Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Dark Morph" 1st basic/alternate Bonaparte's Gull from Pelee in May...

I was at/near the tip of Pelee this May when Ken Burrell spotted an unusual gull. It turned out to be a rare "dark morph" Bonaparte's Gull (1st basic, 2nd calendar year)...

I've seen maybe 4-5 birds like this over the years... Not really sure what the deal is, but they look interesting with abnormally dark upperwings... Some record photos below:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Photoshoot! - Pelee thrushes

American Robin -

Birders will be surprised to learn that Robins are actually thrushes.. Durrr....

Hermit Thrush -

Birders will be surprised to learn that Hermit Thrushes are not actually Hermits

I went for this one (above) as I felt it had the "thrush in the evening" feel... Maybe I'm crazy... 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

May Forster's Terns

David Bell sort of already summed up this day at Pelee in a blog post:

A good chunk of time was spent shooting FOTE's as they dove for fish... The goal was to get one just as the bill was hitting the water, which neither of us were able to capture. 

Apparently they go REALLY freakin fast right before hitting the water... I'd love to know how fast they actually end up going right before impact - and what their rate of acceleration would be...

Anyways, I thought it'd be fun to share my favourite series of a tern emerging with a fish:

Someday I'll actually get around to some of these "for real" ... The only other thing I noticed that day (among the FOTE) was this young (1st alt) type bird:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pelee 2012 - spring ticks!

Deer tick on my arm at Pelee this spring... I noticed it while on the tram, and started taking pictures... The other people on the tram were NOT impressed at all - and I didn't really care. How can you pass up a photo-op like this??? 



I keep three lists... My Ontario list, my "self found" Ontario list, and my "photographed in Ontario" list... Usually twice a year, I go through what "ticks" i've added to my lists, and turn it into a blog post.. Here's the update for winter/spring 2013:

Snowy Egret – triple tick! (Triple tick is an addition to all three lists).

Swallow-tailed Kite – photo/life list additions... 

Euro Collared-Dove – self found/life list additions... 

Carolina Chickadee?  – potential triple tick!??! (Not added - a work in progress, as I've mentioned before)

Townsend’s Warbler – Self found/life

Louisiana Waterthrush – photo’d!

Northern Waterthrush – photo’d! (yes, 10 years of taking pictures, and I finally took a picture of a NOWA) 

Henslow's Sparrow – photo’d!

I was happy with this HESP picture... I was NOT happy with my waterthrush pictures and deleted them - but heck, they still count... 

My "self found" Snowy Egret (with Dave Bell) for Ontario (tip of Pelee)... I actually added it to my "Ontario Life List" and "photographed list" only a few weeks earlier with the bird north of Cobourg in late April... 

Just to round out the post with some numbers:

ON list - 369 (370?)

Self-found ON List - 339 (340?)

Photo'd list - too lazy to count... 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Condo birding update! - Aug 20 to 25

Aug 20th - well shucks... (this day was already covered)...

I was pretty darn sure I had a Neotropic Cormorant on the 19th.. Like really sure.. But it just isn't as much fun when everyone thinks you're nuts.. It was nice to get some better photos of the bird today:

Neotropic Freakin Cormorant... And all before 8am....  I also scored a juvenile Great Black-backed Gull and a superb adult Lesser Black-backed Gull before I went inside at 8:30am-ish...

Why did I go inside? Because they're cutting concrete on other peoples balconies (mine was the first completed, but others are still being worked on) - and I was getting coated in dust! BOO! I came inside, edited my cormorant photos.. Then went to have a shower around 9:30am... BUT GUESS WHAT - they shut the freakin WATER OFF in my building all day... WHAT the HECK...

Anyways, I wasn't that upset... Hard to get too worked up when you score a pretty insane rarity after multiple days of rising action and confusion leading up to it.... But the lack of water threw a wrench in my plans for the day... 


Aug 21st - time to go back to work... 

Scored some early morning birds before work, but didn't have much time to watch. 2 American Black Ducks, Baltimore Oriole (high flyby), Common Loons etc 

Unfortunately the wind was strong from the south and the behaviour of the cormorants was totally different than previous days. Not sure if anyone even bothered to look, but it was not the same! (fewer birds, further away). 


Aug 24th - home late in the evening. Went for a rollerblade. 2 Great Egrets now in confederation park. Scored a Semipalm Plover outside of the patch boundaries while on the path... 

A flyby Common Loon was all I could muster in the last 30 mins of daylight... 


Aug 25th - an early-ish morning lakewatch turned up a few decent birds...

Red-throated Loon - 1
Common Loon - 6
Bonaparte's Gull - 4
Green-winged Teal - 10
numerous unidentified puddle ducks (and possibly some scoters)...
Long-tailed Duck - 2
Green Heron - 1  (NEW Condo bird!) 

Why do I take these horrible record photos of common birds? 

1. - Blog material... 
2. - "Mega rare bird record photo taking" practice

- I then went out for some PATCH birding! Boo-yah! 


Confederation Park:

Edgelake Park: 

Also scored a 3rd Green Heron on the day, 2 Black-crowned Night-Herons and 3 MAP TURTLES on my patch while strolling around as well!


When I got back to the condo around noon - there was a gentle east breeze with brought a juvenile (light morph)  LONG-TAILED JAEGER to do a west to east flyby... Not terribly far away, and rather high off the water. Sa-weet!

Before I left for the evening - I also had my first PEREGRINE Falcon in a while... A beauty of a juvenile, that I even managed some pictures of (from my balcony!) !!!


This blog post is kinda messed up because I keep seeing decent birds before i've finished writing... Just had a different juvenile Long-tailed Jaeger (3 hours after the first) - an intermediate morph juvenile this time...

Anything else? 

Anything else?




Saturday, August 24, 2013

A letter I received from those jerks on the OBRC

A little back story - my term as chair of the OBRC is over, and one of my last jobs was the unhappy one of writing letters to individuals who had submitted documentation that did not garner a voting result to accept outright.

I remember these letters pissed me right off on a few occasions in the past, and I hope that the copies I sent out were received as well as they could be (given that they're crappy letters no matter what). I used a basic template to help explain how we operate and how the decisions were made. This means that the letters I sent out all had some very similar wording/information throughout, and were then tailored to the specific record I was dealing with...

Anyways, I thought it might make for some interesting blog material to share a letter I wrote to myself! (As one of my records was rejected this past year) - to perhaps give one last chance to have some blog dialogue on this front for a while... Hope you'll leave a comment (positive or negative - in anything to do with these letters recently or in past years!)


Brandon Holden
1709-301 Frances Ave. 
Stoney Creek, ON
L8E 3W6 

Brandon Holden
1709-301 Frances Ave.
Stoney Creek, ON
L8E 3W6       

                                                                                                                                                                July 31, 2013

Dear Mr. Holden,

I’m writing on behalf of the Ontario Bird Record Committee (OBRC) of 2012, a committee of the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) regarding the report you submitted to us of a “Pink-sided” Dark-eyed Junco. 

Our 2012 secretary, Mark Cranford; began circulating reports such as yours for review this past fall. Our review process consists of three rounds of voting by a seven member committee, this year consisting of myself, Don Sutherland, Mike Burrell, Doug McRae, Ken Burrell, Peter Burke and Mark Gawn. The initial round is completed anonymously, ensuring no voting member can influence the decisions of others. Each member can cast their vote for one of three options:

a)      Accept
b)      Not Accept, insufficient evidence
c)       Not Accept, identification acceptable, origin uncertain

A majority of 6 or more tallies for one criteria can become the final outcome for the record; however if a split vote occurs the record is moved to a second round of voting. In the second round, the same voting options are available however the members may now consult with each other. This typically helps solve any disagreements, yet ever year we reach a third and final round on some records where they are reviewed in person; at our annual general meeting at the Royal Ontario Museum. At this point, any record that does not reach a 6 vote majority for “Accept” is then not accepted.\

I have the unfortunate task of writing today to inform you that your “Pink-sided” Dark-eyed Junco record was not accepted after a majority vote under category b) Not Accept, insufficient evidence. Your record, numbered 2012-044; reached the second round of voting with a final vote of 1-6-0. This was after the first round proved to be inconclusive with a split vote of 3-4-0. The general feeling of voting members was that the Junco complex is poorly known when it comes to intermediate populations and intergrade zones.  When reviewing the documentation, it was felt that you provided as much detail as you reasonably could given the observation; however it did not meet the high standards required for detailed scrutiny of a report like this. Several members felt that in the absence of a specimen or detailed photos, this subspecies would be very difficult to confirm in eastern North America. The voting comments of Mike Burrell (first round), Peter Burke (first round) and Don Sutherland (second round) are provided below for clarity:

Mike Burrell Comments: This is a very convincing report from an observer I have the highest level of respect for. However, given this subspecies’ apparent rarity in Ontario I feel that the documentation does not have sufficient details as to how all age classes of an Oregon or potential intergrades were eliminated. I think Junco subspecific ID is much more challenging than we give credit for, especially with potential females and intergrades considered such that aside from obvious Oregons identification should be made only with a series of photos.

Peter Burke Comments: I think that the Junco complex is a tough one that requires some very comprehensive documentation. The observer saw a bird that was different and showed characters consistent with Pink-sided Junco but I think that this is not enough to exclude the wide variation that Juncos show across the continent. I would like to have read more about the dorsal surface, wings and head of the bird. Perhaps I'm wrong on this but I think that a specimen or photo is really the only way to document a PSJU in the east.

Don Sutherland Comments: I’m now inclined to agree with other committee members that for all members of this difficult complex documentation (good photos/specimens) should be required. I now vote to reject this record on the grounds that the documentation provided is insufficient to accept.

It should be stated that we base our decisions on nothing more than the details provided, and do not base our decisions on our feelings or the abilities of the observer to identify individual birds. In our goal to create a scientific record of bird sightings, we sometimes have to set the bar unfortunately high. We certainly understand that this is a rather dissatisfying outcome for someone who has voluntarily spent time and energy to supply us with documentation as you have, and we truly hope that this does not deter you from making submissions in the future. We cannot function without the help and support of birders such as you. If you have any more questions about your record, our policies and procedures, or any other inquiries please do not hesitate to contact us at

Yours sincerely,

Brandon Holden
2012 OBRC Chairperson

Friday, August 23, 2013

Scarlet Tanagers - Photos Hoot!

Scurrlet Tanager time. Surely one of the most spectacular birds ever. I was pretty thankful to have the chance to get some SCTA pics this spring!

- This bird showed up in great light while photographing the Kirtland's Warbler (female - posted earlier)... Sa-weet!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bust out the shotguns - it's Mourning Dove hunting time!

Thanks to my Dad who provided the spark for this little blog post... Keeping up to tabs with what the OFAH is up to:

Sayyyy whaaaaaa???

"With events such as Waterfowl Heritage Days, it's a wonderful opportunity to introduce youngsters to the outdoors and hunting. Recent regulatory changes for migratory game birds will allow for increased possession limits and hunting for new species such as mourning doves, which are strongly supported by the OFAH."

Mourning Doves?! We can hunt MODO's in Ontario now??


A quick check of some gov sites say it's true! Yum! Direct link to the whole lot of information:

Sept. 3 to Nov. 11, 2013 in the southern and central districts...Bag limits of 15/day and 45 total. You can shoot 15 doves A DAY!

I feel like this is the type of hunting that will probably be "popular" as something new in the early goings... Then fizzle out when people realize that it isn't as much fun as they thought.. But who am I to judge? I know I'd be willing to see how they taste...

I also see a bunch of people getting upset, but I'm a rather firm believer that birders/naturalists should be teaming up with the OFAH and other hunting groups to protect habitat - instead of working against each other.... I'm sure there would be times where there would be major disagreements (who the $#@& introduced Turkeys to Pelee Island?) but overall it would be a stronger partnership than being against each other...

And besides, if you read it all - you'll find some wording that seems a bit more troublesome than hunting MODO's

"Barrow’s Goldeneye is listed in the Species at Risk Act as a species of special concern and the bag and possession limit of 1 remains in place."

Say wha?

Flee little dove, flee!!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Condo Neotropic Cormorant!

There's no way I was letting this bird get away..... I'd already done it 3 times... I was up by 7am and watching - with my camera ready. At 7:44am, it all went down...

Thankfully it was directly within a flock of DCCO's today - meaning there was no confusion about how it compared to them (unlike yesterday where it was on its own). It was causing a ruckus in the flock though - perhaps it has a hard time keeping pace with the big boys - which is (maybe) why it was on its own yesterday... Anyways..

I put a red dot below the subject bird in each photo...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Condo birding update - Aug 13 to 19

Recent window view - a nice morning... 

August 13th - I had plans to wake up early and do a condo watch - after getting TWO new species the previous morning... I DID NOT get out of bed on time, and didn't even start watching until after 10am - when I setup my "work station" on the balcony... Highlights:

- Aerial insectivores like Purple Martin, Chimney Swift and Cliff Swallow

- 2 flyby Common Loons (together) 

- a flyby MERLIN (odd time of year/location imo) 

- late in the day, a male Long-tailed Duck was near shore... 


August 14th - again, I tried to wake up at 6am to do a lakewatch... Which means I woke up at 6am - put my scope and binoculars on my balcony - then fell asleep on the couch for two hours... 

I did notice 4 Mallards flyby mid-morning, the first i've seen from the balcony in at least two months... Not a notable species, but more proof that birds are starting to move around again....

There's always next time (and I'm sure that once Jaegers start arriving, I'll actually be keen enough to stay awake)...


August 17th - a little mid-morning watching on calm as glass water, turned light east breeze and me watching on and off all day while I cleaned the condo (and went and got a haircut).. Things continue to increase

Carolina Wren still singing, Common Terns around (common) but declining in numbers... 

15-20+ Common Loons (lots) 
2 Greater Scaup
1 Lesser Scaup (together - first scaup in a whilllee)
2 Mallards (high flybys) 
1 (distant) flyby Solitary Sandpiper (new condo bird!!!) 
1 (close) flyby juv Least Sandpiper (new condo bird!!!) 
3 ad Bonaparte's Gulls
1 juv Black Tern (new condo bird!!!) - late aft (4:40pm)

Increase in Martins/Swallows & some swifts
1 flyby Ruby-throated Hummingbird (up very high) 
15+ Rock Pigeons flew in off the lake at mid day... (?) 

Best bird was a ROSY-FACED LOVEBIRD of all things... Record photos:

Flew around the two condo buildings for 4-5 hours.. Made a lot of noise...

It's not everyday you're entertained by a parrot... 


August 18th - boom goes the dynamite 

I finally managed to get out of bed around 7am... Around 710am I was out with my scope. I've discovered that you need a good 15 minutes of consciousness in order to properly use a scope. For some reason - my eyes just won't work until they've had their own "wake up" period... That was the reason why a flock of 15+ puddle ducks went unidentified. They could have been Teal... or Mallards... I just couldn't tell..

Thankfully 3-4 minutes later everything was functioning well when an adult LONG-TAILED JAEGER arrived on the scene. Full freakin tail streamers and everything - being CHASED by a Herring Gull... Beautiful, and ties the record early date for Hamilton (per Birds of Hamilton)... AWW yeah...

The skinny:

Green-winged Teal - 5 (3, 2)
Greater Scaup - 1
Mallards - 17+
Common Loon - 6+
Bonaparte's Gull - 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull -1 (1st alt/2nd basic)
Long-tailed Jaeger - 1  (my 150th species for the "patch") 
Parasitic Jaeger - 1 (45 mins after the LTJA - a year old bird - and a NEW condo bird!!!)
Great Egret - 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron - 1
American Kestrel - 1
Merlin - 1 (male Merlin and female kestrel chasing each other)
Eastern Kingbird - 1 (up high) 

Battle Royale! 

That's a JAEGER! (The Parasitic) 


August 19th - well isn't this interesting... Somehow I was up at 6:30 - watching by 6:45...

- 3 Least Sandpipers 

annddd..... Cormorants... Lots of Cormorants... Like thousands and thousands... And I wanted a little one... Maybe that's the reason I found something? I've looked at 10,000+ Corms each day for the past 4-5 days - wondering what is going on with the "Little Guys" being seen around the Great Lakes... 

Two massive feeding frenzies broke apart, and streamed past my condo for 20mins straight.. I picked out one that looked DRAMATICALLY different than the 10,000 others I had looked at (all at similar range/distance/light etc). 

Photos below are a sample... Best I can do from the 17th floor... In all the photos, the bird in question is the one on top (that didn't fit into the long lines of DCCO's)... To my eye - it is a small bird with a very long tail... But I could also just be crazy:

Anyways - that was my fun for the morning. I was at work by 9:30am... Leave a comment and let me know if you think I'm crazy or not... 


Given that Jaegers and other goodies are now abound, condo updates will likely be less about the local Martin's/Swifts/Carolina Wren etc and more about the goodies!

Another view of the recent sunrise... 

Random things seen in the field?!

I've had so much junk to post 'round here recently... I haven't posted a "random things seen in the field" post for MONTHS!

What is this world coming to? Some things from last week....

Free beer? 

Crazy looking hopper 

Lenny!! Lenny!!

First for Canada - Spot-winged Meadowhawk


Very young spot-sally

awwwwww..... baby turtle... 

I think I post these for two reasons... 

1. It is good useless blog material..

2. It reminds me that I actually see things every week while working (even though I can't report them or say where I am)...