Sunday 27 March 2011

King Eider

This afternoon I ventured down to the Spit to find the adult male King Eider that was reported yesterday. I was happy to find it right where it was supposed to be.

I've never had such a good look at a King Eider in this plumage before. The ones I've seen were mere specks in the scope mixed in with thousands of Common Eiders. It's funny how things are so different here compared with Newfoundland.
It was nice to really see all of its colours and those horns on the back (which I think are feathers sticking out of the back)!
It seemed fitting though because the Eider was getting horny for a female Red-breasted Merganser. It was making a feeble attempt at a courtship display and followed after her for some time. Perhaps when you look that good you don't have to do much to impress the ladies!

I saw 23 species of waterfowl at the Spit this weekend (plus 2 species of grebe and coots) which is pretty good considering that the Presqu'ile waterfowl weekend earlier this month had the same number. They're known for their waterfowl so it's good to know that Toronto can be just as productive. Although we don't see the same number of waterfowl, usually they'll have thousands more than us.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Leslie Street Spit

I arrived at the Spit this morning as the sun was rising and left as it was setting.

It was a non-stop walking day for me with few highlights to keep the adrenaline going but I enjoyed the time outdoors. I'm not sure my legs are very thankful though.

All in all I saw 40 species which is lower than what I expected but I did see 22 species of waterfowl which is a good count.


King Eiders

I had my hopes high for an Eared Grebe which was seen last weekend. I double, triple and quadruple checked every Horned Grebe I came across but none of them were convincing enough. It seems that distinguishing the two species is difficult when they're in their winter plumage but I'm sure once I see one it will be quite obvious and there won't be any second guessing it!

Horned Grebe 1

Horned Grebe 2

Photographed within the same week, yet they look so different! They can be confusing when they're in different stages of their plumages and in different postures. That's what makes it fun.

Where are your ears!

I wasn't expecting to see a Shrike today. It was a nice Spring surprise.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

More Geese

Aren't they fun!

I neglected all the other species of Geese in my last post. So I'll give them some breathing space here.

On Sunday Mira and I searched around Ottawa for Ross's Geese and others of course. We came across many large flocks of Canada Geese:

There was a Cackling Goose in one flock of Canada Geese (not that flock) but too distant for photos.

Eventually we found 2 white geese far out in a field. They were near where 2 Ross's Geese had been seen the day before so in my eagerness to find some I assumed they were the same birds. But I had to reconsider that identification when we found a Snow Goose nearby:

Luckily for us though we found a group of birders and joined them for a while. One of them got an email about 2 Ross's Geese that happened to be very close. We found them right where they were supposed to be:

At the same location was a leucistic Canada Goose:

It was a fun weekend getting a glimpse of these geese as they make their way further North.

Monday 21 March 2011

A quarter of a million geese*... would think there would be more than just 2 species of geese!

*More like a tenth of a million, but a quarter million sounds better!

Anyway, I am still happy because we saw what we were looking for. Snow Geese.

Mira and I had only one afternoon to find as many Snow Geese as we could so I made a thorough plan consulting previous years sightings from Ontbirds and eBird as well as emailing locals. We had our route all planned out (which admittedly isn't unusual for me) and luckily we found a large flock relatively early in our search giving us a lot of time to enjoy the display.
Thanks to everyone who gave us information.

I'm not going to write much now. I 'need' to sleep and chase a Henslow's Sparrow tomorrow morning! :p

Sunday 20 March 2011

Snow Geese

Mira and I searched for migrating Snow Geese on Saturday and managed to find a huge flock near the Quebec border. After spending over 4 hours with them and still struggling to grasp the size of the flock we went home very satisfied with an amazing experience to share.

Here is one short video showing a small fraction of the geese flying and resting:

Snow Geese - Youtube

This is just a teaser, many more to come tomorrow!

Wednesday 16 March 2011

New uploads

Not much to say really. I've had some Owl photos uploaded for a while now but forgot to post a link here. There's also a photo of a robin from today. I suppose it's a good thing that the really common birds come first during the spring because otherwise I wouldn't be out photographing them.

Long-eared Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Short-eared Owl
Barred Owl
American Robin

Sunday 13 March 2011

Toronto birding

I'm posting two blog posts within an hour because I got called into work as I was writing the previous one this morning and I originally wasn't going to write anything about my failed attempt at finding the Western Grebe this evening. But, I may as well humiliate myself a little though eh!

While at work I checked my email to find that a Western Grebe had been seen at Leslie Street Spit this afternoon. As soon as I was finished work I raced home on my bike grabbed my scope, camera and bins and raced to the Spit in record breaking time! I cut my time in half, from 40 minutes to 20 minutes. With a Western Grebe at the other end my mind doesn't care much about my complaining legs. I can only imagine how fast I'd be if there was an Ivory Gull!!

One reason I like Western Grebes so much is mostly David Attenborough's fault:

Youtube - The Courtship Dance

I know what you're thinking. Those are Clark's Grebe's Alvan, not Western Grebe's!
Well, in my defense, they look similar enough and they have the same behaviour. I'd be happy seeing either one in Ontario, or pretty much anywhere for that matter.

Anyway, I didn't find the Western Grebe. I had about 30 minutes before sunset so I didn't get a great opportunity to throughly check everywhere but I did find a Short-eared Owl which I wasn't expecting and 2 American Woodcocks peenting. So I was quite happy with those finds.

Cool article about Albatrosses

Although, any article about albatrosses is cool.

Next weekend I'll be in Cornwall with Mira in hot pursuit of migrating Snow Geese!

Waterloo birding

Yesterday I found myself in Waterloo visiting some friends. In the morning I ventured out of the city in pursuit of a Varied Thrush that has been there since December.

In December I got a message from Ken Burrell asking if I was in Waterloo still. He had found the Varied Thrush just as I was leaving the city to return to Newfoundland. I was quite disappointed. But all is good in the end because it abided yesterday! And I can't really complain about going back home to Black-tailed, Yellow-legged, Common & Slaty-backed Gulls, not to mention all the other goodies!

When I arrived at the Ewert's property (that's where the Thrush has been coming to feeders) Elmer Ewert was restocking his feeders and laying some out on the ground. He welcomed me and gave me a seat to sit on and told me where I should sit to get a perfect angle for viewing once the bird came. He returned to his house and a few minutes later I heard a window open behind me. I turned around to find an outstretched hand full of fruit and cookies! What a great place to be out birding!

While I munched away some American Tree Sparrows were perching themselves nicely for some photos:

Soon enough the Thrush appeared in a tree nearby to survey the surroundings and ensure it was a safe time to eat. It came to the ground and joined the other birds in a feast of seeds.

Birding doesn't get any better with free food, great birds and generous hosts.

A big thanks to Ewert for his generosity!

After enjoying great looks at the Thrush Ewert suggested that I explore his backyard. His dog joined me in a little adventure and it had great fun chasing away a flock of Wild Turkeys.

A very foxy dog (if I may say so myself):

Soon enough I was on my way back towards the city. Some highlights during my return were Common Grackles, a Killdeer, Turkey Vultures and Horned Larks.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Ashbridge's Bay Park

I was worried I wouldn't have anything to write about from this weekend after a rainy Saturday and delays with the transit in Toronto today. But I managed to get down to Ashbridge's Bay Park in Toronto this afternoon and found several white-winged Gulls and early migrants along with the regulars.

In this photo alone there are 6 white-winged Gulls (I think they're all Iceland):

Most of the white-winged Gulls were Iceland Gulls (11 was my final count after checking over my photos) with 1 Glaucous Gull and 1 Thayer's Gull (or what I thought was a Thayer's but after closer scrutiny it looks more like an Iceland).

Here's the confusing bird:

The slender bill size and relatively lighter coloured primaries (the wing tips that have a bit of black/grey to them) rule out Herring Gull.

At first I thought that the primaries weren't light enough for Iceland but after consulting my Gull book I'm starting to lean towards Iceland because it seems that Thayer's Gull has relatively dark primaries.

The last photo gives a size comparison with a Ring-billed Gull and a closer look at the eye. To me the eye looked relatively dark but my judgement on that can be questioned. I probably had some bias in thinking that because I wanted this bird to be a Thayer's. I'm about 80% sure it's an Iceland, although I'd be happy if you prove me wrong!

Anyway, I'm no Gull expert by any means and I really haven't spent as much time on Gulls as I probably should have considering my connecting with Newfoundland. If you have an opinion or any more insight please feel free to comment or email me!

Red-winged Blackbirds have started to move back in. I saw at least 6 today, I'm starting ignore them and wish they weren't so noisy already! Just last week I was dreaming of their song and it's association with spring and warmer weather. I always want what I can't have. Where are those Killdeer!?

A male and female Brown-headed Cowbird were nearby, here's the male:

I then practiced some silhouette photography with a Bufflehead as it fed in a small open body of water:

Thanks for reading :)