Sunday 22 January 2012

2011 Summary - Part 1

Considering that Chinese/Lunar New Year is tomorrow I thought it would be a good second opportunity to write this since I didn't write one during the Western (what should I call it?) New Year.

January - April:

During the first four months I was frequently traveling to Ottawa or in that general direction because my girlfriend, Mira, was working there. We coordinated our trips to visit each other with OFO outings, wherever rare birds were and also to try and explore the land between.

In early January Mira and I joined the Annual Waterfowl Inventory (Lake Ontario) where we met a bunch of local birders that I ended up seeing many more times over the next 8 months. The highlight that day was 2 female Harlequin Ducks.

Redpolls were irrupting in big numbers in January into southern Ontario allowing me to find my first of several Hoary Redpolls:

Two back-to-back weekends in Kingston region yielded 6 species of owl of which 4 were lifers for me and a Barrow's Goldeneye at Presqu'ile Park.

In late February Mira and I did a gas-guzzling trip from Ottawa through Algonquin Park and down to Long Point. We picked up some of the Northern specialties and managed to see the Spotted Towhee near Monarch's landing.

In mid-March I had some commitments in Waterloo allowing me to see the Varied Thrush that had been hanging around for about 3 months!

In late March Mira and I visited her grandparents in Cornwall where we found time to search the countryside for Snow Geese. We quickly found a large flock of several thousand Snow Geese, later that month others had reported over a million from the same area! On the same weekend we also re-found 2 Ross's Geese in the Ottawa region.

In late March it was King Eider season in Toronto. 3 individuals were within 100 meters of each other at one of my favourite birding locations - Leslie Street Spit. When word got out that there was an adult male King Eider local birders swarmed the park like never before! I had spent many cold winter days out wandering around rarely seeing any other birders during the previous 3 months so it was a surprise to see so many birders.

A Western Grebe was reported in Toronto and I rushed down to see it after work:

In late April Mira and I birded Prince Edward County where we found many of the early migrants as well as 32 American Avocets at Presqu'ile P. Park.

May was definitely the best month for birds throughout the year (as expected) - especially because I was at Point Pelee for 3 weeks every day working as a guide for Friends of Point Pelee. Along with meeting many birders I had heard a lot about I also saw many new birds.

Some of the highlights for me:
35 species of Warbler (missed Prairie and only heard Connecticut).
Meeting plenty of birders.
Watching shorebirds begin their night-time migration from  Hillman Marsh in the evenings.

One of my favourite species:

I pretty much saw all the birds that others had reported at PP during that month except for Swainson's Hawk, Fish Crow, Western Tanager and Lark Sparrow. But I wasn't disappointed; I had seen some other good birds.

Bell's Vireo:

In late May Mira and I helped out with the Bird Surveys at Carden Alvar - I had been there once or twice before and was very impressed. This trip sealed the deal making me fall in love with the area. I cleaned up on all of the grassland birds I hadn't yet seen in the year.

June - August:

In mid-June I returned to the Carden for another great Bird Survey where my group found 3 singing Golden-winged Warblers.

The prairie smoke was in full bloom:

Later in the month I concentrated more time on the other things in life - insects and amphibians:

I also did a bit of taxidermy for the Royal Ontario Museum

In early August I did a weekend trip around Ontario looking for migrating shorebirds. I didn't find anything unexpected but did manage to finally see a Least Bittern at Presqu'ile P. Park as well as an amazing sight of thousands upon thousands of Swallows swarming the sky during sunset. It truly was a spectacle and I was surprised that there wasn't anyone else out there enjoying it - nor had I ever heard of this massive congregation before. I hope to be able to go back next year... but it'll be exam time so maybe that will be difficult to squeeze in.

A week-long trip to Newfoundland with Mira involved an amazing shearwater feeding frenzy:

And a feast of mushrooms:

Preparing all of this makes me miss Ontario and Newfoundland! But I suppose that once I'm back I'll be missing Singapore/Denmark!

Part 2 to come tomorrow (I had to break it up into 2 parts, otherwise this would have been way too long... it already is).