Thursday, December 29, 2011

Oregon madness

Yesterday while out and about, I came across a flock of Junco's on the side of a road at Conestoga Lake (NW side). Stopping for a few minutes paid off, with a different looking Junco - this Oregon Junco in the flock. The flock was pretty skittish, but parking my car in a key spot, turning it off, and waiting was a good idea.
Dark-eyed 'Oregon' Junco - Conestoga Lake, December 29, 2011

It's kind of weird, since I've seen in less than a month, 1 'Cassiar' Junco (essentially a hybrid Oregon X Slate-coloured), and another 'Oregon' Junco all in my local area. The Cassiar was also at Conestoga Lake, and the Oregon was in Erbsville. T'is the season I suppose.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holy shit it's a Smew!!

Some exciting events in Ontario birding transpired over the last 24hrs. A Smew was found at Whitby Harbour yesterday afternoon, and quickly confirmed. First thing this morning it was seen again, so myself and quite a number of other birders quickly headed straight for the harbour. I was able to get some great looks at it, see below.

This Smew represents the 3rd record for the province (pending acceptance), with an additional bird which hasn't been submitted to the OBRC. The 1st and 2nd records were from the Niagara River (Feb 21-Mar 30, 1960), and Normandale (Long Point) (Dec 9-10, 1973). There's also a record from Mountsberg on April 15, 1982 of an adult male, though unfortunately it wasn't documented.

A Snowy Owl was also present, sitting on the break wall. As I was just about to head out, Tyler Hoar stopped in. In the back of his car he had a dead bird....lo and behold a dead Barn Owl!!! Pretty sad, I guess one flew into and hit a window, only a few km west of the Whitby Harbour. Tyler was just about to drop it off at the ROM.
dead Barn Owl - found near Whitby Harbour circa Dec. 23, 2011

I've really been wondering the last few years how many Barn Owl's are REALLY present throughout the province.There's no question in my mind that they're a very rare bird, and the fact that they're hard to survey for makes them challenging to observe. Brandon Holden and I did our own surveys for them in the Rondeau-Chatham area in 2009 and found 1 bird (June 30), though we weren't able to turn it up again in subsequent trips down there. I think some good areas to look for them would be all of Essex county, Lake St. Clair area, Rondeau, along Hwy. 3 (from Wheatley to Blenheim), all of Niagara and the east end Haldimand county.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

T'was 2 nights before Xmas and I was really hung over....

Well the story goes abit like that....I met Barb Charlton aka 'barbed-wire' in Woodstock at 6am this morning, more or less in a conscious state. We took off then towards Kingsville to look for the Great Gray Owl  that was reported on Ontbirds last night.

We got there around 8:30, and quickly found a Snowy Owl perched on a hydro pole in a spot, close to where the Great Gray was. Barbed started panicking, but I remained steadfast. We decided to drive some roads in search of the Great Gray. Turning west on Concession 2, we spotted a 'jam' of ppl looking at something. That something turned out to be something pretty interesting!!!! See below.

It was pretty cool to see the bird so well and for so long - I've never seen a great gray so well.

We headed back along the lake to Rondeau, stopping in the Onion fields and again in Erieau. We had 3 Snowies at Pelee and 1 more at Rondeau. Also in Rondeau a single N. Mockingbird.

Anyways I'm gettin' a lil tipsy right now, and gotta go to church (for my mom - cuz' she's crazy), so merry christmas ppl and have fun.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cock Pheasant

Another saunter up to Conestoga Lake, to have a look at what might be around. On my way, while driving through Yatton, just north of Wallenstein I noticed this guy.

Pretty nice lookin' fella. Obviously captively reared but interesting nonetheless. I've had 3 in Wellington County in the past 2 weeks. Pretty weird. Not much else to report. Had a female Belted Kingfisher in Glen Allan. Other interesting birds include:

Northern Shrike - 1
Common Goldeneye - 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1

The lake is still partially open which is pretty crazy. A good number of ducks and geese are present, and will likely remain so until it completely freezes. There's likely a few other waterfowl species around, particularly on the river between the dam and Glen Allan, likely a Gadwall/Wigeon, and maybe a Bufflehead or Hoodie.

The Linwood CBC is coming up (January 2nd), we have ALOT of people this year, which is both good and bad (in some ways). I'm eagerly awaiting what interesting bird is turned up because of it!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

CBC's.....aka the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Christmas Bird Counts

Ok, so I for those that don't know what a CBC's a volunteer run program where you count and record all the birds you see during a single day, for the purpose of figuring out population trends

In lamon's terms though, its something that 'special'/crazy/unique people do. This involves fun; like getting up at 5am, standing around while listen for imaginary birds in below freezing weather. Sound fun? No?

Here's the link to Bird Studies Canada webpage:

This past weekend saw the first big weekend for Christmas Bird Counts. Locally and personally the Kitchener CBC was held on Saturday, while Cambridge's was held today (Sunday). CBC's are always a fun and interesting time of year, when we see what's wintering in our area.

For Kitchener we cover an on the west and northish side of the count circle, covering the fields along Wilmot Line, and areas around Erbsville. We found 48 species in our area and came up with some pretty cool birds!

Sandhill Crane's - flocks of 30, and 37 heading SW, while we were in Erbsville (2nd count record for Kitchener)

Field Sparrow - 1 bird behind the Outdoor Ed Centre, also hanging with it included 3 White-throat's and a Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed 'Oregon' Junco - 1 bird in Erbsville
Northern Harrier - 2 birds (both males), 1 was a bird, which seemed to be actively migrating
Green-winged Teal - 1 at Laurel Creek CA - Mike had it above the dam

Another pretty sweet day. We cover an area around Puslinch Lake, and also Valen's CA. We came up with an amazing 52 species! Puslinch and Valen's were both (semi) open, which gave us a good 10 species, we otherwise would have missed. Some of the highlights below:

Common Raven - 2 at Puslinch (2nd count record), later seen near Valen's
Common Rave (1 of 2 present) - this is the 2nd count record

Tundra Swan - 4 birds at Valen's
Ring-necked Duck - 1 drake at Valen's

Gadwall - 4 at Valen's
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1 adult at Puslinch
Glaucous Gull - 1 adult at Puslinch
Iceland Gull - 1 first-winter at Puslinch
American Coot - 2 birds at Puslinch
Hooded Merganser - 7 birds at Puslinch
White-winged Crossbill - 1 flyover at Puslinch

Not too sure what else was seen on the rest of the count, but it would be interesting whether 'we' beat our previous high count (71 species).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Down to Long Point

Had the day off, and since I always miss the Long Point CBC because it coincides with my home count (Kitchener) I decided the next best thing was to do some birding around Long Point, and hopefully find some stuff for the CBC tomorrow.

Enough chit chat, I started at Townsend, where the usual's were around (Tundra Swan's, Shoveler's etc). I went straight from Townsend to Port Ryerse and followed the lake west towards Long Point. Along Front Road I periodically stopped and got out, seeing what was around, and it paid off! Over the 3 or so stops that I checked out, I had the following:

White-crowned Sparrow - 8
E. Bluebird - 1
Carolina Wren - 1
E. Towhee - 3 (2M, 1F)

Hermit Thrush - 1
White-winged Crossbill - 10
Purple Finch - 25

Reaching Long Point, I checked out all the usual spots, though the best spot was the BSC headquarters (likely because I was here the longest), though the highlight here (and the day) was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet! My first RCKI in the winter, so that was pretty cool. Other interesting birds here included a nice adult Northern Shrike, 2 Pied-billed Grebe's, and 3,201 American Coots (I counted all of them....).

In the fields around Long Point, it seems as though the Tundra Swan's have pretty much left, with Sandhill Crane's taking there place. I estimated 400, which I feel is a pretty accurate count, there were several spots with birds.

After this I headed west to Port Burwell, though this turned out to be pretty much a bust, minus a large flock of blackbirds, with about 200 Rusty's! I'm sure the LP count will turn up something cool!! I'm gonna  go out on a limb and predict 114 species!

Here's a vid of the EATO:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Conestoga Lake

My Dad and I made a quick check up to Conestoga Lake early this morning, before work. Overall alot of birds, with some good stuff. Before getting into Wellington County we stopped in Hawkesville for the Red-shouldered Hawk. We found him (or her) in its usual spot along the river, as well as 2 Cooper's Hawk's.

Heading up to Conestoga Lake, we found an adult Bald Eagle, ~3,000 gull's, of which Ring-billed's surprisingly made up the majority of gull's, though an adult Great Black-backed Gull was seen in a flock standing on the ice. Lots of geese (again about 2,500), though nothing unusual with them. While we were standing at the dam, we saw an odd Junco. My initial thought was a female Oregon, though I'm not 100% sure, as this can be a tricky id. Whatever it was it wasn't a 'pure' Oregon or Slate-coloured and I thought something somewhere in between as likely an integrade.

Hawk numbers weren't too bad, our jaunt up to the lake is about 50-55km, and we observed 10 Red-tailed's, 4 Rough-leg's, 1 Red-shoulder, 4 N. Harrier's (these are really good numbers for this late), and 2 A. Kestrel's.

As we were heading south from the lake towards Linwood in Waterloo Region, just south of 86, we had a flock of finches flying along the spruce hedgerow. We were able to drive alongside the flock until they landed and turned out to be White-winged Crossbill's! About 20 were in the flock.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Better late than never....

Soooo for those you who are still checking this thing out, I've been uber busy and have more or less forgotten to update. But that's in the past, so here's what I've been up to.

Thursday, I went down to Long Point and did some good 'ole winter birding. I'm not super into winter listing, but its nice to see some late stuff in Decemeber.

First stop was at Townsend sewage lagoons. A fair bit of waterfowl, some Tundra Swan's, 3 American Pipits, some Lapland Longspur's and best of all a late White-rumped Sandpiper!
White-rumped Sandpiper - Townsend December 1st
Next I drove down to the lake and headed west towards Long Point. Not too much, until I checked the fields north of Big Creek. I was lucky to find a field with swans and geese. Once I stopped and settled in, I quickly noticed some Snow Geese and some similiar smaller geese....3 Ross's Geese were in amongst the Snow's (38 in total), which was a new Long Point bird for me (281 - watch out Ron!)!
Ross's Geese - north of Lee Brown's, Long Point - December 1, 2011

Also in the area were lots of Sandhill Crane's (~220), see below.

Didn't have too much after all the excitement with "Ross" but the day was overall really great, warm and sunny!