Saturday, December 31, 2011

Some September Sabine's

I've been enjoying my holiday time off by doing some house cleaning. I recently went through some fall zodiac photos, and decided to update my picasa web pages with some ID shots.

For those who don't know, here's a link:

It's mainly just a mish-mash of identification-quality photos of some difficult groups of birds (gulls, geese, redpolls, jaegers etc). It's not terribly popular, but something I really enjoy doing.

Anyways, I did some work for the Sabine's Gull page ( and uploaded the following pictures taken Sept 11, 2011 from the boat:

--- also as a quick reminder, this was a record-count day of 39 birds! Anyways, here's the photos:

Again, not edited to look pretty, just for reference. 


Just a side note, but if you enjoy these Ontario birding-blogs, the latest to join the game is Mike Burrell, (older brother of Ragin' cagin' birding's Ken Burrell)  If you enjoy visiting this site, you'll enjoy Mike's even more.. Here's the link:


Good luck in 2012! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Search and you..... that's a goose

The "Barrow's Searching" turned up a fun goose the day after the Harlequin Duck --- an adult Ross's Goose. A new addition to my "work checklist", which was a spectacular bird, giving great looks right out the car window. Sure was tiny!

Here's a quick video of the "real life" view


Glaucous-winged Gull in Duluth, MN...

THEE most overdue bird for Ontario:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Search and you shall receive - something different?

Continued my trend to turn up a Barrow's Goldeneye while working.  And wouldn't you know it, I found something. It just wasn't a Barrow's Goldeneye.

It was a female Harlequin Duck, as you can see. Not a bad consolation prize... But it started to open my eyes. I have been bird-working the entire fall without seeing anything terribly spectacular, yet a shift in focus has turned up a fun hybrid and a fun species in this recent bird..

Is there something to this? Are you going to find what you're looking for? I've spent weeks and weeks and weeks just aimlessly birding, and seen thousands of common species, but will you have a much greater success with a specific goal in mind and specific focus?

Or is it just dumb luck?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll pics from Netitishi 2011

Can you guess what I've been working on?! Netitishi!

Here's the best documentation of a H-Hoary we managed at Netitishi. Date was Nov 2, 2011

Pic's added to my Hornemann's Gallery on picasa, which has grown pretty quickly, considering how "rare" we've been told these things are! ;) 

Thursday, December 22, 2011


For those who enjoyed the Netitishi 2011 compilation video  - you may have noticed some special guest appearances by Foxy, the camp Fox.

There isn't much left to be said, other than we had a great deal of fun with this "wild" critter during our spells of terrible (nice) weather.

Rumour has it, that by the end of the trip, we could get Foxy to jump up in our laps, looking for an almond snack. Not wanting to stir the pot anymore, I figured I'd post the proof in the pudding.

I meant to email this to a few people, but can't remember who i've sent it to or haven't. So hopefully this reaches those who are interested!


Some other stuff:

Crazy picture of a snake trying to take down a YB Sapsucker:

Puffin found in downtown montreal:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My take on the Snowy Owls

Snowy Owls: They're moving south. If you check your local listerv, you've probably enjoyed (cough) a steady stream of reports.

So what's the deal? Well I don't know. You probably don't read this blog if you're looking for answers. You're probably looking for crazy. And that's what I can deliver.

Let's take a look at the last "big" Snowy Owl invasion: specifically, 2008-2009.

--- I don't know about you, but I saw a belly-button load of Snowy Owls this winter. Everywhere I traveled (usually work) I  was seeing them. Some high counts included 21+ at a work site (1 day) and 14 at the Metz area north of Guelph (1 day).

--- a huge number of these birds were the expected "first winter male" category. I did see some girls and adult dudes, but word from the north was a spectacular breeding season resulted in a bumper crop of babies that graced our shores.

--- the X factor that year was a general lack of "invasion" beyond our shores. I was pretty excited to find a Snowy that winter, just north of the Point Pelee circle (north of Wheatley). Talk about far south right?

So what's going on this year's invasion to end all invasions? (2011 to 2012?)

--- I'm working some excellent "winter raptor" locations, and there are some Snowy Owls around. But that's just it, there's some "around". My high count so far this year is a solid 7 in a day. Not really the same numbers, and they aren't really turning up in the same spots. I'm seeing a lot more on the "edges" - lakeshores, gravel bars, and other people's sightings seem to be similar (harbours, etc).

--- there also seems to be a lot of "white adult males" kicking about. We had a lot at Netitishi Point, and it has continued here. (I've seen several, and have seen others); See: ... I'm guessing that there must be a different dynamic involved. Maybe it wasn't a good breeding season, but trouble on the home front (eg,/ low food in the arctic?)

--- the X factor of this years invasion: is how far these freakin things are moving. Hawaii had it's first record, numbers are moving south down the west coast. And birds are really moving through Ontario. I know the Pelee CBC had 3, Ohio has already had multiple birds, and they're also moving down the east coast (New Jersey)?

Obviously the season is young, considering things are a bit on the mild side in southern Ontario. So maybe some totally different patterns will emerge before too long, but i'm finding it very interesting how these birds are really "pushing through" ... Time will tell, but I was also hurting for blog material now, soo..... 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coyote vs. Bighorn

A quick video from my trip to BC with Jenn, as we watched two Coyotes lay chase to a group of Bighorn Sheep (is that the official name?)... The video shows one chasing a sheep up some precarious cliff edges. 

As always, it's best to watch on youtube proper, where you can make the video full screen, and get a better look at what's going on. 

I wouldn't listen too carefully at the commentary in the background though...

--- Soon after this happened, the sheep went into panic mode again and quickly ran down off the cliff edges, as a Golden Eagle appeared overhead. Life is good at the top of the food chain.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Black-throated Gray Warb!

My additions to the photographic documentation of this spectacular bird found in Hamilton today by Rob Dobos.

The above 3 pics are the first additions of this species to my website,


So here's the expected question... How does this happen? How can there be multiple gnatcatchers, 3 species of warbler and a Blue-headed Vireo on the same bay pathway? (this isn't the east coast you know) ... I don't really get it, but it's fun!

A few other visions of the day:

Supreme insanity! 

Search and you shall receive - half ?

After noticing a large influx in Goldeneye the last 2 weeks while working in Eastern Ontario, I set about to find myself a Barrow's Goldeneye (still needed for the year, as I sit at 299)... It's not like I ever wasn't looking for Barrow's Goldeneye, but I started a conscious effort to search every single flock of Goldeneyes I found, regardless of what I was (or should have been) doing.

And wouldn't you know it, but I had a pretty remarkable sighting before too long. A striking adult male Barrow's X Common Goldeneye Hybrid. Not exactly what I needed for the "list" - but I was still darn excited to see the bird. It was actively diving in a flock of ~80 birds, not very far away, but rarely staying up for long.

It was one of those birds that looked more like a Barrow's than a Common, and got my heart pumping early. It wasn't too long before I noticed that things were quite intermediate, including an intermediate white patch on the face (round with crescent shaped points on the corners), and a side pattern that really wasn't right for either species.

Unfortunately, no photos as it was hard enough finding the bird in between its rapid dives, but a very exciting sighting for me regardless! And now I can say im at 299.5 for the year, right?


Some links to hybrids:

this first bird, (on the left with a Pure Barrow's) is somewhat similar to the bird I encountered:

(The) one from Hamilton:


and one more

Saturday, December 10, 2011

new nemesis bird?

Funny story while birding the Niagara River today with Jenn and Kyle...

It turns out I still haven't seen Slaty-backed Gull in Ontario. Was never a big deal, since I had every intention of finding one. But with Kevin McLaughlin's recent find on the river (of an adult) and my intention of birding the river this weekend, it seemed inevitable that I wasn't going to add "Slaty-backed Gull" to my "self-found list" right off the bat.

Not a big deal right? No one could complain with seeing a Slaty-backed Gull... They're a pretty awesome bird.

But once again, things just end up all wonky. We birded the river for a few hours, including Adam Beck + above/below the falls -- and did the area justice. But there was no sign, all day, by anyone, of the Slaty-backed Gull (at least, as far as I know). What's the deal? Do the gull-gods have a sick sense of humour? Is Slaty-backed Gull going to become some sort of nemesis bird for me? 

The answer is: All of the above. Not only did the "known" adult Slaty-backed Gull fail to show, but we had some additional drama. There I was, mid-afternoon amongst a healthy crowd of birders, when I spotted a pretty striking bird standing on the centre "island" near the control gates. Dark mantle, big white tertial crescent, big white "skirt", pink legs --- Slaty-backed Gull? Sure looks like one. But it also has extensive brown in the wing coverts and too much smudging. 3rd basic? (I didn't actually age it with confidence) - I was pretty shocked to be looking at a DIFFERENT Slaty-backed Gull.... Since lots of people were there looking, I decided to get everyone (esp. Jennifer) a look at the bird, so they could see exactly where I was talking about before I nailed the ID. 

I called it out... "I think I have a different Slaty-backed Gull over here..." -- Jenn + Kyle had the first looks, before more people walked over (probably thinking I was crazy).. .In the meantime, I put the bird in Jenn's scope. Anoter viewer, and then, not 15-20 seconds after I called it out, I hear Jenn say "I don't think it's there anymore".. 

Wait, what? I looked in the scope... The bird, which had been front and centre in the flock (100% in the open) was GONE... And to make a long story shorter, it was GONE GONE... Like we spent 2+ hours looking in the same area and there was absolutely NO SIGN of the bird. My only guess is it moved back into the flock and was totally concealed from view. 

Is that crazy or what? One I felt really bad "letting go", but I'm also going back tomorrow, and the darn thing better show itself!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Want to get Barnacle Goose for your list?

All you have to do is make a small cash payment, and pick a planned release location!

While not working and not somewhere near the Grimsby Barnacle Goose location from a few years ago, I found something pretty strange:

Heck, I've always wanted to add the "minima" or "Cackling" Subspecies of Cackling Goose to my Ontario list  too! I wonder how much?

I thought about calling, but didn't. I also thought about putting the normal picture online, but figured one of YOU may end up calling, so blocked it out. 

But seriously, this wasn't exactly a high end operation (did you see the sign?) - and seemed to be a bit of a hobby.. maybe for children... here's a limited sample of what else you can get:

And that's only part of the selection. Mute and Black Swans were also "for sale". Later that day, a fair distance away, we were "attacked" by a free-flying Mute Swan that had taken up temporary residence in a flooded ditch. (Walked right up the side of the road to the car). Any guess where it came from?

So yeah.. keep an eye out for those goodies. If you haven't seen enough yet, go back to that first photo of the Barnacles and Cacklers and see how many are banded!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Visions of Presquile

Jenn and I joined a contingency of birders at Presqu'ile PP last Sunday for a fun morning of birding and food, and we turned up the target species (Purple Sandpiper) which was a life bird for the good lookin girl (listed at 5'2)

No photos of the purpatrator, but here's some other visions of birding at Presqu'ile:

(one of one) 

(one of two) 

(one of 3) 

Just some record shot fun!


fun story:

and check this out:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Netitishi Point 2011 - video compilation !!!

Click here to watch the 2011 Netitishi Point video compilation:

It's a lot better to watch it on youtube proper, and view it on "full screen" - so you can see some of the videos better (including some short clips of the dark gyrfalcon)

Just in case you're afraid of clicking on links, I'll still embed it here, but I still highly recommend the link above!

--- This was actually the first time I had ever tried to do something like this, and was pretty happy with the result!

The Ontario Big Year record

An Ontario "Big Year" seems to be all the rage at the moment. With my current year list sitting at 298 species for the province, I decided to search through the ebird data for the province ( to see what species I am missing, and how 2011 would have been for a big year attempt.

(All of this inspired by multiple people who have current and future interests in big years, including Josh V here: )


So with my current list at 298, I went into ebird and figured out what missing species I "could have seen" if I was going "all out" in a big year attempt. Here's the list:

Harlequin Duck
Barrows Goldeneye
Brewer's Blackbird
Boreal Owl
Gray Partridge
Spruce Grouse  (yes, I haven't seen this species, despite multiple trips to the far north in Ontario).
Mountain Bluebird (the first of several rarities I didn't "twitch)
Western Grebe
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Loggerhead Shrike
Louisiana Waterthrush
Western Meadowlark
Sora  sad but true
American Avocet
Least Bittern
Piping Plover
Swainson's Hawk
Townsend Solitaire
Snowy Egret
Prairie Warbler
Yellow Rail
Henslow's Sparrow
Pacific Loon
Bells Vireo
Sedge Wren
Black-headed Gull
Purple Gallinule
Black-billed Magpie
Western Kingbird
White-winged Dove
Willow Ptarmigan
Great Gray Owl
White-faced Ibis
Painted Bunting
Northern Gannet
Slaty-backed Gull
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch

-- for a grand total of 37 species (or 335 as a year list)

There are also some other species that haven't been reported to ebird this year, that wouldn't be terribly difficult to get:

Barn Owl
King Rail
Smith's Longspur (338)

And a few rarities that were reported this year, that may or may not have been possible for me to get:

Worm-eating Warbler (very few this year)
Lark Sparrow
Mississippi Kite
Little Blue Heron


So how does that all stack up? Well the Ontario record is 338 species, set by Glenn Coady in 1996. And looking at the current list, I could be sitting at or just below 338 if I had gone really crazy this year. Obviously it would take a LOT of work (eg,/ going to Hudson Bay for Smith's Longspur etc), but seems to be quite possible to accomplish.

The only problem is I have no plans to do a big year anytime soon, so for now, we will have to watch Josh's attempt next year and see if he can set the bar higher. ~!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fall photography

Fall photography this year was pretty slim for me again (working and generally un-inspired to shoot). But here's one I did take:

And, as you might expect, I'd be curious to know what you think of this shot? Love it? Hate it? Really don't give a hoot? Let me know! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Another jaunty to the River - Looking for gulls

Returned to the river yesterday (had the day off). I did not look for the Black Vultures or the Pelican, and therefore did not see them. I did not look for the Razorbill, but saw it anyways --- a very cool bird.

Here's the low-down on the non gulls

Tufted Titmouse @ Dufferin Island --- finally got this overdue species for my year list (now 297!) at a very expected place .

Pomarine Jaeger - first floated past me at the Queenston Docks on the river. I then moved to Adam Beck, and it soon followed me there and harassed dozens of birds. (really awesome looks from above - see video from a few days ago). I returned to Adam Beck at 4pm (5-6 hours later) and it was still there.

Razorbill - morning. same spot



California - same adult on Goat Island in NY

Franklin's Gull - the 1st ba. flew past me at the NOTL flypast

Little Gull - 2 adults at Queenston. 4 birds (1 2nd ba. 3 ad's) at the flypast

Thayer's Gull - 3 at Adam Beck (adult, 2nd ba, juv) --- I actually had 2 solid solid Thayer's Gulls before I had any Iceland or Lesser B-backs... The juv was remarkably dark.

Bonaparte's Gull - 1 alternate (breeding) plumaged adult at the flypast .

10 species for the day. (missed Glaucous)

---- Things are still do-able for the big day gull record of 15 species, considering how mild it has been - there must still be some more gull migration to happen. You're only Glaucous, Mew, Kittiwake, Sabine's and Black-headed away from the world record. You're also welcome to substitute Slaty-backed or Ross's into that list too!


Not that I'm a winter lister, but it seems like a darn good year to do one in Ontario. Really warm recently, and a buck load of rarities hanging around already

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sunrise on James Bay

An early morning at Netitishi Point. The sand-dune beaches have some pretty interesting grasses that grow along them, which I used for this sunrise shot. This species also featured in my favourite dragonfly photo taken up there this past august:

(Female Sedge Darner) 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Birding related question:

Do you ever see a vehicle stopped on a back country road and immediately ask yourself "I wonder what bird(s) they're looking at?"

If so, congrats! You're a crazy birder :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Two quick videos from Sunday @ the River

They ain't pretty.  As always, click on the "youtube" button below the video to watch them on youtube proper (and to watch full screen, so you can actually see the specks)

Pomarine Jaeger at Adam Beck 

The "small pond" Pelican

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fwd: Additional Niagara Birds today - Nov 27, 11

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Holden Family <>
Date: Sun, Nov 27, 2011 at 9:04 PM
Subject: Additional Niagara Birds today - Nov 27, 11

Apologies for the additional Niagara River posting.

My darling girlfriend Jenn and I had some additional birds of note
today along the river, beyond the previously reported Razorbill, AW
Pelican etc.

Black Vulture - 5 birds seen circling over NY between Adam Beck and
the Queenston Docks mid morning.

Franklin's Gull - the first basic appeared mid morning (feeding) at Adam Beck

Pomarine Jaeger - spotted by Bob Stamp et al. while we were at Adam
Beck. The bird provided good and unique views (from above) while it
harassed birds near the power plants. It was an intermediate juvenile.

California Gull - an adult above the falls (control gates) sitting on
the far side of the river (in NY). -- this bird has been reported
previously on the New York (Genesee) list.

Glaucous Gull - a 2nd basic bird sitting above the falls.

We struck out on yesterdays Black-legged Kittiwake, giving us 11 gull
species for the day.

Good Birding!

Brandon Holden

Directions: the only directions of use I can give is our location when
viewing the Black Vultures. We stopped on Niagara Parkway near the top
of the escarpment, (north of Adam Beck, south of Queenston Docks) - at
the "scenic overlook" which gives a great view of New York and
downriver. The Black Vultures were spotted with a scope, and we
watched as they slowly drifted east and further into NY (unfortunately
not with the 20+ Turkey Vultures which wandered into Ontario).

Van Wagner's Beach - early last week

I don't remember the exact day, but I was at Van Wagner's early last week when there was a very decent NE wind blowing. 2.5 hours was as long as I could last in the cold (and moderate bird activity).

Highlight was a close pass by this pomarine jaeger (not that you can tell from the photos) :

(all of the same bird)

Also picked up lots of ducks, a few Red-throated Loons, etc. I'm currently writing this on Sat Nov 26, and they're saying winds NE 50kmh on Wednesday (Nov 30)... Always hard to predict that far in advance, but somewhere around there could be one of the last chances until next August to do some lake watching. 

It's always good to check things last minute before a trip. I usually check:

Enviro Can for Burlington: 

Intellicast windcast: 

LOOFS guidance: 

Lift Bridge (Burlington) current conditions:

And also the Grimsby Buoy (a favourite), which is currently gone for the winter, and now useless. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Red Fox from James Bay

When the weather got warm up on James Bay, we were kept entertained by a specific Red Fox (aka Foxy) for extended periods of time. I had a lot of fun photographing foxy, and more photos should arrive in the future! For now, just this:

Looks like a decent weather system moving through now and over the next 3-5 days... But we are running out of time when it comes to "good birding season" ... Beyond some late winter CBC's, things get pretty slow on the vagrant front until all heck breaks loose in late April 2012. The next 3-4 weeks usually shift from birding to photography for me!

Friday, November 25, 2011


just because I'm home, doesn't mean I have all that much time to answer emails and write blog posts - but I'm working on it.

Similar to the LBBG in BC post, here's another random photo that I edited for alternate reasons, but will use for the blog too! :

Probably the best Hoary Redpoll flight shot I was able to get while at Netitishi Point a few weeks ago (James Bay) - This bird might actually be a female Hornemann's to boot, but it didn't land long enough to confirm. What do you think? 

Photos of the "fully documented" Hornemann's Hoary from the trip when I get to it!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lesser Black-backed Gull in Penticton - British Coloumbia

(Pic of the bird)

I've always had tremendous luck in finding Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Apparently my internal magnet is directed at them, and they come seeking me out. This point continued on my recent trip to BC with my darling girlfriend Jenn ---- we were driving down a major highway (with her sister+her boyfriend) --- and I couldn't help but notice this adult LBBG swimming in a channel beside the highway. 

We stopped, and had spectacular looks at the bird, hanging out with a handful of Herring, Thayer's and California Gulls - and snapped the pictures seen here. 

Upon returning home, it looks like this bird may have been found in the city about a month earlier. Info here:

The LBBG with California Gull on right. 


Settled at home for the first time in about a month - will have lots of pictures/videos etc from my recent visits to BC and Netitishi Point to post - whenever I eventually get around to it!

I was happy some things managed to auto-post to the blog while I was gone, even if they weren't in the correct order. And I'm sorry about the spam posts --- not sure how they happen yet --- but I hope you're all finding your new degrees useful!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fw: Netitishi Point, James Bay - October 28-November 11

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

From: Ken Burrell <>
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2011 22:55:48 -0500
To: Ontbirds<>; Brandon Holden<>
Subject: Netitishi Point, James Bay - October 28-November 11

Hey Birders,

Brandon Holden, Barb Charlton, Mike Burrell and myself just got back from 2 weeks at Netitishi Point, just east of Moosonee. All the below sightings are from Netitishi Point, unless otherwise stated:

King Eider:
November 3 -- 1 female
November 4 -- 4 females (groups of 1, 1, and 2)

Sharp-tailed Grouse:
October 27 -- 18 flushed by the train on way to Moosonee

Red-throated Loon:
November 9 -- high of 199

Loon spp.:
November 9 -- 3 (all singles) our thought was likely all Pacific, although observations were too distant

Red-necked Grebe: this is considered a rare species in the James Bay region
October 27 -- 1 Moosonee
November 4 -- 2
November 8 -- 1
November 9 -- 8 (groups of 4, 2, 1, and 1)

Horned Grebe: again, this is considered a rare species in the James Bay region
November 10 -- 1
October 31-November 1 -- 1 dark morph juvenile female
November 8 -- 1 gray morph juvenile male

Western Sandpiper:
November 8 -- We had a flock of 8 peeps that were clearly smaller than the numerous Dunlin, White-rumpeds, and Sanderling.  Before we had a good study of them some of them flew off to the east, but we had good looks of at least one of the birds that remained and were able to identify it as a Western.  Presumably the other peeps in this flock were also Westerns.

Purple Sandpiper:
November 3 -- 1
November 6 -- 5
November 8 -- 1

Jaeger spp.:
October 30 -- 1 (too distant to id)

Pomarine Jaeger:
November 9 -- 2 (singles; intermediate morph juvenile and dark morph juvenile)

Black Guillemot:
November 2 - 4 (all singles)
November 4 - 2 (pair)
Snowy Owl:
A total of 32 individuals were seen, birds were seen everyday of the trip, except one (November 3). The high count was 14 birds on November 9th.

Northern Hawk-Owl:
October 27 -- 1 bird seen from the train

We had daily flights of Redpoll flocks coming in off of James Bay.  Based on slight differences in flight calls (backed up by the odd bird that landed and Brandon's excellent in-flight photos) we were able to identify over 300 Hoary Redpolls (about 25% of identified Redpolls). It is likely that we saw several 'Hornemann's'  based mostly on flight shots by Brandon but we had at least one bird we were confident on (that landed long enough for us to study it) on November 2.
We saw several thousand shorebirds throughout our trip, with many species present in high numbers given the late dates for Ontario, let alone James Bay. I've listed the shorebird species we saw throughout the trip (not already listed above), with the high count observed. On our last date at Netitishi there were still 150 White-rumped Sandpipers, 100 Dunlin, and 75 Sanderlings present.
Black-bellied Plover - 30
American Golden-Plover - 1 - November 3 and 9
Semipalmated Plover - 1 - October 29
Killdeer - 2 - October 27 in Cochrane
Greater Yellowlegs - 25
Sanderling - 200
White-rumped Sandpiper - 350
Dunlin - October 1,400
Wilson's Snipe - 1 - seen several times
Other late dates:
Double-crested Cormorant - 1 - October 29
*Rose-breasted Grosbeak - 1 female in Moosonee on October 28!
Dark-eyed Junco - 1 was present until November 4, before succumbing
American Robin - 1 was present the entire trip, including on our last date (November 11)
Throughout the entire trip, temperatures ranged from -6 to +10 degrees C. Winds were predominantly from the SW, with only one afternoon of sustained N winds (no doubt why we didn't see more pelagics/Fulmars)! We were delayed coming back a day due to a snow storm on November 10th. Shimmer didn't pose a serious problem this trip, likely due to warmer temperatures. 
We have entered all of our sightings from the trip into ebird ( which means that anyone can view them for free.  Here are links to our complete checklists:

Directions: (courtesy of Alan Wormington) 
Netitishi Point is located 21 miles due east of Moosonee, on James Bay. The point itself is situated on raised beach ridges, which not only protect from high tides.
From Toronto drive north 400 miles to Cochrane. Get on train to Moosonee, for 186 miles. At Moosonee take a taxi to the Airport. Get on helicopter. Take helicopter 21 due miles east to Netitishi
Point. Land helicopter. You're there.

Good Birding!
Ken Burrell
Heidelberg, Ontario

Monday, November 14, 2011

10 crazy crazy rare birds I thought would occur in Ontario before Yellow-nosed Albatross

Opposite of the recent "top 20 predictions' - a great example of how really really unexpected things can happen: 


A bit of a strange and unusual blog post.  I keep a list of ~100 species that I predict could occur in Ontario, with most obviously being really crazy and very unlikley. One species I never actually bothered to add was Yellow-nosed Albatross.. Which was seen and eventually grabbed (2 weeks later, undetected) near Kingston.... So here's a fun list of 10 species that I actually had on my list (before the albatross), that seem really crazy in their own right. 

(THEE Albatross from Ontario.. My photo of the specimen taken at the ROM)

Fea's Petrel --- With the rash of Black-capped Petrels that have occurred during "hurricanes" in Ontario, is it really tooo crazy to predict that one of the "big 3" rare Pterodroma petrels could occur in Ontario? (Trindade, Fea's or Bermuda?) --- I think Trindade is the most likely, and Bermuda would be the craziest, so for this article I took the mid-road and suggest Fea's. Sure seemed more likely than a Yellow-nosed Albatross.

Magnificent Hummingbird --- There are a number of Hummingbirds that Ontario could add to the list, but it may surprise you that Magnificent Hummer actually has a bit of a vagrancy pattern northwards. YES, it is still REALLY unexpected, but more unexpected than YNAL? no way.

(from Wikipedia)

Gray Vireo --- Records closer to Ontario than you'd think, and heck Ontario already has some crazy southern vagrants like Varied Bunting, so someday we may see the post on Ontbirds.

Large-billed Tern --- one of those mega-rarities you won't find in the Sibley, but records as close as Ohio made this bird a better candidate (than YNAL) in my mind.....

(from Wikipedia)

Grace's Warbler --- a recent record on Lake Michigan in Illinois says it's only a matter of time before this species gets found on Lake Erie (or banded at Thunder Cape.........) seems outlandish, but nothing compared to YNAL in my opinion!

Stellar's Eider --- records from MA, and possibly a candidate to someday be found on James/Hudson Bay (or heck, even Lake Ontario?) I know this one is way out in left-field, but it was at least on the radar (unlike YNAL)

(from Wikipedia)

Limpkin -- the world-famous snail muncher has wandered northwards towards to Tenesee, and anything that wanders (from the Gulf) to Tenesee, clearly doesn't want to stay there and could very easily end up in Ontario waters (Holiday Beach, Pelee, Pelee Island, Long Point etc etc)

(actually my photo)

Arctic Loon --- Pacific Loon may seem hard enough to find in Ontario, but if any location is primed to find it "in the east" - it's us. Long shorelines of 4 great lakes, James and Hudson bay could easily catch one.. We just need to find it.

White-tailed Tropicbird --- another striking seabird, I sure had this one on the list of "possibles" way ahead of YNAL..... Hurricane Hazel, which smashed Ontario in the 50's - brought 2 White-tailed Tropicbirds into inland Pennsylvania ....

(actually mine too!)

Pinyon Jay--- yeah yea, you get the point.. Just like the others, this species has more of a pattern of vagrancy (and is/was probably a better candidate to occur in Ontario than YNAL) .... But seriously, no one ever expects Pinyon Jay to occur... (not really)..... but it makes the Albatross record look that much more spectacular.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The next 20 additions to the Ontario List: part 1

I'm stealing someone else's ideas! Josh Vandermulen just did something very similar to this on his blog, and I liked the idea so much, I figured I'd run my own list. It's not REALLY stealing, since they're in my own personal order... Maybe we can get a few other ontario bird-crazy bloggers to run their own ideas? (Blake, Ken?)

Here's some links to Josh's postings:

20 to 11!!!

10 to 1 !!!

Anyways, just for fun, my predictions for numbers 20-11

20. Bridled Tern:

Starting things off with an oddity... This species is almost impossible to predict... Actually it's as easy as predicting when the next hurricane leftovers will strike the east coast of the USA, then move inland over Ontario.. Good Luck!

When: Post Hurricane in August or September!!! We just need a big storm!!!

19. Cory's Shearwater:

This one is probably going to be post Hurricane similar to Bridled Tern, but has the advantage of not totally relying on a Hurricane to arrive (see Ontario's record of Audubon's Shearwater)..

Where/when: most likley is an August/Sept Hurricane, but one could be randomly found dying on Lake Erie/Ontario in July (without a storm) in any year.

(from Wikipedia)

18. Williamson's Sapsucker

A big striking woodpecker comes in at #18.. Birders in Minnesota watched a bird fly straight towards Ontario, but we never found it. There's also a June record for the Fire Island Lighthouse on coastal New York!!!!

When: I'd love to see this species in the last few days of April along Lake Erie! Although NW Ontario may be better situated.

17. Calliope Hummingbird

There's a solid 10+ species of Hummingbird that could show up in Ontario as a "1st" - but a record of this species in Ohio is what convinced me to put it on the list here (+ Massachusetts). Had to pick one, right?

When: some random backyard in some random town in late Oct or November.... Hopefully the "landowners are birder friendly".

16. Bar-tailed Godwit

"Strictly a coastal species" is what the books will tell you, but I also saw photos of a bird Tom Hince found in Saskatchewan. Take that, field guides. But seriously, this is an expected species to eventually occur here.  Our leagues of Jedi-skilled birders in southern Ontario could eventually turn one up, but they'd be easier to find further north:

When: July/August on the shores of James Bay.... I figure we'd have 95% of the shorebirds seen in North America if there was steady coverage up there... Unfortunatley 99.9% of it is very remote and virtually never covered.

Link to Tom Hince's Bar-tailed Godwit find/photos

15. Redwing

Ontario has 3 records of Fieldfare, and we're just waiting for a Redwing now. I've heard that Redwings have replaced Fieldfares in Greenland, accounting for the increase in records. So how long until we get one?

When; January in central or eastern Ontario! Kingston maybe? (since i work in that area a lot??)

(from Wikipedia) - Redwing with the "old school" Fieldfare

14. Cassin's Vireo

My photo from Point Pelee. 

When: May... or very early June... in a mist net...if it's going to count on the checklist...

13. Gull-billed Tern

It's been seen within 50km of Ontario (or less)

When: August in extreme SW Ontario? Maybe if Hillman ever had low water levels? Or maybe Long Point (Breakwater or Bluff's Bar?)

12. Bronzed Cowbird

Just another species with an established pattern of vagrancy that hasn't occured in Ontario. The great lakes love catching far-flung vagrants, and I feel a cowbird in our future. There's a chance that this species was actually seen at pelee 50-60 years ago but they couldn't figure out what it was???

When: I'd like to see Pelee or Long Point in May. Maybe Thunder Cape in early June?

(From Wikipedia)

11. Pink-footed Goose

Go go gadget goose! Barnacle Goose was finally added to the ON list with a banded bird shot. Pink-footed Goose is rarer, but is very rare in captivity and a sighting in migration season would probably count on the first try. This species is increasing as a breeder in Greenland I think!

When: #1 spot - Ottawa area in April. #2 spot- Somewhere in Eastern Ontario (Toronto eastward I guess) in November... #3 spot - Slight chance is James Bay in October if anyone's looking.

(from Wikipedia)

(I once saw a Canada goose that had its upper mandible broken, and I could see it's pink tounge sticking out the top (sad) --- yet gave me that split second excitement of the PFGO bill pattern)


# 10 to 1 in the next post!!! Check back in a few days