Monday, September 30, 2013

Photos Hoot! - birds you don't go to Pelee to photograph

These sure aren't the species you go to Pelee to take pictures of, but you might as well take'm where they land anyways!

I've been trying to make sure I focus on the common birds more than I used to... I ended up with Kirtland's Warbler being my "most photo'd" passerine.... I think my Robin collection is getting respectable now as well.

I didn't have any baby-modo pictures prior to this. Now I do. Score. 

Too colourful to ignore..

I wouldn't normally upload two images that were so similar - but they're also dramatically different in terms of the emotions they evoke - and I couldn't pick a favourite..

So as you can tell, I uploaded both

Common birds! I tell ya... 

Friday, September 27, 2013

I went to British Columbia

And while I was there (July - for work) - I took pictures of birds... Does that surprise you? Because it shouldn't!

I was pretty happy with my haul, given that I had very little time to explore... (Mainly 1 morning)... Little did I know, I'd be going back! (I'm there right now).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Have you seen these birds? OBRC

An unofficial post as secretary of the OBRC for this year... It's one thing to "put out a request for reports" -but to he honest - there are some more "pressing "or "in need of attention" than others....

I have a bunch of reports of the Townsend's Solitaire near Kendall...

I have a bunch of reports of the White-winged Dove at Rondeau...

Why? Because they were easily twitched winter rarities when we were all going nuts waiting for the birds to return. Spare time, winter blues, to sit inside and send a report... The problem is - most rares occur each year in Late April to May! Which is when we all go nuts for the spring/summer and things are lost in the shuffle....

Anyways - if you FOUND the OBRC rarity - we'd be desperate to get a report from you - ANY single ONE... A report from the finder is very valuable...

And with that said, here are some reported birds that I've received little/nothing of! If you have any reports (or PHOTOS) of these birds - we'd love to get them. Email any materials to

(some of these, I'm not entirely sure my limited info is correct - I'll be sitting down to figure it out when I return home)

Violet Green Swallow - Ottawa - yet to get anything!

Northern Gannet - Presqu'ile - nothing...

Neotropic Cormorant - Thickson's Woods - May 5 - nothing yet..

Blue Grosbeak - Pelee Island - May 11/12 - ? - nothing yet...

Lark Bunting - North Frontenac - ???

Piping Plovers on Lake Ontario (reports from Presqui'ile X 2, Darlington, Toronto Islands etc - nada)

Piping Plover - Kettle Point - nothing

Blue Grosbeak - High Park - Toronto - May 22/23???

European Whimbrel - May 27 - Darlington ??

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Sparta - Jun 2 ???

Chuck-wills-widow - Rondeau - Jun 2


Hopefully this pulls in any records! The sooner I get the reports, the sooner we can start the voting process. Waiting till late December makes it insane trying to get all the voting done by the spring :)

Thanks for reading and your time spent sending stuff to the OBRC!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

All good things come to an end...

I'm probably going to sit back and marvel at the birding insanity I had from Aug 17-Sep 17 2013.... Some of the notables -

1 Rosy-faced Lovebird (escape, but still sweet) 
1 Red-throated Loon
1 Neotropic Cormorant (first for Hamilton - only 6-7 ever for Canada) 
1 Northern Gannet (first adult for Hamilton and 4th adult for Ontario) 
4 Peregrine Falcons
4 American Golden Plover
1 Whimbrel
3 Red-necked Phalaropes
7 Long-tailed Jaegers
24 Parasitic Jaegers
4 Pomarine Jaegers
4 Sabine's Gulls
7 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
1 Black Tern
1 Brown-chested Martin (first for Canada pending acceptance) 

Utter insanity. Especially when you consider the fact that I saw every last one of them from my balcony...

With that said, all good things must come to an end (yes, I'm listening to the song as I write this)... I had a very strong feeling last Thursday (Sep 19th) that last weekend was going to be some epic birding weather. I knew I had Friday to Sunday off, and could very easily drive down to Pelee and sleep in my vehicle. 

The only problem - I didn't really have the time... Well, maybe I did - but maybe the smart idea was to stay and home and get ready. I'm flying out to BC on Wednesday (25th) for two solid weeks of work... The work is going to be utterly amazing - but it is also going to put an end to my rarity-hunting adventures for a while (as noted above, it already stifled this past weekend). That's the way it goes!

I may end up "missing" over a month of uber-prime birding-time in the condo/patch/southern Ontario in general... Although I think it's actually a pretty good thing overall. Even though I'll be birding (somewhere else) the entire time - I'll actually return home with "the fire" to bird like crazy at my patch again to make up for missed birds!

So what birds DID I end up seeing this weekend? 

I did note 1 Wood Duck from the condo on Sunday (22nd)... And that's all she wrote... 

All good things come to an end - which allows for new freakin awesome things to begin! I'll be away from contact (no email/cell etc for weeks), but will hopefully have some new photos and stories to share upon my return!

(I guess this is my way of saying sorry that the blog is going back into "boring mode")

Monday, September 23, 2013

That rain we had...

AWCN11 CWTO 221011
Updated weather summary for all of Southern Ontario and the
National Capital Region
Issued by Environment Canada
Sunday 22 September 2013.

------------------------------------------------- ------------
==weather event discussion==

A slow moving cold front combined with tropical moisture from the
Gulf of Mexico produced bands of heavy rain and scattered
thunderstorms across much of Southern Ontario Friday into
Saturday. The rain has moved to the east of the regions this morning.

General rainfall amounts were between 20 to 40 millimetres. However
in quite a few areas significantly higher amounts were reported.
In particular, a band from Western Lake Erie through London and
Waterloo region toward the Dundalk Highlands received 50 to 100 mm.
Areas Southern Georgian Bay to Bancroft received near 50 mm.

Below are total rainfall amounts since Friday that have been
Reported as of 6:00 AM. Only locales which received 30 mm or
More are included. Several of the reports are from the grand river
and Toronto region conservation authority, as well as trained
Weather spotters and off duty meteorologists.

Location rainfall amount (millimeters)

Harrow 31.2
Kingsville 32.5
Ridgetown 73.2
Chatham 49.0 (as of 8 AM sat)
Kent ridge (se Chatham) 78.0 (as of 10 AM sat)
Blenheim 45.0
New Glasgow 50.0
Tillsonburg 48.5
Sarnia 44.9
Exeter 67.8 (as of 9 AM sat)
Strathroy 79.6 (as of 7 AM sat)
London 103.8
Dorchestor 75.0
Grimsby 51.0
Port Weller 40.5
Welland 47.5
Port Colborne 51.0
Fort Erie 76.6
St. Catharines south end 56.1
Roseville 63.1
Jarvis 83.8
Jamestown (se Wingham) 63.2 (as of 7.30 AM sat)
Fergus shand dam 71.4
Millbank (grca) 82.8
Woolwich (grca) 65.2
Wellesley (grca) 113.4
New Hamburg (grca) 102.6
Cambridge (grca) 46.4
Paris (grca) 49.0
Brantford (grca) 36.6
Burford (grca) 34.6
Laurel creek (grca) 85.4
Conestogo (grca) 69.2
Northwest Waterloo 117.1
Waterloo-Wellington Airport 45.8
Kitchener Stanley Park 50.0
Elora 82.6
Arthur (grca) 93.0
Luther (grca) 89.8
Jamestown (se Wingham) 63.2 (as of 7.30 AM sat)
wroxeter (E Wingham) 73.2
Mount Forest 69.4
Dundalk 69.2
Georgetown 40.0 (EST'd)
Toronto Pearson Airport 37.4
Albion hills (trca) 48.4
Brickworks (trca) 32.8
Clairville dam (trca) 38.8
Dufferin reservoir (trca) 41.9
G ross lord dam (trca) 35.0
Laidlaw precip (trca) 37.2
Oak Ridges (trca) 52.1
Stouffville dam (trca) 40.4
Toronto East York 38.7
Toronto city 31.8
Markham Buttonville Airport 40.6
Vaughan 34.0
Uxbridge 36.4
Baldwin 46.0
Barrie 57.1
Egbert 39.7
Shanty Bay 35.4
Thornbury 34.1
Collingwood 54.0
Orillia 65.0
Muskoka 53.6
Beatrice 36.1
Parry Sound 35.8
Haliburton 42.6
Algonquin east gate 55.1
Bancroft 53.3
Peterborough 30.6
Tapley (sw Peterborough) 36.3
Trenton 30.0
Kingston 38.6
Brockville 38.0
Kemptville 33.8
Pembroke 47.8
Petawawa 30.5

This weather summary contains preliminary information
And may not constitute an official or final report.


There's another big front in the forecast for next week - perhaps during the OFO conference !

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The terrible and wonderful reasons I go birding all the time...

Not normally something I would post on the blog - but I'm also short on material right now (and didn't want to leave my "please lead my ofo hike" post on the top any longer than a day)...

I often check a webcomic known as "the oatmeal" - for some entertainment.

It has nothing to do with birds...

(don't worry birds, it has nothing to do with oatmeal either)

With that said, there was a rather long comic titled "the terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances" that was posted semi-recently...

Overall, it explains why the author has taken to running marathons as a hobby. It's kinda funny - but whatever right?

(whole comic here) -

As I read along, I was rather indifferent until I read what could essentially be the grand conclusion of this little animated story. Three "frames" specifically...

If I could just swap out "run" with "bird" - well that's darn remarkable. The second panel in particular really sets the mood for why I'm constantly interested in birding... The specifics (eg,/ Cake) don't really match up, but the basic message is the same.

I've always found it interesting that I seem to do my "best" birding when I'm alone, perhaps because my mind has free reign to wander in any direction it pleases.

Anyways.. Just wanted to share... I feel like I've spent hundreds of hours contemplating the future and trying to understand the actions I take... Do you ever spend time thinking about "why" you go birding? Or do you just "go birding" ?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Anyone want to lead a hike for the OFO conference?

Convention info:

This is why I can't be trusted... I'm signed up to lead a hike for the OFO conference on Friday Sep 27, and now I can't go...

Anyone want to take over? The details:

Friday: 7:30 – 11:30 Point Pelee Birding Area: Tour local hotspots including Hillman Marsh, the onion fields and Wheatley Harbour. Meet at the Roma Club parking lot.

If you lead the hike, you get in the conference/dinner for free! Totally worth it!


So why can't I go? Well I'm going to be on a boat for 2 weeks in British Columbia doing marine bird surveys... Kinda hard to pass up on a huge number of hours seeing life birds...

If anyone is interested, send me an email and I can pass along your info to the correct parties!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Planning to find a rare bird this weekend...

Edit - I wrote this Wednesday night - and by Thursday morning the forecast is already looking far less exciting than it was.... But I decided to post this anyways....


Friday -

Strong southerly flow extending into the province... 

Everywhere south of Parry sound to north of Kingston... Based on the proposed rain limits, it looks like it will be pretty clear right t Long Point and maybe Fort Erie... (and mayyybe Pelee)....\

The last time there was a setup like this, an Anhinga and  Least Tern were seen on Lake Michigan... But (as with a LOT of rare birds) they were essentially "passage" birds - not nailed down for a twitch...

Some places to check:

Sarnia/Lake St. Clair could catch something... 

Pelee (the tip) is always good on a SW wind - but perhaps not to 'catch' these vagrants early on Friday... 

Harbours like Erieau, Port Stanley and Port Burwell could have a stroke of luck... 

Long Point is always good, if you're out there..

Personally, I might try from Niagara Falls down to Fort Erie then to Port Colborne... (in some sort of order).. If I can escape my patch.. 

Possible rare Predictions 

- "Regular rare" Souther Heron (plegadis ibis, Snowy Egret or Little Blue Heron?) in far SW Ontario (sarnia to rondeau and SW).. 

- the Lake Erie Brown Pelican returning to Pelee - or maybe Long Point or Fort Erie

- Laughing Gull at one of the Lake Erie sheltered spots - Port Burwell??... 

Best chance for a mega - Toss up between Port Stanley/Burwell and Fort Erie... Rare waterbird is the one... (Least Tern?) 


Saturday - 

Timing is everything - and this looks like a toss-up right now...

Will there be grounded migrants? 

Will there be western rares (avocet or something?) 

Will some areas (like Fort Erie- still have a strong SW wind for the morning? 

I have a sneaky suspicion this will be the type of day where someone finds something great while birding their local area... Perhaps it arrived on the great weather friday (south) - perhaps it is riding the cold front Saturday (west) - or perhaps it arrived 10 days ago and was just recently found... The problem is rain - maybe no one will go out and the "rare" will be found Sunday.. 

(I also have little doubt there will be some very good birds at Cape Henrietta Maria this day as well, if you can get there...) 

Possible rare Predictions

OBRC rarity "landbird" (White-winged Dove?) at Long Point... 

Southern Warbler (Yellow-throated Warbler) somewhere random (Toronto?) - or perhaps a Summer Tanager... 

Annnddd... maybe a  Western Sandpiper somewhere that has habitat (Windemere in Hamilton??) - given that few (none?) have been reported this fall.. 

Best chance for a mega - Toss up for Point Pelee or Presqu'ile . via putting in the time and stumbling upon a uber-rare passerine in the shrubbery. (Cassin's Kingbird?) 

Tip of Long Point gets cut for not being accessible... 


Sunday - beauty weather and NE winds (maybe)... 

This is "clean up" day... Anywhere could have a great bird (and great birding) after the recent weather systems we've had... NE winds are good for the lakeshore woods (Prince Edward County, Presqu'ile etc) out east... 

Typical Lakewatch at Van Wagner's Beach conditions

SW Ontario collects the rarest birds that vacate the province...

Possible rare Predictions: 

- Northern Wheatear in eastern Ontario 

- Van Wagner's Beach gets some good birds with Pomarine Jaegers and Red Phalarope - but also a Franklin's Gull... 

- Pelee and/or Holiday Beach are situated for something good.. Swainson's Hawk almost seems too easy...

Best chance for a mega- Holiday Beach could shock and awe with something mega (diurnal migrant) from the SW (Swallow-tailed Kite??)... 


I think like this every time I plan a birding day/weekend etc. First time I've gone "all out" with a post (just for fun)...

The short and sweet (in my mind) to find a mega (which is always my goal) - 

Friday - waterbirds via lakewatching at the right places... 

Saturday - best chance for a rare passerine

Sunday - best chance all weekend for a mega as they leave via SW Ontario.. 

Obviously there is NO substitute in birding to "putting in the time" ... I think it'd be a great weekend to spend at Pelee, but I also have a hard time justifying the 6+ hour drive to slightly increase my chances at a great bird.. (eg - 20% chance at Pelee Sunday vs. 10% chance from my balcony).. So I'll probably just stay home and bird locally - but hey! It's fun (for me) to think about these things....

Have any predictions of your own? 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Birding Repor for Sep 17 - patch time

For some reason, I just wasn't feeling the lakewatch..... Meaning - patch birding!

It was a REALLY birdy morning (by patch standards). I picked up NINE new patch birds - highlighted by a Mourning Warbler - although most were just "filler" birds that I missed out on by working steadily through March and April....

I started at "Frances Woods" (tiny woodlot east of my condo). This had the MOWA mentioned above... EBIRD -

34 species in that tiny stand'o'trees... including 11 warbler species.. I'll take it!!!


Given the "birdy-ness" - I walked straight to the west end of my patch (Confederation Park - old campground) and found more birds! Ebird.. Pssst, EBIRD -

A few shorebirds (LESA, SESA, LEYE) were in the pond. Only 1 Egret.. Lots of passerine migrants including 14 warbler species... I really fell like this place has all the right stuff for a rare passerine - but never get really excited when I'm actually there. Maybe someday?

Confederation Park last October.. Doesn't that just look like heaven to a Vermillion Flycatcher? 


Finally I couldn't pass up a quick walk through Edgelake Park (centre of the patch map) - given all the birds around - I ignored the fact that I was rather hungry for lunch... Ebird ebird ebird!  -

Another 11 warbler species, including an awesome experience with 3 Parula's that pished within 10ft... I actually managed to get the entire Carolina Wren family really riled up with six birds scolding me at close range - all at the same time... It was pretty fun...


Overall it was fun! 18 total warbler species, and I somehow managed to miss Redstart (that other people said was one of the more common species they were seeing)... 75 species total was pretty good for totally ignoring Lake Ontario.. If you scanned the checklists - you'll notice that there was a very different flavour in the air in terms of birdlife - 10 Winter Wrens? Sapsuckers? Kinglets? White-throated Sparrows?

I maintain what I said a week or so ago - the weather is a lot of fun right now - but are we going to be upset when all the birds are gone by mid Oct?! Or will there be Gyr's around by then?!

Or will it change?!

Anyways - if you're interested in following along the old patch list (and seeing what 9 species were new ) - I uploaded/updated the list:


This post is lacking in crummy record bird photos!

Lesser Black from my balcony on the 16th... 

Sanderling at Lakeland Centre on the 16th... 

Late update - 1 Parasitic Jaeger and 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull (both juveniles) around 6pm...


This was 10 years ago today -

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bird Repor - Sep 16 - condo, Van Wagner's

I've been reporting from the Lake so much, people are going to start thinking I live there...wait... WAIT......

Condo watch (typical on/off from 7am till 2pm ish)

Gadwall 8
American Wigeon 12
Northern Pintail 93
Green-winged Teal 15
Greater Scaup 4
White-winged Scoter 12
Northern Harrier 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Golden-Plover 2
Whimbrel 1
Parasitic Jaeger 1
Sabine's Gull 2
Bonaparte's Gull 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull 2 - adults
Great Black-backed Gull 2
Caspian Tern 4

Interestingly, of all those birds (Golden Plover, Whimbrel, Sabines, Jaeger, etc etc) - the HARRIER was new for the patch... #172.

Pintail numbers were undercounted - as were all other ducks (especially the species I ignored) 

I don't mean to get too worked up about this "condo birding stuff" - but I'm seeing unusual birds - EVERY DAY... And I don't mean unusual as in rare, but just plain weird... The Harrier was over 1km up - flying NORTH out over the lake... What was it doing? 

Not many loons, lots of Geese, and a few strange flocks of Swallows (including some Tree's - which I haven't seen in weeks here) 

I'm not trying to be arrogant here, but based on the number of interesting/strange bird sightings I'm having - it feels like another serious rarity is on the doorstep... 


I then went to Lakeland Centre at Van Wagner's from 3:30pm to 6:30pm ish for the "good light/close birds" phenomenon - it worked again. 

The highlights: 

Northern Shoveler 1          (I'm pretty sure I have a really hard time finding this species amongst dabbler flocks at my condo) 

Osprey 1
Red-necked/Red Phalarope 2 - probable reds
Pomarine Jaeger 1 -      very dark juvenile
Parasitic Jaeger 5 -  two were adults
Sabine's Gull 3 - juvs
Lesser Black-backed Gull 2 - both juvs


Finally- east winds mean I won't be going far tomorrow - but I gotta wonder - Are southern rares lurking around the Great Lakes still?

Strong south winds from Sep 13 -

Anhinga from Lake Mi in IL on Sep 13 -

Little Blue Heron report from Peche Island, Windsor:

Least Tern report on Lake MI in MI -

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Patch birding - then boat birding! - Sep 14, 2013

I was actually trying to photograph the cormorant... 

I really didn't watch from my balcony (although I did have an empid fly past over 150ft up - what the heck?)... But I did rock my two closest woodlots in the patch:

Frances Woods - EBIRD time:

Highlights - Eastern Kingbird

First for patch - Northern Parula (2) and Philly Vireo


Edgelake Park - EBIRD baby:

Highlights - 3 more Parulas

New for patch - Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak (4+), Northern Waterthrush


Overall, it was pretty fun! 5 new species for the patch puts the list at 168... I've also lost my point-and-shoot camera so it'll be awhile until I start posting terrible record photos of marginally uncommon birds here again...


That evening my Dad and I did a semi-successful zodiac trip under questionable conditions. It's hard to keep track of what exactly is around when you're floating in a boat - but we had confirmed Sabine's Gulls, Pomarine Jaegers and Parasitic Jaegers...

Maybe I'll just add some colour to this post with some record paja photos:

Underexposed, but moving at near top "parasitic speed"

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Condo birding + Van Wagner's Beach - Sep 13, 2013

ANOTHER killer north wind in the forecast. Will we be paying for this later in the fall when all the birds leave early?! Or will there be Gyr's and Ivory Gulls around by November?!

If this weather pattern holds, I'm going to be one very very happy condo-birder for weeks to come... As of right now, it looks like another dose of N winds Monday and more warm temps by Thursday... Awesome stuff...


I awoke early yesterday to do a balcony watch - and it was COLD ... From 7am-2pm I watched on/off from my balcony and from my office (yes, I retreated to an indoor watch for a while)...The highlights -

American Wigeon - 16
American Black Duck -  7
Mallard -  20
Northern Pintail -  31
Green-winged Teal -  25
Greater Scaup -  4
Double-crested Cormorant - 1 mostly creamy/white leucistic individual
Turkey Vulture -  3
Osprey -  1
Parasitic Jaeger -  4 was an adult...
Long-tailed Jaeger - 2 adult type and dark juv
Great Black-backed Gull -  2
Caspian Tern - 6
Common Tern -  5
Chimney Swift -  8
Eastern Kingbird -  1

A healthy flight of Geese and Common Loons went unrecorded...

Only photo I took on the morning - uber distant record photo of the milky cormorant... It felt like the other birds DID NOT enjoy it's company, and harassed it a few times in the short views I had...

Overall it was a pretty good morning. I'm a firm believer you've got to "pay your dues" when it comes to finding some rares... And once again (similar to lots of the mornings I've had), there were several "payment birds"... 

- The kingbird flew past 150ft up - late and strange location (future rare fly payment) 

- there was a steady "flight" of Chimney Swifts (future rare diurnal migrant payments)

- I had a freak bird (white cormorant) - (future payment for obvious/sexy rarity)

- a steady/large flight of ducks for the date - (future rare fowl payment)

- solid time lakewatching (jaegers, gulls etc) - (future rare flyby waterbird payment)


Anyways it was fun! Then I started slackin (not watching as much) when I got work of a FLOCK of SIX Long-tailed Jaegers at Van Wagner's beach ...

That prompted me to get out of the condo at to Van Wagner's....

From 3:30pm-6pm the highlights were:

American Wigeon 3
Pomarine Jaeger 2
Parasitic Jaeger 2
Long-tailed Jaeger 1
Chimney Swift 2
Peregrine Falcon 1

I didn't have my camera with me, but as soon as I arrived an "adult" Long-tailed Jaeger (3 years + a few months) PUT ON A SHOW with a beauty of a juvenile Pomarine for 15-20 minutes... Doing tag-team chases of gulls at super-close range... At one point, they couldn't have been more than 100ft away, over the shore/land!

It was freakin awesome!

Around 5pm-ish a juvenile Parasitic Jaeger did a chase/power flight 50ft offshore, parallel to us at Lakeland - providing the trifecta of Jaegers within 100ft...

Some of the best darn views I've had at Jaegers from land in a long time!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

More rare birds on route + Quiz answer!!!

You work 19ish hours in the last day or so and suddenly everything seems like a distant memory...

That means - it's time to find more rare birds!

Marine forecast -

Tonight and Friday
Strong wind warning in effect.
Wind northwest 15 knots increasing to northwest 20 near midnight then veering to north 20 early Friday morning.

Saturday Wind light.

Sunday Wind west 15 knots.

Monday Wind light.

That means condo watch Friday! (in a few hours - must sleep soon) 

Saturday - boat!

Sunday - nurse hangover

Monday - boat!

Looks like a SUPERB schedule to me... Maybe someday from Saturday to Monday (maybe Saturday?) will be a huge hawk flight down on Lake Erie?! Maybe?! I'm not sure - I won't be there.. But maybe?! 


Quiz bird! - the answer is...

Townsend's Warbler!

Congrats to Jon Ruddy for being the first to post the correct answer (and heck - to everyone else who went with TOWA too!) 


The tropics are finally doing something - always have to recommend my favourite news places for Hurricanes and storms -

Tropical Tidbits! -

Jeff Masters -



Random filler?! Anything!? - ok how about these - 


Remember this Peregrine from the condo back on Sep 1?

Turns out she was "Cosmina" - born in Toronto this year at 18 King Street !

From the CPF news site:

September 04, 2013 - Toronto - King Street

Tracy Simpson Reports:
Another one of our girls is on her way south from her natal nest site!  Branden Holden, birder and photographer in the Stoney Creek area, spotted a juvenile peregrine on Sept. 2 and was able to get a sighting of her showing tape colour and partial band number.  The bird is without a doubt Cosmina from the 18 King Street East nest site!!  Great journey Cosmina!!

and finally... 

I don't really know where this came from - but it's amazing... One photo from 365 photos - each slice is a day of the year.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My sketch/notes for the Brown-chested Martin - and new research

This is one of those blog posts that were pieced together over time...

A scan/copy of my field notes of the Brown-chested Martin:

 (I noticed after I left the scanner that these copies look HORRIBLE - but they'll do for now)

The text (clockwise):

- outer half of wings long and powerful looking

- basal half of wings appeared longer than a swallow species structurally

- flight was steady. Upon reaching (or close to) the lakeshore it turned east and flew rather directly with few if any changes in direction.

- clear white on the bottom of the head with dusky borders

- prominent dark "necklace" - strong contrast

- Wings dark above & below with no specific notes made in that regard

- appeared distinctly larger than our typical swallow species but not as large/strong/robust as a Purple Martin

- generally dark brownish above

- no obvious signs of molt

- shallow fork in the tail distinctly noted

- underside of body appeared to be mostly a clean white

The Notes: Sep 9, 2013   301 Frances Ave. Stoney Creek, ON Unit 1709.   B. Holden

total obs time 60-90 seconds (est).

- first appeared around ~0915 while scanning with my scope over the lake, approaching from the NW (height, 150ft?) over the calm water

- obvious large swallow/Martin with a distinct dark necklace w/ white throat and belly

- bird gained altitude as it approached, flying strong and direct with very irregular turns/twists

- upon nearing the shore (now 200-250ft?) it turned due east and flew steadily past me. At one point it did a rather strong looking "stall" while still facing east but then continued flying.

- continued gaining height (very slowly) - until gone from view, ending maybe 250-300ft up and 100-200ft offshore.


- viewing conditions a neutral gray with the sun behind clouds and the lakewater background a calm (windless) gray. Wind calm at the sufrace but i believe a steady SSE or SE wind was blowing at my height (similar height to the height of the bird).

- First half of observation with a water background, second half with sky.


Research from Sep 10th - 


Going into ebird, I found the following records for the ABA area -

Jun 12, 1983 - Barnstable, Massachusetts

Nov 6-15, 1997 - Cape May, New Jersey

Feb 3, 2006 - Patagonia Lake State Park, Arizona.

Sep 6, 2009 - Cameron, Louisiana

Oct 12-14, 2009 - Plymouth, Massachusetts

Aug 28, 2011 - Northampton, Virginia

...and - Sep 9, 2013 - Hamilton, Ontario


I found the above list interesting. There are now 7 records (pending acceptance of mine) for the ABA. Three of which occur within a 13 day window of Aug 28-Sep 9... You could also say that three of five fall records for the ABA occurred within that window as well.

It should be noted that the Aug 28 record was during Hurricane Irene (which might make you think - "well, that's just a Hurricane Bird") - but Irene did not form or travel through the range of Brown-chested Martin at any point....

Strange eh? I was having a hard time digesting the fact there was a Brown-chested Martin in Ontario on Sep 9... But it seems to make sense. I then went into the OBRC records looking at Fork-tailed Flycatcher. This is what I noticed: 5 of 7 fall records for Ontario occurred between Sep 3-Oct 5 !

Isn't Oct-Nov the months for rare flycatchers? Not September? I went into ebird (for both species) and noticed that their Austral migrations are both going full-steam ahead in September... Hmm.... I guess that's why this date-pattern has formed.

(what the heck is with that cluster around the NE states and southern ON???)

I also found it fun that the pattern of occurrence (geographically) for Fork-tailed Flycatcher is rather similar to the (weak) pattern being shown by Brown-chested Martin:

I also found this interesting (of the fall records for the NE) -

The 1997 NJ bird was found/nailed down by Paul Lehman et al
The 2009 MA bird was found by Marshall Iliff, Jeremiah Trimble, et al
The 2011 VA bird was found by Ed Brinkley

All of the finders for these birds are people out looking for Mega's... A Fork-tailed Flycatcher is freakin obvious. Non-birders notice them and take photos...

A Brown-chested Martin could fly around Point Pelee all day at the upcoming OFO AGM and get missed. Why? Because it isn't really that obvious. (I'm not saying people can't ID it - it just doesn't "stand out" like a Fork-tailed Flycatcher would) The only reason I really even noticed my bird (or paid attention to it) was because I was on my balcony - and I seem to try and ID every single darn bird I see for the sake of my patch list...

If I were at the AGM - where there will presumably be LOTS of swallows - there is no chance in heck I would be trying to ID every single one.

Maybe that's why there are 9 records of Fork-tailed Flycatcher for Ontario - but only 7 of Brown-chested Martin for the ABA...

Although 5 of which are in the last 7 years... Perhaps if they're "on the radar" - the trend will continue?


Some photos of the bird from Massachusetts in 2009 -


A photo of the Louisiana record:


annd I found these photos of the bird from Cape May, NJ in 1997:
It looks more like what I saw, than the Massachusetts bird... A bit more contrasty - but I guess that probably changes depending on camera/light etc.


Weather analysis:

Sep 4 - lots of high pressure over eastern USA with little of note right down to Texas and Mexico (clear)

Sep 7 - same as above... It is pretty much clear and calm from Mexico to the Great Lakes... 

Sep 9 (day of the bird) - again, totally clear flying from Mexico to the Great Lakes - with a big high pressure centre stopped DIRECTLY OVER TOP OF MY CONDO... 

Is there a chance that the vagrants we see in August/September are influenced more by high pressure than low?! I've thought that for a while now... If the bird is up high and sailing along - it and it hits a centre of high pressure like that with no wind - maybe it comes down because the flying conditons aren't ideal for travel anymore?? (similar effect to rain in low pressure)??

Either way, it startles me to see that map for the overnight/morning of Sep 9 - before I had the bird..


What else has been around?!?!

Sep 4th-8th - THREE Cloudless Sulphurs and a White-M Hairstreak at Pelee... This isn't 2012... That's NUTS.. Clearly southerly creatures have moved into the province..

Sep 2 - strong winds blow some WEKI and AMAV into Ontario... The Snowy Egret is found at Tilbury

Sep 3 - Roseate Spoonbill report in Prince Edward County

Sep 7 - juv Laughing Gull arrives at Pelee

Ok so nothing too crazy (other than that ROSP).... I believe some spoonbills were seen in Kentucky and Illinois around the same time... And a Swallow-tailed Kite report in Ohio and Illinois as well.. 

Actually - a "large hummingbird species" was found in Illinois starting on the 6th as well - see here

I don't exactly think it's a smoking gun, but there was definitely a "southern incursion" in early September - after a summer that was REALLY BAD for southern birds and bugs.


Anyways just some fun facts... I'm essentially stockpiling information for my future report to the OBRC... 

Monday, September 9, 2013

A real blog post - BROWN-CHESTED MARTIN + Weather, Condo, Rares, Quiz etc

I'm not going to lie - I feel like I've been contributing to the stupidity of the world on this blog from time to time. I always complain that television, radio etc just panders to low expectations and does not challenge our intellect in any possible way.

So what do I do? Get lazy and auto-post weak blog entries for weeks on end. Sure, I created the blog to occasionally showcase some of my photography from time to time - who really cares if I've updated my gallery of Herring Gulls? Let's get serious here!!!



0915 on Sep 9th. I'm watching birds on my balcony - doing a long-distance lake-scan with my scope. A bird catches my eye, coming roughly towards me from pretty far offshore. Clearly a Swallow/Martin type beast, but I instantly had that "I've looked at a million plus Swallows/Martins over the years, and this one isn't right" feeling.

I always look through birds looking for something "different" - which I can often find. It's an entirely different feeling when you see something that just doesn't compute. With only the first few seconds of observation - my brain may not even fully understand yet why the bird "is not right" - but there is no denying the sensation that you're looking at a creature that defies the information you have stored in your brain.

It was too big and strong to be a swallow, doing a fairly direct flight from out over the lake. The first feature that was painfully obvious was a black "necklace/collar" like feature contrasting strongly with a white belly and a white throat. The rest of the bird was generally unspectacular dark brownish in colouration. I pretty much know exactly what this bird is going to be - a Brown-chested Martin. There's only one problem - that's a ridiculous fckn idea. I mean, fckn ridiculous.

The entire thought process described above was probably contained within my first 5 seconds of observation, of 60-90ish seconds total - on top of the fact that the bird was the furthest from me - and continued to fly at an angle closer and closer. This allowed for a solid minute (at least) of time to STUDY the damn thing. If there's one thing I've learned about seeing a rarity - despite my years and years of learning to ID birds by GISS - is that you will want FIELD MARKS - specific FIELD MARKS of all types to help remind yourself why you didn't just wake up from a dream soon after the bird leaves.

I sort of run through it in my mind - I spend 10-ish seconds trying to notice every possible mark - store it in the "brain vault" - then start the process again.  This is what I came up with:

- No obvious signs of molt
- generally dark/brownish above
- obviously larger/stronger than our swallows
- noticeably smaller than what I expect for a Purple Martin - perhaps half way between PUMA and TRES.
- a shallow fork/notch in the tail was noticed clearly.
- clear white throat-area with dusky borders.
- underside of body largely a clear white
- prominent dark/contrasting "necklace"
- underside of wings "looked dark" but hard to note anything specific
- the basal half of the wings (from the wrist(?) to the body) seemed to "stick out" from the body more than I would expect for a swallow, making the "wrist/shoulder (what ever it is) look more prominent
- behaviorally, it seemed to be catching the occasional insect (with a weak twist or turn) but was flying rather direct.
- at one point, (catching a bug? burping? sneezing?) the bird did a "stall" mid flight and held it rather powerfully. I remember specifically thinking "while this bird doesn't look like the Purple Martin's I had around all summer, there is no chance a Swallow could pull off a move like that.

The bird flew in off the Lake (from the NW) - then when it was maybe 200-250 ft offshore, it turned eastwards - which caused it to do a parallel flight from left to right (going east), directly in front of my vantage point (per say). During the entire observation period, it steadily but slowly gained altitude. Perhaps 100-150ft at the start (with a water background) to perhaps 200-250ft up near the end (sky background).

After 60-90 total seconds, it was gone.

--- I stepped away from my scope, and walked inside. Left turn, Left turn, sit down at my desk. WRITE. (Something else I've learned about having something like this happen) - before ANYTHING, I want to write down all of those points I went over 4-5 times while just observing the bird seconds ago. (That is where the above list of points came from - directly from my hand-written notes). I also tested my hand at another gawd-awful sketch - which i really think helps.

Once done writing, I told myself. "This is insane. Do some research, if ANYTHING is wrong, just try and forget it ever happened."

I have never seen a Brown-chested Martin, and there were things in my notes that I had NO IDEA if they were shown by the species or not... Should the throat be that obviously white? Should the species show a shallow notch/fork in the tail? Is the rest of the belly/undertail that clean white underneath? Should the species be smaller than a Purple Martin???

Let's get looking...

Yes, the southern (austral subspecies) has a whiter throat that the others. Hmm...

Yes, the species seems to show a shallow notch/fork in the tail - in fact, it looks the exact same. Little did I know, Tree Swallow seems to show a (roughly) similar tail shape, whereas Bank Swallow and Purple Martin are (generally) a bit more forked. N Rough-winged Swallow does not show that feature at all.

Yes, the belly/undertail is a clean white...

But for the life of me, I couldn't find a measurement for Brown-chested Martin! After maybe 10-15 minutes of looking, I found a "google book" that had the information. Here's the rundown (of the most similar Ontario species) - of their average measurements:

BANS - 13.3cm, 13.5g  (Bank Swallow)

TRES - 14.6cm, 20.0g  (Tree Swallow)

PUMA - 20.3cm, 56g  (Purple Martin)


BCMA - 15.9cm, 36.0g (Brown-chested Martin)

Well ok then... I guess that explains all of my remaining questions (eg,/ why did it look smaller than a Purple Martin?)

Brown-chested Martin.........


Then the reality set in... It's gone... It did not behave in any manner to suggest it would be seen again or return... and it was a gawd-damn Brown-chested Martin. What the heck am I supposed to do with this nervous energy ?????

When you see a bird like a Black Swift at Point Pelee in May  - you run around like an insane person yelling at everyone who even remotely looks like a birder within 700m of any direction. It's sort of an outlet. I was alone in my condo!!!

I really had to do some sort of an outlet that didn't involve typing or texting (I couldn't text, fingers weren't working properly)... I called my Mom, (Hi Mom!) My Dad, and Ken-tucky - who talked some sense in me and got me working on an ontbirds post.

For the rest of the morning, things were a bit of a blur. I thought I was working fairly quickly on an ontbirds post, when Ken texted me back asking where it was. Apparently 60-ish minutes had passed without me really noticing.

In fact, over the next 4-5 hours I canceled my plans for the day and things sort of passed in a blur.... I had a habit of walking onto my balcony - looking through my scope for 10-15 seconds, then going back inside. What on earth would be out there to see after a bird like that?


The answer came at about 2:15pm when I spotted the first condo POMARINE JAEGER...

Although at 2:16pm I had a Parasitic.. Maybe I made a mistake?

2:18pm - Yes, that's a Parasitic Jaeger.

2:19pm - HEY, the Parasitic just flew up and chased the Pomarine! I'm not crazy after all.

2:22pm - two Parasitic Jaegers

2:24pm - juvenile Long-tailed Jaeger! dayumn!

2:25pm - the Long-tailed just chased 3 Red-necked Phalaropes up off the water - and keeps chasing them!

If there is anything that can awaken you from a Brown-chested Martin "shock-coma" - it's Jaegers... Smiling like an idiot, I opened a celebratory brew and started watching seriously for the rest of the afternoon. The final haul:

11 White-winged Scoters
2 Horned Grebes
2 Osprey
1 Black-bellied Plover
3 Red-necked Phalaropes
2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls
2 Great BB Gulls
7 Common Terns
4 Pomarine Jaegers (including a very pale bird)
8 Parasitic Jaegers (est minimum number - probably more)
2 Long-tailed Jaegers (including an ADULT around 3:30pm)
1 Merlin

- oh and a Brown-chested Martin rounded out the highlights for the day...



Let's talk WEATHER - 

There is a HUGE warm front pushing through our area tomorrow. They're calling for 44 degrees (with humidity) round here for cryin out loud! That is RARE BIRD WEATHER...

It has been good for days!!! I was actually just starting a post on this stuff when I saw the Martin...

We keep getting rapidly moving fronts of warm and cold!!! Rares!!! RARES!!!

More north winds Friday!! RARES!!!


Let's talk about that old quiz -

Most people agreed, this bird was a Least Flycatcher...

About 50% of people guessed BARROW's Goldeneye correctly for this one

I've never actually been confident on an ID with this bird - but most answered Lesser Scaup. Do you agree? 

Most people went with Carolina Chickadee for this one - which is great because it's a never-before-seen image of the bird Dave Bell and I found at Pelee this May...

and finally... 

No one has guessed this photo correctly yet! Leave a comment! And don't be shy - these pictures were never meant to be identified!


Incomplete previous days of the condo-watch game... I meant to "flesh this out" but I don't think I'll get to it... A rough idea of what I've seen recently (prior to the nutty stuff of today)

Sep 3 - Worked on the balcony. Didn't "scan" as much - leading to the highlights being close to my building.

- 2 Great Black-backed Gull (1 adult, 1 juv)
- Several groups of Cliff and Barn Swallows
- 20+ flyby Common Loons
- 12 Mallards
- 3 Greater Scaup
- several groups of Canada Geese

- also had the "tantalizing all white pigeon crossing the lake" at mid day. Looks strange seeing a fast and all white bird, low to the water, waaay offshore.

Also had some raptors:

1 Kestrel, 1 Coopers, 2 Turkey Vultures, 1 Osprey... Pics below are from my balcony. The vulture is full frame!


Sep 5 - Parasitic Jaeger - super distant - in the morning. Didn't watch much.

Patch birding! - Frances Woods, did a quick walk through:

Mid-day lakewatching -

- 2 American Wigeon (FoF)
- 11 Common Terns

Late day lakewatching -

- 2 ADULT Sabine's Gulls!!!
- 4 Parasitic Jaegers!!!


Sep 8 - morning

Lots of ducks/geese (wigeon, pintail, green-winged teal etc) - regular gulls, loons etc

9 Bonaparte's Gulls
2 Parasitic Jaegers (including a nice close adult)
1 adult Bald Eagle
1 juv Peregrine Falcon

4th individual recently. This one was unbanded...

Sooner or later, I'm going to have to go back to work...