Friday, 4 August 2017

North to Manitoulin

It's been a while since my last post.  Summer is always a hectic time when living on a farm and it seems to slip by much too fast.  Hard to believe it's August already and fall migrants are already starting to trickle through.

I managed to take some time to visit Manitoulin Island for several days last week.  I have many fond memories of summers spent visiting the island and I was looking forward to exploring a new area this year.  Our neighbors had rented a cottage on the island for a week and had invited us to come join them.  Some family issues meant that plans had to be altered somewhat, but I still had several days up there to explore flora and fauna.

The first target when headed up the Bruce Peninsula was to check around the community of Mar for Brewer's Blackbird.  A fellow birder had told me where to look for this species and it wasn't long before I came across this individual, my first lifer of the trip.

An early foggy ferry crossing the following morning, meant an early arrival at Pike Lake, home for the next few days.
Fog over the ferry.
Pike Lake
Pike Lake

It was here that I finally managed to set my eyes on a White Admiral, the northern counterpart of the Red-Spotted Purple butterflies that I am familiar with back home.

This Black Swallowtail also posed nicely.

I realized that I should brush up on dragonfly identification as I watched them cruise over the water.  I believe that the two below are widow skimmers.
Male Widow Skimmer
Female Widow Skimmer

Birds are harder to track down when leaves are on the trees, but I did manage to see and hear numerous species.
A pair of Alder Flycatchers were seen and heard regularly.

American Redstart
We spent a lot of time out on Pike Lake in the canoe.  The fishing wasn't great but it was peaceful floating out there.

We also spent some time driving around the island.
Striped Hairstreak, Gore Bay
Ring-Billed Gull, Providence Bay
Roadside Meadowlark
The final morning on the island, we decided to take a walk around South Baymouth before having to leave on the ferry.  There is a series of little known trails on the edge of the town which provided a great place to walk through true northern scenery accompanied by singing warblers, croaking ravens and crashing waves.

Common Yellowthroats were numerous but they dont't seem to want to sit still for long.
Prickly Wild Rose

Red Squirrel

Our time on the island came to a close as the Chi-Cheemaun came sailing in.  

Cove Island Lighthouse seen from the Chi Cheemaun.
The last stop of the trip was to look for one of the previously reported Dickcissels on the Bruce peninsula.  No luck, but it was an enjoyable trip nonetheless.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Dickcissels in Waterloo

Most Ontario birders have likely by now heard of or seen evidence of the influx of Dickcissels into the province.  I had eagerly hoped to see some this year, but most of the reports were too far away for me to easily check out.  That all changed when I heard that they were being reported in a grassy field outside of the city of Waterloo. 

Things seemed quiet when I first arrived early this afternoon, but it wasn't long before I could hear them singing and got brief glimpses as they moved around the field.

Photographing a small bird at a distance in the bright sunlight isn't easy, but I managed to leave with a couple record shots to confirm that I did see the species.

And of course plenty of photos of the surrounding vegetation when I was intending for the  Dickcissels :)

There was supposed to be a Dickcissel in this photo.
The habitat there seemed good so hopefully they will successfully nest.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

From Perth County to Rondeau Park, the Story of One Woodpecker.

First of all, a couple things I wanted to note.  I finally changed the header photo at the top of this blog to something more springlike.  Warbler migration is upon us and the Yellow Warbler is one of the few that stays around here to nest. 

My first monarch butterfly of the season was observed on our farm on May 16, the earliest that I ever remember seeing one around here.

Now on to the main post.

This story begins sometime back in early March.  It was a Sunday afternoon and I had just returned up to the house from a walk over the farm.  Rounding the corner of the house, I came across a Hairy Woodpecker laying under the window.  An unfortunate victim of a window strike.

I picked it up and looked it over, marvelling at the colour patterns, that one rarely gets to see so close. 

 I didn't like the thought of leaving it there to go to waste and so I decided to try and give it a new life.  I am familiar with the process of bird taxidermy and I started to wonder whether this bird could have a new life in a display or exhibit of some sort.

I contacted fellow blogger and Rondeau area naturalist Allen Woodliffe to get his opinion on whether it would be something that would be of interest to Rondeau Park.  He put me in touch with the park and they seemed interested in having it mounted for display in an existing exhibit. 

It was somewhat of a challenge, but the piece was finished and took the trip with me on my park visit at the end of April.
Woodpecker near bottom of the tree that the eagles are nesting in.

 This woodpecker met an unfortunate end, but now has the opportunity to be used to educate visitors to the park.  In this day and age, wildlife face various threats, but hopefully through pieces such as this, the general public can see the beauty of nature up close and build an awareness of how important it is to conserve it.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Year of the Morel

At least that is what it seems like around here.  These unique little mushrooms are popping up in great abundance on one part of our farm.

Sometimes we go a full year without finding a single one which makes it even more strange that there would be so many this year.

As far as edible mushrooms go, morels are one of the tastiest.  A welcome spring gift.

This post was a bit different than what I usually write about here but every aspect of the natural world, even the mushrooms, can be interesting.

Anyone else seeing unusual numbers of morels this year?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Essex Explorations

After an enjoyable day in Chatham-Kent yesterday, I was looking forward to visiting Point Pelee.  The morning dawned cool and cloudy, I hoped that the rain would hold off long enough to explore the park. 

Marsh boardwalk was up first.
Red-Winged Blackbird, Marsh Boardwalk
Red-Winged Blackbird, Marsh Boardwalk
Swamp Sparrow, Marsh Boardwalk

 I was interested to see how the recent marsh fire had affected the landscape of the marsh.  It was impressive to see fresh shoots of green rising up through the charred remains.

Most of the other trails were rather quiet and birds were not overly active.
American Robin, Tilden Woods
The tip was where things started to become interesting.  It started with meeting Kory Renaud who directed me to pockets of warblers actively moving through the trees. 
I was interested to watch a large raft of Red-Breasted Mergansers bobbing around in the rough waves. They seemed condensed right around the end of the tip, seemed as though the wind and the waves had forced them there. 

Red-Breasted Mergansers, Point Pelee Tip
No sign of the Eared Grebe that I had heard was reported earlier, but several Horned were bobbing around.

Swallows were thick. 
Northern Rough-Winged and Tree Swallows, Point Pelee Tip

Mixed in with them I found a first-of-the-year Least Flycatcher along with a Blue-Headed and Red-Eyed Vireo.  It was about then that the rain started, bringing my Pelee visit to a close.
 Least Flycatcher hanging out with Tree Swallows, Point Pelee Tip
After a brief lunch in Leamington, it was off to Hillman Marsh before heading home.  The rain had let up by this time.  There were several birders scanning the shorebird cell as I arrived and I was glad to be able to meet Blake Mann.

With the exception of a large flock of Dunlin, most of the shorebirds I was hoping to see were quite distant.  Fortunately with the aid of the scope, I was able to add American Avocet, Marbled Godwit and Willet to my life list along with distant photos of each.
American Avocets, Hillman Marsh

Willets and Dunlin, Hillman Marsh

Marbled Godwits, Hillman Marsh

It was an enjoyable two days spent visiting Essex and Chatham-Kent.  I'm glad the trip worked out before things get too busy here at home.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Down to Rondeau

This trip came up on somewhat short notice.  I had arranged the weekend off for other plans which ended up being cancelled.  It was decided to take a couple days and come down to visit Rondeau and Point Pelee.  I had been planning to make the trek to Rondeau sometime this spring to deliver a project that I had been working on for the park visitor centre (more on that in a future post).

We arrived in the park around 11:00 and the first place that I wanted to check was Lakeshore Road.  White-Winged Dove was one of the target species that I had really been hoping for today.  Upon arrival at the dove's typical spot, I was treated to the sight of empty chimney. 

I looked around the area for a bit, but the dove didn't seem to be present.  Deciding to return later, it was on to the visitor centre where I was greeted by first of year Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles along with the other usual feeder birds.

  While checking things out here, I talked to a couple who mentioned having seen the dove that very morning.  We decided to return to the spot and look again.

The dove still wasn't there upon arrival, but finally I spotted something on the chimney several cottages north of where I had been looking.  It was indeed the target bird, favoring cottage number 17202.

After some great views, it was on to Tulip Tree Trail.  Notable species included numerous Garter Snakes, Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and an extremely tame Black-Throated Blue Warbler.

A walk along part of the South Point Trail was next producing several Hermit Thrush.

And this Eastern Ribbon Snake.

We covered a section of the Marsh Trail as well, walking to the lookout tower and back.  It was rather slow, but an active Marsh Wren was working amongst the cattails.

Before leaving the park, I was hoping to walk part of Lakeshore Road and hopefully see the White-Winged Dove again.  The dove didn't show, but I watched a pair of Red-Headed Woodpeckers, a species I don't often see.

Below are several other photos from over the course of the day.  I try not to spend all my time looking up :-)
Interesting Coloured Violet 
Dutchman's Breeches
First of Year White Trilliums

I don't get to Rondeau often so it was a great day spent in the Park.  Tomorrow the plan is to check out Point Pelee before heading for home.