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.

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?! 

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!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Another (short) beach walk + weather

Checked out Burlington Beach yesterday for any additional dead birds of note.. The haul was a much more expected 2 Herring Gulls and 4 Cormorants... The odd's and sod's included a lot of dead fish, lots of golf balls, and a dead squirrel..

Only birds of note was a few Red Crossbills I heard flying over (2-3ish birds, didn't see them)..


Big warm front moving into southern Ontario this weekend - with a big southerly flow... It's nothing tooo crazy from a weather perspective, but it IS the second week of November, so who knows what could happen! 

It's enough to entice me to go to Pelee for a grand finale to the 50 days of rare thing that I've largely forgotten about, and ends on Nov 14th.. .

Would really like to find a mega rare passerine or near-passerine! Although any rarity will do... Still want that Brown-chested Martin 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dead birds of Van Wagner's

My Mom and I took advantage of the sunny day to walk VWB and look for storm birds to collect... Dead bird tally (of sorta fresh stuff to fresh):

4 Long-tailed Ducks

1 DC Corm

2 Northern Cardinals (????)

1 Northern Saw-whet Owl (wing)  .. We also found a single flight feather several KM's away from this wing..


This is NOT a regular bird in Hamilton, and finding a dead one at VWB is really really odd... I actually just assumed it was a SEOW until common sense took over when I got home and looked at my pics....

Barred Owl above: it was actually mostly buried in the sand... I dug it up and washed it off (with a stick) then took this pic... 

Below: Cardinal and Saw Whet exactly as they appeared when we found them - 

Also 3 Chinook Salmon, 1 Sucker and 1 Virginia Opossum....

Not a single dead gull???

Not much in the way of living bird highlights... A few Common Redpolls and an adult Turkey Vulture.. A Mute Swan swam past Hutches and we saw one of the Lift Bridge Peregrines...


!!!!!!!! I almost forgot, we also had 1 Orange Sulphur and 1 Lady sp on the hike !!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

nothing to report...

Several hours at VWB yesterday in East Winds.. 40+kmh at the lift bridge, and I can only assume stronger out over the lake given the size of the waves (huge!)

So what did we get?


Literately nothing... In the sense of noteworthy birds... 2 Peregrine Falcons that live there, where the highlights...

I had very much believed that it was going to be slow, given that we had a lot of north winds recently (allowing most of the "cool birds" to leave) but I didn't expect nothing!

Thankfully it was thee niceset day you could ever have at VWB in November (on east winds) so it was still an enjoyable day at the lake!


Since I have  nothing to report, I'm in need of some filler...

From Jim Pawlicki - another "Superstorm Sandy Song" for your entertainment...

Polaris: Hey Sandy


Hey smilin' strange
You're lookin' happily deranged
Could you settle to shoot me?
Or have you picked your target yet?

Hey Sandy
Don't you talk back,
Hey Sandy

Four feet away
End of speech, it's the end of the day
We was only funnin'
But guiltily I thought you had it comin'

Hey Sandy
Don't you talk back,
Hey Sandy

Hey Sandy
Don't you talk back,
Hey Sandy

Hey Sandy
Don't you talk back,
Hey Sandy

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Some late-season bread throwing from the zodaic

Launched the Zodiac yesterday afternoon for a few hours of bread tossing... I was hoping to maybe get some Pomarine Jaegers hanging around after Sandy - but I'm starting to think they've probably vamoosed on these persistent north winds ... Shame...

What I DID get, was some gulls

3 Juv Lesser Black-backed Gulls

1 Juv Kumlien's (or better yet, a Kumlien's/Thayer's genetic grab-bag)

6-7 Great Black-backed Gulls

1 Bonaparte's Gull

(all of these birds were Juv's except 1 GBBG)

1 ad Bald Eagle flying high when I got back to shore


Took a bunch of pictures in some sweet light.... Haven't edited them properly, but did a few "rapid edits" to get online as blog material ...

Above: photo quiz?! Name all species and ages

Kumlien's + Thayer's = 


They're calling for NE winds around 30-35kmh for today (Nov 7th), so I'm planning on doing some lakewatching... Not sure what could possibly happen that would compare with the insanity we had with Superstorm Sandy, but I kind of enjoy being at the lake regardless of what I actually see, so yeah!  That's the plan...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Personal fall count results!

Dave Bell and I tackled Windemere Basin to LaSalle Park in Burlington for the Hamilton Fall Bird Count on Nov 4th...

Some highlights: lots of ducks, grebes, White-winged Crossbill, Evening Grosbeak, Eastern Towhee, 5 Black-crowned Night-Herons, etc

The bird of the day was spotted by Dave at LaSalle Park - an American Redstart! Even more unusual was the fact it was in a garden shrub in front of the pavilion...

We tried to twitch the Western Tanager found by Cheryl Edgecombe and Rob Dobos, but failed.... Also tried to poach some pelagics at VWB and failed... Ah well - the Chili was delicious as usual afterwards!!

Ebird list totals:

Canada Goose 186
Mute Swan 30
Trumpeter Swan 28
Gadwall 8
American Black Duck 68
Mallard 427
American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid) 1
Northern Shoveler 44
Northern Pintail 4
Green-winged Teal 43
Canvasback 25
Redhead 57
Ring-necked Duck 45
Greater Scaup 653
Lesser Scaup 108
White-winged Scoter 17
Long-tailed Duck 2
Bufflehead 146
Common Goldeneye 38
Hooded Merganser 33
Common Merganser 9
Red-breasted Merganser 140
Ruddy Duck 433
Common Loon 2
Pied-billed Grebe 4
Horned Grebe 4
Red-necked Grebe 6 fall count - ad's and juv's
Double-crested Cormorant 43
Great Blue Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 5
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 1 adult perched on tree on SE corner of bay (near steel mills) early in the am
Red-tailed Hawk 12
American Coot 45
Ring-billed Gull 1086
Herring Gull 147
Great Black-backed Gull 6
Rock Pigeon 95
Mourning Dove 9
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 5
American Kestrel 2
Peregrine Falcon 2 lift bridge pair
Blue Jay 2
American Crow 1
Horned Lark 2
Black-capped Chickadee 35
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 3
Brown Creeper 1
Carolina Wren 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 8
American Robin 29
Northern Mockingbird 3
European Starling 24000 coming from the skyway bridge roost, apparently missed by the people in that area (pers comm) so added here
American Pipit 7
Cedar Waxwing 64
American Redstart 1 female spotted by Dave Bell in front of the pavillion at Lasalle Park - in a decorative garden shrub!
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
Eastern Towhee 1 Windemere Basin - male
American Tree Sparrow 10
Song Sparrow 3
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 7
White-crowned Sparrow 10
Dark-eyed Junco 9
Northern Cardinal 4
Purple Finch 1
House Finch 2
White-winged Crossbill 1 perched in spruce on NE corner of bay - male
Pine Siskin 8
American Goldfinch 39
Evening Grosbeak 1 flyover male at Windemere Basin
House Sparrow 37

73 species!!!


Some awesome ebird rarity photos... A lot of these birds could very very easily be related to Superstorm Sandy and her massive wind field bringing birds from far and wide in many directions:

Our Ross's Goose in ON:

Cory's Shear on shore in RI:

Lapwings in MA:

Brown Pelican in MO:

Ash-throated Fly in MA:

Lapwing in MAINE! :

Black-headed Gull in MD:

Franklin's Gull in NJ:

2 Black Skimmers in Pittsburgh, PA - only 230kmh DUE SOUTH of the tip of LONG POINT!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Woman is 53 But Looks 25 .... Also - TERRIBLE TERRIBLE NEWS

Straight from Alan Wormington's Ontbirds post:


Super-tides on southern James Bay are extremely dangerous, since they can flood areas that are normally dry. We once experienced such an event at White Top (adjacent to Ship Sands Island) in early October 1972, and it was not a pleasant experience. Late yesterday our low tide was higher than most high tides, then the relentless NW wind intensified. The incoming high tide was massive, re-arranging the whole waterfront at Netitishi Point. Luckily Netitishi Point itself is high and dry with a spruce forest, so we were never in any danger. However, both the "gyrfalcon" pole and wind shelter, constructed mostly by Brandon Holden two years ago, is now history. Thanks a lot Hurricane Sandy!

NOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My fort!!!!!!!!!!

One of the best damn wind breaks anyone could ask for.... I guess you really don't know what you got, till it's gone... 

Many thanks to Barb "Wire" Charlton for this one... 


I'm sure virtually anyone who reads this blog also knows what JV is up to, but just in case, here's the links:

Alan's Post:

Josh's blog for more updates and photos:

Sure sounds like an epic trip!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nor'easter moving up the Atlantic Coast mid week....

Herald/Trindade Petrel in PA:


The models are currently picking up on a moderate to strong "early season" Nor'easter moving up the US Atlantic coast mid week...

Weather Network is calling for E winds @ 20kmh Wednesday and N @ 25kmh Thursday... This will pale in comparison to superstorm sandy, but would be very very notable in a "regular" year as potential for NE coast birds like Kittiwakes and maybe a Gannet or two (not to mention to always enjoyable "yet unknown rarity") ... 

With Sandy so close in our (and avian) memories, maybe it will be a nice system to bring us a few more goodies?! I know I wouldn't complain... 


Tomorrow is the Hamilton Fall Bird Count!!! Very exciting... My area is from LaSalle Park to Windemere Basin (the NE corner of Hamilton Harbour) with a bit of inland space (to the highways).. Teaming up with David Bell to hopefully do some damage! 

AND THEN,, DO NOT FORGET... That our very own blogger Ken-tucky Burrell is the speaker at the Hamilton Bird Study Group Meeting on Monday night! 

The talk is on his reverse migration work at Pelee Island!!!

It doesn't get any better.. Don't miss it!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ducks shouting obscenities


There was an obscene number of ducks flying west past Fifty Rd this morning... Possibly the biggest flight of LTDU's and WWSC's I've seen...

When I arrived, birds were flying through my scope at a rate of 250-400 per minute (rough counts)

Typical view when I arrived....

I was there from 8:10am to 11:10am... Some totally guessed totals:

Long-tailed Duck - 15, 000
White-winged Scoter - 8,000
Red-breasted Merganser - 5000
Common Goldeneye - 500
Greater Scaup - 400
Surf Scoter - 200
Bufflehead - 80
Lesser Scaup - 25
Mallard - 15
American Black Duck - 10
Black Scoter - 8
Canada Goose - 8
Common Merganser - 2
Northern Shoveller - 2 (singles)

I tried to document some flocks from time to time.. Some BUFF's... 

Decent number of Lesser's mixed in... 

The "movement" of LTDU's was a steady stream of individuals and small flocks, unlike the epic masses when they aren't "moving"


RB Mergies were one of the only species actively moving east (as well as west) 

Often the "closest" species flocks (other than the few Buffles) - Common Goldeneye


Merlin 1 - caught a passerine way out over the lake

Bonaparte's Gull - 75

Common Loon - 25
Horned Grebe - 10
Red-necked Grebe - 1
DC Cormorant - 5

Euro Starling 2 - out over the lake
White-winged Crossbill - 4
Snow Bunting - 10


Got me excited for a bit.... Common Loon... 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Superstorm Sandy: Frankenstorm - that's the name, don't wear it out...

I'm in my happy place...

Only slightly decent pic I took today

Team awesome was back at it today, birding with Mike/Ken Burrell, Ross Wood and Brett Fried, David Bell and Barb wire Charlton - we had plans to bird Port Wellar...

We had been talking about how it could very well have been a great vantage point throughout this awesome storm system, but we weren't sure if anyone had checked it yet... 

It really didn't disappoint... Some sightings:

Arctic Tern - 1 juvenile early in the AM .. it was with:
Forster's Tern - 1
Common Tern - 2 or 3

Lots of expected ducks including abnormal numbers of White-winged Scoters. Also Green-winged Teal and Redhead (3) were unusual

Good numbers of both loons and both "lake" Grebes

1 Sanderling

50-ish Bonaparte's

Passerines included some Siskins and Snow Buntings


The Arctic Tern was pretty obvious when we first all saw it with the FOTE... Clearly smaller and different structure, aged as a Juv - silvery/white inner primaries/secondaries.... I don't really feel comfortable enough writing it up for the OBRC, but more than happy enough to count it on my personal list... Another rarity from Sandy...... Jeeesus

After that the terns were really confusing not giving good looks and wandering back and forth and I got a lot less excited about them (personally)...


It wasn't too long into the day that we noticed we were largely goofing around and chatting... Sort of the "happy place" after some INSANE crazy days of birding and mega rares around ever corner... 

So we decided to go into town and grab some lunch and brew! Then headed for home..

3 months form now I'll be looking back and wondering why I didn't bird dawn till dusk at a frantic pace with such incredible birds to be found.... Which is ok, because that'll be motivation and excitement building feelings for the NEXT big storm

And don't get me wrong, I'll still be birding a lot over the next few days, but maybe not quite at the same pace... Will probably go to the end of Fifty Rd in Grimsby tomorrow for a Lakewatch in the morning....

Oh sandy...