Monday, August 29, 2011


Work has taken me again....this time to Eastern Ontario, near Ottawa. I'm staying out in Morrisburg this week and have several spots I'm going to be checking. This evening, I checked out Embrun and the Casselman sewage lagoons. Conditions at Casselman are really good. I had 13 species of shorebirds in the farthest cell, including;

Red Knot - 2 - first time I've seen one since 2009
Red-necked Phalarope - 1

Semipalmated Plover - 35
Killdeer - 50
Spotted - 1
Greater Yellowlegs - 20
Lesser Yellowlegs - 120
Sanderling - 1
Semipalmated - 55
Least - 25
Pectoral - 8
Stilt - 1
Short-billed Dowitcher - 1
Ruddy Duck

Checked out the Embrun sewage lagoons too. The lagoons are high and no shorebird habitat exists, but 16 Ruddy Ducks and a Lesser Scaup were present.

An aside...yesterday I toured Lake Erie, from Port Stanley to Port Burwell, then B-lined it Van Wagner's. Kinda crazy I know....didn't have too much at Port Stanley, highlights of the day

Little Gull - 17!!!! at Port Burwell - pretty crazy numbers for so early
Red-necked Phalarope - 8 off Van Wagner's

Peregrine Falcons - watching 2 separate birds kill shorebirds at Windermere Basin!

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Checked out the Milverton and Mitchell sewage lagoons yesterday. A pretty nice day for some birding, first stop was Milverton.

I just started checking this place out, it doesn't really have shorebird habitat, but the fact that its on the way to Mitchell and 'fairly' close to Waterloo is good incentive. This is more of a duck lagoon, with several species present. Had the following;

2 Pied-billed Grebes
19 Northern Shovelers
25 Blue-winged Teal
2 Green-winged Teal
30 Wood's
1 Greater Yellowlegs
10 Lesser Yellowlegs

Here's an aerial map of the lagoons, the southern cell has most of the ducks and shorebirds. The two middle cells on the right, are sprinkler cells, which might be the spot where the next Avocet shows up. Its abit of a hike, but when something good shows up, it'll be worth the walk!

Next stop was Mitchell, the lagoons, continue drying up, so there gettin' good. Over the years I've had 25 species of shorebirds, today we had 12 species....nothing crazy or anything, but some nice diversity.
American Golden-Plover - 9 
Black-bellied Plover - 4
Semipalmated Plover - 2
Killdeer - 30
Spotted Sandpiper - 3
Lesser Yellowlegs - 40
Greater Yellowlegs - 3
Semipalmated - 25
Least - 15
Pectoral -5
Stilt - 1
Wilson's Snipe - 2

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My top finds EVER (part two of two)

Ross's Gull - December 8, 2007 Niagara Falls
I found this bird flying around the base of the falls with a huge group of Bonaparte's Gull's. Initially I thought this bird was a weird Little Gull, but crazily not! Beware of how dark the underwing of Ross's can be! A few weeks later (late January), the same bird (likely) was found at the falls and spent a few days.

Say's Phoebe - April 29, 2006 - Long Point Tip
This bird was technically found by someone else....and the day before. While not technically countable as a bird found by myself I've included it. This bird was found the day before I 'found' it. I was arriving at the Tip April 28th and looked for it for several hours, only to run out of daylight. Assuming it was gone, I continued birding as per usual, only to find it about a kilometre west of where it was last seen on the afternoon of the 28th. I got some nice looks, and thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of 'finding' it again. 
Say's Phoebe - Copyright Mike Boyd

Spotted Towhee - May 4, 2005 Breakwater, Long Point
While not the most spectacular find, this bird was special for 2 reason's; 1) it was a new bird for Long Point and 2) it was another great bird found in 2005. I was spending the spring volunteering. Myself and two other volunteers (Benoit and Matt) and I were walking when we found this bird along Courtright Ridge. We got some great looks. Last year 2 separate Spotted Towhee's showed up at Long Point.

Painted Bunting - May 19, 2003 Breakwater, Long Point
In high school my parents would let me take 1-2 weeks off in May, just so I could go down to Long Point and volunteer at the bird observatory. In 2003, I was able to get to one of the remote banding stations at Long Point - Breakwater. Breakwater is alittle rustic to say the least, but awesome in its own right. During the night of 18th/19th the fridge in the cabin had a propane leak, waking us up to burning eyes and needing to be taken out of the cabin in case of a fire. So basically at around 3am two of us had to lug this old fridge out of the cabin. Luckily the next morning we were lucky enough to have this first-alternate male Painted Bunting show up, only to oblige us further and fly into one of the mist nets!

Loggerhead Shrike -  April 9-13, 2005 Hawkesville, Waterloo Region
This isn't the most crazy find, but special in a few senses. Mainly because it was so close to where I'm from and with a breeding population well below 100 individual adults in Ontario, this is pretty rare. This bird was the 1st record in Waterloo region since 1984(!), giving you a sense of how rare it has become.

Monday, August 22, 2011

More shorebirds....

Mike and I continued our jaunt onto Sunday as well. We decided to check some of the under-reported sewage lagoons north of Waterloo. First lagoon on our to do list was Harriston....

This lagoon doesn't have shorebirds but, since its such an easy lagoon to bird, there's not much point in not doing it. Only thing of interest here was a single Hooded Merganser.

Next stop was the Clifford sewage lagoons, just up the road. These lagoons are abit better for shorebirds, but not amazing. We had the same pure albino Red-tailed Hawk that I had a few weeks ago - it must be a resident bird, definitely interesting to see. Shorebirds here included;

26 Lesser Yellowlegs
10 Spotted Sandpipers
3 Least
2 Semipalmated Sandpipers
10 Killdeers
both species of Teal were also here

Moving on from Clifford, we tried going into the Listowel (aka car city....) but the lagoons are fenced off pretty good, so we couldn't check it out. We decided we might as well head'er over to Mitchell again, since the cold front could have brought some new stuff. The wing-tagged Great Egret was still present, as well as 9 Bonaparte's Gulls. Shorebirds here included;

1 American Golden-Plover
1 Black-bellied Plover
4 Greater Yellowlegs
75 Lesser Yellowlegs
4 Spotted
10 Semipalmated
10 Least
1 Baird's
10 Pectoral
1 Short-billed Dowitcher
1 Wilson's Snipe
American Golden-Plover (adult) - Mitchell August 21, 2011

Greater Yellowlegs - Mitchell August 21, 2011

After Mitchell, we headed to our last spot at the Milverton lagoons, sort of on our way back to Heidelberg. This was our first time checking this spot out. Water levels are pretty high, though duck numbers were good. Didn't have too much out of the ordinary, though shorebirds here included;

65 Lesser Yellowlegs
1 Solitary Sandpiper
4 Spotted Sandpiper
4 Least's
1 Short-billed Dowitcher

Some good shorebirds should hopefully turn up in the next few weeks, hopefully something like a Hudsonian or Marbled Godwit. Ohio and Michigan seem to be getting there fill. Ontario's next

Saturday, August 20, 2011


My brother Mike came down for the weekend, so we decided to do a full day of birding around south-western Ontario, looking primarily for shorebirds.

Our first stop was the Mitchell sewage lagoons. The lagoons are really coming along, and the results are starting to show. Getting up to the dike, I noticed an odd bird, but before I could get the scope on it, it flew, but eventually landed in the soccer field just north of cell.

Upland Sandpiper - Mitchell sewage lagoons - August 20, 2011
This Upland Sandpiper was a nice find, a surprisingly hard bird to find during migration, and the first one I've ever seen at Mitchell or Perth County for that matter. We had the following shorebirds here as well:

2 Semipalmated Plovers
120 Killdeer
2 Solitary's
5 Greater Yellowlegs
150 Lesser Yellowlegs
5 Least
3 Semipalmated
5 Pectoral

Finishing up at Mitchell, Mike and I headed over to Exeter, looking for some Red-necked Phalaropes. We found 3 juveniles in the 2nd cell (the sprinkler cell). We also had an adult Bald Eagle fly over and some more shorebirds.

32 Lesser Yellowlegs
10 Spotted's
20 Killdeer's
Red-necked Phalaropes (3) - Exeter August 20, 2011
Leaving Exeter, headed over to Grand Bend. There isn't suitable shorebird habitat here, but some ducks were around.

10 N. Shoveler's
3 Hooded Mergansers
a bunch of Blue-winged Teal's and Wood Duck's and a flock of about 30 Bobolink's

Strathroy was next. Its a pretty easy lagoon to check out, with little walking from where you park. We had some fairly good shorebird diversity here, especially considering how much habitat is there. Shorebird's here included;

12 Semiplamated Plover's
15 Killdeer
2 Spotted's
1 Solitary
20 Lesser Yellowlegs
3 Semipalmated Sands
50 Least's
1 Baird's and
1 White-rumped Sandpiper
White-rumped (background) and Least (foreground) Sandpiper - Strathroy August 20, 2011

Following Strathroy, we headed over to Tilbury and ran into Josh Vandermeulen and a buddy of his. Tilbury was pretty good. The most bizarre sighting here was a Horned Grebe! The first Horned Grebe I've ever had in southern Ontario in August.
Shorebirds were pretty bountiful here, and we had the following;

10 Semipalmated Plover

30 Killdeer

2 Spotted Sandpiper

5 Solitary Sandpiper (Eastern)

3 Greater Yellowlegs

40 Lesser Yellowlegs

50 Semipalmated Sandpiper

25 Least Sandpiper

2 Baird's Sandpiper

20 Pectoral Sandpiper

4 Stilt Sandpiper

4 Short-billed Dowitcher

4 Long-billed Dowitcher

1 Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher

1 Red-necked Phalarope

Red-necked Phalarope - Tilbury August 20, 2011

From Tilbury, Mike and I headed to Wheatley....not too much of a surprise, nothing of note here.....then onto the pier at Erieau. Once again Lesser Black-backed Gull's showed up...with a first-year bird sitting on the pier here. 

From Erieau, we headed to the Blenheim lagoons, which was more or less pointless. On to the Ridgetown lagoons. We didn't have too many shorebirds here, but it seems like it has some good potential. We headed then to Port Stanley, where there wasn't much at both the habour and lagoons. 

Nearing the end of our tour, we checked out Port Burwell. This was a good idea, as thousands of gulls and hundreds of terns were resting on the beach. We found at least 15 Little Gulls and 1 third-year Lesser Black-backed Gull loafing. The Little Gull's put on a great show, with up 9 different birds at a single time directly overhead, flying around calling. There could easily have been more, with several hundred Bonies still resting on the lake a few hundred metres offshore. 

All in all a pretty nice day for August! We ended with 17 species of shorebirds and over 90 species for the day.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mitchell and Grand Bend

Checked out a few spots last Thursday....been busy, so this is the first time I've had a chance to make a posting....
Stopped in at both the Grand Bend and Mitchell lagoons.

Grand Bend is (was) pretty uneventful. The 3rd cell has completely been drawn down, so the mud is baking and no shorebird habitat. With that being said, we (my Dad Jim and friend Brett Woodman) did have the following:
1 Black-bellied Plover - first of the fall
9 Semipalmated Plover's
30+ Blue-winged Teal's
2 female Northern Shoveler's

Next stop was the Mitchell Sewage Lagoons. The 1st (closest) cell is slowly drying up, so shorebird numbers and diversity should hopefully continue to build. We had the following:
30+ Lesser Yellowlegs
1 Greater Yellowlegs
3 Pectoral Sandpipers
1 of both Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers

and this interesting observation...
Turns out this Great Egret was banded in early July 2011 at Chantry Island, off Southampton, fide Chip Weseloh of CWS. Pretty cool!

Warblers and other songbirds are starting to move south, most noticeably Yellow Warblers. 
Yellow Warbler - Mitchell August 11, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My top finds EVER (part one of two)

Finding a rare bird is probably one of the most exciting things (for me) when it comes to birding. Finding a 'mega' comes down to a few things; 1) being lucky, 2) being in the 'right' place, 3) being at the 'right' place at the 'right' time and 4) knowing what you're looking at. Finding a 'mega' often happens at some of the most unexpected times, making it that much more exciting.

I've listed some of my top 'find's' in Ontario to date.  

1. Common Ground-Dove - August 14, 2002 Thunder Cape Bird Observatory

Juvenal Common Ground-Dove - August 14, 2002 Thunder Cape, both pics by Allan Gilbert
This was the first really 'good' bird that I found. I was spending the summer at the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory, near Thunder Bay. I remember the day pretty well. It was a pretty crappy day, with nothing of note; both in terms of bird species or numbers. We were just about wrapping our day of banding up, when an odd bird flew in from the NW. I went alittle 'berzerk' when we got good/confirming looks, only the 2nd record for Ontario and the 1st living bird. Pretty much as close as you can get to finding a 1st provincial record without actually finding one....

2. Western Wood-Pewee - May 18, 2010 Fish Point, Pelee Island

Though this record wasn't accepted by the OBRC, its still #2 on my list....After spending every birdable moment of late April and May on the island, I finally found something pretty awesome, to say the least! No pics of this guy (though I could cheat with photos from Saskatchewan). Weather was crazy miserable that day, grounding a few other good birds too (Summer Tanager, Cerulean and Connecticut Warblers). After finding (heard first) it in the morning and searching for it for a few hours I was able to get Graeme Gibson onto it later in the day.

3. Burrowing Owl - April 25, 2008 Pelee Island

This is likely my all-time favourite find. My brother Mike and I decided to spend a weekend camping/birding on Pelee Island as a treat for finishing up another year of university. We had set some goals to see some birds and our target bird was Yellow-throated Warbler. Amazingly we actually found one early in the day and were pretty content with our decision to spend the weekend. After dinner and a few beers, we decided we might as well drive around the island......only to be completely blown away with finding this guy! Needless to say it was a great weekend! 

Burrowing Owl - April 25, 2008 Pelee Island, both pics by Mike Burrell

4. Snowy Plover - May 16, 2008 Long Point Provincial Park

I had a pretty sweet run of finding/seeing some rare birds in spring 2008....I was spending a weekend volunteering at LPBO, when a volunteer came into tell me that she saw a 'small white plover' down by the beach. After a few quick questions I decided to walk down to the beach and just about crapped my pants when I saw this male Snowy Plover chillin' on the beach!

male Snowy Plover - May 16, 2008 LPPP

5. Swainson's Warbler - May 9, 2005 Breakwater, Long Point

May 2005 was a good spring! This guy pretty much summed everything up for the spring....tonnes of southern overshoots (Summer Tanagers, Kentuckies and Worm-eating Warblers) and some top-notch birds. Though May 2005 was really good, it started out like shit. When I got to Long Point for a month of birding the weather was well below seasonal temperatures. Several days in the first week of May had below freezing temperatures at night! Finally on May 8th the weather broke and a massive warm front from the 'deep south' moved into southern Ontario, bringing this monster to Ontario!

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cliff and Harry

Last thursday I had some field work with Nathan up in the Harriston and Clifford area, about an hour north of Waterloo. It was a pretty fun and easy day, basically just 'geeking' and looking for birds, herps, odes and butterflies. Nothing too unusual or anything. Highlights though were going to the Harriston and Clifford sewage lagoons.

Harriston is pretty high and doesn't have any shorebird habitat but we did come across a group of 3 very distant Hooded Mergansers.

Afterwards we checked out the Clifford lagoons. It was alittle better there in terms of shorebirds and habitat. If water levels drop, there could be some decent habitat. We had the following:
20 Lesser Yellowlegs
10 Spotted Sandpipers
1 Semipalmated Sandpiper
3 Least Sandpipers
2 Green-winged Teals
and most bizarre of all, a completely pure albino Red-tailed Hawk....I wish I could've gotten a picture of it, but it was too far away and then took off. Pretty cool, something I've never seen!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Finders, keepers....

Well not exactly, but whatever. This has been a pretty amazing year for birds and rarities alike. Weather throughout the province and the continent for that matter have been exceptionally hot and dry on average, acting as a catalyst for birds to travel and wander long distances.

Having spent practically an entire month on Pelee Island, plus all the 'normal' birding that I'm fortunate to be able to do, while going to school and working has allowed me to see and find some pretty cool birds. I've listed the noteworthy birds I've found in Ontario in 2011 to date. 

Eurasian Wigeon - April 3rd, Laurel Creek

Eared Grebe - April 27, Pelee Island
American White-Pelican - June 27, Thessalon (4 birds flying over)
Cattle Egret - July 23, Holiday Beach
Glossy Ibis - April 27, Pelee Island
Laughing Gull - April 28, Pelee Island
Laughing Gull - May 24, 2005 Long Point tip

Laughing Gull - July 28, Pelee Island
Parasitic Jaeger - May 14, Pelee Island
Acadian Flycatcher - April 26, Pelee Island - provincially record early
Acadian Flycatcher - May 2011 Fish Point, Pelee Island

Yellow-throated Warbler - April 27, Pelee Island
Kirtland's Warbler - May 10, Pelee Island
Kirtland's Warbler - May 2005 Point Pelee N.P.
Kentucky Warbler - May 7, Pelee Island
Kentucky Warbler - adult male May 2004 Long Point - Breakwater

Henslow's Sparrow - May 6, Pelee Island
Summer Tanager - April 28, Pelee Island (adult male)
Summer Tanager - adult male May 2005 Long Point - Old Cut

                           - April 30, Pelee Island (adult male)
                           - May 6, Pelee Island (first-alternate male)
                           - May 10, Pelee Island (first-alternate male)
Summer Tanager - first-alternate male May 2010 Fish Point, Pelee Island

                           - May 21, Pelee Island (female)
                           - May 22, Point Pelee (first-alternate male)
                           - May 23, Point Pelee (female and first-alternate male)
Western Tanager - May 22, Point Pelee (1 female)
Dickcissel - May 6, Pelee Island (3 birds reverse migrating)
                - May 13, Pelee Island (1 bird reversing)
                - May 22, Point Pelee (1-2 birds reversing)
                - June 16, Wheatley area (3 males on territory)
                - July 28, Point Pelee Onion Fields (1 male on territory)
Western Meadowlark - April 26, Pelee Island

With so with so many great birds seen/found in Ontario so far this year, the rest of the year will hopefully be just as interesting!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More sewage.....lagoons

Brandon picked me up after work last night and we motored over to Mitchell and then Grand Bend, with the intent to check the sewage lagoons. With the thunderstorms moving in, there was the chance of it dropping some shorebirds down at the lagoons.

Our first stop was Mitchell. We only checked the closest lagoon to the road, as the rain looked fairly imminent. It looks like habitat is getting better as there's a definite shore emerging, so hopefully it'll start to get better in a few weeks.

We didn't have too much here;
30 Lesser Yellowlegs
10 Pectoral Sandpipers
5 Least Sandpipers
3 Semipalmated Sandpipers

Continuing on, we headed straight for Grand Bend. Getting there we were alittle disappointed. The last time we had been there, the lagoons had looked amazing for shorebirds, but they appear to be pumping water into the lagoons with the exception of the 3rd cell, which was where there was some action.

Our highlights here included;
1 Short-billed Dowitcher
5 Semipalmated Plover's
1 female Northern Pintail

And.....these guys
Wilson's Phalarope
2 very fresh juvenal Wilson's Phalaropes were present with the other shorebirds. This is just a record shot from a pretty far distance.

Monday, August 1, 2011

30 to go????

With it being the first day of August I've been giving it some thought on whether or not I can realistically make it to 300 species for my Ontario year list. I'm sitting at 270, with some fairly easy species that I can still get. For me, keeping a year list is a fun way to compare years from one another and to keep motivated, even when there are more pressing things to do.....

I don't have too many 'special' birding trips lined up for the rest of the year, with the exception of 2 weeks on James Bay in November!!! I'm really pumped for it and have been looking forward to it for the entire year! Our plan (my brother Mike, Brandon Holden and Alan Wormington), is to drive up to Cochrane, take the train to Moosonee and then charter a helicopter to Netitishi Point. Last year Brandon and Alan went for roughly the same time period (they left a week later) and had 5 species that I've never seen in Ontario, along with several others that I've only seen once or twice before.

Along with this trip and the usual day outings, I think I have a fairly good chance to get 300 or darn close. I've listed 30 species that I think I have a reasonable chance to see in the remaining 5 months of 2011.

1. Trumpeter Swan
2. White-rumped Sandpiper
3. Red-throated Loon
4. Red-necked Grebe
5. Snowy Owl
6. Golden Eagle
7. Brant
8. Long-billed Dowitcher
9. Barred Owl
10. Short-eared Owl
11. Pine Grosbeak
12. King Eider
13. Whimbrel - Hamilton, May 2004

14. Hudsonian Godwit
15. Black-legged Kittiwake
16. Sabine's Gull
17. Pomarine Jaeger
18. Long-tailed Jaeger
19. Ross's Goose
20. Harlequin Duck

21. Gyrfalcon
22. Red Knot - Port Burwell, September 2008

23. Purple Sandpiper
24. Buff-breasted Sandpiper
25. Northern Hawk-Owl
26. Great Gray Owl
27. American Three-toed Woodpecker

28. Black Guillemot
29. Sharp-tailed Grouse

30. Northern Fulmar ---- I know what your thinking with this one, but you never know...Netitishi

Though its pretty much a given that I won't see all or maybe even too many of these species, there's still thed chance I'll add several species that I haven't listed....maybe something like a Gray-hooded Gull!

Or maybe something alittle more realistic, like these....
Western Kingbird - Rainy River, August 2006

American Avocet - Whitby, November 2008

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Luther Marsh, August 2010