Friday, November 30, 2012

New Condo!!! Day by day breakdown!!!!

I have a condo, and I'm happy...  How happy? I made a page about my “patch” for my website, a month before I had even seen the place I ended up buying (I just knew I wanted this building, with a view of the lake) ... Check it out! :

 I'll try to update it when I can... Here’s a breakdown of each day thus far... 

My view ! 

Nov 23 – got the place! It was still a bit light, but I decided to avoid the windows and get my first birds in the morning of the 24th... The weather forecast was calling for post-cold-front NW winds, which I thought would be perfect for a waterbird flight! 

24th – Set up my scope pointing at the horizion and just started looking! I may have seen a gull sp zip past a window, but I didn’t count it... First birds I saw were Long-tailed Ducks! Species #1 !!! Not surprising considering there are bazillions of them in view at all times...

Next 4 were White-winged Scoter, Ring-billed Gull, House Sparrow and Herring Gull... Was happy to get some gulls early ;)

I picked up more regular ducks, and some Bonaparte’s Gulls (only ones I’ve seen in the first week) – which was cool... I started looking around on the water and spotted a first winter male KING EIDER!!! Species number 12 on the “condo list”... Boom... Not totally surprising considering there had been one reported here for days, but still awesome.. (it may have actually been a “new” bird, keep reading to the next day)

After a bit more fun, I couldn’t really stand around much longer (I had waited 6 months for a condo, and even the birds couldn’t hold me down)... This whole time I was out on the balcony, so I started moving inside.. That’s when I discovered something remarkable ---- my windows are clear and clean, and I could see all the same birds inside where it’s warm! With no wind! I haven’t birded on the balcony since...

After poking around inside for a bit, I picked up some Cormorants and puddle ducks (NOPI, GADW etc) and got another cool bird in the form of 2 Red-throated Loons...

I spent the rest of the day only casually looking while I started cleaning the place, but I did manage a few Black Scoters in the afternoon to give me the trio on day 1... Not a bad start! 

Nov 25th --- watch was delayed by several hours (ok, the whole morning) – cause I went out and got hammered the night before... Only new waterbirds from the condo were a flock of Hooded Mergansers I picked out among the Long-tailed Ducks... Also picked up a few “patch” birds driving to get stuff to put into my empty place (Incl Great Blue Heron) ... The real highlight came in the form of a SECOND King Eider! I think this may have been the bird that was around “all along” – because it looks just like a typical 1st winter male... The one the previous day was very brown with only a bit of colour in the bill... Again, not a surprise, given that two were reported here the previous day – but it was pretty cool .... And maybe I can claim my first rarity at my place as self found ;)

Nov 26th – Moving day! Only “patch birds” were the stuff I saw driving (Sharp-shinned Hawk)... My Dad and I had a BARN SWALLOW that's been hanging out around the Burlington Water Treatment place while driving down the road.. Pretty cool :) – and now I had all of my stuff piled up in my place! (actually in piles)..

Nov 27th – After this day, I was getting pretty positive that this condo was a good idea. Got my first Redhead flying past with a group of G Scaup.. I then had my first in-condo raptor in the form of a Red-tailed Hawk! I then walked to a different room, where I could still see it soaring around close to the building... But WAIT! That’s not a Red-tail! It’s a Peregrine Falcon !!!

I zipped back to my binoculars and discovered that two adult Peregrine Falcons and the Red-tailed Hawk were all soaring around my building, riding the updrafts (sometimes no more than 50-70 feet from my window).. Boom! I actually took a photo with my point and shoot of a Peregrine... Man that’s nice.

Does it get any better? Well no, Peregrine’s are the best... But we tried hard when I picked out a mega-flock of EVENING GROSBEAKS flying west , up high (just above eye level at 16 stories up)... I guessed about 80 birds! Sa-weeet!

Nov 28th - I watched for a bit, but no new birds.. Had 2 Red-tails, including a very very darkly marked “northern/arctic” juvenile that came close – but no pics.. Also had a Crow sp (ok, just a crow) “migrating” along the lakeshore up high and going west.. Was odd.

Nov 29th – another day with some time to watch! (didn’t work this week) ... Some more Hooded Mergs... 5 Double-crested Cormorants (getting late boys, groups of 2, 1, 2) and a NEW patch bird! Mute Swan baby! (who knew MUSW could be exciting) .. Two swam past on the lake.. Now that I can count them, I hope they get stuck in some ice and get eaten by a Golden Eagle..

Nov 30th – spent 8am – 11am ish at Van Wagner’s doing a watch (not in the patch).. By the time I got back around 1130 (in 30-40kmh E winds), I managed a few cool birds. They included my first Common Loons !!! for the patch, along with a Red-throated. Lots of Hooded Mergs, Mallards and American Black Ducks on the move, presumably getting frozen out of the north! Also a surprising number of Great Black-backed Gulls on the move...

AAAnnnnyyywaaayysss ... I’m sure “condo birding” updates will become more regular on the blog! Although I also don’t have any decent internet here, so blog posts may become more sporadic... We’ll see... My ability to respond to emails certainly can’t get any slower...

East winds today!

As of 7pm on Nov 29 ---

Strong wind warning in effect.
Wind west 20 knots diminishing to north 15 this evening then increasing to east 20 before morning. Wind increasing to east 25 near noon Friday.

Waves one and one half metres building to 2 early Friday morning


Be cautious of lake effect snow making the drive bad! (If you decide to go out)...

Could be interesting! Or could be freezing cold with no birds... But we won't know unless someone looks...


Keep an eye on the weather:



Current lift bridge conditions:



Some of the craziest photos you will ever see in your life... Goshawk catches Coopers Hawk in NJ:

(scroll for 4 photos) 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lake Superior Lakewatch

This was way back in the 3rd week of September... I wrote it, but never got around to posting it... Might as well get it out of the way...


I was rained out one day up on Lake Suprieror, which gave me a chance to do a lakewatch on vicious south winds (50-60kmh?) ... And it was actually a lot of fun.

The birding is different, with no "locals" in view, so every bird you see is actively migrating southwards and is not seen again. Here's my ebird list:

Cackling Goose 24 --- Pure flocks of 21 and 3 birds! Very cool. Richardsons
Canada Goose 1
Gadwall 1
American Wigeon 45
American Black Duck 1
Mallard 14
Blue-winged Teal 13
Northern Shoveler 1
Northern Pintail 1
Green-winged Teal 1
Redhead 1
White-winged Scoter 3
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Common Loon 3
Red-necked Grebe 2
Turkey Vulture 5
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Bald Eagle 15
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Common Tern 1
Merlin 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
American Crow X
Common Raven X
Horned Lark 7
Pine Siskin 1

The Cackling Geese were really cool, as they were "pure flocks"... I can't say I've seen that in "southern" Ontario before... It was also kind of funny to have a pure flock of 21 Cackling Geese, without seeing ANY Canada Geese in the same time frame.. I also think the Gadwall is a pretty good bird for the open waters of Lake Superior... 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Super insane Red-breasted Merganser flight videos !!! From Pelee on Nov 13, 2012

Below are 4 videos from the tip of Pelee on Nov 13, 2012... It was one of the craziest duck flights/flocks I had ever seen... Mega-huge masses were moving back and forth across the point and forming feeding frenzies... Whenever a particularly large flight would occur, I'd take a quick video - although there was always large numbers flying around.....

Best may be to watch full-screen and change the quality to hd (if you have a fast connection) 


Anyone want to take a guess how many RB Mergies were in this video?! 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

2011 OBRC annual report should be in your hands!

It looks like the issue of Ontario Birds containing the 2011 OBRC report should be in your hands... Mine arrived last week in the snailmail..

Which means those of us on the committee who dealt with these records 10 months ago can now freely talk about public knowledge!

Some things I noticed in the printed version:

--- generic message of "the bad trend of photo-only reports continue" --- maybe this time it'll help solve the problem? Wait, I actually doubt that...

--- I have made my contribution to the "creepy photos of OBRC members collection" in the team pic..

--- Changes to the checklist - that Pyrrhuloxia issue has been dealt with and added to the list! Exciting, right? ***remember this point, by the way*** ... Also added Least Tern to the "north" review list..

--- The subspecies/forms review list has finally been updated.. It was terrifying before... Like, really bad...

Want to see how bad it was? It's still the "old version" online... Hopefully we can get this updated soon...

--- "colour morphs are not to be reviewed" - is a cool point, although there is no note that says we make an acception for any reports/records of "Cory's" Least Bittern (still reviewing)

--- Added "Oregon" Junco to the review list.. That should make everyone happy.. right?

--- we're still doing that stupid idea of putting (adult) or (immature) beside the proper plumage terminology...

--- Brett Fried makes a personal appearance in the "records" section handling a Northern Gannet!

A bird that appears here in the 2011 report.. Needed something to break up the endless text.. 

--- One record that really surprised me was the JUVENILE Ibis sp from Cornwall that arrived on July 23rd... This bird looks rather mature as well (based on bill growth) which made me think this bird must have arrived from a breeding colony that was exceptionally far south (meaning a very early start to the nesting season).

--- The best report of 2012 went to the "Western" Red-tailed Hawk record ... This report was beautiful... Just beautiful... Although there is also a lot of confusion surrounding it from he committee point of view, as myself (and some others ) were pretty sure we didn't review records of this subspecies, that is rare but regular in Ontario.....  Report was just awesome though.... And now we officially no longer review this subspecies

--- That Least Tern pic from Atikokan has to be one of the most beautiful rarity pics I've ever seen taken in Ontario... What a bird...

--- Now is the time to remember and be happy that the Pyrrhuloxia record has been accepted, right?! Because we deferred the Smew record from Whitby..... Whoops...... I fully expect the 2012 committee to make a decision on this record, so hopefully you'll have less than a year before it is totally dealt with! (if any of you REALLY care what the OBRC decides ;)  )

--- Strange story for you to read about some 1961 F. Whistling Ducks near the end of the article!

And that's just about all she wrote..

What do you think.... Good article? Happy with everything?? Anything you'd like to say about the 2011 report (or anything else) to the OBRC? Because I can make sure it gets to the next meeting.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gullz this weekend - world record?

On a totally different weather forecast, the Niagara River could finally have its first good weekend of the 2012-2013 gull season!

Cool weather for Saturday and Sunday (post cold front) should get the birds moving... Talking to Jim Pawlicki (from NY), has been interesting recently - as he's been able to nail down a Black-headed Gull and a Franklin's Gull that he thinks could be the same birds as last year..

If the California Gull has also returned (possibly? maybe?) then we are looking at a formidable list of gulls already!

Remember this post about "breaking the world gull species record" ?

Well lets update it to the 2012 list:


Great Black-backed



Lesser Black-backed

(4+5 = 9)

Rather rare but currently occurring:

Franklin's Gull
Black-headed Gull
California Gull 

(9+3 = 12) !!!! 

At this stage in the game, we are already 2 species shy of tying the world record, and 3 away from a "new" WR! 

The Superstorm Sandy factor:  something totally new for the 2012-2013 gull season!!

The following species were associated with Superstorm Sandy back in the first few days of November. There is a very real chance that all of these gull species have since left the province, but at the same time - there is also a good chance that a few individuals have been lurking out on the Great Lakes (especially Lake Erie) all this time - waiting for the weather to go fowl and make their incursion onto the river!! ;)

Ross's Gull - the one we had at Fort Erie could easily be lurking out there somewhere, only to re-appear in bad weather when lost of observers are out looking! 

Sabine's Gull - a few birds seen at Fort Erie at the same time. This is a rarity on the river in late November, but not at all out of the question in a regular year.... Maybe the odds will be slightly better than average in 2012? 

Laughing Gull - would be mega rare for location and date on the river in November, but somewhere in the range of 3-5 birds were seen on Lake Erie in Ohio this November (I assume because of Sandy?? Or a combo of Sandy and other weather patterns since??) The odds of a Laughing Gull have to be at least 25 times higher than average this year!! 

BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE - far and away the most likely of these 4 species in a "typical" year on the river, and having personally seen 110+ individuals on the Great Lakes back during Sandy - I've got to assume the odds are better than average for getting this species! 

For some reason, I'm expecting two of the above birds will put in an appearance in the next two weeks... Not sure exactly how it will shake down, (lots of reasons why each species could or couldn't still be around) - but we've got to hope that we will still reap some benifits from the awesomeness that was Sandy! 

(oh and getting 2 would give us 14 gull species!) 

So what else is there? How about: two other super rares: 

Mew Gull - the beauty of this "species" is we can get a tick from three different directions... Namely the "North American Short-billed" Mew Gull, the Siberian "Kamchatka" (Mew) Gull and the European "Common" (Mew) Gull... It seems likely that these birds will not remain a single species in the long run, but for now, they're only worth one on the list... 

Slaty-backed Gull - I remember way back when I first started looking at gulls, and this bird was still at cosmic level... All over North America this bird is becoming more and more regular - including on our beloved river... Would be a nice tick !

15 species is looking like a very real possibility when you break down the lists above... But it ain't over yet folks! Gulls are the ultimate vagrant bird. They can live and feed in virtually any environment, unlike those sissy warblers and flycatchers that just kill themselves.. There is the ever present possibility that something really insane will turn up! Some ideas: 

Ivory Gull - last year I included this species with the previous two "super rares" - but I've got to be honest with myself (and you) ... The appearance of this species in the fall on the river would be insanity! I still need this beautiful creature for my Ontario list.... 

Black-tailed Gull - Would be very happy to see this species put on a grand display for Ontario birders.. sure would be easy to pick out somewhere like Adam Beck! 

Yellow-legged Gull - not easy 

Heermanns Gull - Of all the gulls on this list, I think I may get the most excited to see (or dare I say, find) on the river in the fall... 

Kelp Gull - hahahaha... 

GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL - this is the prize awaiting all avid gull'ers in Ontario... THEEEE most overdue species for the province... Not sure what else can be said about it.. I want to find it... 

And if we DO find a Glaucous-winged, or some other insane vagrant.. It will only make our attempts to hit 15+ Gull species even easier!

Now we'll have to wait and see if I can even get out this fall (or if some other species like Franklin's get blown away by the cold front, making the odds much lower)..

All in a days work! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Netitishi forecast for the next 7 days

This next Wednesday to Wednesday period on James Bay would likely be very very good! A LOT of sea ice has built up around James Bay and Hudson Bay - on the coasts - but a few warm days with south winds in Moosonee area have broken up the ice along the Neititshi coast.

And a healthy dose of north winds (from both an arctic cold front and an approaching low pressure system), would keep things interesting from a birding standpoint:

After that, the forecast calls for a dip to below average temperatures, which should result in a permanent build up of ice along the coast (preventing birds from being visible) until the spring breakup!

Would be very interesting to be up there over the next few days. Almost some guaranteed mega's I would think... Although we'll never know! (I would be very very tempted to go, if I did not have some major major obligations at home this weekend! - that are very exciting - and I'll post about sometime in the future) 


Random photo quiz: name all species (for fun) :

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nov 13 Cave Swallow pics from Pt Pelee

Uploaded one good one onto a new CASW page for the website:

This one:

Here's a look at the same photo (part of it) at 100%: 

And for fun, some of the "record" flight photos I got:

Not birding right now, so i'm really stretchin this pelee stuff... Not sure why, but I am! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pelee Day 4 - Nov 13, 2012

A loose association of Ken Burrell, Josh Vand and I worked Pelee for one last morning (my last, at least)... We ran into a few others along the way!

Tip watch:

Highlight here was the Red-breasted Mergansers... The previous day, we had a steady flight of birds moving south past the tip (we guessed 15 to 20 thousand).... Little did we know, they must have been landing just beyond our easy vision past the point - because today, they were ALL present at the SAME TIME around the point... It was insanity...

Typical view as the massive flocks re-arranged around the point... 

I'm not sure I've seen anything quite like it before... We had the typical run of ducks here including Gadwall, Pintail, some scoters, mallards etc.. Along with several Common Loons and Horned Grebes... 

Some highlights were another Long-tailed Duck and several flocks of Tundra Swans! One distant flock of Swans contained a small white goose with black wing tips!! Unfortunately they stayed distant, but we could tell without a doubt that it was smaller than your average Snow Goose (Ross's type)... 

The mergies had started to die down, and I just wasn't feelin the waterbirds (cold and windy at the point).. So Ken-tucky and I branched off and went to the visitors centre parking lot to watch for some winter finches and other goodies... We had:

2-3 Evening Grosbeaks
35+ White-winged Crossbills (small groups)
30+ Common Redpolls 
10-ish Pine Siskins
3 Purple Finch
15-ish House Finch
several Eastern Bluebirds
2 House Sparrows (odd fly-overs for the park, although I often see them here in the fall) 

The big hurrah came in the form of 2 CAVE SWALLOWS flying rapidly southwards... We called Josh Vandermeulen, who was still looking for this species on his big year, and he zipped after them towards the tip... Josh called us back soon thereafter with word that he had one sitting on the beach 10 feet in front of him... That got us moving, and I went out for some "point blank" views (and photos) of this obviously stressed out (stupid) bird!

It even flew around for a while, allowing us to test our skills with flight shots! What a beauty! 

I was feeling pretty content at that point (and cold), and decided that even though it wasn't quite noon - that I was going to start my drive home and get prepared for work that awaited me the next day... Although I was soon distracted by a group of parked cars, which were looking at 2 Northern Rough-winged Swallows perched on the deck at sanctuary pond!

The rest of the drive was uneventful, including a few quick stops at hillman and the routinely boring Wheatley Harbour... This was my last hurrah for the 50 days of rare (long over now), and a damn good few days of birding! 

Oh, and I also had a Golden Eagle on the drive home (low and close over the 401!) which I thought was a year bird - until I got home and remembered I had one back on Feb 15th eating a road killed Deer in Niagara... Still a beaut though!

Another look at the insane mass of RBME's that was constantly present at the tip of Pelee.. I took some videos of the insanity, so maybe I'll get them online before too long! What a sight! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 3 at Pelee – Nov 12, 2012

This was the rain day, and MAN did it rain.. Josh Vand, Jeremy Hatt and I decided to stand at the tip and get soaked for several hours in the morning... I then walked around getting soaked again with Josh in the afternoon... The birds: 

Thankfully it was all worth it, as the tip was really active with huge numbers of RB Mergies... We guessed that we had seen at least 15,000 to 20,000 birds , and could have undercounted... One of those events that is just fun to witness, as they were almost all streaming down the east side (heading south)... 

We also snagged 2 Long-tailed Ducks, several Horned Grebes, common Loons, Surf + white-winged Scoters, a Lesser Black-backed Gull (juv) and a FORSTER’S TERN travelling with 2 Bonaparte’s during the movement... 

To get a break from the wetness, Josh and I toured The Onion Fields to Wheatley, then back around to Leamington, Seacliffe etc, where we had VERY little... Although there was still some highlights when we had 4 Long-eared Owls (new Pelee bird for me, I think) and twitched the Hooded Mergs at Sturgeon.... 

Another bird of note was a "green morph" Pine Siskin at the Pelee Wings feeder... It looked a LOT brighter against the dark background of the feeder (vs. the green grass and leaves where I got my record photo)... There were only 2 other siskins present among the goldfinches - so that was cool.. 

We headed back into the park, and a quick check of the Marsh Tower produced some rather late Blue-winged Teal (2) among a respectable collection of ducks... 

Josh and I started our mega-walk of the day (back in the park), with very little fanfare (other than getting soaked)... Highlight came in the form of a big pocket of birds around the far northern end of the Chinquipin Oak trail with 25+ Bluebirds and 25+ Yellow-rumps... The birds weren't very cooperative, the light was bad and they were moving all over the place... It sure felt like a mega-rarity kind of time and place, but we just couldn't pull the trigger... 

Another fun day, where it felt like we were doing everything right for a rarity, but it just didn't fall into place! Part of the fun of vagrant hunting I guess! J

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nov 11, 2012 - Pelee Area Butterflies


Pelee Butterflies from Nov 11, 2012

A bit late here, but I had some cool leps on the warmth of Nov 11, 2012 at Pelee as well!

It was a very warm day!!! 

The rundown: 

Painted Lady – one rather fresh individual along the west beach footpath was my first lep of the day... 

I poked it with some grass to see the underwing and make the ID!

Question Mark – one along the west beach footpath after the Lady.. Acting kind of tardy, even with the warmth..

Eastern Comma – one at Black Willow picnic area...

Mourning Cloak – had my first at Delaurier, when I overheard a lady tell her daughter “look, a butterfly!” I then saw others driving to Hillman marsh through the onion fields and Hillman Marsh

Orange Sulphur – two at the dyke along the Hillman Marsh trail...

Common Buckeye – three along the dyke at the shorebird cell.. Strange that I saw 5 leps in a short distance near the cell, but none others while walking around Hillman...

Later in the afternoon, it was still sunny, and I decided to try Shoeless Joe’s for more leps – since the birds were stinking up a storm... Even though it was still sunny, I guess it was too late in the afternoon because I didn’t see any!

Others had Clouded Sulphur, Checkered Skipper and a single Firey Skipper here earlier in the day!

Pretty cool that 9 species could still be seen this late in the year!


Can't do a separate "ode" post, since I only managed 1 Common Green Darner on the day...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 2 at Pelee – Nov 11, 2012

... This was the “warm” day for sure!!! Temps were well above 15 C in the afternoon when the sun broke through... Some highlights:

Tip watch in the morning was fairly slow.. Had some Pine Siskins overhead and a juv Lesser Black-backed Gull make a flyby.. 5 Sanderling flew in and landed. Getting late!!!  A surprising number of birders were present, which worked in our favour when Marianne spotted a Black-legged Kittiwake flying south along the west shore, and not very far away! I think that was my second for Pelee... Maybe third...

I did a mega walk from the tip, through the Loop&Post Woods, The Sparrow Field, The redbud trail, down through the VC to the group campground.. Then some seasonal foothpaths through all the main picnic areas from Black Willow to Sleepy Hollow and the dunes etc... I then switched back, walking the west beach trail all the way back to the tip! 

Noteworthy sightings were slim, but I did manage a Common Redpoll (perched) and an Orange-crowned Warbler.. I probably “worked” at least 5+ Carolina Wrens and 8+ Cardinals that were being very secretive to little reward (other than a CARW pic with my record photo camera) 

Best I could do... 

I also did a decent walk around Hillman Marsh, but was surprised to see a lack of ducks. The only fun came from a group of 50 Green-winged Teal that allowed for close-ish study... I was also surprised to see that the shorebird cell was flooded, although totally overgrown so no ducks were visible (or present) ... One noteworthy sighting there was 3 Yellow-rumps that were acting like tardy vagrants feeding in the weeds over the water... No mega’s though.. 

Had a Northern Shrike at the “memorial forest” near the end of my Hillman Hike... Haven’t seen many at Pelee... 

I drove the onion fields a bit, to little of note... I saw a Coyote walking up to 2 Sandhill Cranes, and braced for excitement – up until the cranes lazily flew away... 

I tried several other spots, including Wheatley Harb, but the birding was just getting darn slow. About 80 Hooded Mergs at Sturgeon Creek... Nothing at Seacliffe beach or marina... 

What can you do?! Fun day though... 

Mudflat Turkeys, pointed out to me by Josh Vand... 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Drive to Pelee - Nov 10th

On the 10th, I had to head into the office in the morning, but around mid-day I was able to leave and head for Pelee !!! With a big warm front in the works, I wanted to see what kind of goodies were around...  The stops:

Blenheim SL - LOTS of ducks, of many species, nothing of note though!

Erieau - typical scattering of gulls and cormorants, but again - nothing of note... Rondeau back was PACKED with ducks, but the light wasn't good, so I just avoided them... Turns out there are a few Eurasian Wigeon out there!

Wheatley Harbour - about 75 Killdeer in a nearby field, I was surprised to see a huge feeding frenzy of Ring-billed Gulls in the harbour - but not surprisingly - not a single gull of note...

It looked like Sandy had caused a ruckus, as the beach was much smaller and crews were working to dig out the mouth of the channel... 

No rares...

Hillman Marsh  - lots of mud, which is normal for this time of year when they lower the Great Lakes to "winter levels" - ALWAYS after the shorebirds are essentially gone... Thanks "water people" ... 

I after checking multiple vantage points, I fianlly scored into a flock of Dunlin and Killdeeer that were hosting 2 White-runmped Sandpipers... 

There was another huge mass of gulls, with lesser numbers of fowl - but no rares again! The best bird here was an American Bittern that I flushed from a nearby ditch ! 

Last stop before dark was behind the Day's Inn.. Managed about 80 Hooded Mergs at the Marina part... Then at the lookout deck I spotted 2 Cackling Geese (that Kevin McLaughlin had told me about earlier).. Not a bad bird... Also scored 3 Greater and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Sandhill Cranes and a Wilson's Snipe before I lost all light... 

After that I raided the local Value Village (got some sweet pants), the LCBO and watched UFC fights till I passed out!  

Day 2 tomorrow......


As far as recent news goes, I noticed (on Nov 13th) that the James Bay coast had a substantial ice build up along the coast already this year!

Pretty early... Usually this is a good (great) time to check your favourite Purple Sandpiper spot (mine is Fifty Point) to find some exhausted PUSA hanging out! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

50 days of rare is over!

Woo!  No more 50 days of rare! Technically the 14th is the last day, but I'll be sitting in on some first aid training at work, so for all intensive purposes, it's over! (for me)...

I've been asked several times about what the winning bird is, and I haven't really given it much thought... What bird do you think is tops??

I think the real goal is to have a combo-birder-gathering to remember the 50days of rare challenge AND birding Superstorm Sandy at the same time... The rough plan right now is December 8th at my new condo (that I don't yet "own") in Stoney Creek, ON... We can split up and head off to the Niagara River for Saturday and/or Sunday for some entertaining birds, and Saturday night for the entertainment..

I should be able to accommodate several people (at various comfort levels) depending on how far people want to travel to be a part of it, how their bank account situation looks and how much alcohol they intend on consuming ..  Leave a comment if you think you'd like to come!


Since it was already posted to ontbirds, there is no secret that we had some Cave Swallows at Pelee today... SO I figured I'd post an early photo.. More to come in the future of this very cooperative bird!


Some cool recent weather network photos:

--- note on the last one, the snake is wrapped around the owls leg!


I spent last Saturday to Tuesday down around Point Pelee, so over the next few days (while I'm in the office), I'll run down each days highlights!

Monday, November 12, 2012

2010 Photographic Year in Review

Some old website stuff Iwanted to get back online:


The year: 2010

In pictures

The year started out right.  I traveled to Newfoundland pretty much right away, and had a fantastic 7-ish weeks of birding and photography!

I traveled to Newfoundland for a few reasons, but it was mainly for the gulls. Slaty-backed Gull was a nemesis bird for me in Ontario, but I found and photographed this stunning bird within 2 weeks of being in St. John's.

Another reason why birders travel to St. John's - the Yellow-legged Gull. This bird gave me the slip more than a few times during my adventure, but I was eventually able to get it. With 2 of 3 species down, I wanted Ivory Gull photos to complete the trifecta of desired gulls.

European ducks in Newfoundland did not dissapoint. 30+ Tufted Ducks spent the winter in St. John's and were amazing photography subjects.

I'd always told anyone who would listen: I would photograph more mammals if we had interesting mammals to photograph! (in southern Ontario)... I had no idea how true that statement was until I got to Newfoundland - this particular day I took hundreds of pictures of Caribou and Seals, but no birds.

Seals were "life mammals" for me during the trip. I had managed good looks at Gray, Harbour and Harp before finally getting some awesome chances with 2 Bearded Seals on Valentine's Day. It was a calm day, and I had no idea a massive storm was thrashing the northern penninsula at the time. Over the next few days, word of my last target species (Ivory Gull) started spreading.

Instead of re-telling the story here, (it's long). Have a look at my archived "blog" postings about my Newfoundland Trip here. Scroll down to Feb 14/15 - it was an amazing adventure. (posts were lost --- the short of it was 116 Ivory Gulls in 7 days!)

One of the best (and worst) days of my life - at once! I missed what would have easily been some of the best pictures of my life, but just having the chance to see a Gyrfalcon take an adult Ivory Gull was incredible. It caught the bird 30-40 feet away from me! But I didn't have my Camera! This picture started a chain reaction that got my Newfoundland "blog" visited by people all around the world.

The final tally: 5 Gyrfalcon and 118 Ivory Gulls in a magical week to end my Newfoundland adventure. It was better than I could have ever imagined. Have a look at the Ivory Gull page for more pictures taken while up there!

How does one match a trip to Newfoundland? I hardly thought about taking pictures for the next few weeks after returning home - what could compare? Well Jenn was on the case, and by mid-April she had us travelling to Bermuda (of all places) for one of the best adventures of my life. Weighing baby Bermuda Petrels was a lot of fun, but my photographic eye couldn't look away from the abundant White-tailed Tropicbirds there!

My spring could probably be split into two categories. The above image is category A - WORK! I had a lot of fun doing some exciting work this spring, but it usualy doesn't leave me with much energy to take pictures. This was a "lucky grab" shot while conducting surveys! A species I always wanted, but never had - the Whip-poor-will.

Category 2 of the spring: Not finding much. I birded an average of 6.33 days per week from April 21st to May 21st and didn't find anything "good". It actually started to get me down! I had some time to "chase" rarities found by others, something I don't always do, but Kirtland's Warblers are hard to ignore. I ended up with 3 for the year!

June was spent doing what I always do - working pretty much every single day. Thankfully I found a very photogenic Red Fox family at my busiest work site, which allowed me to get some personal photo time to myself several evenings. 

2010 was the second season of Zodiac adventures, and the weather cooperated perfectly for several days early in the season. I think I ended up with 11 Long-tailed Jaegers on the season, including this interesting juvenile. We were thrilled to see that Long-tailed Jaegers would routinely come close to the boat for prolonged periods as we chummed with bread. 

We also had our first luck with "finding" Jaegers with this adult Parasitic. My Dad used his expert boat-handling skills to get us within feet of this stunning adult Parsitic Jaeger - which we found floating alone - a dozen kilometers offshore of Grimsby! 

All of that was fun and very exciting, but we blew the roof off when this adult Long-tailed Jaeger arrived at our boat one September afternoon with two juveniles. They proceeded to put on a close-range display that was better than I would have ever thought possible (for over an hour!) 

As the year winded down, we were not able to get in the zodiac very much. So I turned my attention to the far north (where I had never been before) and went to Netitishi Point with Alan Wormington! What can be said? We saw more rarities than I would have though possible including Dovekie, Pacific Loon, Pomarine Jaegers, Kittiwakes, Gyrfalcons and the above photo - Ontarios first "Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater" !!!

Netitishi also provided some very unexpected "quality" photo ops - mainly thanks to some Ringed Seals! This was a "life mammal" for me, and with some effort, I was able to get very close to a few individuals. This youngster was especially cooperative and posed for dozens of head shots one afternoon!

2010 was a pretty exciting year for me, and hopefully 2011 keeps up the pace!