Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Photos Hoot! - two more flight photos I'm happy with

Each of these images turned out pretty darn well in my opinion...

I had to add some canvas to the left side, as I barely caught the bird. Kinda cheating, but I also kinda don't care at times like this.. 

A truly stunning bird, getting one in flight was a big goal of mine. There's room for improvement, but I'm darn happy with it..

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Some really old things I wrote...

Jaeger watching at Van Wagner's Beach -

--- Looking back, this is pretty bad... But I WAS 16 when I wrote it (in my defense)

Bald Eagle Flip -

--- A short note on some unusual Bald Eagle behaviour. Looking back, if I wrote about every bit of unusual bird behaviour i've seen/photo'd over the past 8 years, I would have several dozen of these "notes"

Self Bio -

Now THIS is funny... A self-bio I wrote for OFO news back in late 2003. Yikes...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Photoshoot - random pelee birds

Gotta give some love to the less colourful birds..

Swainson's Thrush!

Amazingly, I didn't take these photos with my own lens! I'll have to rant sometime about these images.. Taken with the NEW canon 600mm F4 lens, and the NEW 2.0xTC, in the WOODS, on a CLOUDY day, <<<HANDHELD>>> 

A really expensive setup.... still thinking about it....

After all the time I've spent at Pelee, I finally got a Hummingbird picture there that I like... There's something rewarding about getting a migrant that's not at a feeder... 


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Condo birding update - June 5th to July 27th

I know this is a pretty crummy blog post, but in all fairness, I wasn't going to post anything today at all... So if you're bored out of your mind and surfing the internet today - hopefully it'll provide some limited reading material...


When I left my condo (late April) there was always birds to look at. At any point in time, something cool might fly past or be sitting offshore!

When I got back to my condo (very very rarely in late June/early July) I noticed something. For the first time since I had moved in - there really isn't much to see... Common and Caspian Terns fly by steadily, but they get boring.

There's nothing out there!

Life has been, well... "Life" recently... This is perhaps the busiest I've ever been at work, and I've probably stayed somewhere other than my condo an average of 6 nights/week for the past 4 months, and I haven't reallyyy had the chance to enjoy my time around here. That's going to change, starting this week!

Heck, I'm still booked to work 12 of the next 13 days, but at least half of those are "local" so I'll get to actually sleep in my own bed. If I'm lucky and get some bad weather, I might actually get an extra day off!


I've also noticed a recent shift in the birdlife around my place. Breeding season is over #&$%&#*! And things are only getting better now...

From the condo, I've noticed an increase in "interesting" birds - migrant adult Bonaparte's on the lake, bigger feeding frenzies of cormorants, flocks of swallows moving along the lakeshore. It may seem boring, but seeing more Great Blue Herons, or a flyby Eastern Kingbird gives me a lot of hope and excitement for interesting birds on the move! (yes, those are recent sightings).

After being rather stressed recently, I found a way to get some work done while enjoying the outdoors and birds. Seems basic, but I haven't been home enough to take advantage of it. For most of the spring, my balcony was under construction. Now it's done! And I set up a "new" workspace today (Saturday 27th).

Completing work while watching the Lake! Awesome!

It made me darn excited. A flyby Common Loon, a juv Red-tail and some flocks of Bank Swallows and Purple Martins were the best sightings (as well as a wedding down below me)... 

Recently there was at least one, possibly 3-4 juvenile WOOD STORKS near Lake Erie in Ohio.. I couldn't help but picture one sailing along the lakeshore the entire time I was working....

It may seem trivial, but it was a zenful experience for a few hours.

recent sunset 

Friday, July 26, 2013

White-eyed Vireo photos hoot

A cooperative White-eyed Vireo from the tip of Pelee back in early May. There were a handful of "tame-ish" birds around one evening, including this bird and a Hooded Warbler. Two species that my collection could use serious improvement upon. I decided to handhold my 600mm lens (as an experiment) and see what I could muster....

The bird was more cooperative early in the aft, when the light wasn't as nice. I still liked this one though...

As the light got better, I also focused a bit more on the hoodie, but still managed a few of the WEVI... This one had nice light, but isn't your stereotypical photo that many bird photog's would strive for... 

The high ISO of my body, and fast speed of the 600 F4 made handholding possible  (a fast shutterspeed reduces the shake of me trying to hold up the lens) .. It also allowed for the occasional "lucky shot" where I froze some wing-action..

Anyways, a fun bird to see and photo well.. They are rather spectacular.. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hurricane Preparedness! It's never too early to plan ahead...

You'll read time and time again. In any given year, a Hurricane can strike ANYWHERE. Therefore it is best to be prepared ahead.

In Ontario, your Hurricane preparedness kit should include:

- Food
- Water
- battery powered alarm clock
- paper and pencil
- Smartphone (for listserv updates)
- seabird field guide
- binoculars
- camera
- scope with sturdy tripod

Be sure to plan your routes in advance and check with your trusted news sources for the best possible information when planning your next move!

With that said, a bit of weather fun!

The Atlantic is already churning away with Tropical Storm Dorian waay out in the eastern Atlantic. We are ahead of schedule on the letter "D" - but similar to recent years, we're starting off with a bunch of tropical storms (no hurricanes yet)

That storm track up the east coast was Andrea - which occurred in early June and dumped numerous Mississippi Kites and other goodies far up the coast. 

Dorian is a "cape verde" type storm, - starting in the far eastern atlantic from a tropical wave that exited Africa a few days ago. These are my favourite type of storms to watch (Camille, Hugo, Fran and Isabel were "Cape Verde storms") .. Although it's rather early still and Dorian will likely struggle a bit.

Recent view of Dorian

Dorian is beating the odds, fighting off cool water and dry air to his west and has maintained a pretty solid (and fairly small) rotation. As of right now, I have heard of no reason why we should get excited here in Ontario. But it's a nice little storm to enjoy if you like tropical weather in general. 

My favourite sources for info:

Tropical Tidbits -

Hurricane Sat Imagery -

And the people in charge -  - The National Hurricane Centre


Current model tracks 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Weather network photos?!

Bringing you the good stuff since 2010 - it's the best of the weather network user photos!

Pure awesomeness -

Barb Wire's bird ! -

Sweet grab -

Kinda looks like a lesser-back in the bottom left:

Ontario Pellies -

A very yellow palm warbler in Brantford on May 25th? -

Exotic fowl:

Now THAT'S a white robin!

You know how I can tell you're fibbing here? You wanna know how I can tell?


I actually think the weather network is getting tired of bird photos... They've burried the birds at the bottom and get insane numbers of submissions...

People love their birds!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thunderstorm Photos from the weekend (Friday night)

I'm thinking my condo might be a great place for photos of lightning... And during the massive thunderstorms last friday evening - I wasn't home!


But I DID get home right at the tail end, and still managed a few snaps of a cell that was pretty far away over the lake...

I REALLY like taking pics of storms, but I don't get the chance all that often... Hopefully this is the beginning of some more fun in the coming months/years!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review Time! - The Crossley ID Guide - Raptors

Something I've been a little behind on... Book reviews!

The Crossley ID Guide - Raptors

(Princeton Publishing was kind enough to provide a copy for review).

The Skinny:

Price Listed on the Book: $29.95
Authors: Richard Crossley, Jerry Liguori, Brian Sullivan
Pages: 290
Size: 7x10

34 species!
A whole lotta photographs...

This is my second review of the "Crossley" Series. The first is here:


In my first review, one thing that bugged me a fair bit was the "distracting elements" added to the backgrounds of species accounts. Thankfully, that does not appear to be an issue at all (to my eye) with the raptors. Here's a sample of how it is laid out:

(2 page spread)

I feel like this book succeeds more than the first due to the fact that the scope is smaller, with only 34 species. The "two page spread" shown above is common place throughout the book and works well time after time.. The species accounts (text) are in the second half of the book. This also works well, as it allows for more focus on the strong point in the crossley series (doing his best to make a ton of photos look visually appealing and useful as a learning tool).

It's also a much more managable size than the first book (Eastern Guide) - where I was happy to bring it on a plane and read through it for this review. The first book is so large, it never leaves my appartment - for ANY reason.

Overtime, I've also found that it really is a fun resource for an obsessed birder like myself. When I have a major identification problem - a photographig guide gives REAL examples. Often an illustrated guide is subjective and does not have the highly detailed information I require in extreme ID problems. Yet interestingly, this is not the goal of the book. Let's do my standard breakdown on who should buy the book -

Who should buy it?

Beginner/Casual birders - this is (from what I understand) the demographic that the book is trying to reach. It's trying to change the approach of bird ID from "field mark" based to "impression" based - and I while I have a VERY hard time figuring out if it would be sucessful (as I'm already an impression-based birder) - I do think it'll work... If you want to learn more about raptor ID (and especially hawkwatching) - this may be of great use. Hawkwatching is the most impression-heavy birding there is (in my opinion).

Advanced Birders - For 29.95, I don't care how "good" you think you are - it's worth getting for the photos alone. Mind you B Sullivan and J Liguori have a LOT of good raptor work out there, it really is cheap enough to add another book to your collection.

Kids - for the first time, I actually pictured a birding "field guide" being visually appealing enough to get a child interested in birds. A child who has no prior knowledge or experience with birding.

Biggest Critique:

I honestly can't bring myself to think of any potential improvements about the book specifically. Heck, who really cares if a single photo is misslabeled or there's an incorrect reference in the back..

Yet there is a MAJOR issue that I can't avoid. Heck, it's blocking my thought process right now. I am SICK and TIRED of hearing about how REVOLOUTIONARY the Crossley Guides are... They are NOT that impressive in my opinion.

It's like a girl who's an 8.5/10 - pretty darn attractive - and I DO think these books are really quite good and a lot of fun. But then, you find out she's the biggest dork, grump, annoying, awful, mean, $&^T, $!#*H unpleasant person you've ever met, and her score goes down to 6.5/10. If you haven't heard anything like this from the marketing team - it won't effect your opinion on the book and you'll enjoy it a lot. But seriously, it's like they're attacking Roger Tory Peterson's approach with every chance they get.

And don't get me wrong. The best way to convince people you're great (or your product is great) - is to physically jam it down their throat... And I know most people don't notice or care about an approach like that - but I do...


Conclusion - there are a LOT of cool things about this book - including quizzes and effects of lighting etc that I didnt' discuss. It's a great book for your birding collection at $29.95.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Unusual Ontario Birds - alive

Link for full page... Sometime I'll actually have to update my site proper...

Most of 2013 was already posted on the blog, but here's what she looks like -

May 18, 2013 - Kirtland's Warbler - a female my Dad and I found along the west beach/bike path at Point Pelee!

May 16, 2013 - Laughing Gull - adult at the tip of Pelee

May 16, 2013 - Yellow-throated Warbler - the far north end of the Blue Heron trail at Point Pelee

May 15, 2013 - Kirtland's Warbler - 1st alt male.

May 14, 2013 - Worm-eating Warbler - WNT, Pelee.

May 13, 2013 - Carolina (???) Chickadee - just south of the Sparrow Field at Point Pelee. Found with Dave Bell. More study needed!

May 13, 2013 - Snowy Egrets - self found (duo?) at the tip of Pelee.

May 12, 2013 - Piping Plover - a male at the tip of Pelee. Awesome little birds!

May 10, 2013 - Summer Tanager - self found, adult male, reverse migrating at the tip of Pelee.

May 6, 2013 - Laughing Gull - ad at the tip of Pelee. 2 Little Gulls added for flavour.

May 4, 2013 - Swallow-tailed Kite - an epic birding story from the Pelee VC parking lot.

May 4, 2013 - Yellow-throated Warbler - a self found bird near the tip of Pelee - reverse migrating.

May 1, 2013 - Prairie Warbler - a reverse migrant at the tip of Pelee.

May 1, 2013 - Kentucky Warbler - self found (thanks Dad!) bird at Pelee.

Apr 30, 2013 - Henslow's Sparrow - along the west beach, where they often are, at Pelee!

Apr 26, 2013 - Lousiana Waterthrush - cooperative bird from Pelee! I actually had 4 in my first 24 hours at Pelee.

Apr 25, 2013 - Snowy Egret - somewhere near Couburg- was a decent "2nd place" twitch to not seeing the Violet-green

Friday, July 19, 2013

UOB rebirth - 2011 and 2012

It feels like just last year, doesn't it? Anyways - the bad pics of good birds continue -


Oct 30, 2012 - Leach's Storm-Petrel - the star of Hurricane Sandy in Ontario.

Oct ??, 2012 - Cave Swallows - 147-ish CASW seen at Fifty Point CA in Grimsby

Oct 19, 2012 - Cattle Egret - just up the road from where I grew up

Oct 11, 2012 - Townsend's Solitaire - a quick twitch to an unusual spot (Van Wagner's Ponds)

Oct 6, 2012 - Vega Gull - adult at the tip of Pelee. Found days earlier by Kevin McLaughlin

Aug 29, 2012 - Thick-billed Kingbird - can you say, mega?

Jul 2, 2012 - Magnificent Frigatebird - twitched like a boss with Ken Burrell

Apr 6, 2012 - Harlequin Ducks - fancy pair from Oakville

Mar 28, 2012 - Ross's Geese - pair at Pelee

Mar 15, 2012 - Common Teal - an "impure bird" from Hillman Marsh

Mar 13, 2012 - Eurasian Wigeon - not a bad bird for work. Near Dunnville

Jan 2, 2012 - Mountian Bluebird - female near my former residence in Guelph

Never gets old... Anyways - ONTO 2011 _-----


Dec 27, 2011 - Smew - awesome bird, but is it wild?

Dec 14, 2011 - Black-throated Gray Warbler - my overdue first for Ontario/nemiss bird (at the time)! Thanks to Rob Dobos for finding it.

Nov 27, 2011 - American White Pelican - in a backyard farm pond in Niagara

May 16, 2011 - Fish Crow - one of two self-found at Pelee

Apr 30, 2011 - Summer Tanager - ad male found with the Burrell twins. Pelee Island. 1 of 8 I "found" this year. Crazy.

Apr 24, 2011 - Neotropic Cormorant - self found 2nd for Ontario & Canada at Muddy Creek in Wheatley.

Apr 19, 2011 - Eurasian Wigeon - on Amherst Island

Mar 24, 2011 - Harris's Sparrow - twitched at Port Burwell while missing a reported Boat-tailed Grackle

One of those birds that gave me the mad "excitement shakes" ... 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Return of the UOB page!!! - remembering the awesomeness of 2009 (and some 2010)

Good golly, 2009 was an awesome year for birding... I mean, really awesome... I had good birds out the wazoo... And you know that's true when you go and twitch an intentionally falsified bird like a Brown-headed Nuthatch, and you still don't care all that much because of the other mega's around...

And I guess 2010 happened as well.. Meh, it was ok...


Nov 25, 2010 - Cattle Egret - on Wolfe Island.

Nov 13, 2010 - Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater - self found first for Ontario at Netitishi Point on James Bay

Nov 1, 2012 - Cattle Egret - after the incredible late Oct storm. On Wolfe Island.

Jul 19, 2012 - Black-bellied Whistling Duck - a twitch to one of my own work sites. Grr... But still awesome!

Apr 28, 2012 - Harlequin Ducks - three of nine reported here into early May

BUT ONTO 2009!!!!! SO AWESOME!!!!!!!

BLACK Swift! 

BLACK-throated Sparrow

BLACK-tailed Gull

and a... black? Phainopepla!!!!!!!!!


Nov 12, 2009 - Phainopepla - who knew something so awesome could happen in Brampton?

Sep 28, 2009 - Black-tailed Gull - at Port Burwell. My "self found" first for Ontario!

Sep 17, 2009 - Western Kingbird - just north of Point Petre in Prince Edward County

Aug 30, 2009 - Black-throated Sparrow - at Monarch Landing in Port Burwell!

Aug 2, 2009 - Ruff - found with K Burrell at Blenheim sewage

May 17, 2009 - Black Swift - at the VC lot at Point Pelee. A darn exciting "self found" bird.

Apr 30, 2009 - Lark Sparrow - a twitch just up the road from home.

Jan 27, 2009 - Glaucous X Great Black-backed Gull Hybrid - a rare combo at the defunct Waterdown Garden Supplies.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The re-birth of the "UOB" - 2007 to 2008

Yes the madness continues..... Apparently I had a girlfriend or something for 2007/2008 as I don't seem to have nearly as many birds to share...

Although if I remember correctly, there was clearly some major highlight birds, but far fewer "great birds to twitch" than average over this time frame. Anyhoot -


Oct 11, 2008 - Curlew Sandpiper - in Fort Erie. Juvenile.

May 18, 2008 - King Rail - at Hillman Marsh

May 15, 2008 - Kirtland's Warbler - Singing male. My 300th "self found species" for Ontario.

May 12, 2008 - Lark Bunting - not far from the tip of Pelee

May 12, 2008 - Mottled Duck - the long staying first for Canada, found earlier by Dean Ware.


Nov 28, 2007 - Northern Gannet - one of 5+ on the day during this invasion. Grimsby.

Oct 21, 2007 - White-faced Ibis - Dundas hydro ponds in Hamilton

May 23, 2007 - Black-necked Stilt - female at the Hillman shorebird cell

May 14, 2007 - Chuck-wills-widow - at the tip of Pelee

Apr 8, 2007 - Eared Grebe - at the grimsby poop ponds

The first for the Pelee circle, found by Steve "spike" Pike 

Possibly the last Gannet I've seen in Ontario...  I saw 10-12+ birds from 2001-2007, and haven't seen one since...  I think 2013 is the year they return! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The re-birth of the "UOB" - 2005 to 2006

A walk down the old memory lane as the "Unusual Ontario Birds" page re-emerges...... For as little as $0.00 you can enjoy old favourites such as;

"the pain in the ass" 2006 Razorbill!

Along with new edits such as: 

And never before seen footage such as: 

Again, for the low low price of $0.00 !!!!!!!!!


Dec 15, 2006 - Razorbill - the "hard to get" bird at the mouth of the Niagara River. I went 6 times, saw it twice.

Nov 26, 2006 - Barrow's Goldeneye - on the lakefront in Stoney Crek

Oct 6, 2006 - California Gull - self found at Wheatley Harb with my Dad. (Not a bad weekend)

Oct 5, 2006 - Swainson's Hawk - self found at Seacliffe (Leamington) with my Dad

Sep 16, 2006 - Loggerhead Shrike - found at Delaurier (Pelee)

Sep 1, 2006 - Manx Shearwater - thankfully still around the next morning. Van Wagner's, Hamilton.

Aug 31, 2006 - Tricolored Heron - almost missed the above bird to get these photos....

May 24, 2006 - Lawrence's Warbler - the famous bird at the Dundas Valley CA in Hamilton

May 23, 2006 - Curlew Sandpiper - at the Townsend Poop Ponds

May 11, 2006 - Cassin's Vireo - or maybe not - Pelee

May 8, 2006 - Black-billed Magpie - near the tip of Pelee. Sorta self-found.

May 7, 2006 - Common Teal - self found at Hillman Marsh

Feb 26, 2006 - Sage Thrasher - a glorious twitch for February. Very cooperative.


Nov 4, 2005 - Cave Swallows - 30+ on the day in Hamilton, ON

Sep 18, 2005 - Ruff - a self found Reeve at the Townsend poop lagoons.

Jul 1, 2005 - Cattle Egrets - a pair near Rock Point

May 15, 2005 - Glossy Ibis - in a ditch outside of Pelee

May 14, 2005 - American White Pelicans - big group at Hillman. Part of an awesome few days at Pelee/Hillman.

May 14, 2005 - Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - 1st alt at Hillman

May 13, 2005 - Summer Tanager - a cooperative and striking 1st alt male.

May 13, 2005 - Kirtland's Warbler - the superstar at NW Beach.

May 2, 2005 - American Avocets - a flock of 25, with Willets to boot - at Van Wagner's in Hamilton.

Feb 19, 2005 - California X Herring Gull hybrid - from lock 4 of the Welland Canal. A rare combo.


Call now and we'll include the walk down memory lane of "Mid May 2005 at Pelee" with highlights such as Kirtland's Warbler, Summer Tanager, Cerulean Warbler, Glossy Ibis, American White Pelican, Eurasian Wigeon, King Rail and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron that we all got to see in a matter of days! (If you were there for that crazy run)... 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The re-birth of the "UOB" - 2003 to 2004

Back in the good old'e days, I had a page on my website called "Unusual Ontario Birds" .....

Then my website died a horrible death when I had a hacker-attack of some sort that inserted malicious code onto every page of my darn site!

Then I tried to rebuild quickly, but years worth of work had been put into the darn thing... I managed to get my main species back online, but other parts (like the UOB page) were merely patch jobs with useless things like flickr:

It was fine in the short term, but IT AIN'T FINE ANYMORE!

I started with the oldies... I actually did a re-edit on 75% of these photos, and some have never before seen the light of the interwebs... Such as this one:

Or this one:


Nov 23, 2004 - Cave Swallows - 2 birds, the first for Hamilton (and self found)

Nov 21, 2004 - Rufous Hummingbird - the star of Niagara in 2004

Nov 11, 2004 - King Eider - funky plumage at Fifty Point. Late fall was good to me in '04!

Nov 9, 2004 - Western Grebe - Fifty Point CA in Grimsby

Oct 31, 2004 - Pacific Loon - my self found adult that set off the "patagonia picnic table effect" at Fifty Point in Grimsby

Aug 31, 2004 - Cattle Egret - near Rock Point

Mid Aug, 2004 - Painted Bunting - stunner of a 2CY at Normandale

Jun 16, 2004 - Black-necked Stilts - the birds that produced Ontario's first nest at the Jarvis sewage ponds

May 9, 2004 - Harris's Sparrow - a fun self found at Long Point


Dec 17, 2003 - Gray Flycatcher - an incredible CBC flycatcher to twitch in Hagersville

Sep 27, 2003 - Black-capped Petrel - a dead bird thanks to Isabel. Awaiting the day I get a living one!

Sep 14, 2003 - Western Sandpiper - a juv at the Grimsby angry army poop swamp


Remember those good times?! Again, this is a much more limited collection than the "old site" had, but I DID get the best species back online (who really cares about Long-tailed Jaegers anymore anyways......)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Greater Yellowlegs photo

A new photo. Taken in April on Georgian Bay. 

Sometimes I like a photo because of the setting/background (as I do here)... 

Sometimes I like a photo because of the species (same here - have always had bad luck with Greater Legs) 

Sometimes I like a photo because of the light (ditto)

and sometimes I like a photo because of how I got it. (Sssame here!) - I was driving a boat up the river, grabbed my camera and was steering with my leg as we drove.. Kinda fun. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

ebird hacked!

Funny story from ebird - if you noticed the front page was messed up/missing for a while.. They were hacked... (I know their pain, after having my website messed up a few years ago).

Here's a screen capture I took - before they managed to remove it..

Not sure what type of beef these idiots had with ebird, but I hope they're happy....


As a side note - this is the first blog pots I've written "the day of publishing" for several weeks. I'm darn close to getting back into the real world (maybe a week) - where I can start working on emails etc again. 

I appreciate the opportunity to get a large amount of "fun/outdoor work" from breeding bird season, but by the end of it - I start to wish that birds didn't nest at all!

Then I remember, we'd run out of birds if it didn't happen... So I suppose I can continue to deal with it. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

More new photos of birds in flight

Eastern Meadowlark:

Taken in the evening at Pt Pelee this May near the tip.

Hoary Redpoll -

Taken at Netitishi Point on James Bay in 2011

Merlin -

Taken at the tip of Pelee this past May (in the evening) - 600mm hand held... Only shot that had the bird in the frame, and the only one in focus (that combo doesn't come together very often).