Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ebird update!??!

Just recently I finally bothered to figure out how to post photos to ebird (in my checklists!) Check it out:


If you'd like to learn how -  check out the help here -

Generally, I just needed to worry about this part:

If you also want viewers to be able to click on the image and go directly to the page where your image is stored, use the following

:<a href="imagesiteurl"><img src="http://imagefileurl/"></a>

and replace the instance of "http://imagefileurl/" with the actual URL to the image and change "http://imagesiteurl" to the URL of the site. Perhaps link to the page that shows other images of that species.

It actually works with my own website! Sa-weet!


Also - I always used igoogle to see notable ebird-birds, but it's dead and gone now. So I've switched to watching this page! Maybe you'll find it interesting as well? -

(Some even have pretty pictures! As detailed above...)


Always check out the ebird flicker page as well -

Friday, November 29, 2013

Condo Birding Update - Stinky

Condo birding has been stinky for the past several weeks... Straight up... So much so, I haven't really even kept track (or even watched that much).

I do remember a few Peregrine Falcons... Always love those crazy birds...

The doldrums started to show some life on the 28th of November though!!! I scored a Glaucous Gull, and then a female KING EIDER - feeding/preening/sleeping pretty close to shore with a decent sized group of Goldeneye... My 5th King Eider for the condo!

Speaking of condo... Nov 24th marked my 1 year anniversary of moving in! Things seem to be going pretty darn well so far - other than the fact it STILL looks like an 80yr old lady decorated... Sooner or later I'm going to have to do something about that...

In celebration - I've updated and uploaded my patch list..

Ended up at 183 species for the first year... Not too shabby! Especially when you consider the limited time I've actually been home - and the even fewer times I've actually gone outside and walked around.... I'm missing a few goodies like American Tree Sparrow and Blue-winged Teal (for example) so hopefully 200 won't be terribly hard to reach (although likely not until spring).


A few things that I HAVE been enjoying recently at home include the sunrise/sunsets. Some examples -

Here's looking to a few great "late season" birds when I get home from BC !

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Niagara River Birding - Nov 27, 2013

Ken Burrell and I teamed up for some sweeet birding... Some highlights -

Stopped by to see this beast - found by Naughty Nathan Miller a few days ago... Pretty crazy bird!  We also scored this Black-legged Kittiwake in a big flock of BOGU not far from shore - 

Full ebird checklist from this area -

We then rocked the area above the falls - scoring:

1 dark-mantled hybrid (I'm guessing Herring X Lesser Black-backed) - 

10+ Lesser Black-backs

4 Iceland Gulls

3 Glaucous Gulls 

Below the falls was pretty slow. Did have a Common Loon and a spankin adult Little Gull 

We then hit up Adam Beck - which was fairly slow overall, but had good birds..

1 juv Thayer's Gull (beauty of a bird, my first of the fall) 

6+ Iceland Gulls

1 Glaucous Gull

We then did a quick stop at Queenston Heights to look for vultures, of which we saw none. So we went home! Not a bad day!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wastewater birding

Tried a few wastewater spots over the past two days..

Globe Park in Hamilton -

Managed to score 2 Great Blue Herons and 4 Juncos... Insane times...

Windemere hot water outflow -

6 Black-crowned Night-Herons among a large host of fowl... No passerines beyond 2 Goldfinch (insane)

Burlington Skyway Wastewater -


St. Catherines Wastewater (with Ken Burrell) -

A COYOTE! A big one too... Not exactly what I had in mind though...


Turns out finding really rare birds isn't as easy as one would like... I suppose that's why they're rare!

Also gives me a good excuse to give up on the plan... Leaving soon anyways

Monday, November 25, 2013

MacG Warbler in PA - plus other warbly times

PA's 2nd record of Macgillivray's Warbler... Based on what I see in the photos, if I found this beast, I'd have a hard time knowing what it actually was... But I'm also not a MacG Warb expert! :)

Talk about "overdue" for Ontario... 2nd only to Glaucous-winged Gull in my opinion...


Personally I thought I was going to spend some time trying to find some mega-passerines at unusual suburban locations this November, but it's not looking like I will have any time to...

ebird did a recent post about what I had in mind (I went to Netitishi instead)... Are they reading my mind!?


Personally, I think you need 2 main factors... WATER (preferably warm water) and SHELTER (preferably unnatural shelter).

There were a few places "close to home" that had caught my eye -

Hamilton's water treatment.. This is the beast that keeps windemere basin (or marsh) warm (as far as I know)... The shelter/woods are offset perhaps a bit tooo much, but I'd be interested to see what hangs out around here... You'll see Lakeland Centre at the very top of the map..

I think some of the best spots in Hamilton might be inside the old steel mill areas, but this one is right on the "edge" of where you may (or may not) be allowed to go (or able to sneak in)... This one looks pretty good in particular to me... 

Being surrounded by suburbia can help concentrate birds in a half-decent patch of natural area... The more surrounded a location is, the better I assume it would be... This one is lacking any water, but looks fairly isolated... At the very least, I'd be interested to see what hangs out around here... 

Another spot... This one is isolated, and has water flowing through it, but is also quite large. Methinks smaller is better, but this would probably be the rough area where I would start my focus...

There's no doubt, the more you look - the more you might find... BUT - it also doesn't hurt to have a plan... Horrible weather days probably don't help.... Steady rain may help bring the birds lower.... Morning (east) sunshine on a westerly wind could/should concentrate birds in the warm spots... 

If you're bored, surf around google maps in your local area and look for these possible little gems of natural space totally squeezed out by big homes or commercial areas. Water treatment plants appear to help A LOT, but some sort of toxic-sludge-filled-chemical creek may have an abundance of flies and other goodies for hungry passerines... (think anything smelly - including rotting fruit or compost places etc) ... Another really good hint that you might be in the right direction is if you find plants that still have a lot of green leaves on them! 

Maybe I'll get out - maybe not - but there does seem to be a lot of goodies lurking!

Who knows what you might find.... One of these might be all yellowy/green. 


Len Manning et al have already taken the initiative to work some of Hamiltons better areas - including Sedgewick Park which has decent shelter - but AWESOME food in the source of midges and crud coming out of an abnormally sewage-rich treatment plant that is there... These places are RIPE for mega's - you just have to find 10+ regular/late/injured/weird birds before you get something bonafide cosmic... Think Rob Dobos a few years ago who went all gangster and found winter Yellow Warbler, Bobolink, Black-throated Green etc etc etc - then a genuine bird that just shouldn't be here at ANY time with the Black-throated Gray...

(ya, this one)... 

The more we look - the more we'll find... Think Nathan Miller with the Lark Sparrow at the Elegant Tern spot... INSANE

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Every single freakin bird I saw on my Netitishi Point trip!!!!!!

Thanks to the magical power of ebird, I thought it would be fun to just post every single freakin bird I saw while on my trip!

Given that this is a birding blog, I'll stick to the birds for now. Although to be 100% honest - the birds were completely and totally overshadowed by other highlights....

The bird highlights!

1 Common Eider! (A very good bird for southern James Bay)
1 probable Barrow's Goldeneye (unconfirmed)
1 gull sp - that was maybe a California Gull (terrible views)
99 Glaucous Gulls (1 day high of 45)
2 Nelson's Gulls
5 Purple Sandpipers
11 Snowy Owls
1 Northern Hawk Owl
3 "Hornemann's" Hoary Redpolls


The "real" highlights will have to wait!!! (Until I get around to editing photos etc). No idea when that will be.


I was there over 5 days, but two of those were short days for the most part (due to the helicopter days etc) The first number is the total number of individuals I recorded, and the number in brackets is the number of days I saw the species.

(sorry for the awful text colour - blogger hates me).

Species Name
King Eider
Common Eider
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common/Barrow's Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Scoter/Eider sp.
Ruffed Grouse
Spruce Grouse
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Common Loon
Bald Eagle
Purple Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Iceland Gull
Glaucous Gull
Herring x Glaucous Gull (hybrid)
Great Black-backed Gull
gull sp.
Snowy Owl
Northern Hawk Owl
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Shrike
Gray Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Boreal Chickadee
chickadee sp.
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
European Starling
Lapland Longspur
Snow Bunting
Pine Grosbeak
White-winged Crossbill
Common Redpoll
Hoary Redpoll
Common/Hoary Redpoll

Friday, November 22, 2013

Elegant Tern photographs from 600m away!

Yes, another cosmic-super-mega to view on the "far side" of the river... Here's hoping the next one is on "our side" !

I present to you, Elegant Tern photographs taken at roughly 600 meters.... Yes, they're ugly...

Which I've uploaded to my "unusual ontario birds" website page here - 


Afterwards my Dad and I did a quick check of the river... 

Control Gates - 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls

Above the falls - (very low water) - 1 Glaucous Gull, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls

Adam Beck - 4 Iceland Gulls, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 juvenile BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (my foy).

8 Gull and 2 tern species? Not too shabby at all for a half-days birding in mid/late November!


Next post will be my Netitishi sightings rundown! BUT i'll have to warn you now - there are no alcids or tubenoses involved...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sample OBRC report - Snowy Plover



I've uploaded a copy of my Snowy Plover report to the website and decided to share here. Just to give an idea of what I was feeling/seeing etc and an example of what I submitted to the OBRC...

Overall it's much longer than previous OBRC reports (in which I have photos of the bird) because I wanted to document the weather. Not necessary, but a personal interest of mine...

A link here:

% /% %_%???? I guess I should pick better names for my files... Anyways - it should still work.


On a related yet unrelated note - I took these photos of the bird and wanted to share:

Not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but after going out to photograph the bird - I walked back to my scope and couldn't find it! Then I noticed it was actually hiding in my "butt print" in the disturbed sand - trying to take shelter. It stayed there for hours! Felt pretty good about it (hopefully I helped block the elements a bit)...

If you're having a hard time even seeing the lil bugger, here's some help:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oh what the heck...

I'm goin for it.... Why? Top 10 reasons why -

10. King Eiders

9. Ancient Murrelet

8. Great Shearwater

7. Yellow-billed Loon

6. Atlantic Puffin

5. Gyrfalcons

4. Ross's Gull

3. Thick-billed Murre

2. Northern Fulmar

1. Ivory Gull

And that Great Skua grail bird... 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Could we be looking at a multi-day rare-bird event?! In mid November!?

OK - we'll check the weather again... Yeesh....

Holla whaat!?

That's a snippet from Burlington... Low of 10 on Sunday? HIGH of 1 by Wednesday?! Saaay whaa? And here I thought we were all set up for some boring weather mid-November. How things change!

Time to break out the maps and see what's "goin down"

Right now: 

Holy sweet jeepers! Look at that high pressure! 1040mb! 

Early Sat: - high pressure and precip-free skies still for our area... Interesting...

Early Sunday - yikes! Where did all that precip and 988mb low come from?!

Hard to show in a blog post but the centre of the low re-forms a few times and backs up on itself before finally forming a well defined system here. Too bad we are heavy into the cooler part and rain by the time that happens - but look at that cold side! 

Cold air for one and all by the end here!


Long story short - it looks like a very interesting weather event. Either it will be a messy and poorly defined system, or this model run was a bit wonky... The officla WPC forecast:

Everything looks a bit better on these maps (well, more defined) - but they don't show precip limits on these maps. I'm sure i'll post more about it in a day or two - but for now I can say that Saturday to Tuesday look pretty interesting!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Painted Bunting in my Office!

Boy I'm getting old... I thought I'd have some exciting gull news (either Niagara River - or go try and find that possible/probable GLAUCOUS-WINGED freakin Gull in Sarnia... I did neither, and went to work.. BOO)...

Now all we're stuck with is filler...


This is old news for me, but "new" news for those who have read the recent OFO news. Back in early January I found a Painted Bunting in my office - delivered from the ROM - and collected from project FLAP in Toronto.

Long story short, the little bird hit a window in Toronto in May 2007 and spent 5.5 years in limbo before eventually ending up back at the ROM where it belongs! Link to my story here:

(I probably should have copied in colour, but meh)...

Makes for a good little story and I decided to do a quick write up for OFO News... Also a good bit of easy blog material! ;)

(Did not look like this bird - from Long Point in 2004) 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Now that's more like it!!!

After whining about a lack of crazy birds at lakewatch sites, Ohio just had to go and get a NORTHERN GANNET of all things... Where the HECK did that thing come from??? There hasn't been a juv. on Lake Ontario in over 2 years I believe...

Reminds me of when some crazy birders photo'd one on Lake Michigan a few years ago (during a time where we weren't seeing any in Ontario). Where?! Where did it come from I ask!?

(I would have bet some serious $$$ that this was going to turn out to be the Booby - but I was wrong!)


ROSS'S GULL - Quebec - WOW - what a Beauty...


Violet Green Swallow on Lake MI in Illinois today (now yesterday)!!! SA-weet pics too

What a beaut!


I was planning on birding the river yesterday (Sunday) and didn't go... Maybe I should have??? I kept seeing "Franklin's Franklin's Franklins" which worries me - isn't there anything else out there to be found!?

Perhaps a Glaucous-winged Gull?! (As I write this, I'm deciding if I want to try for it tomorrow).. Not quite sure what's holding me back.. Maybe a 4 hour drive to see some ugly-a$$ gull that's not a GWGU?


Jeff Masters did a recent blog post on the devastation caused by the Typhoon...


Hopefully I'll have some birds to talk about next time...  Go cats go!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What's going on in Weather Land?!

The system here right now has some pretty good winds (gale warnings - 35 knots - for Lakes Erie and Ontario) - but it doesn't seem all that impressive to me overall... Seem to be more of a little "power pack" - but hasn't really dropped sub 1000mb... Overall (I think) that means it really wouldn't have the "far reaching" implications that a bigger storm like 10 days ago had (eg,/ drawing birds TO Ontario from far away).

Even if something good gets found today/tomorrow etc - I would probably argue there's a good bet it was "already in the area" prior to being discovered...

Screw you - nemesis bird... 


Looking ahead - 

Looking ahead - I see a fairly potent looking blast of cold air hitting out area on Tuesday. Looks like it reaches up well into James/Hudson Bays... We're starting to reach that time of year where we are starting to "run out" of birds that could arrive from a situation like this. What I'd expect:

King Eiders
A few straggling Brant?
Purple Sandpipers
More Glaucous/Iceland Gulls

What is POSSIBLE - but very/rare/unlikely:

Townsend's Solitaire (a few have been "around" - James Bay, 2 at Whitefish Point, 1 in IL)
Ross's/Ivory Gull
Common Eider
Black Guillemot/Aincent Murrelet (or somethin) 

The "possible" category is a major stretch for some, but you never know... 


7 day outlook - there is a LOT of W, SW and some NW winds in the forecast... Days and days.. I personally have never been very excited about setups like this and find it very hard to predict what could possibly happen bird-wise... 

Although I do know that it made for some very interesting birding on the Niagara River a few years ago (when there was the Razorbill/White Pelican/Kittiwake/Black-headed/Franklin's/California etc around) 

Might be where I concentrate some effort (just because it's close to home).. Would love to find Ontario's first Glaucous-winged Gull (really really really want to) - but maybe that's not the right place to look... 


Calliope Hummingbird in Manitoba - dang... 

I often wonder - do we just not see as many rare hummingbirds in Ontario (as our neighbours?) - heck, even Quebec does better than we do...



I there people/persons out there who are doing their best to make birding less enjoyable (for the masses) in the province and largely trying to keep the reports hidden??? I can't imagine why someone would do that... But you never know... 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Niagara River birds - Nov 7, 2013

I watched a bit from my condo in the morning. Moving on...

I decided to "zip down" to the river before going to work. Totally "on the way" - right? I've realized it takes just over 30 minutes to get to Adam Beck. Freakin sweet. My stops as I visited them:

Adam Beck - few large gulls (as expected on a weekday). 1 Little Gull (adult) was cool for the power plants... 5 Great Black-backed Gulls was high for the location in recent years. They're increasing again.

Whirlpool - not much of note...

Above the falls - 100+ Northern Rough-winged Swallows, many ducks (lots of Wigeon right now), 1 Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull. Also this strange duck:

Weird pale Mallard X Black ?? 

Below the falls - I love checking below the falls... There's always somethin goofy going on down there, and it just stinks of mega-rare... Today had 2 Little Gulls (1 ad, 1 juv), 2 Peregrine Falcons, 1 Long-tailed Duck, 2 Ruddy Ducks and 1 American Coot (as the oddities) - among the regular ducks/gulls. What an odd mix - always like that... You never know what you're gonna get.

"record photo taking practice" with the ad. Little Gull

Back above the falls - new additions since I was there 45 minutes ago were 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a 3rd winter Herring X Great Black-backed Gull hybrid... I find hybrids like they're lunch.

Centre-left.. Note the appearance of a Great Black-backed Gull with a mantle shade too pale. 

Adam Beck - (did another stop on the way back) - highlights/new bird was this young FRANKLIN'S GULL - found days earlier by Betsy Potter (I believe) at the Whirlpool - it seems to float around this section of the river. It gave some very good looks right below the main viewing area. 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan

I had some auto-post junk go online a few hours ago and I pulled it back offline... As many know, I'm pretty keen on the weather - and something is "goin down" that we really don't see very often.

Super Typhoon Haiyan maxed out a few hours ago as one of the single strongest storms to have ever been recorded on our Planet.

A terrifying and perfectly symmetrical category 5 super-typhoon that as just made its first landfall minutes ago in the Philippines.... There were no aircraft to enter the storm and get accurate measurements (done via Satelite estimates) - however it was published to have SUSTAINED winds of 305kph - (I repeat - SUSTAINED) - with wind gusts pushing 370kph (!!!!!!!!!!) 

(That's 190-230mph for you old fogies - or americans - or both) 

Then the damn thing had to go and make LANDFALL like this... This should turn out to be a bit of a newsmaker to say the least.... Instead of me rambling - I'd suggest checking out the blog post here - 


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

More Random Jazz

Today is a pseudo CASW setup I think... It COULD happen - and I may hang around and try to get CASW as a condo bird - but I'm not feeling it for the most part. Hoping to be pleasantly surprised.


Josh V is back from Netitishi !!! -

I'm sure if you read my blog, you've already read this post... But regardless - I watched day after day after day of solid north winds in their forecast during the trip, which leads me to one question - where are the tubenoses?!

Obviously they had a ragin' good time up there. (Townsend's Solitaire!)... But the results of the trip open up a whole can of worms in trying to "figure out" Netitishi... What the heck causes birds like Shearwaters and Fulmars to be detected in some years, and not in other years?! 

Should I be watching the weather for the Hudson Strait instead of James Bay!? Is it the time of year!? Ice conditons further north?! Sea surface temperatures on James Bay? Hudson Bay? The Labrador Sea?! 

Not sure if I'll try and do a more detailed breakdown or not.... But for now:


For NOW! - Why have all of the "lakewatch" sites around the Great Lakes had a lack of notable birds for the past month?!

Starting around Oct 9th - the "lack" of new arrival rare waterbirds has been rather startling... The weather has looked decent enough - but what has been found?

Whitefish Point - why are you still getting Sabine's Gulls in late Oct?

Wisconsin Point - (sorry, I haven't been paying attention - have you seen anything?) 

Tiscornia - Eared Grebe in the past 3.5 weeks?! 

Indiana Lakefront - Little Gulls?!

Port Huron - Arctic Tern/King Eider combo is pretty sweet actually - but I could argue that they were "staging" and not really "lakewatch/migrants/blown inshore" birds...

Ohio - you're still getting Sabine's too? Why? Black Tern?!

Ohio - JP Lakeshore Waterbird Survey - Laughing Gull? What is this, August? 

Pelee - I was there - and nothing was happening... I could barely muster a Little Gull as a flyby...

Long Point - BLACK TERN?! What's goin on here??? (The Booby doesn't count as a "new" bird - since it arrived a month ago) - I mean, it counts as an epic bird - but isn't what I'm talking about here... A few onshore Red Phals are cool and all...

Fort Erie - sans booby, what else? Same Black-headed Gull of previous years returning? 

Van Wagner's Beach - ??? A few Jaegers? Maybe? For most of October???

CONDO Watch - I ain't seein squat! (In terms of rares)..


Derby Hill - Pacific Loon? Pretty cool and all...



Overall, I'm wondering where the cool birds are hiding? It doesn't surprise me that any given location can have an "off year"... Whitefish Point may be responsible for some of the craziest bird sightings ever in the Great Lakes region - but they don't happen ever year..

But when EVERY SINGLE lakewatch location around the ENTIRE Great Lakes (and I guess James Bay as well) - are reporting a serious lack of Jaegers, Kittiwakes, etc - you start to wonder - where are the birds??

I joked several weeks ago that the sustained "north wind events" that made the birding great (for that time of year) were going to "blow away all the birds" by early November. But now I'm wondering - has it actually happened?

Or are there still thousands of birds (and other goodies) stocked up and ready to go ? (somewhere?) ...

An ebird check for Brant in North America doesn't really show any dramatic numbers anywhere this november. (1 day total of 9000) - which is 1/3 of a day they had at Netitishi last fall.. Are half of them still up north? 

Anyways - I'm being a bit dramatic... There's 25000 ducks off my condo - so clearly migration is moving along just fine - but it does seem rather slow "all around" in terms of notable birds. Maybe I'm just frustrated at scanning ducks and not being able to turn up a Harlequin yet!  ;)

Something to watch going forwards though. More to come? Or an early end to the lakewatching? ... Personally, I've got my fingers crossed we're "saving up" for a Murre wreck in late November. 

ANYWAYS - this is a FAR too much writing for me to say "I really hope the lakewatch sites heat up a bit in the next 2 weeks - it feels kinda slow overall"