Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pelee birds - Oct 30th

Yeah, I decided to run away from any responsibilities once again - and bird Pelee!

Just a quick update. I didn't sleep terribly well...

Lots of birds around. Wheatley Harbour had lots of gulls but nothing fun. 1 Dunlin as well.

Muddy Creek - 1 Dunlin, 5+ Great Blues...

(I decided to check for rare flycatchers, abandoning other possible birds today. Not sure why)...

I birded all along the east shore of the "pelee peninsula" from Wheatley to the park boundary (then a bit along the north dyke). I turned up a few phoebes... And a Little Gull off Hillman Marsh

Inside the park there was a large dose of kinglets, creepers, sparrows, rumps etc. A decent hawk flight was going overhead as well, even with the south winds... Several Red-shoulders...

When I was last at Pelee several days ago, grebes and loons were scarce. They're now everywhere you look! I still had 500+ Tree Swallows to sort through as well....

Same story at the tip and VC - lots of birds, nothing of note at all. 2 Bluebirds were nice... I decided to rollerblade for a while then left the park!

DUSK - Sturgeon Creek had some birds worth reporting. 3 Long-billed Dowitchers and 2 White-rumped Sands! Along with 2 Greater Legs, 1 Killdeer, 2 Snipe and 100 Dunlin... A Great Horned Owl started calling in the nearby woods - making me assume that is why there are no Ibis or other goodies here (cause they'd get eaten!)...

Here's hoping for Oct 31st to bring some frighteningly good birds! Nov 1st looks better...

Insect highlights came in the form of 2-3 Common Buckeyes....


Today - big mess of rain and warm temps.. This system is taking its sweet time pulling together.. Not really sure what you might expect on a day like this... Has the possibility of bringing mega passerines to our shores - but could be a dud....

Nov 1st forecast - STILL hasn't pulled together, but twin 979 and 983 lows are nothing to snuff at... 100kmh SW wind gusts along Lake Erie sure smell like Franklin's Gulls to me... I wonder what else might arrive?!


Common Swift in CA: ????

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This storm system STILL looks very interesting....

Clearly the last storm system brought some rare birds... This one looks better (on paper)...

I REALLY REALLY don't understand what exactly brings these rare birds into the province (eg,/ what part of the storm)... There is a strong correlation to a "big storm" and "good birds turning up" - but the DAYS that the birds are found DO NOT match the interesting weather. They always seem to occur a day or two before OR after.. WHY?!

(I don't know why)...

All I know is - another big one is on the way...

Storm taking shape today..

Oct 31st... Pretty good structure, with two lows stretched along a frontal boundary... Very strong south winds hitting southern Ontario (and warm temps) - but will the rain block any good birds from arriving?! (Does anyone know?!) 

OH MY GAWD! - Nov 1st - the Low's have merged into one and the storm "bombs out" (phasing of the jet stream?) to a MONSTER 971mb low...  (This looks like FRANKLIN'S GULLS to my eye)... 

Nov 2nd - the system RACES away to the NE....

Disclaimer - these are just a single run of the GFS (runs 4 times per day)... The official forecast from NOAA looks to be a bit weaker, but still dang strong... Marine forecasts are calling for 35 knots for Lake Erie and Ontario......... 

This is one of those events where it will be interesting to see what is found over the next 7-ish days in the province. Hopefully the weekend weather is nice and lots of birders get out to find anything that has been dropped

 (Hamilton Fall Bird Count is this Sunday!) 


From Env Canada - 

Scary conditions loom for Halloween. And the weather will be rather
unsettled as well.

------------------------------------------------- --------------------
'tis the season for Colorado lows and this week is no exception. A
developing Colorado low will make its way towards Ontario Wednesday
night, ushering in a wet windy but warmer Thursday. Periods of rain
are slated to begin Wednesday night across Southwestern Ontario
reaching Toronto towards dawn Thursday.

Trick or treaters may have a rather wet time during the evening hours
especially from Southwestern Ontario and northeastwards through
Georgian Bay and beyond. But the rain may be more sporadic across the
Niagara, Greater Toronto and Eastern Ontario regions until later in
the evening when steadier rain is likely to set in. So ghouls and
goblins in and around regions neighbouring Lake Ontario may luck out
for part of the evening. The howl of the wind may also accompany that
of the werewolf, as gusty winds bring in mild temperatures for
Halloween revelers.

Please monitor the latest forecasts and warnings from Environment
Canada at



It's not exactly Hurricane Sandy - but it's the best we've got right now! 

(This post will auto-post 2 hours prior to the 1 year anniversary of the utter insanity that occured at Van Wagner's Beach - )

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Condo Birding Update - Oct 27 and 28

I'm still convinced that the buildings actually draw birds towards them. I watched these cormorants appear as specks from Toronto - only to eventually pass within 100ft of my window. 


Have pretty much been ignoring the patch for a while now... Poor patch...

On Oct 27th I didn't really watch at all. But I had a few decent birds including 1 juv Parasitic Jaeger and 1 juv Peregrine Falcon...

Made me think I should actually do a proper "watch" - cue Oct 28th: MEGA DUCK NUMBERS

aa_Condo, Hamilton, CA-ON
Oct 28, 2013 8:10 AM - 11:10 AM
Protocol: Stationary
35 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose 35
Tundra Swan 2
Gadwall 4
American Wigeon 18
American Black Duck 45
Mallard 188
Northern Pintail 175
Green-winged Teal 195
Greater Scaup 200
Lesser Scaup 10
Surf Scoter 3500
White-winged Scoter 5500
Black Scoter 200
Long-tailed Duck 10000
Bufflehead 70
Common Goldeneye 30
Hooded Merganser 3
Common Merganser 1
Red-breasted Merganser 50
Red-throated Loon 4
Common Loon 45
loon sp. 1
Double-crested Cormorant 30
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Dunlin 2
Pomarine Jaeger 1             dark juvenile - pretty close - up 150ft
Bonaparte's Gull 36
Ring-billed Gull 75
Herring Gull 55
Great Black-backed Gull 8
Rock Pigeon 2
American Robin 5
European Starling 20
Red-winged Blackbird 40
American Goldfinch 60
House Sparrow 20

MAN - that's a lot of ducks.... I almost think I'm missing good birds because there are so many Long-tails and Scoters in view at any point in time - goodies could be slipping past due to the distractions. What can ya do?

Hopefully some more condo watching in the not too distant future...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Niagara River Bird Observations for October 26th 2013

Some sightings:

Fort Erie @ river mouth- 0830 to 1030 (roughly) for a watch

2 Common Terns
1 Little Gull (ad)
1 Dunlin

Oodles of Gulls and Ducks - but alas, no rares.. I then drove north:

Fort Erie @ River

3 Common Terns
3 Little Gulls (1 ad, 1 2nd basic, 1 juvenile)
1 Peregrine Falcon

Above the Falls

3 Little Gulls (adults)
1 Lesser Black-backed Gull (juv)
2 Common Terns
1 Dunlin
250+ Rough-winged Swallows

Below the Falls

Thousands of gulls - but heavy rain and falls mist kept me from really enjoying/sorting them...

2 Ruddy Ducks seemed out of place on the open water .

Adam Beck

1 Kumlien's Iceland Gull (juv) - early!
4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (2 juv, 2 second ba)
1 freak-o gull (more below)

Record grab of the early Iceland


What is this thing:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

More on yesterdays weather post -

Forecast for tonight (Sunday to Monday)

Surface map from the evening of Nov 5, 2009 (the following day had an Ash-throated + Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher found in southern Ontario).

ANYONE notice any similarities between those two maps?! Anyone?! Anyone?!

What's going to happen? (it looks boring as heck, but history shows it wasn't).

Another similarity is that in 2009, this was a precursor to a "warm air event" into the southern part of the province.... Here's another forecast map:

Map for this Thursday... Crazy lookin! 

One problem I could forsee is that the "warm air" could bring a lot of rain to southern Ontario (well, I know it will) - which may stop the lil-birdies from reaching us? (if any move north, that is). 

Although that won't be a problem if the above map verifies (Nov 1st) - where the "back side" of the storm wraps around into southern Ontario... Note the low has bombed out to a 978mb monster. I think this is because there will be some phasing of the polar and subtropical jet - with the polar jet grabbing the low earlier than expected. Kinda has me a little less excited about the storm now, but I'll still wait and watch for what gets reported! (and maybe go looking a bit myself). 


This day in 2012: SANDY

A post I did to HamiltonBirds on this day:

The approach of Hurricane Sandy (a hybrid storm, also going by the name Frankenstorm, due to its expected impacts around Halloween) is now of great interest to birders in Ontario. The exact track the storm, which is very difficult to predict at this time, will likely determine the birds that could be displaced by the system. To start, winds should increase from the north to northeast as the system approaches. Birders in Ohio this morning reported record numbers of grounded waterfowl such as Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, Brant and even a probable Common Eider. By Monday evening, winds in Hamilton could be approaching 100kmh from the NE - which should either make the birding very exciting or extremely difficult.... 

I don't like to predict much more than that for now, but I will be updating my blog on the situation when possible over the next few days... Care for extensive rain, flash flooding, fallen trees and power outages should also be taken into account... 

Happy birding!



This was also the first day I made predictions on the "phases of sandy" public


I'm going to bet that Josh V gets a Fulmar or two tomorrow (Oct 28th) on James Bay - likely their best "wind" day of their first week (if not the entire trip, unless they luck out again around Nov 2-3-4th

Southern James Bay Marine Forecast:

WindsIssued 05:00 AM CDT 27 October 2013

Today Tonight and Monday
Gale warning in effect.

Wind light increasing to west 15 knots late this morning and to west 20 early this afternoon. Wind veering to northwest 15 late this afternoon then increasing to northwest 25 late this evening. Wind increasing to northwest 35 late overnight then diminishing to northwest 30 Monday afternoon.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Is there a rarity event to unfold next week?

Lets talk rarity weather over the next 10 days...... It's MEGA TIME

(Please keep in mind I have no idea what I'm talking about and this may be loaded with errors)

Over the next 2 days, we'll have a very strong low pressure system move through Ontario - attatched to the Polar Jet (as shown above)

GFS forecast maps from mid day on Oct 25th:

(low over NW Ontario in 9 hours)

Strong 993 over central Ontario in 24 hours

Pulls away NE into Quebec in 39 hours

So what does it mean? Well we'll have STRONG SW winds in southern Ontario over that span (turning WNW by the end)... Lake Superior and maybe Huron will go from west to NW... And I do mean WINDY

Forecast for (today) for Lake Erie - winds 35-40 KNOTS! (over 70kph) 

One issue I see is that these "Polar Jet" systems are not "far reaching" to where we get the most vagrants (south)... This storm is strong and cyclonic, but the winds are spinning around an area that doesn't really have THAT many bird species that are rare in Ontario (how many rare species could be blown in from Wisconsin? Not tooo many)... 

Obviously it's a big storm in late October - and rares are already around. White-faced Ibis, Franklin's Gulls, Pacific Loons - all good candidates. PLUS mega's are lurking around as well (Lesser Sand-Plover in Indiana recently -right??)

That's all fine and dandy!

But clearly that's not the only reason I'm doing a detailed blog posting like this....

Dun Dun....

Dun Dun Dun Dun.....


Looking forward:

Oct 28th at 2pm (Monday)

High pressure in our area, a "Colorado Low" is forming in north Texas (SUBtropical jet low pressure system?)

24 hours later (tuesday) - the low is growing and pulling the low to the west into its core... Pulling wind from further away (gulf of mexico) into the core....East winds occurring in southern Ontario 

24 hours later (Wednesday) - the two lows have consolidated and begin moving NE towards Ontario. Wind field is fairly large and the low is somewhat elongated. This allows winds from the Gulf (GOM) reach into extreme southern Ontario (see below):

(Same time winds/direction from the map above it). 

24 hours later (thursday) - the low begins to deepen rapidly and moves into the great lakes (over the lower peninsula of MI now) - wrapped tighter and very deep as a STRONG 987mb low. 

Winds at the same time (same forecast) for the above map. Low level winds reaching from Wyoming AND Florida right to Lake Erie as wind flows into the centre of the low. These winds are low level, and winds HIGHER up (Jet Stream) will be flowing in the area around the pink line into the Low (AKA southern Ontario and Lower MI at this point in time)

TWELVE hours later - the Low is moving rapidly NE - now over central Ontario - 12 hours after this image it shoots off the map. STRONG south winds blow from Florida into Nova Scotia and eastern Canada - but hopefully we have a few mega's deposited in our shores here in Ontario thanks to these events!

I've been watching a few other maps to help illustrate the possibilities as well. How about temperature anomaly? 

Oct 30 

Oct 31

The weather network forecast for Leamington calls for 14 C on the 30th and 15 C on the 31st... So after all of this, I started thinking.... Is there a past "event" that I could compare this forecast to? Some other time when some mega rare birds arrived around this time of year?

How about 2009? 

Nov 6th 2009 - 

Ash-throated Flycatcher at Point Pelee

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher in Oakville

Nov 8th 2009 - 

Summer Tanager at Prince Ed Pt

Nov 9th 2009 - 

Phainopepla in Brampton

Nov 13th 2009 - 

Western Kingbird at Port Burwell

SO - think it's safe to say something unusual happened on or before Nov 6th?!?!?!

Let's bring up the data:

Windsor HIGH Temperatures in November 2009:

Nov 4th - 7.1 C 

Nov 5th - 10.1 C

Nov 6th - 9.4 C

Nov 7th - 19.1 C

Nov 8th - 18.2 C

Nov 9th - 18.4 C

Nov 10th - 11.9 C

Sweet jeepers! Above 18C for a daytime high, 3 days in a row! In November! No wonder there were rare birds...

BUT - but... Why would BOTH the Ash-throated Fly and the Sulphur-bellied Fly be found the DAY BEFORE the warm temps? 

Does the surface map show any info (radar included in this map):

Nov 5th at 9:30pm: 

Nov 6th, 2009 at 3:30am:

Umm..... I see the warm air in the centre of the USA - moving in our direction.... And I see HIGH PRESSURE over southern Ontario!? What the heck? 

The blue blobs are BIRDS moving - but these should all be birds migrating SOUTH on cool temps and light winds. 

More maps from the night of  Nov 5/6 2009 - top right is wind dir and temperature... (850mb heights map)... Top right would be the jet stream...

Both show NW winds at Pelee/Oakville (the respective locations of mega-rare flycatchers found the following day...


Amazing weather occurs the 7th/8th/9th - and the Phainopepla is found on the 9th... But why would those two flys be found BEFORE the event? 

Unless they actually arrived before the event? Or is there reason for them to occur? The above map from Nov 5th at 9:30pm shows a very weak cold front over southern Ontario. Did it "ground" the flycatchers that were moving north for reasons totally unknown?

Or is there some correlation to high pressure centres and rare passerines? (I think there may be) - but I don't understand it... I decided to see if Michigan had any rare flycatchers/passerines from early November in 2009 to help understand the pattern. This is what I found:

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher found on Oct 29th...

Couch's Kingbird found on Oct 29th...

OK - Nothing really remarkable from early November. But DANG - Couch's Kingbird? That's mega. Not to mention a STFL found the same day in the state... One thing to do: here's the maps from Oct 29th - 

Oct 28th at 

Oct 28th at 8pm - 

Warm air south of MI --- but not THAT remarkable in MI itself... Jet pushes towards MI pretty well though... 

Oct 29th at 8am - 

Nothing all that remarkable occurring in MI - other than a southerly flow - but it is still somewhat early for a rare fly to arrive (based on what one would assume). 

Oct 29th at 8pm:

HEY - look at that - it's darn warm in Michigan - after the birds have been found... Daytime heating plays a factor but the warm air mass has clearly moved into the state where it was not there the night before... 

SO - clearly this isn't working as a litmus test... None of us could really understand what weather is causing what birds in the grand scheme of things - BUT - I do think we know enough to know that the weather over the next week. The events in 2009 ("as a whole") are what you would expect for rare birds to occur - despite the difficulties in fully understanding why... Therefore it is not a major stretch to expect something interesting to happen here in the next week.

At this stage of the game - the best thing to do will be to go out birding and see what we find! That will allow for more information/sightings/maps etc to be compiled to draw more conclusions from for the future. 

If 2009 is a good example, perhaps Oct 29th, 2013 will be a good day for you to find a rare passerine (flycatcher?) in the province! (The day before the warm). - We'll also have to wait and see how much the forecast changes over the next 5-6 days as well. Perhaps it will change and I wrote this for nothing!