Monday, 5 March 2018

Weekend Wetland Walk

With the spring season fast approaching, I decided yesterday to check out the West Perth Wetlands for the first time this year .  Part of my decision to do so came from hearing on Saturday about a Greater White-Fronted Goose that had shown up here.  This would be my first Ontario sighting of the species and I was anxious to try and find it.

  I couldn't get there until later in the day and so the sun was getting low as I arrived.  Not ideal conditions for spotting when the sun is at eye level.

There were lots of geese but no sign of my target.  It didn't help that the flocks seemed skittish and were constantly flying back and forth between cells and surrounding corn fields.

A few other early season waterfowl were present.

A Killdeer flew over as well, my first of the year.

Mallard nest tubes are a new addition to the wetlands, something I hope to try at home someday.

The sun was definitely starting to set and I was prepared to leave when I saw that the majority of the geese had landed in the corn field again and perhaps I should try scoping them again from a distance.


Not great conditions for photos, but I could some great views through the scope of this new Ontario lifer.

A Great Horned Owl was hooting somewhere in the trees as I walked back to the truck in the evening dusk and just before leaving I was treated to several massive flocks of Tundra Swans flying overhead.  I estimated nearly 200, a good number for around here.

It was a great evening at the wetlands and I look forward to more as we move on into spring.

And because I haven't had a chance to share any Snowy Owl photos this season, I'll conclude with one I saw on a January drive through the Linwood area.  We saw five in total on this particular evening.

Monday, 8 January 2018

A Junco Study

Our bird feeders are proving popular in this snowy weather with the most numerous species being Dark-eyed Junco.  Up to now all that I had ever seen was the expected slate-coloured subspecies.  Today however, I noticed an interesting junco that warranted further study.  I attempted photos, but only managed one somewhat decent. 
And a highly cropped version of the above photo.

At quick glance it could be taken for a slate-coloured, but some features just don't match.  Most obvious is the head is darker than the back and wings and the back itself is a reddish-brown. 

After doing some research and sending an email to someone more experienced than I, it seems like this bird is most likely some sort of intergrade between Slate-coloured and Oregon subspecies.  This remains a tentative identification as there seems to be a lot of variation within juncos.  Anyone with additional input is welcome to comment.

An interesting find at the home feeders.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Stratford CBC and Highlights of 2017

I was originally going to make two separate posts for these topics, but I didn't have a lot to share from the bird count.  Despite that, it was an enjoyable CBC and we saw a decent variety (although low numbers) of species.  It snowed quite heavily, giving us little choice but to finish the count a bit early.

 Nevertheless, we ended with 37 species.  Notable species this year, was Turkey Vulture.  Since they first showed up on the count three years ago, they have been seen every year since.  Very low numbers of raptors around here compared to Linwood, but Red-Tailed, Coopers and Rough-Legged hawks were all represented.

2017 was a good year for me in terms of nature related stuff.  I didn't have a lot of time to go out of my way chasing rarities or new species, but still managed to add a good number to my life list.  I thought I would share my most notable sightings from the year.  Clicking on the species name, will take you to the related blog post.

Algonquin Park- Pine Marten

My favorite mammal sighting of the year would have to go to this especially cute Pine Marten.  I had visited Algonquin to look for winter finches.  I managed to find several of my hoped-for species, but this guy was a special bonus.  It popped up on the Spruce Bog Boardwalk, sending the chickadees and nuthatches into a panic.

Rondeau Provincial Park- White-Winged Dove

This bird was quite cooperative for most observers, hanging around for quite some time in the same general area.  Fortunately my trip to this area for some spring birding overlapped with this dove's time in the park and I managed to find it.

Waterloo- Dickcissels

With the influx of Dickcissels into the province this summer, I was fortunate to observe a couple birds in grassy field outside Waterloo. 

Manitoulin Island- White Admiral

I know that this is not at all a rare butterfly, but it meant a lot to me to finally find one.  Ever since I started trying to identify butterflies, I had been on the lookout for this strikingly patterned species.  I finally caught up with several on Manitoulin Island including this one at a campsite on Pike Lake.

West Perth Wetlands- Glossy Ibis

Rarities like this are an uncommon occurrence in my home county and when I heard about this sighting, I arrived as soon as I could to look for it.  It gave me and my nephew some great views as it preened, foraged and finally flew off not to be seen here again.

Waterloo- Mountain Bluebird

After a couple unsuccessful attempts to see this long-staying rarity, I finally managed to catch up with it.  Although a cloudy day, it was a great sighting.

Of course all this doesn't mean that I didn't appreciate the common species as well.  Those special moments of watching a Red-winged Blackbird puffed up in song or a scolding wren bouncing through the brush are some of the many moments that draw me outdoors again and again.

                                              Best wishes to my readers in 2018!

Friday, 29 December 2017

Linwood CBC

Today was the 12th annual Christmas Bird Count in the Linwood region.  It isn't far from me, but this was the first year that I have taken part in any count other than Stratford.  This count circle is different from most, nearly all the birding is done by car and raptors are usually very abundant here.  Each raptor observed, has its location mapped for future reference.  Around 30 people braved the cold and snow to get out and find some birds.

The observers in my zone were juggled around somewhat due to some unexpected issues, but in the end I spent the day counting birds with Dave Rooke.  There were quite a few raptors in our zone, the most numerous being Rough-Legged Hawk (19).

We ended up finding most of our expected species as the day progressed.  The exception being the embarrassing miss of Northern Cardinal.  Where were they??

We met up with the other counters in the evening for a data wrap-up.  It was here that I finally got to meet count organiser and fellow blogger Ken Burrell

This years count ended with a total of 54 species which is slightly above average.

Some of the notable numbers included:

Snowy Owl:  23 were counted in one zone!!  Count total was 35, a new high.

Northern Harrier:  0

Wood Duck: 1

Eastern Screech Owl: Correction- 23

Rough-Legged Hawk:  100

Common Raven: 8

It was fun trying out a new count.  Tomorrow is the Stratford CBC.  I am in charge of leading the Tavistock zone for that count.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Third Time's the Charm

Well after missing out on the Mountain Bluebird last Tuesday and again when I was in the area on Thursday, I decided to give one final try today. 

By early afternoon I was back at the now familiar Snyder's Flats.  I watched carefully while driving in, but no sign of any other birders or the bird itself.  Parking at the end of the road in the last parking lot, I decided to start looking along the north side of the road as that was where it seemed to be most frequently reported.  I did meet another birder over here who was looking for the bird as well.  We continued on our separate ways, promising to try and notify the other if one of us found anything. 

With no sign of anything to north, I decided to move over to the south side and within a couple minutes noticed a lone bird in the top of a tree.  In the dull November light I couldn't make out what it was, but as I got closer there was no doubt.  Here was the target bird.

She didn't seem at all concerned with my presence occasionally hopping around in the small cluster of trees where I found her. 

I wasn't sure where the other birder had gone, but fortunately he had seen me staring at something and came over to the bird as well. 

She seemed to be having no trouble finding food and was apparently having a good meal at one point in a thicket of buckthorn.

Great to finally add this bird to my life list.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Late Fall Day Trip

First off, a couple sightings of interest since my last post.  I had my first sighting of Short-Eared Owl back in mid October when it flew up in front of me out of the cow pasture.  I didn't have my camera but my nephew got back to see it and managed some photos.

A few days ago I had a Common Raven fly over our farm.  There seem to be more and more sightings of them in our area.  Possibly a sign that they are returning to territory that they may once have occupied.


I haven't taken time to do a lot of birding lately, but today managed to take a day off for just that.  The question was, where to go?  I had been wanting to get down to Long Point for a long while, Wildwood Lake by St. Marys had some good sightings of recent, potential Fish Crows had shown up in Stratford and as many of you know a Mountain Bluebird was being reliably seen in Waterloo. 

It was a lot for one day, but I decided to try for as many of the above as I could.  Decided to start the day at Long Point and by 10:00 was at the Bird Studies Canada property in Port Rowan.  The wind was incredibly strong, but there was a good deal of activity out on the lake.  American Coots were by far the most numerous close to shore.

 Wigeon, Redhead, Scaup, Mallard and Gadwall were also in close range but a large raft of birds farther out remained unidentified. 

A small flock of Tundra Swans flew over. 

I decided to scope out the lake again from Lions Park in Port Rowan.  Less activity here, but I managed to pick out a Great-black Backed Gull amongst the Herring and Ring-billed. 

This young Pied-billed Grebe was quite tame.
Aside from the occasional duck, there didn't seem to be much activity along the causeway or at the Old Cut field Station.  A stop at the beach showed how windy it was today.

The last stop in Norfolk was at the Lee Brown WMA.  This place has often been good for waterfowl whenever I've been here before.  Today there was not much other than a few geese, but across the road a large flock of Tundra Swans was picking through a harvested corn field. 

I kept an eye out for Snowy Owls in the fields along the way and had several close calls that turned out to be plastic bags.  The only owl of the day was an unfortunate casualty of a roadkilled Screech Owl near Ingersoll. 

By early afternoon I was at Wildwood and scanning the lake.  All three species of merganser were present and after a while I found the continuing Common Loon.  I was hoping for the previously reported Red-necked Grebe and it was reported again after I left, but I didn't see it while I was there.

It was early enough in the afternoon to take a chance and head into Waterloo to try for the Mountain Bluebird.  There were a couple of birders from Guelph searching for the bird when I arrived and I joined them.  Unfortunately wherever it was, it didn't show itself for us.  That's birding for you.  Have to get used to the misses as well as the hits. 

I photographed this bush right around where the bluebird should have been.  You can visualise the missing bird in the branches :)

Monday, 16 October 2017

Fall Leps

Leps or Lepidoptera is a term used to refer to the order of insects containing moths and butterflies.  Likely due in part to the warmer than usual fall, I have seen quite a few when out and about. 

This year was good for monarch butterflies.  I found more caterpillars this past season than I could even raise, a promising sign for a species facing many threats.  I did raise some this year and on short notice decided to purchase tags for the butterflies I was releasing.  Although many of the caterpillars in my care hatched into butterflies and were released before the tags arrived, I still ended up tagging 16 monarchs this year raised by my nephew and I. 

The size and position of the tag on the wing is such that it does not impact flight and can provide valuable information on the monarch migration cycle if they happen to be recovered.  I have done this once before a couple years ago, but only ended up tagging six, none of which were found.  It will be interesting to see what happens this time.

Milbert's Tortiseshell have shown up from time to time.
Not rare, but a lifer butterfly for me was finding this Bronze Copper.

I had a run in this fall with a lifer moth species, but not in the way I would have expected.  I pulled on a sweater that had been laying outdoors for some time only to feel a prickling up one arm.  It was the defence mechanism of one of these guys.

Apparently a Hickory Tussock Moth had decided to crawl into the sweater and was none too happy when I interrupted things.  It left me with an itchy prickling rash for a couple days.  Definitely a species to be cautious of if you come across one. 

Nice to take advantage of the mild fall weather while we have it.  Winter is on its way.