Monday 30 May 2011

Carden Alvar count

On Sunday Mira and I joined several other birders for the Carden Alvar blitz. Essentially we go birding for the whole morning on private land and tally up all the birds we see and hear! During the counts we have several 5 minute lists where we count as many species and numbers of birds as we can. True obsessive listers! Never mind the year list, these 5 minute lists were a lot of fun!

After witnessing birds during migration at Point Pelee for 3 weeks I was very happy to hear and see many of the same birds on territory, especially the grassland birds including Upland Sandpiper:


and Eastern Meadowlark:

We also found Loggerhead Shrike, Sandhill Crane, Virginia Rail, Sedge Wren and Alder Flycatcher.
Throughout the day I managed to hear 6 individual Golden-winged Warblers bringing my year total to 10! It really pays off to learn the bird songs.

In the afternoon butterflies emerged including several Black Swallowtails:

This Tree Swallow didn't mind people standing around very close by while they searched for Loggerhead Shrikes:

By the end of the day I added 3 new birds to my year list (Sedge Wren, Bobolink and Vesper Sparrow) bringing my year total to 268! The only birds I am not entirely convinced about on that list are Connecticut Warbler and Sora. Both birds I heard but was only able to identify several hours later after listening to recordings. There's always more to learn. My goal is to see 275 by mid August when I leave, definitely achievable but there aren't many easy birds left besides Screech Owl! Don't ask how I've managed that.

Nothing beats wandering around with lots of great birds singing on territory and knowing that very few birders get the chance to come out into the fields like we did. Usually we're limited to the roads.

The Carden Alvar is definitely one of my favourite places to bird in Ontario, second only to James Bay! I can't wait to go back to the Carden in two weeks time.

Sunday 29 May 2011

OFO trip to Leslie Street Spit

On Saturday Mira and I joined the Ontario Field Ornithologists for a day walk along my favourite local park. We had an impressive number and diversity of warblers and other migrants especially considering the proximity to downtown Toronto. In some respects it may have been better than many of the days I spent at Point Pelee during the 3 previous weeks! The birds are much more concentrated in the small patches of woods.

Earlier in the week I caught up with my first Common Moorhen of the year, there are birds here that aren't guaranteed out there!

During the OFO walk we had great looks at several migrants. The flycatchers were even singing allowing us to identify them much more easily! Such as this Willow Flycatcher:

A large flock of Chimney Swifts feasted on the flies, this photo doesn't do the flock justice:

We also had a Common Nighthawk roosting fairly low and close to the trail:

2 Solitary Sandpipers were nice to see in what's dubbed the 'shorebird cell'. It's a tiny body of muddy water and these might be the first shorebirds I've ever seen there besides Killdeer!

But as many know, Toronto can be good for another type of shorebird. The Whimbrels! The main migration route of these birds passes through Toronto area and we managed to locate some. In fact we were about to give up our search for them when Mira said: "hey, check this out!"

And there it was, a Whimbrel, ominously perched on a pile of cement. A very natural setting for such a superb bird!

My dog has been keeping a close eye on the hens at home:

On Sunday we helped out with the Carden Alvar blitz. We woke up at 3am for that so I'm eager to get some sleep now, I'll share some photos tomorrow!

Check out this awesome bird:

Friday 20 May 2011

More from Pelee

Lots more great birds lately but possibly my favourite were 2 Red-necked Phalaropes:

A Black-throated Green Warbler was acting like a shorebird on the beach:

Monday 16 May 2011

More from Pelee

Lots more great stuff lately including Henslow's Sparrow, a male Summer Tanager, another Dickcissel and several Acadian Flycatchers.

I was leading a hike when Pete Read came by and mentioned that his group just found a Henslow's Sparrow. In fact a really tall person in his group found the bird skulking in some grass less than 2 meters from the trail. So I brought my group over and we waited for a few minutes but I felt that most people were losing patience so we continued on. The tall guy in my group decided to stay back a little and sure enough he finds the bird and we all come running back and get some very close and amazing looks! Tall people are great!

Today a male Summer Tanager was found feeding in a gazebo. It remained there all day making it an easy find for me. And in the morning Pete Read heard a Dickcissel singing and we managed to find it close to the tip of Point Pelee.

There must have been an Acadian Flycatcher event today because there were at least 5 around the tip this morning and Ken Burrell had 3 on Pelee Island. Not nearly that many were seen the day before so one would think they migrated in the night before. But it was raining all night so I am confused why they would risk so much and fly across the lake.

It's been a very cold day here and the birds are really struggling to survive. Up to 8 Barn Swallows were piled one on top of the other in one nest trying to keep warm. Several more were on the verge of death as they sat shivering on the sandy beaches. Flycatchers, Vireos and Warblers totally ignored people who came within inches of them. Very saddening to watch them suffer so much. I did find 2 birds starved to death and I won't be surprised if there are more found tomorrow after a cold night tonight.

Barn Swallow shivering on the beach:

Baltimore Oriole very wet and cold:

Female Scarlet Tanager fluffed up against the cold:

Blue-winged Warbler:

Prothonotary Warbler (female) giving amazing looks:

One of many Acadian Flycatchers:

Chestnut-sided Warbler:

Red-eyed Vireo:

Swainson's Thrush:

Lincoln's Sparrow:

I keep running into Yellow-breasted Chats!

Tennessee Warbler:

 Clay-coloured Sparrow:

Friday 13 May 2011

Bell's Vireo at Pelee

The Bell's Vireo found today is probably the highlight bird of the year in Ontario so far. But who knows what else can show up! Another albatross? We have another 7 months to go!

Some other photos:
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (female)

Scarlet Tanager (male):

Dickcissel (male):

Bell's Vireo:

Enno (my dog) keeping an eye on the chickens:

More Pelee highlights

My updates have been sort of lacking. I've just been doing too much birding and I also haven't taken any photos really.

We haven't had any big fallouts in the park like I've been expecting but I am still seeing a lot of birds. On Wednesday I was on my way home and stopped in at North West beach to see if there were any birds there. Someone came by to tell me that a Dickcissel was found at Pelee Wings Store so I biked up to there and found the bird right away. But I was curious why most of the people were about 50 meters away and looking in a different direction. So I went there and just at that moment a Kentucky Warbler wandered across the grass next to a house!

Both those birds were lifers for me! One right after the other. The Dickcissel remained for another few hours at least giving great looks from a mere 15 meters away.

Other good birds lately have been a griseus subspecies Short-billed Dowitcher. The species has 3 distinguishable sub species. In Ontario we usually get the hendersonni subspecies that breeds in Northern Canada and west of Hudson Bay. The griseus one breeds in Northern Quebec (east of Hudson Bay). That's the subspecies they see in Newfoundland during migration but I haven't seen it there.

Some of the latest new birds to my year list have been Cerulean Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Grasshopper Sparrow....blah blah blah.
The only 2 species of warblers I'm missing for the year now are Connecticut and Prairie. Both of which I have missed by a mere few minutes.

It's been fun down here and I hope I get some time to come back next year. I might be stuck somewhere in Asia though...

And when the next week is over I must begin studying European birds for my 4 months in Denmark! There's a lot of British birders here and man do they ever do their homework. They're often better than the local birders!

I wrote that post last night and it didn't get posted. But I saw the Bell's Vireo today at Point Pelee. Crazy bird. Only the second or third 'real' record for Ontario I think.
And I walked right by it a few minutes before it was found and couldn't identify it for my group so I ignored it trying not to look stupid!!!!!!
I wasn't the only person who did that.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Pelee birdin'

It just gets better day after day!
I'm seeing lots of great birds like Kirtland's Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler and am having a lot of fun. But it is a little annoying when you hear about Swainson's Hawk, Black Vulture, Henslow's Sparrow and Kentucky Warbler but I might see some of those yet! And maybe even something else better...

I'm enjoying the hikes too. It's really rewarding when the whole groups gets to see a Yellow-breasted Chat or Prothonotary Warbler and even a Kirtland's Warbler for one group!

Today I searched for a Kentucky Warbler and came up empty handed but I did see a Canada Warbler:

And this Ruby-throated Hummingbird:

A big mob of people were surrounding the Kirtland's Warbler the other day but I didn't manage to get a photo of the bird, I'm sure many others did though:

And back home in Newfoundland my dog added a new bird to my bedroom list, baby chickens!

My father got 5 chickens and is raising them in my room before putting them outside in the hen house!

Thursday 5 May 2011

Day 5 (or is it 6?) at Pelee

Lots of great birding still to be had and lots of new birds for the year and the life list rolling in. Picked up some good ones over the past couple days including Snowy Egret and Worm-eating Warbler. Found 2 Long-billed Dowitchers yesterday late afternoon and re-found them this morning and afternoon. I also managed to get on a Black Tern as it flew around the distant side of the marsh. And this morning while out scouting some hiking trails with the other hike leaders we found a Clay-coloured Sparrow! So my year list has been climbing up and I'm sure the next couple of weeks will add some good birds.

Anyway, enough bragging, more pictures, I know what you're thinking!

After chasing Hooded Warbler sightings around the park several times I finally found my own male one morning and then by the end of the day I had seen 4 different individuals! It seems that once I find one I find a bunch. Same thing happened with White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-winged Warbler....etc

Female Hooded Warbler:

Male Hooded Warbler:

And with the Yellow-breasted Chat too. I found this guy just after seeing a Prothonotary Warbler and while enjoying a White-eyed Vireo! I know, it's just too good here. I may as well go home.

There must be at least 4 Red-headed Woodpeckers in the park:

There were several Eastern Bluebirds on one of my hikes that I led and I managed this photo just before the hike began:

Same with this Yellow-throated Vireo:

I managed to mooch a ride to see this Snowy Egret in ... I don't know where actually. Somewhere West of the park. It had a super long bill! This blurry photo doesn't show it well though.

I've also been enjoying the butterflies and flowers in the park and have been learning a lot!

Lots of people out today in the warm weather at the tip:

The Great Horned Owl nest at the North of the park is doing well and I saw an owlet from another nest out walking around the branches.

This orange variant Scarlet Tanager was neat. From what I understand/remember from Bridget Stuchbury's books is that they eat some sort of red berry down South to get the red pigmentation in their feathers. They can't produce it themselves so if they can't find any of those berries they'll be orange! Which I suppose you could say is their 'natural' colour. Someone else thought it ate too many cheesies. Who knows.

Lots of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers around:

More migrants to come overnight I hope, as does everyone else at the park!