Saturday, April 30, 2011

April is pretty much done

One last Summer Tanager to round out the month:

Thankfully I had the camera ready this time, rather than the last one (which vanished). Nice bird eh?

We have high hopes for tomorrows birding. You honestly never know in migration, but it is a warm front. 

To finish up, Ken's continued Pelee Island postings... I feel like he should be getting more credit for this blog than me, but it's good filler while I try to stay awake before crashing each evening. 


Hey Birders,
Another pretty good day, considering its the last day of April! Close to 120 species were seen on the island.
Some of the highlights...
Summer Tanager - 1 adult male, giving 'cracking' looks! ~200m. south of the East-West Road on Stone Road, picking up worms from the road!
White-eyed Vireo - 1 bird at the Winery
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 3 different birds; 2 first-year birds at Fish Point and 1 second year bird near Dick's Marina
Northern Mockingbird - 2 different birds
Black Scoter - 1 female at Fish Point - same bird as yesterday
Other interesting birds around, included; Red-headed Woodpecker, Orchard Oriole, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Blue-winged Warbler.
Good Birding!
Ken Burrell (and Brandon Holden & Mike Burrell)


Wind at lighthouse point (strong SE) and Mike Burrell. Here's hoping for tomorrow! Similar conditions to the fallout last tuesday? Time will tell!

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

Friday, April 29, 2011

getting more and more tired

It's amazing how birding all day for multiple days (early to dusk) can make you exhausted. It's not even 10pm and I'm having a tough time keeping my eyes open!

A quick post of the days highlights from Ken Burrell....

Things are looking ok tonight (Saturday) and possibly pretty good for Sunday... You honestly never know in spring though!


Hey Birders,
Another pretty good day. Brandon and I birded throughout the island and had about 115 species.

Here are our highlights:

Cerulean Warbler - 1 male at Middle Point and another male at Fish Point - brings the total to 4 individuals seen this year, so far!!

Sanderling - 1 bird at Fish Point
White-winged Scoter - 2 birds at Fish Point
Black Scoter - 1 female at Fish Point
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 3 year bird (pre-alternate?) seen at Fish Point
Yellow-throated Vireo - 1 bird at Middle Point
Northern Mockingbird - 3 individuals - all at different locations, seems to be pretty common this year on the island

Other interesting species seen included; Pied-billed Grebe, Merlin, 2 Blue-winged Warblers, (2) Red-headed Woodpeckers, several Indigo Buntings etc.

Good Birding,Ken Burrell (and Brandon Holden)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

pelee Island

Ken's post once again sums up the rarity action on Pelee Island... Summer Tanager (gripping adult male), and an adult Laughing Gull made for a pretty spectacular day, not to mention the crazy stuff yesterday:

Point huh?


Ken's post:

Hey Birders,
Another great day! The wind was the main story, being incredibly strong. Brandon Holden and I birded the island today and found some good stuff. 
Some of the highlights are listed below...

Laughing Gull - 1 adult in a field at the NW end of the island, just south of the Anchor and Wheel Restaurant
Summer Tanager - 1 adult male at Lighthouse Point - this bird was associating with an adult male Scarlet on the beach!!
Nelson's Gull - 1 first-basic/alternate, north of Fish Point
Yellow-throated Vireo - 1 at Middle Point
Northern Mockingbird - 1 at both Laughing Gull spot and Stone Road Alvar
White-winged Scoter - 4 flew by Fish Point - this is suprisingly a very rare bird on the island
Wilson's Phalarope - 1 female in a flooded field on Centre Dyke - same bird as yesterday
American Golden-Plover - 34 with the Phalarope, most likely the same flock seen last night
Other interesting migrants seen included; Swainson's Thrush, Red-headed Woodpecker (4), Orange-crowned, Blue-winged and Blackburnian Warblers.


Of course the Summer Tanager had to leave before the cameras arrived, but I was happy with the Scarlet photos I got.. This is an early favourite: full frame too!

Time for bed!

visions of pelee island today

Scarlet Tanager. Bittersweet after the adult male Summer Tanager it was with, vanished at the sight of our lenses appearing. 

Swainson's T



Adult Laughing Gull flying away at the sight of my lense... At least we photographed one of our rarities so far... 

Not bad for having the camera out today for about an hour!!!!!!!! These are the "record" shots.. I actually got a few high quality shots of the Tanager as well.  Both Ken and I ended the day with 201 species for Ontario (so far this year)!


Vicious winds at fish point!!! Another cyclonic low pressure system to blow in more rare birds!

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pelee Island: All that is bird

Apr 27 update: Arrive at Pelee Island, find crazy rare birds. 

I can't really say much, other than Pelee Island was loaded with birds, including handfulls of rarities and new birds of the year... After 2 hours of sleep last night, I'm barely keeping my eyes open now... So thankfully I'll let Ken's ontbirds post tell the story... The "big 3" rarities of the day were all in amazing circumstances and spectacular views:

Hey Birders,

Well today was well, pretty much awesome!! Maybe not as high of numbers like yesterday, diversity was definitely still VERY interesting. Brandon Holden met me on the island at 11:30am and we blitzed the island until dusk. Again over 110 species were seen on the island - not too bad for April. 17 species of warblers.

I've listed the highlights below...

Glossy Ibis - 1 seen flying south at Sheridan's Point at 2:50pm - seemed to be actively migrating along shore and having trouble with the wind! Great looks!
Eared Grebe - 1 alternate bird just off shore at Lighthouse Point
Yellow-throated Warbler - 1 male seen and heard at 'the bowl' at Lighthouse Point - this bird gave 'face-melting' looks at point blank range for over 5 minutes!

Cerulean Warbler - 1 male at Middle Point - different bird from yesterday
White-eyed Vireo - 1 at Middle Point
Yellow-throated Vireo - 3 separate birds at the north end of the island
Lesser Black-backed Gull - 1 first-basic/alternate on Henderson Road
Wilson's Phalarope - 1 female seen off of Centre Dyke Road
American Golden-Plover - 34 in a flooded field on Ruggles Run Road

Acadian Flycatcher - Graeme Gibson had 1 bird at Fish Point this am, seen very well - same bird as yesterday???

Other interesting birds seen included: N. Parula, Orange-crowned, Blue-winged, Cape May and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Red-eyed and Warbling Vireo's.

Addendum to yesterday: Dean Ware had a singing Prothonotary Warbler at Fish Point.

Directions: Please email me privately, thanks.

Good Birding,
Ken Burrell (and Brandon Holden)


It's the most wonderful time of the year

2.5 hours of Pelee tip goodness

Woke up at 550am on what felt like little to no sleep!

The road out and the tip itself was very birdy, but apparently slower than yesterday. Some birds I dug up:

Hooded Warb
Grasshopper Sparrow
Red-headed Woodpecker
Baltimore Oriole
Blue-headed Vireo

I had a pectoral sandpiper and a Yellowlegs sp. fly over the tip area in the rain, so I'm thinking this afternoon/evening could be good for shorebirds. The forecast calls for 50-70kmh S winds, which could be good for Marbled Godwits, Avocets and Willets later today!

Currently drying off after the thunderstorms as I wait for the Pelee Island ferry! (10am) hopefully the rest will pass while I'm on the boat.

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oh Pelee

Here it is, 210am.. I just drove from guelph to sleep here. (I always do much better driving late than waking up early). The wind is fairly strong from the south and its 15C.. Overshoot weather if I ever saw it! I may have just smelled a Blue Grosbeak flying over, but I probably won't count it.

The plan is an early visit to the tip for 2 hours, then to the Leamington ferry dock to Pelee Island!! I'm going to go crazy for the 3 hours of lost time, but hopefully it will all be worth it.

Going to meet up with Ken Burrell who's there for most of the month doing masters work! We are going to do our best to cause some panic amongst the land based pelee web-o-twitchers... Just joking.. ;) sort of

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

Autobots, transform

The blog is undergoing a transformation, where I will try to pots mini-updates of the spring migration on Lake Erie (from my phone), rather than try and do real blog postings without any time, sleep or internet to help me.

I hope regular followers of the blog can deal with a rash of these mini-postings for a while! Things will get back to normal later in May.

So yeah! It's Pelee time...

After today's posts about a massive wave of new migrants in Ontario and Ohio, things still look quite superb for Wendesday, and rarities will be turned up over the next 3-4 days! (as they're "found"). That's where i'll be! The rarities seem to frequently turn up a day or two after the "fallout" sort of days...

To set the tone, here's some pictorial rarity highlights from nearby:

Eared Grebes in Illinois:

Rondeau Yellow-throated Warbler:

Eurasian Collared Dove in PA:

Blue Grosbeak in OH:

White-faced Ibis in Massachusetts:

Cinnamon Teal in Michigan:

The long-staying Wagtail in Michigan (we need more west winds!):

Townsend Solitare and Rondeau:

Multiple ohio rarities:

Other non-photo rarity highlights:

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in Illinois (7) and Wisconsin (1)
Swallow-tailed Kite in southern Ohio
Tricoloured Heron, Snowy/Cattle Egrets, Black-necked Stilt, Yellow-headed Blackbird (and more!) on the south side of Lake Erie.

Not to mention the rash of rarities in Ontario *cough* Neotropic Cormorant, Eared Grebe, Eurasian Wigeon, Cattle/Snowy Egrets, Willets, Avocets, Marbled Godwits, Yellow-throated Warblers, Townsend Solitaire, Black Vultures.


To quote a song:

"It's the happiest season of them all"

Andy William's - you may not have known he was a birder, and that they remixed his "spring at pelee" song to a Christmas song in order to make some fast cash.

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Monday, April 25, 2011

Finder's Account of the Neotropic Cormorant!

A finder's account like you've never seen before:

So there I am, checking out Wheatley Harbour, when I remember a recent topic of conversation I had with Ken Burrell:

Ken: " I've never seen anything rare at Wheatley Harbour"

Me: "You didn't see the Slaty-backed Gull / Ivory Gull / Neotropic Corm here a few years ago"

Ken: "no"

Me: "no, neither did I" 


And guess what? The harbour had virtually nothing. Driving out, I did a quick scan of Muddy Creek from the moving car. There's a Cormorant there that looks small, but it's probably an optical illusion. I'll do what I do best: Take a picture and then ID the bird:

It probably looks small because it's low on the branch compared to the other birds. Cr@p, it looks pretty wierd in the photo. Is that white on the face? Maybe I should actually set my camera properly and get a good photo:

Ok yeah that's a Neotropic Cormorant. woo! (insert usual rare-bird finding excitement here). I set to telling my lovely girlfriend, my parents and then the birding world about the presence of the bird. 

Cr@p! They all just freaked out and jumped in the water!

Well, I guess it's good that I got a swimming photo too, but where is it going? Am I going to be the only person who see's this bird? (Always more fun when it hangs around).  Hey wait, it's actually pretty close to the road up there, I should drive up and take a photo:

^$^#!!! I didn't think the car would scare the birds!!!!! It's flying!!! $%^#~!!! I know there are people coming to see this bird!!!!!!!! Idiot

Oh thank god, they're all moving back to the first branch. Hey look, the Neo-corm is fighting with the others for a resting space. 

This is great... But man do I have to go to the bathroom. I bet if I drive up behind that big evergreen tree, I can go to the bathroom before anyone else arrives, and the cormorant won't be able to see me there. 

JESUS!!!! I just scared them all again.... They're swimming away! I knew I shouldn't have done this. I better leave before I totally ruin this.........

So yeah, there you go.. An excuse to post some more photos, and tell I story I would never have admitted to if the bird wasn't hanging around for all to see!

old stuff

Editors note: I wrote this a few days ago, but given all the rarities and birding news, I figured I'd just post it now and move onto bigger and better things tomorrow. ! Including my photo collection of the Cormorant and rarity news.

So yeah, stuff from last week:


Learn how to ID birds better:


It's that time of year again where I start looking at crows more closely. I know many a birder who has Fish Crow on their Ontario list, but I'm not one.

Ever since a groundbreaking ID feature was identified for American vs. Fish Crow, I've been trying to photograph as many as possible, to try and use the finger-feather formula to make an ID:

The skinny:

The length of the 5th and 6th primaries (compared to each other) is dramatically different between the two species!

Amazing stuff! Feel free to give it a try on this crow recently photographed in Ontario:

ha... It's actually more than just a bad joke. Most "late migrant" crows i've photographed around Pelee and elsewhere in April and May have TERRIBLE looking flight feathers. They must be year old birds (retained Juvenile feathers) and in desperate need of molt!


Rarity News:   I'm getting remarkably good at finding Swan Geese in Ontario:

Are there really more Swan Geese in Ontario today than 2 years ago? Or have I just finally learned how to "pick them out" from the masses?


Odd American Black Duck x Mallard Hybrid.... Just a record shot of a bird a few days ago that had a strange head pattern (green all the way around the head, but a brown circle in the centre). 


Bad weather grounds migrants! This Great Egret was looking out of place in a farmers field during some of the terrible cold weather we've been experiencing over the last few days. 


I had to do something with these bad photos that I took! ;)

Better Neotropic Cormorant photo

Arrived home asleep last night, and am now off to work. Better photos of this bird tonight!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Neo Corm Photo try 2!
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Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Odds and Sodds

Well I've made a last minute decision to head to Bright's Grove (near Sarnia) rather than Pelee... Why? In search of hawks! Hopefully I'll have lots to report from there!

For now, Some Odd's and Sods:

One of my favourite songs - by the Odds

Spending lots of time out in the field usually results in a number of odd and moderately exciting sightings:

(I need to do something with these terrible photos)

Adult Little Gull in breeding garb. One of the most stunning birds in the world, in my opinion (a better photo would do it justice) but who else has a LIGU and a turbine blade in the same photo?

Short-eared Owl totally ignoring some turbines... All this extra wind we're making is really going to help blow in more exciting rarities than ever before. 

Broad-winged Hawk from one of those nice days in April we've had. I wonder if the birds are as annoyed with the weather as us. When do they migrate?

One of 4 Coyotes that I saw on my "big coyote day". 

Female Pileated Woodpecker nesting in a telephone pole.. I wonder what the hydro guys think of this!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bohemian Waxwings are still here... No time for Warblers

Blake Mann did a pretty good job of summing up the spring warbler migration so far:

But seriously, while out bir-work-ding yesterday we had 50ish Bohemian Waxwings just north of Lake Ontario. Last Saturday I had 80 fly over the 401 near Coburg. Earlier sightings in Guelph of 100+ birds.... Normally Bohemain's make their "Return flight" from the east in early April.... Yet now I'm seeing 50+ on APRIL 21ST!!!! How long are they going to stick around?

Part of the flock yesterday. Baaahhd picture 

Come to think of it, Kyle Horner did a pretty good job of summing up the spring so far as well: 


A bit of off-topic news, but I've added two new Cackling Goose photos (birds from last week) to my Cackling Goose file on picasa

I've probably seen at least 30 Cacklers this spring! (After 25 at Townsend) -- I sure wish I had my camera that evening.


Still seriously considering going to Pelee for Saturday and Sunday...

My head tells me the weather doesn't really look THAT good, and I would probably save some time and gas by waiting another 4+ days before heading down there...

My hear tells me I can't wait any longer! And with rarities in Ohio (Eurasian Collared Dove, Black-necked Stilt, Snowy Egret etc), there could very easily be some awesome birds around Pelee. You won't find anything unless you're out looking!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mini-photo shoots continue!

Ever since phase 2 of the revolution (I'm not sure if that's the right phase, but I'm guessing no one else does either), where I decided to pull back on the focal length (not using teleconverters as often = better focus/sharpness but 40% less reach), I've had birds landing in my lap.

Newest candidate on the block is this Wilson's Snipe. Somewhat lacking in decent photos a year ago, I've had a few chances since then; and suddenly have a respectable collection. I literately pulled the car right up to this bird and started shooting, without a glance my way. He was busy calling and displaying, and let me grab about 30 shots before flying off.

So what's the deal? Why am I getting these birds closer than ever? The above image is 15980544 pixels of full-frame goodness. Soon to be properly added to the collection, it's nothing "new" really (I have photos of snipe on posts, and one of a snipe calling on the ground) but the sharpness, perch, background etc. are probably all better than anything before... And it's always nice to have some sort of action (eg,/ calling)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Super secret sorta-rarity --- it's all downhill (uphill!!!) from here

Finally got in on some of this spring rarity action. I can't tell you where, on penalty of something... But I think I'm allowed to share a few pictures. Sort of an odd sight on a sandy beach. 

I know I blab about the weather a lot, but I'm continuing to watch the weather for the weekend. These constant (la nina) storms should do something, and if the temps go to 15-20 degrees on the weekend at Pelee, I may just have to make the trip down. 

Internet is sketchy at best right now, so this will be another short post! Plus i'm pretty tired from workin (if you can believe it) 

Short-eared Owl mini photo-shoot

Had a pretty awesome chance yesterday evening to fire off 15 photos of a cooperative SEOW before heading to a work site. The best:

--- It's not that often that I have good chances with this species...

Time and internet are proving to be a bit more difficult this week, but i'll do my darndest.


Not much time for bird news. It's that time of year where everyday outside can produce new species. This morning it was two beautiful Upland Sandpipers at dawn for me. Freshly arrived from Argentina, calling as they flew down from their nocturnal migration, landing in the field right beside me. Awesome stuff!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

oooohhhh boy

Need I say more!? The rarities continue to build:

Audubon's Warbler in MI:

Loggerhead Shrike in OH:

Loggerhead Shrike a few days ago at the Tip of Pelee! (Plus recent Eared Grebe)

Bullocks Oriole in Ohio! :

American White Pelicans just about everywhere, including Mountsberg (between Guelph/Hamilton) and another at Cootes Paradies in Hamilton, and then a third in Brantford (Still)!.

Snowy Egret near Buffalo!

White-winged Dove in IL:

Roseate Spoonbill!! (ok, in Missouri).. but what a neat bird:


This weather forecast (Starting today: Friday) is getting kinda nutty. Check out this forecast for leamington:

And check out that surface map (48 hour forecast from thursday):

What is that thing, a Hurricane? 

I know we are probably a week early on when things can really start to happen, but storms like this are hard to ignore (especially when you're only a week away from when things usually really start to happen). It's going to be very interesting to see what sort of impact this storm (and forecasted storms soon afterwards) are going to have on migration and vagrant birds recorded.


It's also starting to be that time of year where I will throw out occasional reminders about Vortex optics! 

Since I will start seeing high numbers of people again soon, I figured I should continue to extend the offer of Vortex optics (mainly the Vortex Razor spotting scope, pictured above) knowledge and hands-on information for anyone curious. Vortex is kind enough to let me use one of these incredible pieces of glass, and I spread the word about why its easily one of the best scopes ever built and sold. 

So yeah... When you see me at Pelee or elsewhere this spring. Come up and give the vortex scope a try, and I'll do my best to answer any questions you have about it or other vortex stuff... It's actually a pretty easy sell on my part, and I think you'll be impressed. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rough-legged Hawk photo-shoot

I'm working away for the week, but found a rather cooperative Rough-legged Hawk a few days ago and spent some time observing and photographing it. The light wasn't really all that great, so I can't really decide how much I like these photos. Sometimes I think I just end up enjoying watching the birds, and therefore enjoy the photos, even if they aren't all that great.

There was some pretty interesting behaviours I noticed on this bird (catching voles on the ground), which I will maybe have to share in a future blog posting. For now, just the photos:

Weather is looking pretty stormy/crazy over the next week. Storms and wind can't be considered a bad thing when hoping for migrants and rare birds to arrive, but I guess we'll have to wait and see what  happens. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

B-side Warblers

Winding down on my hunt for b-sides and rarities. Females and semi-ok photos pulled from the archives:

Black-and-White Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Magnolia Warbler

Nashville Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler

Northern Parula - 3   ---   some decent images discovered in those files!
Prothonotary Warbler
Palm Warbler

Yellow Warbler - 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)

Left on the b-side hunt is Shorebirds... Then sort/edit some stuff from Newfoundland... Then! (and only then) I may be in a reasonably happy place with the state of the website/photos etc. !