it somehow didn't occur to me that they could be the same species or subspecies). Remember, I was in a big hurry after my mistaken detour to London, so I snapped a photo of it flying and a few of it on the water once it landed, and went on my way.
     I did not need to do any research to find out what I saw at Ridgetown, because as I pulled into Nadia's dad's driveway an hour later, I read an Ontbirds email by Mike Burrell saying that Ken Burrell and Andrew Dean found it about half an hour after I did! This is in fact a Tundra Swan, but of the European "Bewick's" subspecies, which is extremely rare in Ontario! I heard that this is actually only the third record of this subspecies in the province! Awesome!
     Here is a photo of the "Bewick's" Tundra Swan next to a North American "Whistling" Tundra Swan (Ring-necked Ducks and Redhead also in photo):

     Birding Fanshawe Park with Nadia and Chris was a lot of fun too. We saw a Turkey Vulture, which are still pretty scarce in the area lately, gave Chris his first chance to have a bird land in his hand, and learned a thing or two about navigation when we realized the trail we were on took us out of the park.
     Overall, it was a very fun couple of days filled with great birds and great people, like usual! I hope you enjoyed, and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Migration: It's On!

I intended to write this post 2-3 weeks ago when I noticed migration getting rolling, and I even wrote most of a post on the 'blogger app' on my phone, but it appears to have grown wings and flown away(bird pun, lame!). There's a lesson learned once again about trusting phone apps to work.

Anyway, I'm sure everyone is well aware that migration is under way! There are Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles (I hadn't seen a single grackle all winter until about 4 weeks ago) singing on nearly every tree or fence post in the Pelee area! Okay, maybe that's a bit exaggerated, but there are surely thousands of blackbirds in the area. I've seen a good handful of Rusty Blackbirds among mixed flocks too, which look and sound really neat. They're sort-of one of the ugliest bird species in my opinion but their ugliness has a certain simple artistic beauty (sorry to get so deep there haha). I read recently that Rusty Blackbirds have faced a population decline of about 85-99% in the last 40 years :0. That explains why I have such a hard time seeing many! I blame the starlings (or the people who brought starlings here); even if this isn't their fault, lots of other things are. Hopefully the RUBL do alright in the future. I have also seen quite a few American Robins in the area, which were extremely scarce through the winter months.

My friend Chris who I mentioned in my last post, was asking me 2 weeks ago about differences between Semi-palmated Plovers and Killdeer (the main difference is neck/chest bands: SPPL has 1 and KILL has 2) and the very next day he told me he saw one of these species! I hadn't seen more than a small handful of Killdeer all winter so I headed to that area to see what was cooking: I found 5 Killdeer in one field, and have been seeing them scattered around the Leamington/Essex County area since. Awesome, more migration!

Many new ducks have shown up at Hillman Marsh (and are currently present) in the last 2 weeks, including Northern Pintails, Gadwall, American Wigeons, Green-winged Teal, American Black Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Bufflehead, and Ring-necked Ducks. I love ducks! Also on the marsh there were 2 Sandhill Cranes last Monday, March 4 . My girlfriend Nadia and I saw one fly away and heard another making that awesome dinosaur sound they make. I'll have to try to post a nice audio/video clip of one croaking if I find a good chance to film it.

The last bird I'll include in my migration report is one of my favourites, and I'm not even too sure if this counts as migration, but I have been keeping an eye out for these and have not seen one in 2 months: Brown Creeper! I was most delighted to see one on a tree near the bird feeders at Ojibway Park in Windsor just over a week ago. I just think they're so cool, the way they disguise so well and shift side to side on trees while acting like woodpeckers. Because of their stealthy ways, there were many times in the fall I would hear their calls surround me out of no where, then move to a different area as quickly as they came, without even seeing the birds. Also, their spring mating songs sound awesome (which I look forward to hearing for my first time soon). I like to think it sounds sort-of like "I am the brown creeper!"

I will probably get back to this post to add photos and videos sometime soon. Hopefully my next report on migration isn't so delayed. Hope you enjoyed!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Some Recent Birding - Raptors and Waterfowl

     It's been a few days since I last posted, but that certainly does not mean that I have not been birding! Oh, where to begin...
     On Sunday February 24, I was told about a couple of Trumpeter Swans hanging around at Lake View Park Marina in East Windsor, so my girlfriend Nadia and I picked up one of my best friends, Chris (I have been successfully pushing him into birding recently =D), and we headed to Windsor. On the highway from Leamington to Windsor, we counted 23 Red-tailed Hawks! That's a new personal record for a drive across the county! We stopped at Ojibway Park, hoping to give Chris and Nadia their first good views of a Northern Shrike, but we 'shriked out' as my friend Dwayne says when he does not find a shrike. In its place, quite literally in the exact same place as I expected to see the shrike, was an American Kestrel, who kindly gave us great close views before flying off to find his next victim. I say 'his' because he is a male, identifiable by the extensive blue colour on his wings. If it was a female, it would be mostly orange-red in colour. To the left of this paragraph is a video I captured of the American Kestrel taking off and flying away, along with a photo below from today of him holding a rather large Meadow Vole(this prey probably weighs over half of the kestrel's weight!):

video     We made our way to Lake View Park Marina and the Trumpeter Swans were about as close to us as possible, which was awesome! There were many great birds there like usual, including many Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, Common and Hooded Mergansers, Canvasbacks, Redheads, Greater Scaup, a few Lesser Scaup, and a Ruddy Duck! I love this location because there are always many birds to be seen, and I think diving ducks are great. Here is a short video of one of the Trumpeter Swans. Can you tell why it's called a trumpeter?

     Thank you for reading, and happy birding!