Friday, December 31, 2010


Ok, I hit my un-official goal of 286 on Dec 28th. I had to do a work survey, and picked up a Snowy Owl north of Guelph in the afternoon. Why is this so much fun?

Well, to recap, every single year I've been birding, I've seen more species the previous year than the last. 2009 was 285. 2008 was 282 (in Ontario).  Which is all fun and games, but also consider that I was in Newfoundland for almost all of January and February! And I ended up having one of my worst "May" periods of my birding career, seemingly missing "regular" species at every turn. By June 15th, I knew there was no chance to repeat 2009's totals.

Not only because of the poor start to 2010, but also the fact that 2009 was an amazing birding year for me. (and I don't really chase birds, so this isn't a result of driving more kilometers to get a higher list)...  Anyways - I think everyone gets the point, so I won't talk about this again until next December.


Another year in review fact: I mentioned a week or two ago about Ken Burrells drive to get 300 species in Ontario for the first time - and he reached his goal with some Bohemian Waxwings on Christmas day. Congrats to Ken!


Old photo

Happy 2011! 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Birding Dec 27

I did another birding day, where I spend WAY too much time driving around, and not enough time looking at birds. I'm not going to go into too much detail as to where I went, but the best bird in the first half of the day was a Snow Goose east of Rock Point on Lake Erie:

I then spent some time looking (and somehow managing to photograph) gulls:

Click for a bigger image. Above: on left, adult Great Black-backed X Herring Gull hybrid. With Ring-billed Gull (middle) and Herring Gull (right). Note the large GBBG-ish size with mantle intermediate between parent species.

Juv. Thayer's Gull on the control gates wall - Niagara Falls, with adult Herrings below. 

View from Adam Beck. Note the gulls in the above photo. At dusk there were 10/15 Iceland, 3+ Glaucous, 2 Thayer's Gulls, 3 Lesser Black-backed, 1 Herring x Great Black-back, and 1 Herring X Lesser Black-backed  gulls hanging around at Adam Beck. 

Earlier in the day I had encountered a strange feeding swarm of Large white-headed Gulls, and mallards. See the Juv. Iceland Gull in the above photo for an example. It was a tight swarm, close to the side of the road, so I watched from the car! Turning up the Iceland, a Lesser Black-back, and a few Glaucous (see below). Strange bunch!

2nd basic Glaucous Gull from the above swarm. Glaucous Gulls had clearly "arrived" recently, with 7 birds seen in my limited stops on the river. 

Presumed Hybrid gull (orange arrow in above photo) at Adam Beck. Note how the mantle is darker than the nearby Ring-billed and Herring gulls, but only a shade or two. It was a large bird, and I can only assume it was mostly a Herring Gull with a grandparent that was probably a Great Black-backed Gull... 

Two photos of the presumed Lesser Black-backed X Herring Gull hybrid (adult). Note in the above photo how the underside of the feet are pink, but above (2nd photo) - the feet look yellowish/pink! Never noticed that on a bird before. Mantle is a little too pale for the average Lesser Black-back, and the bird was a bit smaller than the average Herring Gull... 

Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull added for good measure. 

Plan on returning to the river sometime soon... I don't understand why every time I go to the river, I see more hybrid and uncommon gulls than most other people, but rarely seem to find the true rarities like California, Slaty-backed, Mew etc etc ???

Ok, now I have to go do some sort of "real" work!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Redwing in Quebec!

A fine photo on this page:

and if it's not there anymore, try this link:


Redwings are replacing Fieldfares in range - and there has been a big increase in North American records to follow this change!

There were 3 (I think 3?) records of Fieldfare in Ontario before the switch - so it's time to learn Redwing! Be ready for it!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Newfoundland for the holiday season

Anyone going to Newfoundland for the holidays? Maybe Bonavista?

How about now?

Terrible winter weather is hitting the UK, and now a killer Nor'easter is going to tear into newfoundland for the next few days. Birds just have to fly 1/4 of the way over the ocean before getting sucked into the powerful winds.

Will it bring anything? Well you never know with these storms. Sometimes they're a total dud, but the opposite is also true - crazy birding events don't often occur without crazy weather!

Word from Bruce Mactavish is that he is on high alert for Eurasian Coot. I sure do enjoy birding in Ontario, but theres a small part of me that would have a LOT of fun searching around Newfoundland for the next 10 days.....

Keep an eye on that surfbirds rarity gallery!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

285 & 2 1st in my life

Well after all my hot-air yesterday about sitting at 284 for the year - I had a days worth of field work in prime Snowy Owl habitat. Snowy Owls had been reported recently north of Toronto, north of Guelph, and New York. - Guaranteed Snowy Owl... Right?! They've finally arrived?!


Long day of searching, but nothing. Ok - the next plan - start searching random clumps of white pine for Long-eared Owls (another i'm missing). Searched far and wide, on public and private property, on.. well never mind. There weren't any Long-eared Owls either.

No big deal, the owls are still easy. 286 is still easy. There is still time for someone to find a Black-headed Grosbeak on a CBC... I still have time to find an Ivory Gull... There's still those two stupid owls..  I finished the day off doig a survey for Short-eared Owls (pretty common this fall/winter in southern Ontario, eh?)

The sun set on another day.. Dark, and no luck on getting my owls. But what is that?

Strange place for a Short-eared Owl to sit (thicket), and strangely long ears on that Short-eared Owl. We stopped the car only 30 feet from the bird, and had a really unusual look at this Long-eared Owl. I've never seen a Long-eared Owl "come out" at dusk before, and it was (amazingly) cooperative enough for me to try and capture the scene with my camera. A great end to the day, and #285

   Just when you think the day is over, something great like that happens. Awesome end to the day. Wait, what is that?

Ok, so it's not the Snowy Owl I was searching for, the Long-ear was enough. But it's still an awesome sight. We had a Short-eared Owl attacking a Great-horned Owl - long after the sun had gone down!!!

I pushed the camera's ability here, but was really happy to at least have some sort of documentation of the scene. 

So there you have it! Just when the day is over, I see two things I've never seen before in my life:

- A Long-eared Owl becoming active (and VISIBLE) at dusk
- A Short-eared Owl dive-bombing a Great-horned Owl.

Isn't birding great?

Monday, December 20, 2010

CBC birding

Well, I've really only done 1 CBC in my life, and that record is probably going to hold true for this year as well.  But there sure are a lot of abnormal things found once everyone gets out birding.  Case in point:
white-throated x white-crowned sparrow hybrid?


so what have I been up to?! A little bit of birding, but nothing much since the previous post about Ross's Geese. My last "new" bird for the year was this Barred Owl:

Back to taking pictures with my phone!

This Barred was my 284th species this year in Ontario. Pretty interesting! Why? Well take a look at some totals from previous years:

2010 - currently 284
2009 - 285
2008 - 282
2007 - 280
2006 - 279

I don't have my pre-2006 info on me, but every single year (since I started birding) - I've seen more species than the previous year. Every time! I've never done a "big year" - this just seems to be an example of my growing knowledge about birding and birds in Ontario.

I really thought this year would be the one to break the trend. I spent the first 2 months of the year in Newfoundland. I really didn't see any birds in Ontario until late March. Then my spring migration was the worst I've had in years. I was birding every day in May, and managed to miss several Warblers like Cerulean, Chat, Prairie, Kentucky, Yellow-throated, Connecticut, Prothonotary - just to name SEVEN.

All this, combined with the fact that I had an AWESOME birding year in 2009 (Black-tailed Gull, Black Swift etc!) - gave me little hope of passing my 2009 total of 285. And yet, here I sit now at 284?!

Will I get to 286? To pass last years total? Well I know there are still some pretty easy species to get - like Snowy Owl and Long-eared Owl (yes, I'm still missing these birds). Not to mention a few long-staying rarities  in Ontario.

Keep tuned in for the next 10+ days! I'll see if I can get to 286 without needing to chase anything (im not much of a chaser). woo!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How big is this photo

I'm just starting to think about having spare time, which means it is time to do some work on the website - and get it back online!

Long-tailed Jaeger from this past September

But I have one quick question - how does the above photo look on your computer? (Click to see large version).

I'm contemplating doing different things for the site, including larger photos. Is the 1000pixel image above too big? Does it look ok?

If you have a minute, leave a comment below or send me an email! I just need 5 words of less! And it will go a long way towards some new ideas that could be a part of my new website.

Thanks! Hope everyone has a good holiday season.

Friday, December 17, 2010

There Ross's, My Ross's, Their Ross's'

The two Ross's Geese seen yesterday near Erieau by Ken Burrell and myself. Been hanging around the area for a while!

Some of the area near Rondeau, and also western lake Erie - is starting to freeze! Some years we're wondering if there will be any snow for Christmas - not this year!


The other Ross's news is the two Ross's Gulls that are no longer to be found in Michigan. Copying a posting from the MICH-Listers group below:

J.D. Phillips managed to get a couple of photos of the birds that can be
seen at in the 2010 photo gallery.

Here is a direct link to the photos: 
And here a very distant shot of both the birds together on JD's website 

~Skye Haas


What crazy birds! Not sure what the weekend holds bird-wise for me.... Maybe won't be until after the weekend that I start seeing things again. 

Will end today off with another stellar photo of a Northern Lapwing in Newfoundland. This time by Jared Clarke. Dynamite!

Pelee area birding.

I had one of those funny days at work, 6/7 hours of driving for 1 hour of work... So I took advantage of it to do a little extra curricular birding in the Point Pelee area. Bumped into Ken Burrell, who is working on getting 300 species in Ontario this year on his list!

Pelee was, well, Pelee. We did some casual birding, and turned up tons of species you wouldn't easily see elsewhere in Ontario. Below is our ebird checklist for the whole area. We checked Wheatley, roads to the park, the national park, then a final check of Wheatley. The birds:!!!

Location:     Point Pelee Birding Area
Observation date:     12/16/10
Number of species:     55

Canada Goose     400  - no GWFG for me
American Black Duck     X
Mallard     X
Bufflehead     20
Common Goldeneye     50
Common Merganser     50
Red-breasted Merganser     300
Wild Turkey     10
Double-crested Cormorant     1 - Wheatley
Great Blue Heron     1 - at the tip of all places, on rocks/ice.
Northern Harrier     7 - migrating away from the heavy snow near London
Cooper's Hawk     1
Red-shouldered Hawk     1 - a fine adult at Hillman Marsh
Red-tailed Hawk     8
Rough-legged Hawk     3
Bonaparte's Gull     600
Ring-billed Gull     1200
Herring Gull     1000
Great Black-backed Gull     7
Rock Pigeon     X
Mourning Dove     X
Eastern Screech-Owl     1  - called back to my whistle in broad daylight
Red-bellied Woodpecker     10
Downy Woodpecker     20 - everywhere
Blue Jay     15
American Crow     X
Horned Lark     50
Black-capped Chickadee     40
White-breasted Nuthatch     10
Brown Creeper     4
Carolina Wren     2
Golden-crowned Kinglet     15
Eastern Bluebird     40
Hermit Thrush     20 - everywhere in the park!
American Robin     60
European Starling     X
Cedar Waxwing     1
Yellow-rumped Warbler     1 - what winter?
American Tree Sparrow     150
Field Sparrow     1
Savannah Sparrow     7  - where else would you see Sparrows like this?! (Long Point?)
Fox Sparrow     2
Song Sparrow     25
White-throated Sparrow     6
White-crowned Sparrow     2
Dark-eyed Junco     50
Snow Bunting     50
Northern Cardinal     20
Red-winged Blackbird     10
Rusty Blackbird     5
Common Grackle     1
Brown-headed Cowbird     100
House Finch     X
American Goldfinch     40
House Sparrow     400

Not bad! We also did a quick check of the Rondeau area, which didn't turn up much else of note, other than 2 Ross's Geese. We had heard reports of these birds a while ago? But had no idea they were still around. An unknown twitch if you will.

I have some distant pictures of the Geese, which I'll hopefully post later tonight!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Monday birding

Spent a few hours at Fifty Point C.A. doing some lakewatching Monday. Very cold and windy, which made for poor viewing conditions (shimmer).

In hopes turning up something, I headed for the river around 11am, and checked several spots (no check of queenston though). What did I find? What you'd probably expect. Little, Lesser Black-backed, Iceland and Thayer's Gulls.

You'd almost think it was mid December.


One or two Ross's Gulls were found in Michigan today. First state record(s). Going to have to keep looking!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

boo weather forecasters!

Anyone cheering for GSP last night? I watched it today.


Hit Van Wagner's Beach, in hopes of the forecasted 25knot east winds. What did my Dad, Kevin McLaughlin and myself have? 5km SE winds.

We had a few Common and Red-throated Loons, and that's all she wrote. Might try the lake again tomorrow.


I'm still keeping my eye on the James Bay Ice maps, and the north winds we've been having. Will any late-season pelagics turn up?

There's a pretty crazy jet-stream right now.


Looks like Kirk Zufelt had a fun few days. (lives in Sault Ste Marie) - 3000km in 3 days, nailing Baikal Teal, Streak-backed Oriole and Tufted Flycatcher in AZ and TX. Photos on the surfbirds rarity page:

Note: these photos will move down the page as new ones are added, so check soon!


What's next Kirk? Heading to NL for some of their rarities? Cheryl Edgecombe of Hamilton went today and saw 2 Northern Lapwinds. There's also Yellow-legged, Slaty-backed and Black-tailed Gulls in town, for some extra fun.
- Bruce Mactavish photo, a few days ago.


That's all I've got! More birds soon (I can only hope)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Birds of the week

Well I didn't get out much, but I did see some birds.

Yesterday Jenn and I found our way to the Niagara birding area, and had some highlights. My favourite was great looks at a Northern Saw-whet Owl (that Jenn found), which was the first I'd seen since last year. Jenn's self-professed bird of the day was a cooperative Tufted Titmouse.

We spent a few hours looking around at the river, highlighted by the expected gulls.

1 Little Gull (adult) at Queenston)
3 Thayer's Gulls at Adam Beck (good looks too!).
7-8 Iceland Gulls (mainly Adam Beck)
4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (mainly Adam Beck).
1 Leucistic adult Herring Gull (Adam Beck) - funny lookin brown/white bird..


So what else did I have.. hmm

Had a Rusty Blackbird staying with a flock of Mourning Doves. Decent winter bird, and strange behaviour.


And a few Lapland Longspurs! Can you find the LALO in the above picture? It's actually a full-frame shot. Will have to edit it properly and add it to my website... If I ever get some work done on my website

oh, and I also had some Redpolls. Just like everyone else. 

We get it. Redpolls are moving into southern Ontario. We get it. seriously. just stop. please. 


Looking forward to this large "winter storm" arriving late Saturday/Sunday.  Keep an eye on current forecasts, and follow all pre/post storm protocols for storm birding. I know I will be. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Actually went birding today!

My Dad and I went to Fifty Point in Grimsby this morning for some good old lake-watching. There was a steady movement of birds, but no real highlights, until we had an adult male King Eider fly west with a White-winged Scoter. A rare plumage for southern Ontario!


The time has come to end off the Netitishi daily postings.

Location:     Netitishi Point
Observation date:     11/19/10
Notes:     Huge deep freeze. -19 at dawn. Light and variable S winds, turning to SE and increasing ESE at dusk. Blows E or NE all night before switching to poor W winds at dawn the next day! Boo!
Number of species:     16

Long-tailed Duck     1
Common Merganser     11
Red-breasted Merganser     34
Spruce Grouse     3
Rough-legged Hawk     4
Herring Gull     9
Hairy Woodpecker     1
Gray Jay     3
Common Raven     2
Horned Lark     1
Black-capped Chickadee     3
Boreal Chickadee     3
Snow Bunting     4
Pine Grosbeak     14
White-winged Crossbill     30
Hoary Redpoll     7



Location:     Netitishi Point
Observation date:     11/20/10
Notes:     Wind strong N at dawn, then heavy snowsquals after 90mins, wind switches to strong WNW or W (80+kmh). Temps drop and shimmer returns to water. Fully sunny by the evening. Ice on shore holding, despite big waves.
Number of species:     21

King Eider     26
White-winged Scoter     12
Black Scoter     23
Long-tailed Duck     1200
Common Merganser     3
Red-breasted Merganser     55
Purple Sandpiper     1   - flying over the ice!
Black-legged Kittiwake     2
Herring Gull     90
Iceland Gull     1
Glaucous Gull     18
Great Black-backed Gull     5
Pomarine Jaeger     2
Gray Jay     1
Common Raven     1
Horned Lark     1
Boreal Chickadee     2
Snow Bunting     2
Pine Grosbeak     2
White-winged Crossbill     30
Hoary Redpoll     6

and that's all I wrote! 

Friday, December 3, 2010

what the duck?

Ever check your local weather, only to find a photo of a rare bird staring back at you?

A Common Teal (aka Eurasian Green-winged Teal) about 5/10 minutes from my parents new house in Burlington.

What are the odds of that?


My Dad and I found a Common Teal at Point Pelee in May a few years ago, for my only sighting in Ontario. Probably hugely overlooked in the province. The Brits have actually split them into separate species, but not here (yet).

My trip to Newfoundland last year provided me with several more birds to observe, and after spending most of a day in a muddy creek bed, I actually managed some nice photos there.

Never a dull day!

More Netitishi stuff

A few more daily lists on your way!


Seals are still providing a lot of talking points behind the scenes. I'll be posting a summary soon, but are there any last comments on ID before I let a new cat out of the bag?


I'm pretty interested in the weather over the next 4-ish days. Interested enough to actually get out of bed early the next few days - and then actually do some birding! Very high hopes of some good birds to report very soon.

Onto the remaining Netitishi Days! Not many left:


Location:     Netitishi Point
Observation date:     11/16/10
Notes:     Light winds, variable SW to SE, sometimes calm. Light snow on ground. 10-15 seals seen during the day.
Number of species:     31

Brant     3
Lesser Scaup     2
White-winged Scoter     2
Black Scoter     3
Long-tailed Duck     3000
Red-breasted Merganser     30
Northern Goshawk     1
Sanderling     55
White-rumped Sandpiper     1
Dunlin     1
Ring-billed Gull     300
Herring Gull     100
Thayer's Gull     1
Iceland Gull     1
Glaucous Gull     1
Great Horned Owl     3
Downy Woodpecker     1
Hairy Woodpecker     1
American Three-toed Woodpecker     1   - a life bird for me
Northern Shrike     1
Gray Jay     3
Common Raven     3
Horned Lark     8
Black-capped Chickadee     1
Boreal Chickadee     4
Lapland Longspur     2
Snow Bunting     25
Pine Grosbeak     20
White-winged Crossbill     15
Common Redpoll     1
Hoary Redpoll     10


Location:     Netitishi Point
Observation date:     11/17/10
Notes:     Modest NE eventually becoming stronger NW late. Wind blows NW all night, then West by dawn. boo! Temps around freezing all day.
Number of species:     30

Brant     1
Lesser Scaup     2
King Eider     4
White-winged Scoter     12
Black Scoter     6
Long-tailed Duck     2000
Common Merganser     9
Red-breasted Merganser     65
Red-throated Loon     555
Common Loon     11
Rough-legged Hawk     9
Gyrfalcon     1
Black-bellied Plover     10
Sanderling     85
White-rumped Sandpiper     1
Purple Sandpiper     7
Dunlin     62
Black-legged Kittiwake     3
Ring-billed Gull     250
Herring Gull     120
Glaucous Gull     4
Pomarine Jaeger     1
Short-eared Owl     2
Gray Jay     4
Common Raven     2
Horned Lark     3
Snow Bunting     18
Pine Grosbeak     3
White-winged Crossbill     30
Hoary Redpoll     8


Location:     Netitishi Point
Observation date:     11/18/10
Notes:     Very windy. W up to 80kmh? Cold temps - below freezing all day. -4/-5. Shimmer on the water was terrible. Clearing in the evening, with rapidly falling temps.
Number of species:     27

Brant     1
American Black Duck     5
Mallard     4
Lesser Scaup     1
White-winged Scoter     14
Black Scoter     16
Long-tailed Duck     2000
Common Goldeneye     18
Common Merganser     15
Red-breasted Merganser     65
Common Loon     3
Sanderling     2
Purple Sandpiper     1
Dunlin     45
Ring-billed Gull     1
Herring Gull     25
Glaucous Gull     2
Great Black-backed Gull     3
Black Guillemot     1
Gray Jay     1
Common Raven     2
Horned Lark     2
Black-capped Chickadee     3
Boreal Chickadee     2
Snow Bunting     8
White-winged Crossbill     25
Hoary Redpoll     1


Me with a seal on Nov 16th. I actually got a lot closer over the next hour, and was taking headshots! Photo by Alan Wormington. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day by day @ Netitishi

I've got high hopes on following up on the Seal ID, Sooty vs Short-tailed Shearwater and more in the next few days (maybe a week).  But for now, I'll continue on the daily seawatch counts from Netitishi! Why? Because it's easy.


Location:     Netitishi Point
Observation date:     11/13/10
Notes:     Sooty Shearwater seen just after the passage of a weak front, on stronger WNW winds. 
Number of species:     27

Brant     8
Lesser Scaup     4
King Eider     1
White-winged Scoter     45
Black Scoter     1
Long-tailed Duck     1400
Red-breasted Merganser     40
Red-throated Loon     1
Common Loon     5
Sooty Shearwater     1
Bald Eagle     1
Sanderling     80
Dunlin     2
Ring-billed Gull     150
Herring Gull     30
Pomarine Jaeger     1
Black Guillemot     1
Hairy Woodpecker     1
Gray Jay     1
Common Raven     4
Horned Lark     3
Black-capped Chickadee     3
Boreal Chickadee     4
Pine Grosbeak     1
White-winged Crossbill     45
Common Redpoll     4
Hoary Redpoll     12



Location:     Netitishi Point
Observation date:     11/14/10
Notes:     Forgot to note weather. Varied Thrush not actually confirmed until next day, but heard this day.
Number of species:     33

Northern Pintail     1
Lesser Scaup     1
King Eider     1
White-winged Scoter     5
Black Scoter     18
Long-tailed Duck     400
Common Goldeneye     8
Common Merganser     2
Red-breasted Merganser     50
Red-throated Loon     1
Pacific Loon     1
Common Loon     7
Rough-legged Hawk     20
Sanderling     20
White-rumped Sandpiper     1
Dunlin     4
Red Phalarope     6
Ring-billed Gull     250
Herring Gull     35
Pomarine Jaeger     1
Hairy Woodpecker     1
Gray Jay     1
Common Raven     2
Horned Lark     3
Black-capped Chickadee     4
Boreal Chickadee     1
Varied Thrush     1
Bohemian Waxwing     1
Snow Bunting     15
Pine Grosbeak     2
White-winged Crossbill     40
Common Redpoll     2
Hoary Redpoll     6


Location:     Netitishi Point
Observation date:     11/15/10
Notes:     Light S to SW winds. Some snow flurries
Number of species:     27

American Black Duck     6
Green-winged Teal     1
Greater Scaup     4
Lesser Scaup     4
Long-tailed Duck     300
Red-breasted Merganser     25
Northern Harrier     1
Northern Goshawk     1
Gyrfalcon     1
Black-bellied Plover     1
Killdeer     1
Sanderling     5
White-rumped Sandpiper     4
Dunlin     4
Ring-billed Gull     200
Herring Gull     40
Gray Jay     3
Common Raven     2
Horned Lark     1
Black-capped Chickadee     4
Boreal Chickadee     4
Brown Creeper     1
Varied Thrush     1
American Pipit     2
Snow Bunting     6
Pine Grosbeak     4
White-winged Crossbill     15

Sanderling and Dunlin

The large number of November shorebirds was CRAZY. They all looked really fat (round), and obviously different than how we usually see them in southern Ontario. We assumed these birds MUST fly to the gulf coast or further when they leave James Bay.