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