Saturday, December 27, 2014

Kitchener CBC: Area 9 recap

This is a little belated, but last Saturday (Dec. 20) saw Mike and I completing our 15th Kitchener CBC. Our area covers the NW corner of the CBC; half our area is rural, with a fair number of woods to walk through. The area is quickly urbanizing, which is a bit of shame. Having said this, we had a great day, the morning started exceptionally calm, but cold (minus 9 Celsius at 0600hr), but needless to say the owling proved quite good, with 4 Great Horneds, and 5 E. Screech.

In the morning we did most of our hiking, as well as checking spots where we had put out seed in the previous days, hoping to bring more songbbirds in. We started off walking around a few protected forests, finding a scolding Winter Wren, our only Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and lots of other forest birds. After this we checked a favourite spot of ours, behind the old Erbsville Outdoor Education Centre, where we found 2 Song and 1 Swamp Sparrow, as well as a fly-over Great Black-backed Gull.

After this we decided to check a new area, behind the church that our parents go to. I had done a bit scouting before and had found 4 Red-winged Blackbirds, a Song Sparrow, and 10 Cedar Waxwings the previous week, so we were hoping some birds would stick around. Luckily for us, the Red-winged's did (which turned out to be the only one's on the count), but it was here that we had by far the best bird on the count - a Eurasian Collared-Dove. Mike spotted it as it flew and landed very briefly with a bunch of Mourning Doves. But unfortunately, the dove took off pretty much right away. It was noticeably larger (30% larger?), with its distinctly different tail (in comparison to MODOs).

We looked pretty hard for the bird afterwards but couldn't find it.

After this, we did some bush-walking, coming up with 3 Glaucous and 2 Iceland Gulls flying overhead in a large flock of gulls. Landbirds seemed to be abit quite, but there was a fair bit of activity in terms of flyovers (something we don't get too much of in our area).

We ended up with 42 species (not too bad for Kitchener...and for an area with no open water!).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cambridge CBC - Area 6 recap

Yesterday, Sunday December 14th, my Dad, Fraser Gibson and myself set out on our 20th annual Cambridge CBC. Our area covers the extreme NE section of the CBC, encompassing Puslinch Lake to the north, Valens CA to the southeast, and the town of Clyde to the west.

Over the past 20 years we've had some decent count birds among the 84 species; Varied Thrush (Mike only, in the early 2000s), Canvasback, Long-tailed Duck, Killdeer, an odd..LBBG ('01), Greater and Lesser Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck ('12), Red-shouldered Hawk ('11), A. Coot ('11 and '12), and E. Meadowlark '04.

Anyways, yesterday, my Dad and I met Fraser around 0630hr for some owling; the wind was pretty light, but yet we still only managed to get 2 E. Screech-Owls. I think the very light drizzle dashed our chances of having more responses from owls, but its always interesting to see the year-year differences--no year is the same!

We first checked Puslinch Lake - the lake was only about 10% open. We didn't have too much, best was 4 GBBGs, 10 or so COMEs, and some HERGs. We split up and covered the woods, where I managed to get a light RLHA (rare in our area) and some AMROs, as well as 2 fly-over COREs.

With the temps rising, we checked the lake again and had a CORA fly-over (our 3rd count record; all since 2011) and a first-year Kumlien's Gull with the now larger flock of gulls loafing on the ice. We noticed now that the lake was a fair bit more open and thought to check it later in the day.

After this we checked some backroads, all ending at Puslinch Lake, where we scored pretty good, with singles of SOSP and WTSP (relatively decent on the count), as well as an adult CHSP! It was moving with a flock of DEJUs and I was happy to get both Fraser and my Dad on it, as well as take a photo.

Our first-ever CHSP for Area 6 of the CBC
Things got abit quieter now that it was around lunch-time; we checked Valens CA, hoping for the lake to be open. It was slightly open and we added CANG, ABDU and MALL here. After this, we went back to Puslinch and notched an adult Glaucous Gull.

In total, we had 39 species; see the eBird checklist, here:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dunnville to Port Dover - December 12th

I decided I had worked enough hours this week and took today, Friday Dec. 12th off. I always really like checking Haldimand County, especially in the winter. The region is so underbirded, yet has great potential for something really awesome (while not crazy two(?) winters ago, my Dad and I found a female Eurasian Wigeon).

Anyways, on my way down to Dunnville, I spotted a large flock (circa 2,000 gulls) in the field opposite of the Hagersville Dump. While the majority of the birds flushed and I didn't have a chance to ID most, I did find 1 first-winter Glaucous (new Haldimand Cty. bird), 1 first-year Lesser Black-back, and 53 Great Black-back's (seems like a good inland count).

Some gulls near the tire fire town.
Next, I drove to Dunnville, checking the mouth of the Grand River. I was surprised to see the back bays all frozen (doesn't look good for Puslinch Lake on Sunday...). Here my highlights were a Common Loon and my first of 2 Snowy Owls.


Snowy #1. I thought it was kind of interesting to see the 3 AMCRs essentially surrounding the SNOW...never seen that before.
Driving along the lakeshore was quite nice and relaxing, as there was barely any traffic. I didn't see too much out of the ordinary, but things like:
36 Sandhill Crane's
1 Tufted Titmouse (FOY...)
2 White-throated Sparrows
a few Song Sparrows
2 light Rough-legged Hawks
4 A. Kestrels
3 N. Mockingbirds
How many NOMOs do you see?

Close-up of 1 of the NOMOs
 My eBird checklist has the full list, here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Niagara December 6th

On Saturday, my Dad, Mike and I lead our (13th???) annual KW Field Naturalist outing to Niagara. The river proved to be fairly slow, however, the highlight(?) was finally catching up to this bastard.

Anywho, we started our day at CCIW in Burlington, where saw some good stuff:
1 Red-throated Loon
2 C. Loons

Next stop was the Tollgate Ponds, where highlights included:
Horned and Red-necked Grebes
2 Snowy Owls

We checked all the 'regular' spots along the river, but highlights, asides from the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, included stops at Queenston. Here our highlights were:
missing the Black Vultures by 5 minutes (don't you just love being informed "the bird was RIGHT here"? I sure as hell don't...)
2 Turkey Vultures
1 C. Loon

Adam Beck was pretty decent, with highlights as:
6 Iceland Gulls
1 Lesser Black-backed Gull

The Upper Falls was where everything was:
1 Purple Sandpiper (we had some decent looks considering the species)
1 Thayer's Gull (3rd basic)
3 Iceland Gulls
6 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
3 Glaucous

We ended up also seeing an adult Lesser X Herring hybrid, so in total we saw 8 species of gulls + 1 hybrid...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Lake St. Clair, Conestogo Lake, and Long Point...

The title says it all...the last week has taken me throughout southwestern Ontario for work and for pleasure, resulting in a fair number of interesting sightings.

Starting with Lake St. Clair, last Thursday (Nov. 27th), I had some sweet work in the Lake St. Clair area, driving road transects, basically between the area, north of the Thames River, east to Chatham, north to Mitchell's Bay, and west to Lake St. Clair. The weather was pretty decent, and the highlights were:
- 3 Snowy Owls, just east of the National Wildlife Refuge
- 8,600 Tundra Swans throughout the fields
- 5 Cackling Geese at the NWR

Here's the eBird checklist to see exactly what I saw:

The next day (November 28th), I birded/worked the area, just south of Arthur. I finally came across my FOY Common Redpoll, as well as a drake Northern Pintail, adult Bald Eagle and 2 Common Ravens, all around Conestogo Lake.

Completing the sweep, I took sometime to myself and checked out the huge flocks of Sandhill Cranes around Long Point, while also looking for the female Harlequin Duck at Port Dover. I was definitely successful in the first regard. Around Long Point I counted 1,173 Sandhill Crane's, all pretty much centred around Hwy. 59 and Front Road! Damn!!! That's a lot of Crane's.

I also came across a 'roving' flock of blackbirds and amongst them were 2 male Brewer's! Pretty cool; it was nice to get good solid looks at these guys, especially in the LP area.

I checked out Port Dover and the harbour/marina, but came up empty handed - oh well. :) Before starting back, I decided to drive part of the shoreline in Haldimand County - one of my favourite southern Ontario hotspots (its barely birded), but the best thing I saw was a N. Mockingbird, some eagles, and a Rough-legged Hawk.

I'll try to get some photos incorporated into the blog for next time.

Monday, November 24, 2014

This and That

Since last Friday I've birded a few spots locally, as I haven't been able to getaway further afield (I had planned on doing the NE shore of Erie yesterday but that fell through).

On Friday (the 21st), I was 'up country', near Arthur doing some fieldwork. The weather was pretty much, exactly the opposite as today; with heavy snow, and cold temperatures, below -5 C. I even managed to get my work truck stuck (even with 4X4), which isn't something I've done too often (know on wood).

Anyways, after digging myself out, I checked Conestogo Lake. The lake was about half frozen(!); however, all the waterbirds were nicely concentrated. Highlights here were: 7 Red-breasted Mergansers (a good local bird), late-ish Doubled-crested Cormorant, a Common Raven, and a half-startving American Pipit (my latest bird up here).
Below the dam at Conestogo Lake

Yesterday, I managed to check Laurel Creek (it was dead), Puslinch Lake (completely frozen!), and then the quarry pits, just east of Puslinch. Here the water is pretty deep, and there was some ok stuff, considering the location and date. Highlights, included: 2 Mute Swan (not really a highlight, but...), 8 Ring-necked Ducks, 1 Ruddy Duck, and a single Horned Grebe.

Today, I was up near Arthur again. Highlights included 3 Snowy Owls, all within about a mile of each other. One of the birds included a pure white adult bird. Conestogo Lake had also completely opened up, and as a result I count 640 Common Mergansers! Not much else of note.

We'll see what this weather brings! Wonder if anyone was at Fort Erie yest/today/tmr????

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pelee and the Island - Nov. 9-10

Since the island is so awesome, I decided I had to go back for a victory lap. It sure payed off! I was supposed to take the 6pm ferry on the Saturday (Nov. 8th), however, the ferry was cancelled because the lake was too rough for the ferry. Because of this, I had to recalculate, and instead I woke up for 04:30hr on the Sunday and drove straight down to the tip of Point Pelee. This turned out to be a good move, as there ended up being a good movement of birds moving past the tip.

No doubt, for me the highlight was the pre-basic Pacific Loon, spotted by Josh at 09:40. The bird wasn't too far offshore, however, it proved to be pretty difficult to see as it dove almost continuously. Other good birds were 2 separate Eared Grebes, 2 flyover Red-throated Loons, and an odd crow (see the checklist).

Here's the rundown of what we saw at the tip, here:

I ended up taking the 2pm ferry, allowing me, an almost entire day (the Monday) for birding. I didin't have as much luck on the island on the Monday, with the highlights being 4 Tundra Swan's and a 'Western' Palm Warbler feeding in an abandoned lot at the base of Fish Point. Click on the checklist below:

The view south from Fish Point

See you next year!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pelee Island Nov. 1-3

I recently did some decent birding at Pelee Island and the mainland on the November 1-3 weekend.

Lill and I went down to the island, spending 1 full day on the island (Nov. 2), before I had to do some birding work on the 3rd in the Tilbury area. In total we had about 90 species, with the drive down being interesting as there was north winds >50km/hr. Enroute, on the Saturday, I convinced Lill to take a 'break' just east of Wheatley, where I did a 20 minute hawk-watch, the highlights being a flock of 17 Sandhill Crane's flying high up and to the west.

We ended up taking the 6pm ferry and were all set up at the Bird House just before bed time.
Sunset on the Jiimaan
We had the Sunday all set-up for our full day of birding, so I made sure we made the best of it. We started the day at Fish Point, where we walked halfway out the mile long sand spit, and were rewarded with a Purple Sandpiper. It was hanging out with a bunch of Sanderlings right at the very tip.

The view of Fish Point, looking NE, towards South Bay
 After that we drove the island, checking just about any spot that looks like it has potential. The 2 big highlights throughout the rest of the day were Clay-coloured Sparrow, Magnolia Warbler (hanging out at my future cottage lot!) and my island lifer Northern Saw-whet Owl (banded by PIBO later that night). Like always, the island was dead (people-wise), but it was pretty darn relaxing, and really reminded me why its so nice to get to the island.
Northern Saw-whet Owl banded at PIBO
Check out our full eBird checklist here:

On the Monday (the 3rd) we took the 7am ferry, giving me lots of time to do my work. Starting at the Tilbury sewage lagoons I had the long-staying Cattle Egret.

My study site had some other really good birds, especially considering the date, including 2 Golden Eagles, right over me and some late shorebirds (2 American Golden-Plovers, 52 Dunlin, 1 White-rumped Sandpiper, and 5 Pectoral Sandpipers).

All in all a great weekend.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2013 Highlights (some of them...)

***Disclaimer 1*** below are not some of the nicer/pretty pictures from 2013; they're rustic/documentation style-pictures, that for some reason I really like. I'll do my best to tell you why I like them with a brief paragraph/caption. If you want to see pretty pictures from 2013, check other people's blogs out...! :)

***Disclaimer 2*** these aren't all the highlights (obviously) from 2013; just the one's that I have pictures.

***Disclaimer 3*** some of these pictures aren't mine, however, I have provided ownership to them.

***Disclaimer 4*** and yes, I do, still have a blog, that I occasionally write in...

Alvan Buckley and I found a spanking male King Eider, no less on Lake Huron, in the marina of Goderich in early January!

My old roomate, Andrew, and I were heading back from the Windsor area working. We checked out the Ridgetown lagoons, where I picked out this bad-boy, 'Bewick's' Swan! Pretty darn sweet! There are 2 historic records of this subspecies in Ontario! Photograph by Mark Cunningham.

Another 'work adventure', I found this drake Eurasian Wigeon in late April near Grand Bend.

My Dad, Jim, and I were birding the lakeshore along Haldimand (a great place to go birding!), where I picked out this female Eurasian Wigeon! I must say that this was a really satisfying bird!

My girlfriend, Lillian, and I spent a weekend tearing up Pelee Island in late April. Besides these 24 Willets, we found PROW, LOWA, BLGR(!!!), LBDO and twitched Vandermeulen's LASP at Erieau. A pretty solid start to birding with the ole gf!

This is a shitty pic (no offense Josh!), but one I really like for 2 reasons: 1) its a Prothonotary! and 2) it essentially captures the essence of my Masters (which I completed in 2013!). Photo by Josh Vandermeulen.

Not too many people get to see baby Prothonotaries...! These are the eggs from Pelee Island. Photo by Graeme Gibson.

A bizarre location for an American Bittern, no? This one was in the Sparrow Field, at Point Pelee in early May.

There's a theme here...alot of these pics were taken with my phone...through my scope...! I really like taking pictures thru my phone, as I really like 'documentation style' photos! This, a Laughing Gull, flew into the tip at Point Pelee in early May.

We found this swanky Hudsonian Godwit near Lake of the Woods, on May 21st, 2013 in a flooded field. The drake BWTE provides some decent size comparison.

I really like this picture. This Brewer's Blackbirdgave some stellar looks, as we watched the HUGO (above) near Lake of the Woods.

My Dad and I spent a nice weekend up north on the Canada Day long weekend, basking in Breeding Bird Survey awesomeness. We had 2 routes that were really different, but just nice to bird. We had most of the Boreal specialities, like this loud Greater Yellowlegs!

After successfully twitching the Brown Booby in Fort Erie in early October (I was there on the 1st full day after it was found), I was pretty shocked as it flew by me at the tip of Long Point on October 31st! It was actually kinda funny seeing it. I wasn't super pysched, I just thought it was funny, and pretty cool that I 'got' another new Long Point bird!

While I know other people could get WAAAAYYY better photos, I was happy with this Purple Sandpiper, my first at Long Point.

What would be a year without out "the" Red-shouldered Hawk???!!!! I first found this guy back in high-school (2003); he's still hanging around every winter. I sure hope he'll keep coming back for a few more winters!

Rough-legged Hawks are darn common in north Waterloo Region. This year, the Linwood CBC had 119!! Pretty darn high! Photograph taken by Mark Cunningham.