Monday, December 25, 2017

Big Year 2017

Merry Christmas everyone! Ever since Josh's big year, in 2012, at the end of each year I've liked to figure out how I could've theoretically done, had I done a big year over the course of past year.

To-date, I've seen 304 species in the province, one of my better totals, with several great overall rarities and self-found rares, including:

Pacific Loon (self-found)
Wood Stork (lifer!)
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (new county tick to my home county)
Mississippi Kite (self-found)
Swainson's Hawk (self-found)
King Rail (self-found)
Black-necked Stilt
White-winged Dove
Anna's Hummingbird (lifer!)
Black-billed Magpie
Violet-green Swallow (lifer!)
Rock Wren (lifer! and self-found!)
Mountain Bluebird (new county tick to my home county)
Smith's Longspur
Kirtland's Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler (new county tick to my home county)
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Henslow's Sparrow (self-found)
Lark Sparrow
Blue Grosbeak (self-found)
Western Meadowlark (self-found)
Brambling (lifer!)

Having listed the species I was fortunate enough to see, the following list is the species I could've/would've seen had I done a big year:

305. Bohemian Waxwing
306. Northern Saw-whet Owl
307. Red Knot
308. Hudsonian Godwit
309. Piping Plover
310. Parasitic Jaeger
311. Buff-breasted Sandpiper
312. Eurasian Wigeon
313. Harris's Sparrow
314. Yellow-headed Blackbird
315. Yellow Rail - James Bay July
316. Arctic Tern - James Bay July
317. Northern Hawk-Owl
318. Franklin's Gull - Rainy River
319. Willow Ptarmigan - Hudson Bay June
320. Gray Partridge - Ottawa
321. Worm-eating Warbler - late May Port Franks
322. Black-legged Kittiwake - October Van Wagner's
323. Snowy Egret - June Windermere
324. Boreal Owl
325. Western Grebe (Mississauga)
326. Townsend's Solitaire (several)
327. Red Phalarope
328. Pomarine Jager
329. Glossy Ibis (August., Mitchell)
330. Long-tailed Jaeger
331. Chuck-will's Widow - June PRince Edward County
332. Eurasian Collared-Dove (Sept., ROndeau)
333. Cave Swallow (Ocober, Pelee)
334. Black-headed Gull (Feb., Port Wellar)
335. Neotropic Cormorant (Sept., Whitby)
336. White-faced Ibis May, Lindsayu)
337. Ruff (April, Bruce)
338. Eurasian Tree-Sparrow (current, Wawa)
339. Northern Gannet (November, Hamilton)
340. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (June, Mississauga)
341. Tricolored Heron (June/July Toronto)
342. Tufted Duck (December Mississauga)
343. Razorbill (October Ottawa)
344. Western Tanager (May, Dwight)
345. Painted Bunting (April, Denbigh)
346. Magnificent Frigatebird (early July Pelee)
347. Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Sept. Toronto)
348. Little Blue Heron (April, St. Thomas)
349. Brown Pelican (early June, Niagara)
350. Slaty-backed Gull (January Niagara)
351. Black Guilletmot (October - Netit)
352. Barn Owl - Essex County December (sounds like a few ppl got to go...)
353. Varied Thrush (Feb., Thunder Bay)
354. Western Sandpiper (October, Hamilton)

Northern Bobwhite - are there any wild birds in Ontario anymore????
Western Kingbird - one in Pelee in October, and 1-2 in Rainy River
Laughing Gull - there was a few hanging around Toronto in early June

If you haven't come to the conclusion, 2017 was I believe THE best year ever, to-date in terms of species diversity in the province.

I think a realistic number for a big year this year, blitzing the province the entire year, would be 350-355. This number is pretty nuts, but after looking at the list of rarities, the list just seems to go on and on and seems to serve as a bit of a benchmark for species numbers in the province.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Best Places to Bird in Ontario

This past year has been an exciting one, no reason other than Mike and I are writing a book! Part of a Canadian series, we are writing the Ontario section to the Best Places to Bird [in Ontario]. Currently, only the British Columbia guide is out, however, next spring the next book within the series will be out, covering the Prairie Provinces. Our current date for publication is scheduled for spring 2019.

What essentially the guide covers is the authors pick of the best locations to bird in the province. The guidelines are fairly broad, with really only one caveat: narrow the list of top birding sites in the province and narrow it down to 30 locations (easier said than done).

We are currently half way done our first draft, and have a draft list of locations:

1 Holiday Beach and Windsor (lower Detroit River),  Harrow
2 Pelee Island
3 Point Pelee NP
4 Hillman Marsh and Wheatley (harbour, PP)
5 Lake St. Clair NWR and Mitchell's Bay
6 Rondeau PP (Blenheim, Erieau)
7 Sarnia (Point Edward, waterfront, River)
8 Kettle Point, Ipperwash, Pinery
9 MacGregor Point PP and Sauble Beach/south Bruce
10 Port Stanley -- Port Burwell
11 Long Point
12 Niagara River
13 Hamilton (Van Wagners, Lift bridge, windermere, Red Hill Creek, Toll Gate, Edgelake, Stoney Creek shoreline, Fifty Point)
14 Hamilton Harbour (RBG, Princess Point, Lasalle, Bayfront Park) and Oakville/Burlington (Bronte Harbour, Sedgewick, Paletta, Spencer Smith)
15 Mississauga (Rattray Marsh, Port Credit, Lakefront Promenade Park, Col. Sam Smith)
16 Toronto waterfront (Leslie St. Spit, Toronto Islands, Humber Bay, Ashbridge's Bay)
17 Oshawa-Pickering waterfront (Frenchman's Bay, Whitby Harbour, Thickson's Woods, Oshawa 2nd Marsh)
18 Carden Alvar
19 Algonquin PP (Hwy. 60 corridor)
20 Presqu'ile PP
21 Prince Edward County
22 Napannee Plain IBA
23 Amherst Island
24 Wolfe Island and Kingston mainland
25 Opinicon Road and Canoe Lake Road
26 Ottawa (river and Rideau)
27 St. Lawrence (Morrsiburg to Quebec)
28 Moosonee and Southern James Bay
29 Thunder Bay waterfront
30 Rainy River and area

Which leaves us wondering, are there any areas that we're missing???? It's been pretty difficult to narrow it down this much, leaving several areas that aren't covered as much as we'd like (Sault Ste. Marie, Manitoulin, more within the GTA).

We also need to come up with 1-2 photos per chapter -- does anyone have any great photos of birds that they'd like included in the book???? Generally, we've been trying to pick appropriate species for specific areas (e.g., Loggerhead Shrike for Carden Alvar).

Let us know your thoughts!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Another one for Waterloo -- YTWA

Just when I figured I had seen all the good birds in Waterloo Region for the year, the Yellow-throated Warbler found by Darlene Lamarre on the 11th, was refound by Darlene yesterday am (Nov. 27th).

At a site visit in Burlington, I headed back to work, where I was going to pick Nathan up and we'd try for it, since both of us didn't have too much going on at work. Walking down the trail, both Nathan and I commented that we didn't expect to see it, since there wasn't too much details provided, however, this was not to be, because after only a few minutes (<5) I picked it out with some Juncos and Kinglets!

We were to able to get some good views of it over the next 20 or so minutes as it fed not too far away. I was even able to get some record shots with my phone through my binoculars.

I was pretty happy with my shots; I've been finding it alot of fun trying to get 'digi' shots with my phone through my bins and scope.

Anyways, as I'm sure many of you know, Yellow-throated Warbler is exceptionally rare in Waterloo Region, with only 1 previous record: April 30, 2010 (Kitchener). And needless to say, was another new county tick for myself.

Given the date that it was found, it'll be interesting to see how long it sticks around. Another interesting note, is that the location is 500m from the Linwood CBC circle...!! Oh well.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A new bird for Waterloo Region

Birding in Waterloo Region has its ups and downs. Generally speaking there aren't too many reasons for birders to visit the region, with the exception of the exciting discovery by Anthony Vanderheyden of a female Mountain Bluebird at Snyder's Flats on Saturday (Nov. 18th).

While not the expert photographer that others may be, I've been having a lot of fun with my (relatively) new phone and my phoneskope adapter.
Mountain Bluebird was somewhat overdue(ish) for Waterloo Region, bringing the cumulative species list to 304 - not too bad, considering the region is land-locked, with some Hamilton birders affectionately referring to Waterloo Region as the 'Dead Zone'! In all seriousness though I don't blame them for this label, however, it's definitely satisfying having out of town birders visit.

This past year has also seen some other good birds found nearby, with a juv. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron stationed in the town of St. Jacobs, representing another first for the region (along with a Laughing Gull in Cambridge).

All in all, it's been a great year in Waterloo Region.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Almost there...

I'm almost there...Ontario's third, and my first Anna's Hummingbird in Ontario I'm sitting one shy of the elusive 400 species mark. This has had me speculating what will be my next Ontario lifer.
Record shot of the Anna's Hummingbird
2017 has been another great year for myself in terms of rarities and new Ontario birds. In March a Brambling showed up to feeders in Brockville that I was fortunate to see.

Following a rather uneventful spring, a female Violet-green Swallow showed up in Thunder Bay. While I don't really get up to Thunder Bay too often, my colleague and good friend, Nathan Miller and I were well positioned to twitch it while we were up in Sault Ste. Marie for work with a partial day off.

Following this great rarity, one of my early years nemesis showed up in mid-August at Point Pelee - a Wood Stork. Lillian and I didn't have any plans that weekend and spent the afternoon chasing it, before camping at Wheatley Provincial Park.


Back on Thanksgiving, Lill and I were up at her family's cottage near Tobermory when we amazingly stumbled upon this Rock Wren - the first in southern Ontario since 1991 and only 5th record for the province!

Needless to say I was pretty ecstatic to find this!

With the Anna's Hummingbird my 399th species that I've seen in Ontario, my top 10 targets are as follows:

1. Fork-tailed Flycatcher
2. Little Blue Heron(!)
3. Thick-billed Murre
4. Bell's Vireo
5. Wilson's Plover (I've missed 2!)
6. Northern Wheatear
7. Ivory Gull
8. Cinnamon Teal
9. Ash-throated Flycatcher
10. Variegated Flycatcher (....)

My bet is on something like a Black-headed Grosbeak, but who knows.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Places I'd love to check this June...

If only there were more than 24hrs. in a day you'd likely find me at one or two of these locations:

Bickford Oak Woods
Back in 2007 I did two rounds of breeding bird surveys in Bickford Oak Woods, consisting of a total of 7 days was buggy, the American Prickly-Ash was pretty damn annoying in certain spots, and wet...but it was also really interesting and one location I hope to get back to in the near future in June. Over the course of our fieldwork, we found the Swamp Cottonwood grove, a singing male Acadian Flycatcher, 3 male Cerulean Warblers, Red-headed Woodpecker and Brewster's Warbler.  Not too mention that there's a large swamp (I vividly remember wading chest deep for >100m) that screams Prothonotary Warbler (Larry Cornelis had a singing male PROW here in 2001 or 2003). 

Moraviantown FN
I've only birded Moraviantown FN once (June 24, 2015), but was impressed with the quality and numbers, as well as several Species at Risk and Species of Conservation Concern present in only 45 minutes of driving, including White-eyed Vireo and several Hooded Warblers. I'd love to go back for a morning, and would expect Cerulean Warbler and Acadian Flycatcher as high candidates.

Chippewa's of the Thames FN
For the first time last year, I checked out the Chippewa's of the Thames First Nations, on June 13th and 21st and wasn't disappointed....a total of 3 Cerulean's, a Prothonotary, and several Hooded Warblers made it a great morning. Other things like Yellow-throated Vireo and Blue-winged Warblers were also plentiful (~10 of each species). 

Wainfleet Bog
I haven't ever checked out Wainfleet in the summer, but recently toured the area and was really impressed with some of the habitats along the road, particularly in the western area of the natural area. Species like Prothonotary Warbler and King Rail really stand out as having suitable habitat here...hopefully I'll be able to check it out this June! If there are any Niagara birders who read this...I'd definitely check it out!

Hopefully this spur some birders to check these areas out (or other hotspots)!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Eastern Ontario fieldwork this week

This past week, I headed out to Morrisburg, with my colleague, James Barber, Thursday through Saturday, for some field work, north of the St. Lawrence.  Having said this, it wasn't all 'work' and we managed a good haul of eastern Ontario birds too.

I left Waterloo early on Thursday (Feb. 9th) to pick up James in Kingston. On my way I saw a dead Barred Owl, 3km east of the Port Hope Onroute.  I had heard rumblings of owls throughout the Ottawa area and this was certainly an indication of more to come.

Picking up James in Kingston, we were soon bound for Morrsiburg.  Just before getting off the Hwy. we picked out a nice adult Red-shouldered Hawk, again, just east of the Morrsiburg Onroute, as well as a single Northern Shrike -- a species I've had a really hard time getting west of Toronto over the last 2-3 winters.

James and I did a few hours of field work until 4:30 or so, and were heading back when we picked out an eagle just over the 401.  Coming to a stop revealed it to be an adult Golden Eagle! Here's a pic. James managed:
Friday, we were out for the whole day bush-whacking in the cold (-17 C!!), doing some ELC; our best bird during the day was a female Red-bellied Woodpecker near Finch.  As we were finishing and coming back to Morrisburg, we wandered some of the roads north of the 401 and found this beauty, just before dusk (also photographed by James)!

I hadn't seen a Great Gray Owl in quite some time (last was 2013) --- it is always a treat to see one of these and hopefully I'll see a few more this winter!

Saturday, we were only in the field until 10:30am or so, and then started making our way home.  On our way though we had 2 more Northern Shrikes, the Red-shouldered Hawk near Napannee and another Barred Owl -- this time alive (I had managed to make a detour to visit Mike and his family near Peterborough).

Sunday, January 8, 2017

LP + Haldimand

I had grand ideas of heading down to the north shore of Erie to see some sparrows, driving along the lake in Haldimand County, then heading to the Niagara River, however, things were not to be.

Getting up this am, I realized we had gotten 10-15cm of snow overnight and there was serious lake effect (Lake Huron) snow still coming down at 6:30am. Anyways, I made my way down to Simcoe and realized there was pretty strong lake effect occurring even in Haldimand, so I made a detour to Long Point and checked out a few spots before heading east.

First up, I picked up the long-staying Smith's Longspur - so long, in fact that it is no longer a flagged species in eBird for Norfolk...!

Continuing, I checked Front Road in Port Royal, as the bridge area would likely be sheltered from the strong NW winds. Managed a few WTSP, and my year Sandhill Cranes and Brown Creeper. After this I headed to Old Cut, to check the feeders, and managed to get Tufted Titmouse, Red-winged Blackbird, a few Cowbirds, and more WTSPs, but missed the good stuff (Northern Goshawk, Fox Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Gray Catbird) seen later by Adam and Taylor -- oh well!

After this I started heading back east, as the lake effect snow was now dissipating on the radar. Best highlights were a single Double-crested Cormorant near Selkirk and a Pied-billed Grebe below the dam in Dunnville (a great winter spot). I also checked out the conifer plantations at Selkirk hoping for some owls...but no dice. It was interesting to see the left-over banding operations from John Miles. 

With the wind being pretty persistent, and few birds, I decided to head straight to Vineland, where I had to drop some things off at an acquaintance and headed home. I always like checking out Haldimand County, especially in winter -- John Miles was on to something with his banding at Selkirk. All in all, managed to up my year list to 76, but who's counting.

On a different, tomorrow I'm off to the Cornwall for work and am really hoping for some Gray Partridge. That got me onto thinking...has anyone checked out the Brantford airport in recent years for them? I checked eBird and they were last there in January 2013 (15!) ....I don't see why they wouldn't be around -- who's going to check???

Way back in '04...I've seen GRPA as recently as 2011, which was also the last time I checked for the species.