Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Hooded Warbler

I finally found one!
Last year I found two birds within 30 minutes of searching, this year it took over 10 hours to find one male.
It was worth it though.

Here's a short video of the bird singing:

Monday, 28 May 2012

Back to the Alvar

I joined this years Carden Alvar counts yet again.
This time, however, I drove up a day early with Mark Field to get some sneak peak previews before the counts on Sunday morning.

With well over 200 people birding the area this weekend there was bound to be some good birds found. A Kirtland's Warbler was seen briefly on Saturday afternoon, and a Prairie Warbler was singing, probably on territory, on Saturday and Sunday - but I didn't get to see it.
But that's OK, I've already seen 460+ species this year ;)

Some of the interesting species I did see/hear:

White-winged Crossbill - 1 bird found by young birder Luke Berg during our point counts. A pretty good find!
Least Bittern - calling Saturday night at the Sedge Wren marsh
E. Whip-poor-wills - plenty of them singing throughout the night - I love their songs!
Long-eared Owl - singing us to sleep
Golden-winged Warbler - singing as we woke up :p  +4 more GWWA's throughout Sunday
Wilson's Phalarope - on the way back home we stopped by Reesor pond to see the female that had been reported there earlier in the day.

I've actually seen/heard at least 6 Golden-winged Warblers so far this year and have yet to see or hear a Blue-winged Warbler. Although that'll hopefully change soon.

The bad news is that I lost my iTouch - I relied on that for recording songs/calls I couldn't ID, and I found the birding apps to be very useful. Now that I've lost it I know how much I 'need' it!!!

Some pics:

Of course, one of the main attractions is the Loggerhead Shrikes. My group may have found a new nesting site :)

Upland Sandpipers are always common:

A Great Horned Owl is nesting literally next to a heronry. Apparently someone saw it fly to a neighbouring nest and 'pluck' a Heron chick from the nest!

The herons are apparently raising a Western Grebe ;)

Blanding's Turtle:

Barn Swallows:

Bull Frog:

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Mourning Warbler in Waterloo

Over the last week I've done about 10 cumulative hours of searching mostly for Hooded Warblers but also for some late migrants like Wilson's and Mourning Warblers.
I came up empty, so today I decided to explore a different area. The dreaded 'east side'.

Almost immediately there was a Mourning Warbler singing its heart out. It was well hidden so didn't offer a good photo opportunity. But about an hour later we found another Mourning Warbler singing right out in the open:

Savannah Sparrows were singing in a nearby field:

I'm off to the Carden today, maybe a Henslow's Sparrow will be singing there?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Recent birds

I spent another few days at Point Pelee last weekend. I mostly led hikes which didn't give me much time to photograph any of the birds, not that I'm bothered by that though.
The hikes can be difficult if there aren't many birds, but they're very rewarding when there are birds to show to the participants. It's fun telling them crazy facts about birds (and butterflies, and the park, and all sorts of things) and seeing their reactions. It's also enjoyable teaching people, and making them happy!

Anyway, it wasn't all about birds. I finally tried to find Saturn. The task was made easy because one of my hike participants happened to be an astronomer, he easily pointed it out for me and I was soon enjoying great views of its rings. This photo certainly doesn't do it justice, but you can at least see the general shape!

This morning I made a quick visit to my local patch (Laurel Lake). A small flock of crows were making a ruckus in the woods and I suspected there may have been a Great Horned Owl. Not long after that I found the bird staring at me:

This weekend I'm off to the Carden Alvar to join in the annual point counts. It should be fun!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


Last weekend I went to Pelee to lead some birding hikes at the park. Not being able to do any school work on the weekends, trying to squeeze as much birding as possible into the week while in Waterloo, and trying to keep on top of my work isn't easy! The blog loses any priority it had.

Anyway, before driving to the park I stopped by Grass Lake. It's more of a marsh in Waterloo county that has several species that are hard to come by in the rest of the county.
The only notable species I saw in the marsh was a Common Moorhen/Gallinule. But in a nearby wood-lot I came across 3 Bay-breasted Warblers. They're my favourite species of warbler so I was quite content to see them.

I then continued on to Pelee, where the birds were few but the diversity was good. Not having many birds is frustrating as a birder, but even more frustrating when you're leading hikes and you have people expecting to see all the warblers that makes Point Pelee famous!
My impression of Pelee between spending 3 weeks there last year, and from last weekend is that the birds its famous for is a bit overstated. I would claim that the main reason so many rarities are seen at Pelee is simply because there are so many people that go there. If you have hundreds of people constantly walking the trails, you're eventually going to find something good! It makes it a bit surprising that Long Point has about the same number of species as the Pelee region - but many of those may be from the long history of banding there.

On the other hand, the park is great for butterflies, and during the hikes I led we often looked at a few butterflies when the birding got slow.

I also relied on this Eastern Screech-Owl to keep people smiling:

I'll be back there this coming weekend.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

I haven't been posting much due to school, but that doesn't mean I haven't been out birding.

I've seen 94 species so far in Ontario (since Saturday) which isn't so bad considering that 92 of those species have been in Waterloo county.
The Golden-winged Warbler remains the best bird so far but I will 'improve' on that soon ;)

I've seen 17 species of warbler in the county - I was hoping to see 16 species in Waterloo so I'm happy with 17. There's still a few easy ones I can get: Northern Parula and Hooded Warbler (I know a few locations where they breed in the county).

Some other good birds have been Scarlet Tanager, Tennessee Warbler, Veery, Swainson's Thrush...

This afternoon I visited Columbia Lake and was confused by a warbler in a tree about 20 meters away from me. The face looked unusually bright, I assumed it was a trick of the light. But as the bird moved around it became obvious that the face was in fact brighter than what I expected. Hermit Warbler came to mind but something wasn't right. Eventually I saw the yellow rump and flanks, and the fact that the bird was hanging out with a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers gave things away.
It was a leucistic (i.e. partially albino) Yellow-rumped! Of course I didn't have my camera, but this photo is a very close match to the bird I saw:
Photo from here

This was my first leucistic warbler, so I was pretty excited! I'm pretty sure leucism is very rare in warblers.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll be making my way towards Pelee where I'll be hanging out for the weekend.
So I won't post until Monday, if at all.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Back in Waterloo

A quick post:

I returned to Canada yesterday afternoon. Counted 20 species on the bus ride from Toronto to Waterloo. Highlights were a Northern Mockingbird and a Kestrel.
And in Waterloo I've seen 61 species so far! With the best bird by far being a Golden-winged Warbler!

I definitely wasn't expecting that species, especially considering that I've seen less than 30 individual warblers so far. Most numerous being Yellow and Pine Warbler (surprisingly).

Last one seen by eBird users in Waterloo was in 2000-ish!

Insects in SG

Some filler while I'm out cleaning up on the migrants in Canada :)

Over the 4 months I was in SG I photographed several species of butterflies, dragonflies and other insects that caught my interest.
I haven't put any effort into identifying them so I can only show the photos:

Check out the blue eyes on this guy:

Blue Pansy - unofficially my favourite butterfly species!

Not an insect:

Crazy flat caterpillar in Malaysia:

Super cryptic moth that I found on my door!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Singapore Summary

Another four months have come and gone and all too soon I'm leaving on a jet plane. The 12 hour time difference is ready to deal a heavy blow to me. But I've come with a trick up my sleeve. My remedy to jet lag?
Hangovers are a proven remedy for jet lags. They're the equivalent of an anti-jet lag.
But I'm not much of a drinker, so I've adjusted myself to the time difference 'gradually' over the last few days - I'm writing this at 5am, or is that 5pm ;)
I hope it works out!

Anyway, this is supposed to be about my last 4 months in SG.
I arrived in Singapore in early January without having studied the avifauna of the region in any detail. Every time I opened the field guide I was overwhelmed so I decided to just immerse myself without any practice and see how I came out!

On my first morning I had one of these guys chilling out on the side-view mirror of a car. It was a relatively easy identification as an Olive-backed Sunbird - I quickly learned to ignore this species in favour of others despite their good looks:

Later that day I took out my digiscoping gear in hopes of photographing something colourful. I was happy to find not 1 but at least 8 White-throated Kingfishers hanging out on a railing. It was nice to get this photo of one of them, but I expected that soon these birds will lose their appeal if they're going to be that common!

It turns out that I never saw many more White-throated Kingfishers. Maybe another 10 at most over the last 4 months. I don't know why they all seemed to congregate there on that one day (they shouldn't have been migrating at that time).

I also got this photo early on in my visit of a Collared Kingfisher (a very common species in SG):

By my second week I had already seen 2 Pitta species (I never did see anymore after that). Pittas are all the rage in Asia, they've been dubbed the jewels of the forest - and many birders bankrupt themselves in their attempts to see all 32 (or so) species.

Personally, I never took a liking to them. Their big beaks, and lack of honour and manners really turned me off - the 2 Pittas I saw were only too happy to gorge themselves full of handouts from the local photographers. They're 'supposed' to be deep in the forest, rarely seen, not eating mealworms from a plastic cup.

In after thought, the colours on that bird sort of look unrealistic. So I can see where their attraction lies.

I was lucky to come to SG this year because at least 4 local birders are doing an 'all out' big year, with several others semi-keenly following behind. Exciting birds are constantly being found and have been well staked out making the tickin' easy.

One birder found a pair of Greater Painted Snipes at a grassland near my campus:

It became my temporary patch, although I never did go all that often in the end. I did luck out in finding this Common Kestrel - which was one of the "rarities of the month" for March:

Not long after that I found this Buffy Fish Owl - a rare resident in Singapore. The bird showed up for a daily rendez-vous for 5 days straight, never to be seen again:

 Of course, being in SE Asia I took the opportunity to explore the region a little. Mira came to visit me in late February and we decided to travel to Thailand for a week of birding.
Spoon-billed Sandpipers was our "most wanted" bird, and we succeeded with 4 individuals:

The other main success was finding this Asian Dowitcher after sunset on our last day in the area:

In the end I saw or heard 181 species in Singapore - I was hoping for more than 150. I really don't think I would have reached that number if the SG Big Year wasn't this year, so I owe them all a big thanks!
Of the ~2800 species of birds documented in Asia, I have seen 290.
And my year list is at 303, last years was ~450, so it should be easy to pass that mark, maybe even by the end of the month?

Tomorrow I'll be in Canada chasing after warblers - the jewels of the boreal forest - at least they don't have big ugly bills, and for the most part are very principled in their ways.

Thursday, 3 May 2012


Some stuff (i.e. filler) worth sharing:

SG Bird App: The local Nature Society recently released a FREE app to help identify the birds of Singapore. This is the first app of its kind for Asian birds! Even if you have absolutely no plans or desire to come here you may as well download the app ...it's free. You never know when one of those Asiatic megas will show up on your patch!
Don't expect an app as thorough as the Sibley App, but you get what you pay for and I understand that updates and improvements are on their way.
Considering that it's free there really doesn't need to be any other incentive. Did I mention that it's free.

This video deserves way more views than it already has. It freaks me out every time I watch it:

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The locals

My neighbours, the Straw-headed Bulbuls, continued to visit the fig tree on an almost daily basis up until sometime last week. As I expected, another juvenile did appear. But I only recorded two juveniles on one occasion. All the subsequent visits were from an individual adult and juvenile.

Now they've pretty much eaten all the berries and I don't see them anymore. I do hear the adults singing occasionally. Hopefully they've found a new food source elsewhere.

(not digiscoped)

Straw-headed Bulbuls are one of the 'specialty' birds of Singapore. I understand that they're rather difficult to see in the rest of their range. So I was very lucky to be able to record the juveniles from my window :)

The other local is the Buffy Fish-Owl, who I saw literally 5 days in a row, it was within a ten minute walk from my room. It doesn't get much better than that!
Unfortunately, the bird all but disappeared on the 5th day. I've frequently checked back without success.

Nothing else of note lately, trying to clear up some random work before heading back to Canada.

Here's a photo of a random fish that we saw on one of our pelagics.
It was actually at the dock so wasn't technically on the pelagic:

Do you see the small guy 'hitching' a ride?

Don't forget about the quiz below!