Thursday 26 July 2012

Patch work

Now that classes have finished I have more flexibility to explore the local birding spots.

Columbia Lake, my typical location to visit, is still dried out.
This was once all water:

Great Blue Herons are usually hanging around in their dwindling hunting grounds:

A family of Caspian Terns at Snyders Flats today was unexpected.
The middle bird is the juvenile. It has an orange bill (while the adults have red bills), the cap is streaked with black rather than the solid black of the adults, and the mantle wasn't a solid grey.

Caspian Terns haven't been known to breed in the county before, so these could be a first county record. But it's hard to know if they flew here from another location after the juvenile was strong enough to fly...
Another family was nearby.

I'm getting eager for fall migration to really get started! Fall migration, for me, is more exciting than spring migration - maybe I'm just saying that because fall mig. is just around the corner...

Sunday 22 July 2012

Early Migrants

My daily visits to Columbia Lake (in Waterloo) hasn't rewarded me with anything since the Pectoral Sandpiper. In fact, the number and diversity seems to be steadily declining, despite the growing mudflats.
A Semipalmated Plover, yesterday morning and today, was my first one for the lake but nothing else was new.

A short trip along the Lake Erie shoreline, yesterday, with Ken Burrell revealed some other interesting birds.
Somehow, I missed Red-headed Woodpecker at Point Pelee during the 5 days I was there this May. So I was happy to see one fly across the road near Port Burwell.

6 Little Gulls were also new for me this year:

The most notable sighting came when Ken and I met up with 2 of his friends and showed them birds on the lake. Several Pied-billed Grebes, Wood Ducks, and an unexpected Greater Scaup were all nice to see.
As we were tiring of the heat I scoped out another grebe that appeared to have some yellow/brightness on the face. At first I thought it was just a trick of the light but it soon became clear that it was either a Horned Grebe or Eared Grebe. After studying the bird for the next 15 minutes or so with Ken, we couldn't come to a definite conclusion. But we both suspected it was an Eared Grebe.
We notified David Bell, who was able to confirm its identity today.

Eared Grebe, digiscoped in Alberta 3 weeks ago (yesterdays EAGR probably wasn't a migrant?):

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Shorebirds in Waterloo

As far as I know, there are only 2 locations in the county where shorebirds have been regularly occurring this season.
1 is in Cambridge and takes me over an hour to get there. The second, however, is Columbia Lake and happens to be on my way to school.

Needless to say, I have been a frequent visitor to Columbia Lake lately. There's always plenty of Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers. 10+ Least Sandpipers are nice, 1 Semipalmated Sandpiper has been there for a few days (assuming it's the same one). The other species include Lesser Yellowlegs, a Solitary Sandpiper and today (finally a new one) a Pectoral Sandpiper - which I was pretty happy about.

It might not be James Bay, but it's exciting for me to have shorebirds so close to where I live :)

Here are some mediocre digiscoped shots:

Least Sandpiper:

And a Semipalmated Sandpiper (SESA) with a Least Sandpiper (LESA) to the left.
Notice that the LESA has more red/brown on the top making it look darker versus the dull gray of the SESA. The breast streaking on the LESA is also more noticeable.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

More pics from Alberta

More pics, not too many words - just how you like it!

Bighorn Sheep causing a traffic jam:

Bow Summit:

Gray Jay looking for peanuts:

Fox Sparrow:

On our second last day we drove out of the mountains to an area near Calgary that happened to be great for shorebirds.

American Avocets weren't hard to find:

Long-billed Curlews were neat to see:

Black-necked Stilt on a nest?

Yellow-headed Blackbird:

Cinnamon Teal were more common than I expected:

Black-necked Stilt:

Wilson's Phalaropes were also very common:

Sunday 8 July 2012

50km + Alberta Part 2

Another 50km bike ride around Waterloo county this morning netted 3 new birds for my county year list.
A Marsh Wren occasionally singing at Grass Lake, 4 Greater Yellowlegs and an American Black Duck at Hespeler Mill Pond. I'm not sure if it was a domesticated duck or a very early migrant.

Other highlights included:
-10 adult Sandhill Cranes flew into Grass Lake - I was pretty happy with this sighting until my girlfriend texted me to say she had seen 2 Whooping Cranes today...

-plenty of shorebirds at Hespeler Mill Pond!!! Wow, am I ever excited about that. I counted a minimum of 21 Lesser Yellowlegs and the 4 Greater Yellowlegs, along with 6 Least Sandpipers. If water levels remain as they are, this place is going to be awesome for shorebirds later into the season. The only problem is that it's hard to see the small sandpipers because of the grass and lily pads...

Anyway, here's another bombardment of photos from last weekend in Alberta:

Mountains :)

Black bears and people getting a bit too close...

Bald Eagle:

Mountain Bluebird - on a mountain of all places:

Golden-crowned Sparrow:

Flower with a nice view:

I've already posted this, but I thought it was worth re-posting:

At the top of a mountain:

Looking down the other side:

We ran into a flock of 3 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches on our way down the mountain:

Mountain Bluebird:

And a short video of the trip down the mountain:

Saturday 7 July 2012

Alberta Day 1

I have a week of insanity coming up (i.e. lots of school work). Instead of whining about that, I'll bombard you with pictures from last weekend in Alberta.

The prairies are supposedly the "duck factory" of North America - I never realized that there was so much water there!
Common Goldeneye chicks were numerous:

Am. Wigeons were also rather common:

This is one of the marshes where, although you can't see any, there were plenty of waterfowl!

Eared Grebes were common as well:

Lincoln's Sparrow in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains:

Ring-necked Duck:

Ring-necked Duck egg factory:

Ring-necked Duck - female:

Maxwell Lake (where the Ring-necked Ducks were):

Camping on the side of the road, as usual:

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Alberta Trip!

Over the long weekend I visited my girlfriend in Edmonton and somehow managed to convince her to go birding for the 4 days I was there :)
In fact, she planned the whole trip out, all I had to do was show up and follow her around. Good times :p

Here's a quick briefing of our travels:
Day 1: Roam around Edmonton then drive to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains
Day 2: Explore Jasper National Park
Day 3: Explore Banff National Park and drive to the prairies
Day 4: Explore the prairies, return to Ontario!

Some stats:
Birds: 124 species, 23 lifers
Mammals: 6 bears (my first ones ever...), 2 Bighorn Sheep, 3 Mountain Goats, plenty of Deer, Hoary Marmot, Columbine Ground Squirrels, and Pikas (the cutest things ever)... and some more

Some preliminary pictures - actually, these are my 3 favourite pictures from the trip:

Horned Grebe - I entered this one into the Digiscoper of the Year Competition (more on that in a future post) - any comments on how I can improve it would be great (Q: do you like the tight crop, or should it be 'looser') :

Random macro shot that looked a lot better on my camera than it does here:

Ground-squirrel in habitat:

If you're eager, and want to see some more pictures, check out this album.

It was cold up there:

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Bird Quiz

I saw this bird this past weekend.

Any ideas? Post a comment and make a guess as to what it is and where I went!

This photo isn't mine, but I do have plenty of mine to come!

Photo from here (the link will tell you what species it is - so don't click it until you've guessed!)