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!