Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fort de Soto

(D on map)

Fort De Soto! I had heard so much about it, I couldn't wait to get there! I was amazed to see that there was no entry fee into the park. After photographing birds at rookeries the past two days, I was itching to get the birds in the water and feeding. Fort De Soto did not disappoint!

I spent time on various subjects the different days I was there, but it was a great spot to get the Egrets/Herons, Royal Terns, Skimmers, Oystercatchers and other shorebirds. Osprey put on some amazing shows for me, and two Swallow-tailed Kites one day were life birds, and even allowed for some photos (which I did not expect).

Mornings at the North Beach (northern) Lagoon provided wonderful pre-dawn colours, and calm waters throughout the morning. My life Reddish Egrets put on a show here, but would rarely stay in one spot for very long. The North Beach Lagoon was great in the afternoons as well! I heard that it was really slow for Fort De Soto, and I got a feeling it would pick up considerably later into spring, but I still had a great time.

I didn't spend much time at other locations in the park, like east beach, the fishing piers, or mullet key etc. So there was probably a lot more to explore! Since it was early in my trip, I didn't want to spend too long here, as I had a lot of places left to visit.

I found that Fort De Soto was far and away the most "user-friendly" for someone like me (sleeping in my car). There were lots of clean bathrooms, warm water in the taps, no entry fee - and I was able to sneak into the campground each day and have a shower! A Walmart just outside the park was a great place to get food, and I slept there until my last night (when i was asked to leave at midnight!).

Overall it was very exciting for me. Lots of life birds or species I'd rarely seen before. I would be very excited to see how much better it can be further into migration and/or the breeding season! It still lived up to the lofty hype I had heard so much about before I visited!

Just a few pics from here:

Monday, August 29, 2011

East Coast hurricane birds

Many have been following the birds being found from Hurricane Irene recently, as it passes up the east coast (including comments from Fred Urie on the previous blogs, as some have notiecd!)

There's a great blog online now trying to follow all of the hurricane sightings:


Considering the way the wind spirals around the core of these tropical system, i'm of the mind that it's very unlikley we will see anything tropical from this storm. We experienced very strong NORTH winds on the west side of the system yesterday, which directs birds AWAY from us.. (especially tired seabirds, which would not fight the wind).. .

Seabirds are generally caught in the EYE of the storm, or blown in on the EAST/South-east side of the storm... Where powerful south to SE winds are pulling them up and inland. We need more of a track like hurricane connie to pull birds directly into Ontario.


Either way, it's still fun to hope for something. Often times with storms like these, the powerful weather on the WEST side of the storm (that we got) drops large numbers of arctic migrants like shorebirds/jaegers/arctic terns etc in places like ours. Probably why so many people reported great shorebirding around lake Ontario yesterday. The storm is just tooo big for them to fly over, and they're forced to stop early for us to see!

We'll just have to keep on hoping! TD 12 has formed off the cape verde islands. Will be at least a week before we really have a guess where it's headed:



And if you need a little extra, check out this list of hurricane birds from an inland  reservoir in Virginia (1996, early sept:) checklist:


Map of location:


Just imagine!

Still working on some James Bay stuff.. May still be a while... But i'm workin on it....

Gatorland Part 2

M on the map (actually the location of C).. I visited this spot 2+ weeks later at the end of my trip. 

I decided to make my 2nd trip to gatorland a 2nd article/note. Why? Because it was almost a different place! Since I made my visits early in the breeding season, each passing day can bring new birds into the rookery and different species starting to nest. Since my first visit, Tricoloured Herons had started nesting, more Snowy Egrets had arrived and the first Cattle Egret was searching around for nesting spots. The big difference for me (and the reason why I went back) was the spoonbills!

During my first visit, there was a few young Roseate Spoonbills that arrived at dusk, I managed a few shots, but they wern't terribly active. After reading that some adult Spoonbills had arrived (3 adults, along with a few subadults and young birds), I knew I had to go back! I hadn't had much luck with this species throughout the trip so far - and it's a very desirable species.

Around 4:30pm the 7 Spoonbills arrived and put on a good show for the photographers present. All birds were stealing sticks from nests, fighting with each other, flying around and landing on some open prominent perches. One adult male (photo below) had some beautiful yellow on his head, to go along with the stunning pink plumage.

Everytime a Spoonbill was around, photographers would take pictures of it. It was like we were moths to the flame! But I could really understand why, amazing colours to go along with the amazing adaptations make them a stunning bird to see!

The next morning I spent some time working on flight shots, and tring to get another species I was still missing - the Cattle Egret! I didn't get anything terribly good of the Egret, but I did get a few shots! Limpkin were also more active in the area, along with some Barred Owls I heard early in the morning before the gates opened. I would love to be at a Rookery for a whole season, to see the changes take place, but I don't think it will happen for a long time! It was very much worth another visit though, 2 weeks after my first, to get some different photos. In my last few minutes at Gatorland, a Swallow-tailed Kite flew over low - anything can happen in Florida!

Why I went back later:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gatorland Part 1

C on the map

My 2nd day in Florida, I decided to visit another Rookery right after the first and see how they compared. I arrived very early in the season for St. Augustine, so I wasn't sure what to expect here at Gatorland. From early on however, I was very impressed! Mike Goodwin was there to get people inside at 7:30am sharp, gave some helpful directions and let us loose on the birds! The Great Egrets were really displaying, some had eggs, and a very few already had chicks in late Feb. I figured it would be good, and I was right!

As I'd read elsewhere, getting clean shots of birds at Rookeries with so much clutter/bushes/other birds, can be tough! With the large number of birds around though I was eventually able to get the clean shots I wanted of displaying Egrets. The nesting birds were in high breeding condition, with wonderful lime green on the lores of the Great Egrets. With the birds being so very tame, it is also a great place to get creative with your photography.

In the afternoon, thousands of birds arrived at dusk to roost in the rookery. The light gave out early, behind a large cloud bank, but I was still able to get a number of flight shots and eventually worked on pan blurs as it got dark. A few young spoonbills were around and fairly active, giving good photo-ops in flight and landing.

The rookery was much larger than St. Augustine. I had also heard that Gatorland was about a month ahead on the breeding schedule - due to it being farther south. That helped on my trip, since I was pretty early. Although the Gators and Crocodiles were captive, I still really enjoyed seeing these amazing creatures up close. A free wireless internet connection inside was also great, allowing me send some photos home to my parents and girlfriend, and let them know how everything was going!

Since it was early in my trip and gatorland was fairly expensive for a single day ($30 USD), I decided to stay for the single day before moving on! I did make it back for another day near the end of my trip, but I wrote a separate article for that visit!

Pic's taken during my first visit to Gatorland:

well then.......

Apparently my attempt to post Junk automatically while I was away didn't work! ... I'll post a few now... And start working on some information from my trip to James Bay..

Nothing too crazy, although I did pick up about 11 year birds. Some noteworthy observations were:

American White Pelican
Long-tailed Jaeger
Red Crossbill
House Sparrow
Mourning Dove
Broad-winged Hawk
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Red Phalarope
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Arctic Tern (harder than you might think)
Pine Grosbeak

More info on all the days events, with lots of photos etc... sometime soon!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fw: Northern Cardinal in Moosonee

Home in about 2 weeks for emails etc!

------Original Message------
From: Holden Family
To: birdalert@ontbirds.ca
To: Email Brandon Holden
Subject: Northern Cardinal in Moosonee
Sent: 13 Aug 2011 10:37

This morning, Mark Jennings, Alan Wormington and I had a singing male
Northern Cardinal in Moosonee at the intersection of Bay Rd. And
Butcher St.

Alan states this is the 2nd record for southern James Bay.

Good Birding!

Brandon Holden

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

One for the fishes

Not much on the go today, but I did have some odd pictures to share. Jenn and I saw some unusual fish while out with family a few days ago... Rockwood C.A. near Guelph:

First up was this tiny catfish.. There were several, that were hanging out in a thick clump of weeds, and none of them seemed to be going anywhere terribly quickly. Managed a few shots: 

Admititley, I've never known too much about Fish, and haven't really tried to figure out what these guys are. Any help? 

One other unknown fish from a similar area:

Again, another small jobby that sure looks fairly distinctive. A fun pattern on the tail. Anyone know what it is? 


Not much else news to report. I've been blabbing on about the possible rarities in the mid-summer period, but   in all honesty, no matter what type of drought/breeding year/dispersal we could possibly predict, the weather has just been too darn stagnant to really get anything moving. Where's the winds? Where's the storms?! Those Little Blue Herons need something to blow themselves northwards!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

5 reasons I'm heading back to Netitishi Point

5. Common Eider
4. Bar-tailed Godwit
3. Leach's Storm-Petrel
2. Common Ringed Plover
1. Great Shearwater

Yes, it's true. Alan and I are heading back to James Bay... Rough dates of August 13-25th... But this time, we have the razor-sharp eyes of Mark Jennings as well!  Here's the maps:

Southern James Bay


Location of Netitishi Point. Note Moosonee to the west, Hannah Bay to the East, and the Ontario/Quebec Border

We are primed to find vagrants galore. Since this location has a few things going for it:

Southern end of the bay: --- During fall migration, everything going south (waterbirds and lost vagrant shearwaters) can pass right in front of us. 

Smaller mudflats: better odds of getting closer to shorebirds, and easier time keeping an eye on the water than elsewhere on James Bay (Ontario side)

Netitishi "Point" - is actually a bit of a point on the southern shore of the bay. If we get some south winds, we expect to see movements of birds along the shore and grouping up at our "point" 

Island of big trees: -- lots of small tree's to the south, but the elevated beach ridges with large trees should act as a magnet for passerines that don't totally enjoy the soggy stunted spruce south of us. 

Sandy/Rocky flats: the flats here are easier to walk on, and I truly expect to find some unique shorebird species that take advantage of the sandbars off Netitishi (eg./ we saw a LOT of Sanderling in November here... More than they're seeing now at other locations on the bay). 


I also have high hopes of trying to do more serious photography while up there. Hopefully I'll have lots of photos to post when I get back! 

(looking for the other one up there)

(will want to improve on my shorebird photos up there!) 

Hopefully see some of these guys up there as well! 

By the time I get back, I actually think I can have my highest "year list" in Ontario ever... Not that I ever try to hit a high number (I'm still missing Sora)... But it's fun to keep track. But it DOES seem odd that I could break last years 286 by the end of August. How can I bird for 10+ years in Ontario, and suddenly see so many more birds? 


While I'm away, I've set up the blog to auto-post some old stuff from Florida (just to get it back online)... and to keep things running. I'll try and post the highlights from the trip as soon as I get back!

Of course, we'll try and figure out the seal situation again!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

birds so close, birds so far: Part 2

Continuing the series, here's the list of birds that Michigan has on its state checklist, that are NOT currently on the Ontario list:

Lesser Frigatebird
Reddish Egret
Short-tailed Hawk
Glaucois-winged Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Roseate Tern
White-throated Swift
White-eared Hummingbird
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Hammond’s Flycatcher
Couch’s Kingbird
White Wagtail

No extinct species, leaving us with 12 (to Ohio's 13)... Lets break it down:

Mega insanity rarities that will be tough to replicate:

Lesser Frigatebird (so rare it hurts, considering it was so close to Ontario as well)
Short-tailed Hawk (I guess it's possible, but this is MEGA rare.. A Nov record from Whitefish Point)
Roseate Tern (possible in Ontario, but I dislike these "sight records" from the Great Lakes... Someone MUST photograph one in Ontario to be accepted!)
White-eared Hummingbird (not gonna happen)
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (see comments for White-eared Hummingbird)

Possible (to overdue) species for Ontairo: 

Reddish Egret (look familiar?)
Glaucous-winged Gull (so overdue, it hurts my gull-watching spirit)
Gull-billed Tern
White-throated Swift (ooold record)
Hammond's Flycatcher
Couch's Kingbird (less likely than the others)

The rest:

White Wagtail - Michigan has a remarkable 3 records, which would make you think it could occur in Ontario (including 1 5km from Ontario) - yet these are virtually the only freakin records for eastern North America... It's possible, but would be really crazy!

hmm.. I sense a theme here

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Today's birding! (or was it yesterday)?

Aug 4, 2011 Birding (there we go)

Started at Tilbury:

Noteworthy is at least 1 Long-billed Dowitcher, 1 probable Long-billed Dowitcher, and 1 possible Short-billed Dowitcher... I've never enjoyed fall (adult) Dowitchers... Well that's not true, I like Short-billeds... i've just never enjoyed the thrill of hunting for LBDO's at this time of year.

Was still nice though:

Mega Long bill, rich colour, blackish back and gave the right calls. 1 of 2 (the other one didn't call, but i'm fairly sure). 

Also had 4 Green Herons and 5 Black-crowned Night-Herons here (alongside the egrets and great blues) 


Checked Wheatley Harbour, Hillman Marsh, Seacliffe beach and Point Pelee to little success in the rarity department. 

The strangest observation was a Goose near Wheatley, that (i thought) was feeding from a garbage bag..... 

Until I got closer... When I noticed it was attacking cars that drove past!!! Seemed to be trying to defend the garbage bags!!! Was a very odd sight. Don't believe me? Check for yourself!

You'll notice that there is also some sort of domestic Mallard like thing in the driveway.... I really have no idea what is going on there... The video is pretty short, but as I drove past, the goose actually ran behind the car with it's wings out!! (until I was officially chased away)... What an odd goose


Anyways. Birding. 

I didn't have much else of note. hmm... I then went to Cedar Beach, where I was really shocked to see the tiny beach loaded to the brim with Ring-billed Gulls (and other gull/tern friends):

(click for full size)

Lots of baby Bonaparte's around... There were at least 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the flock, all starting to molt into 2nd basic plumage. 

(1 of 3 seen)


I rounded out the day checking Holiday Beach and area, and even moved (inland) up to the Canard River, where I saw nothing of note.  I swear I looked at over 100 Herons today, including numerous G egrets and Night-Herons... Yet nothing unusual! We MUST annex this Pte Mouillee place

Little birding

Ken Burrell and I checked out Mitchell and Grand Bend Sewage Lagoons yesterday (or 2 days ago?).. And didn't see a whole lot at either one.... I think we are in a slump between adult and juvenile migration (lots of Juvenile yellowlegs and least sandpipers were seen).

Our highlight was 2 Juv. Wilson's Phalaropes @ Grand Bend. I tried to take a video of them...

I know the video isn't great, but it was taken at like 95x zoom (yes, 95).. 35 of which is optical, the rest digital. Just trying it out for when I find a really rare bird in the future. I kind of enjoy "documentation quality" video. 

Ken posted more about our visit on his blog here (and more info on the species we saw)


Yesterday (the actual yesterday) I had some work in eastern Ontario. I checked Presquile around 9am very quickly... Mainly due to the fact there were NO SHOREBIRDS on the beach. I actually walked the marsh trail twice and heard no rails/bitterns either... Kinda slow?

I then did the KFN property on Amherst. Had 1 Pectoral, 1 Least and 2 American Bitterns in the main lagoon, and was too lazy to continue further to the sandbar. It was pretty slow.

I did see an Upland Sandpiper on Amherst, which was nice. Won't see too many (any) more of those awesome birds...


Doing more birding "today", which I may post about "tomorrow"... Since the above news is pretty dull, here's another fun video I took recently. Nothing of note really, just some fun watching birds.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ebird observation?

I just noticed an ebird alert for New York for WOOD STORKS (4)

Here's a map:


Now it doesn't seem to be on any listserv at the time of writing (it just showed up on ebird itself)... But with the huge drought in Texas (and somewhat in florida etc)... Maybe Wood Stork should have been on the radar all along? The species is known to make massive flights to find feeding places when their home range dries up...

This could either be the vanguard to a movement of this species, or just a mistake in the ebird reporting process?

But I'm tired, it's late, and the post I put online today was just gulls, so I decided to do a little extra. If I learn anything new, I'll update!

Gull pages

A quick update on some recent additions to my "picasa ID galleries" - chocked full of photos, for some of the more difficult birds to ID here in Ontario!

Here's a direct link:


But there is also a perma-link on the "link section" on the far right...


So here's what's new! :


clearly a crazy year for summering birds in Ontario.. All pics from Jul 20-23ish:

1st alt from Port Dover:

1st Alt from Van Wagners:

1st alt from Port Burwell (normal/dark):

Big funny lookin brute from Port Burwell.. I couldn't say for sure that this bird isn't a hybrid, but I'll call it a LBBG just for the heck of it:

(a very big brute of a LBBG)

I also made the executive decision to add a new section for LITTLE GULLS:
(these are the first pictures in the gallery, but i'll add more eventually)

All from Port Burwell in the same time frame:

migrant adult 1

summering 1st alt: 

Migrant adult #2

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August birding forecast?

Here's a quick look at the first 20/25 days of August..... In my humble and somewhat odd opinion

August shorebirding should pick up, with more rare and uncommon things to find (and more diversity).. Although the OBRC records show that mega-crazy vagrants (like stints, redshanks etc) are clearly lacking for the first ~20 days of this month. Not that it couldn't happen still at anytime, but it's just what the patterns currently show. At the very least, you'll have more fun with the higher diversity. 

James Bay could still turn up just about any shorebird species, if you're up there!


As August gets rolling, banding stations have turned up some really rare passerines in August... I'm not sure if it's because most of us aren't looking? Or they're too hard to find without nets?? But lets look at two sites quickly:

Thunder Cape: has August records of Townsend's Warbler, Common Ground Dove and Virginia's Warbler.

Long Point (Tip) has August records of Cassin's Sparrow and Cassin's Finch

Obviously not a lot, but those are some mega-rare passerines! Just something to keep in the back of your mind... A few passerine species move out in huge numbers by mid August (eg, Yellow Warbler, Baltimore Oriole) - Long before most people notice passerines are moving at all!


And hopefully the southern dispersal of waterbirds is a good one this year. Little Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets have been recorded in good numbers on/around Lake Erie already this summer... Now hopefully some cross into Ontario. Just about any southern Heron is possible!

(one of the easier birds I still need for ON)


The last week of August seems to be when things really start happening with full-blown migration. Hawkwatches, Lakewatches (Jaegers!) and an obvious increase in mega-rare birds on just about every front. 

It usually really starts to switch over (in the Great Lakes region) in the August 23-25th time frame... so I'll ignore it for now!! It's a totally different beast. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Birds so close, birds so far: Part 1

Here's a fun list... Birds on the Ohio checklist that are NOT on the Ontario list.. This was inspired by a post on the Ohio listerv from Bill Whan, who had just done his own personal update of the Ohio checklist. :

        Sitta pusilla                     Brown-headed Nuthatch
        Campephilus principalis     Ivory-billed Woodpecker
        Picoides borealis              Red-cockaded Woodpecker
        Sphyrapicus nuchalis         Red-naped Sapsucker
        Selasphorus sasin            Allen's Hummingbird
        Stellula calliope               Calliope Hummingbird
        Aeronautes saxatalis        White-throated Swift
        Crotophaga ani                Smooth-billed Ani
       Conuropsis carolinensis      Carolina Parakeet
        Phaetusa simplex             Large-billed Tern
        Scolopax rusticola            Eurasian Woodcock
        Calidris ruficollis              Red-necked Stint
          Vanellus vanellus           Northern Lapwing  
          Parabuteo unicinctus      Harris's Hawk
           Egretta rufescens          Reddish Egret 

15 species total. 2 are extinct (13 left).....

Of the list, there are 5 that I think would be VERY unlikely to occur, or prove, in Ontario.. Those are:

 Harris's Hawk (captive origins would be questioned)
Eurasian Woodcock (hasn't even been recorded in Newfoundland for a LONG time)
Smooth-billed Ani (numbers declining in Florida)
Red-cockaded Woodpecker 
and potentially Brown-headed Nuthatch, which is a very poor flyer, although may be the best on this list of 5 to occur......

Of the last 8, 6 are pretty good candidates (or downright overdue) for Ontario:

Reddish Egret
Red-necked Stint
White-throated Swift
Calliope Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Red-naped Sapsucker (banders required for this and the Allen's)

The last two species, Northern Lapwing and Large-billed Tern are certainly possible, but would be VERY rare birds indeed... 

imagine seeing this thing in Ontario 


Plus a feature that has been lacking recently.. Here's some rare bird photos, not taken by me!:

Gray-hooded Gull in NY:

and more here: http://www.shorebirder.com/2011/07/gray-hooded-gull-coney-island-ny.html

Little Blue Herons in PA: 

fresh Juv's !!! This is what I would like to see in Ontario this summer/fall!

Newfoundland's 3rd Pacific Golden Plover


Pic by Jared Clakre (from surfbirds).


There have been a few White Ibis moving up the east coast recently, but nothing I'm getting too excited about (yet)... The post-breeding dispersal of young Herons seems to be just starting, which will hopefully increase our odds of getting some in Ontario!

Shorebirding has been pretty dull so far in Ontario this fall (at least south of James Bay).. Thunderstorms really help ground rapid-migrant adults, and we barely had any rain...... Things will keep picking up in August though!