Sunday 30 September 2012

Golden-Plovers in Waterloo

While unsuccessfully trying to study this morning, I got distracted by an eBird email notifying me of an American Golden-Plover that was seen yesterday at Hespeler Mill Pond.

I decided to cancel my gull watching plans for later in the day and made my way to the pond. I had originally planned to go there this weekend but school commitments kept my time limited. Anyway, some things obviously take precedence over others ;)

At first there were no plovers of any kind to be seen. So I decided to make a CBC-style count out of all the birds. There was a surprising number of waterfowl - many more than at Laurel Creek and good numbers of Pectoral Sandpipers. It was a good opportunity to study the size differences between male and female Pectoral Sandpipers.

I must have thoroughly scanned the pond over 5 times while counting the various ducks without seeing and plovers - so I was a bit discouraged.
This Great Egret appeared at one point with the wingtag 34R.

There were plenty of Green-winged and Blue-winged Teals. Sometimes it was difficult to get a good look at the teal making it difficult to establish an identification. But knowing that the BW Teals have white at the base of the bill helps to distinguish the teal species.

This photo from Presqu'ile (2 weeks ago) shows the different facial markings. To the left are two Blue-winged Teals, and to the right is a GW Teal. The green on the wing isn't always so obvious - so knowing the other details can be helpful. Also note the different bill shape between the two species - not always easy to see!

Here's one of the Green-winged Teals from today - it, along with about 30 more, were probing in the mud like dowitchers:

At one point a Merlin flushed all the shorebirds and teal. The Golden-Plovers must have also been flushed up because not long after that I found them out in the open.

The supercilium (eyebrow) and cap-like appearance were immediately obvious:

And the long primary projection were also noticeable from the distance:

This Killdeer was notable for its extensive buffiness on the throat and supercilium. Is there any significance to this variation?

Here's a photo of the pond: 

Only 3 Turkey Vultures today! That's a 99.7% decrease from yesterdays numbers :p

Saturday 29 September 2012

Turkey Vultures in Waterloo

While on my way to check Laurel Creek for migrating waterfowl I was surprised to notice a large flock of Turkey Vultures flying over head.
I immediately stopped to look, tell my local birding friends, and search for Black Vultures. I didn't find any Black Vultures but it was still very neat to see so many birds - but unfortunately they quickly dispersed going South West.

So I continued on my way to Laurel Creek where I didn't see anything too interesting.

This Sharp-shinned Hawk buzzed the roosting blackbirds:

I decided to move on to check on the roosting gulls. While searching the flock I noticed a large flock of birds a couple kilometers to the South. I quickly realized that the Turkey Vultures had returned (or a new flock was moving through) so I told some locals and continued to search the gulls.

I found 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull trying its best to hide behind a Herring Gull:

The Turkey Vultures didn't seem to be moving in any general direction so I decided to chase them down.
Check out this short clip to get an idea of how many there were:

I quickly caught up to them and was happy to note that they were roosting. One tree had about 50 birds in it!

More and more birds crashed into the trees, literally, and many would fly out of the large trees whenever a decent gust swayed the trees! 

This photo was with my point and shoot - they look really far away, but they really very close!
I'll be scouring these photos to see if there any Black Vultures! 

Also of note, I reached 1400 kilometers on my bike today! I hope to reach 2000 before the year ends!

Some nice fall colours were at Laurel Creek:

In Search of Gulls

I've been regularly checking out a somewhat new gull roosting site that is an 8 minute bike ride from where I live. Finally, yesterday there were a few thousand gulls.

You can see most of the flock here:

This Lesser Black-backed Gull was easy to pick out from the crowd:

Gulls were continuously flying in from nearby Laurel Creek and other locations.

Once in a while I turned around to notice a nice sunset:

Eventually all the birds flew up and dispersed.
Around 7pm every day there are thousands of gulls that fly in a somewhat Easterly direction over the city - I haven't figured out where they are going... Presumably they're going to an overnight roosting site.

A few days ago I re-found the Horned Grebe at Laurel Creek. It was slyly hiding within a small flock of Ruddy Ducks:

Sunday 23 September 2012

Laurel Creek - CBC style

Made a short visit to the lake this morning - nothing different from the previous days. A notable decline in warblers, and not many ducks either. Only ones of note were a flock of 4 aythya ducks that went unidentified - I still haven't seen any of them in Waterloo this year...

Anyway, I did try to take note of every bird we saw/heard. I find that that makes everything a bit more exciting. I'm not sure why though... I do like CBCs.

This Great Egret has been hanging around for a while:

Saturday 22 September 2012

Patchin' it up

My regular visits to Laurel Creek reservoir + Columbia Lake have re-begun. Columbia Lake no longer has mudflats, so no shorebirds are attracted to there - and, coincidentally, I am not attracted to that location anymore either ;)

Warbler migration is still quite evident - I've seen 17 species of warbler in the county since early September - and a total of 25 this year! And now waterfowl have started to show up. Large flocks of Canada Geese are in the farmers fields, and a few ducks have started to show up as well.

Pied-billed Grebes are very common at the lake, and are often very tame:

Cormorants - a bird that was not present in the summer - are common now:

A small flock of Ruddy Ducks was nice to see yesterday - a vanguard of many more waterfowl to come :)

On another note - I've been doing a 'medium year' in the county. Not quite a big year, but I've been out birding a lot, and really want to see as many species as I can - without going into overdrive. Right now I'm sitting at 164 species - with a few easy ones to get still (Junco, Rough-legged Hawk, Great Black-backed Gull) and plenty of other species that I should get.
My original goal was to see 175 species - now I think I should be able to hit 180! We'll see...

Monday 17 September 2012

More digiscoped pics from the weekend

Most of these photos are from Saturday morning.

Lots of American Pipits wandering around with the few shorebirds:

This picture pretty much sums up the diversity of peeps we had.
White-rumped (adult), Least (juvenile), and Semipalmated (juv.) Sandpipers from left to right.

This dead salmon was interesting - don't worry, I didn't bring it home to taxidermy... or fry for that matter!

My first juvenile Black-bellied Plovers of the year:

This Common Checkered-Skipper may have been the first record for the park (found by Ian Shanahan) - plenty more were seen the next day!

This White-rumped Sandpiper was the only adult shorebird we saw this weekend. If you compare it to the other shorebird pics above and below, you'll notice that the feathers on the back (i.e. scapulars) aren't very distinct and 'crisp'. Actually, the scapular and mantle feathers on most (probably all) juvenile peeps are bordered with white.
The fact that this bird was an adult pretty much rules out all the other similar shorebirds (except Dunlin) because most of the adults are no longer in Canada!
This page has a good summary of when each species and age is expected.

juv. Semipalmated Sandpiper:

juv. Semipalmated Plover

1 flock of Sanderlings was hanging out on the beach:

Great Black-backed Gull:

A Palm Warbler waited patiently for me to take a photo:

I was pretty happy with how the photos of this Merlin turned out:

-digimaster ;)

Sunday 16 September 2012

OFO Convention @ Presqu'ile

Mira and I joined hundreds of birders to scour the Presqu'ile park region. I also led a digiscoping walk on Saturday afternoon which turned out quite well. It was something I hadn't done before, and much of my digiscoping experience is self-taught, so I was wondering if I would be of any use! Turned out that my participants were easy to convince and we learned a lot!

Anyway, I should really be sleeping - I need to wake up early to start finding some much-needed Waterloo county birds ;)

Here's a Merlin from today in Presqu'ile that was patient enough for me to setup my scope and camera:

More to come... soon :D

Monday 3 September 2012

Bellevue Beach

The lack of blog posts is not indication that I haven't been birding.

Anyway, yesterday was one of the more noteworthy ones.

I started the day early with a seawatch at Cape Spear. North winds were forecasted overnight and during the day for the first time in over a week so I was hoping for a good movement of seabirds offshore. There wasn't a heck of a lot of birds out there - plenty of Gannets and the usual gulls and alcids. However, I did have 1 Parasitic Jaeger which was a new bird for me in NL. Plenty of shearwaters were riding the horizon.

After that I returned home to do a bit of studying for an exam coming up on Thursday and then joined up with 2 local birders to go to Bellevue beach. The shorebirding there was the best I've ever had in Newfoundland. 12 species of shorebird numbering about 200 individuals allowed for lengthy study of a variety of species and plumages. 1 Baird's Sandpiper, and 17 Red Knots were also both new birds for my NL list.

The Red Knots were all adults, which seems a bit late?

On top of that I had my first self-found Mew Gull (aka Common Gull) for Canada. It was an adult: notice the lack of black on the bill, head shape compared to a Ring-billed Gull, and large white mirror on p10 (the feather sticking out the furthest from the wing):

5 Bonaparte's Gull was a particularly high count for NL:

And 24 Black-headed Gulls was also notable for this time of year. They may breed in the area.

Black-bellied Plovers were common: