Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 Photographic Year in Review

2014 Photographic Year in Review

These are the twelve images that summarize my photographic moments of 2014. Often these images are not my "best" (whatever that means) - but help tell the tale of where I was, and what was happening.
Check out past years here: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009

I'm sure many remember - it was freakin cold to start 2013! I spent some time watching Snowy Owls and photographing Long-tailed Ducks to celebrate the event. 

My first travel of the year was much like the end of 2012 - work related! I spent another two weeks doing near-shore marine bird surveys in British Columbia. It was an event that I won't soon (if ever) forget. Photo-wise, I was delighted to get a decent photo of these two Yellow-billed Loons. 

Back home, I find the birding never really gets going until the neotropic migrants arrive. I had some decent vulture and waterfowl migration earlier, but really - Pelee is the time to shine. I was there early in 2014, but things were somewhat slow for the early part... This photo sums up the first half quite well - Acadian Flycatchers! I photographed this Acadian in early May, after record-numbers arrived in late April. 

As May wore on, the birds arrived as they always do. I enjoyed a spectacular stretch of rarities from 11-14 May, yet this Wilson's Warbler seemed to do a better job of summing up the spring migration. I know I'm being a bit picky, as the May birding at Pelee is likely some of the very best in the world, but overall it was not one of my better years; as I never really felt settled. 

For 6 years now, Pelee ends and work begins... "Breeding Bird Season" keeps me busy - although 2014 was my lightest schedule in years. I punctuated the finale in July with my first ever trip to the Canadian Prairies in SE Saskatchewan! This American Avocet (at dusk) was one of many exciting species to help keep my work interesting. 

Not only was I granted a visit to the Prairies, but I also had time for photography! Often with work, the schedules are hectic and spare time is limited. My goal was actually to survey for the globally imperilled Dakota Skipper (butterfly)! A species threatened with global extinction due to it's preference for undisturbed virgin Prairie habitats. This meant we got to visit some truly spectacular sites, while saving time in the mornings/evenings to photograph birds (as they usually are only out during the middle of the day!) This Western Kingbird was feeding young at a roadside nest.

There is no rest for the wicked. Within 24 hours of returning home from Saskatchewan, I was off on the grandest adventure of my year. I had been waiting for this one for many months, as I was invited to visit Torngat Mountains National Park in northern Labrador! Not much I can say about it... It is surely one of the most spectacular places on earth... I was also extremely lucky to apply my skills as a photographer for the duration of my visit - and this male Harlequin Duck obliged. 

Yes, this is a Polar Bear. A handful of photographs can't really do an entire year justice! I still have thousands of photographs from this trip alone, waiting to be edited and shared online. In the back of my mind lies a new idea for photo sharing, which I truly hope to make a reality at some point in 2015. Time is always lacking... 

After spending nearly all of May, June and July away from home, I was desperate to get back to my beautiful ladyfriend and spend some time in my Condo. I can hardly disagree when I think that thirst for adventure has been getting weaker as each year passes, but it also opens up new doors for amazing new things to happen! Melissa and I spent a long evening on my balcony watching thunderstorms out over Lake Ontario when I was able to capture this particularly strong bolt of lightning. It was magical. 

Each year I look back on the delights of fall migration and realize that it is not my best time of year for photography. This juvenile Peregrine was taken at the tip of Point Pelee in late September as it rocketed out over Lake Erie. I was lucky to do a few trips down to extreme southern Canada this fall, and spent many an hour watching from my condo as the birds left our province!

It was on one of these Pelee trips that we encountered this spectacular insect - a hot pink Katydid! I had heard of such creatures, but had never seen one with my own eyes. It had been present around the visitor's centre for some time, and when we heard that it had been relocated - we went full-on twitch-mode to see it. There was some funny conversation as I photographed this bug with my 600mm lens, but it was all worth it. A true "natural history" highlight of my year. 

The sun is setting on 2014! (I couldn't resist)... I photographed this partial solar eclipse at sundown late this fall - my first experience photographing such an event. The dark smudges near the centre of the sun was also sunspot AR2192 - the largest in near 20 years.

I have a lot to look forward to in the new year - and I hope you do as well! Wishing you all the best in 2015. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Weather + Recent Birdy News

Well, a 989mb low over the Great Lakes is a beautiful thing, but this storm really hasn't panned out the way I was hoping...

Still a great way to see some good/rare birds, but it's also late December... Maybe we're just stuck until next spring!? Will keep my fingers crossed for something good to show up, but it'll be a while until I get out looking

Forecast for tomorrow night - strong 989 in our hood, but the storm is just starting to form, and surface winds are pretty boring...

12 hours later - bombing out at 976 but also rapidly pulling north. Models were hinting (several days ago) at this thing "hanging around" a bit more, but now show it pulling NE quickly. 

Still a neat storm! And maybe i'll get some "gull time" in soon..


Recent condo birding - getting better!

Dec 17th:

Dec 19th: 

Dec 21st: Cackling Goose!

Dec 22nd: King Eider!

Dec 23rd:


Last night (22nd) my lovely ladyfriend and I watched a Snowy Owl hunting along a busy roadside (Rymal Rd) in Hamilton/Stoney Creek!
It was sitting atop a light pole at Farmer Al's Market, and was quite tame! A few other people in the parking lot had a look as well... Awesome birds!


The ABA is buggin me! I know it's not a big deal, but I recently signed up as a member after a several year lapse (to a few groups)...

Bird Studies Canada sent me a thank you and a tax receipt... 

The first thing the ABA sent me was a request for donations... (I JUST gave you my money! And you ask for more, before sending any sort of publication etc?!)

Also, I use their site to check ontbirds and other listservs - and I'm growing tired of their "ads" that appear before the emails/posts... If they weren't there, I could see the new messages right away!

(this is a screen capture of what I see when I check ontbirds. Go away!)

I know it's picky, but I guess I just like to complain... Although I could argue that I have a bit more right than most, as one of my Hoary Redpoll images graces the (very) bottom on each of those pages!

(Shameless self-promotion!)


Happy Holidays to everyone! 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter weather update + flares!

Keep your eyes peeled for possible aurora borealis tonight!

A strong M-class flare a few days ago will be the source. It sounds like the big X-class flare that occurred a day or two later will largely miss our planet.

Check out!


The weather forecast has been changing recently! I thought, by now, they would have had this big storm nailed down. But with each model run, the genesis of the system seemed to be more and more delayed, meaning we will see less and less of the storm-impacts... Boo!

Forecast maps... Storm system is really far north! Boo...

GFS - recent model runs

Bombing out well to our N/NE... Boo..

GFS- high res:

Bombing out over James Bay! Boo....


Bombing out near James Bay - boo!


Off the map in a freakin hurry...

With things changing steadily, there is still reason to watch this storm though. Indicates they don't really have a great handle on what will happen... If anything major shakes down, you'll hear about it here! 

If not, it may be time to just settle down and seat some turkey over the whole thing!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Botanists vs. Birders

The battle for the Natural History Championship!

Just kidding, birders would win...

Does anyone know of a skilled botanist in the province that may be looking for work (or currently employed but wanting a change of scenery?)... The old'e peregrineprints blog is NOT a place for advertising, but it seems like an interesting opportunity - so I thought i'd throw out the question here...

Email me if you know of someone!

Plants! Ugh! ;)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Various models - various runs - various data

Last winter, news outlets seemed to "discover" weather models when writing poorly educated articles for their various parent companies...

Since I'm getting excited about model runs, I thought I would do a dual post.

1.) - to show off some of the new runs

2.) - to talk about what "model runs" really tell us when talking about weather forecasting


Various countries around the world (or groups of countries) have weather systems (massive computers) in place that run programs daily, after we plug all of the real/live weather recordings into the blanks.

Through years and years of research and understanding, these computer programs have been coded to do the best we (or they) possibly can at forecasting what will happen in the future...

Based on the results that we see - it's REALLY freakin hard to know exactly what will happen... Two of the best are the GFS (Global Forecast System- american) and the European Model (ECMWF - European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts), although they have their good days and bad days. --- Canada actually has one to! The CMC-GDPS (Canadian Meteorological Centre)

People who are "into" this kind of thing then monitor the differences between the models, and take note when they actually agree...

A prime example of when they disagree would be hurricane Sandy... The Euro was saying (days in advance) that the hurricane was going to hit the USA, whereas the GFS (days in advance) was saying it was going out to sea... You can guess who won...

The best of the best weather forecasters use their own skill, as well as comparing the "model data" - to make forecasts. They can actually read/understand situations that confuse the models, and predict what will actually happen. It's darn cool!

An alternate example is what we have here, where the models actually AGREE (well in advance) that something interesting could happen... We still don't know for sure, but having both the GFS and the Euro hint at a major Christmas storm, several days in advance, greatly increases the chance of the storm actually occurring.

SO! Back to the main story -

Each individual model run (twice a day for the Euro, 4 per day for the GFS) is run to define exact numbers/weather events. The results are what I often post here... BUT - that is NOT A FORECAST

I repeat, it is NOT a forecast

It should be treated as a glimpse of a "probable event"... Each time the model is run, something different gets spit out... When news broadcasters focus on a single model run, it's totally inaccurate and poor journalism.

With our "potential storm" - we can get a rough idea of when (Dec 24/25) the thing may peak in intensity, and a decent idea that it will be somewhere near Ontario when it does fully "bomb out" - but the exact details are far from certain.

As things start to make more sense, I'll post some details on my thoughts (guesses) as to any potential rare birds.. For now, I present several NEW model runs (from the GFS and Euro), that have all been spit out since my post yesterday

You can see how much it changes each time. Forecasters have a good idea that something is going to happen near Christmas, but exact details of wind direction, snow, rain, total precip, etc are extremely difficult to know in advance... Should be fun though!

Now check these out:

Day 6 and 7 from NOAA's NWS (Weather Prediction Centre) - showing an official FORECASTS

In my experience, the formal forecast is often weaker than the model runs, likely due to the potential that the event may not happen at all. It's rare, but sometimes the models were just plain "wrong" - and storms suddenly disappear from their runs. Check back for more info in the coming days!

(Not only for the birds, but maybe a good heads up that the driving will be rough over the peak days of the holiday season)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Long-range weather alert - Dec 24th-26th (ish)

Presented below, a pile of various weather images from the GFS and the Euro, agreeing that there may be a major weather event around Christmas.

This is a long ways out, but the models are hinting at something BIG... Timing and exact locations/winds/days are totally unknown at this point - yet they are key to figuring out what birds may arrive (and where)...

Only time will tell!

Also - if this thing comes to pass, blizzard conditions will be likely throughout the province (strong winds with moderate to large amounts of snow) - meaning horrible conditions... May be good to know about this in advance!

I am not really sure WHERE the birds could come from right now, but my hope is the Atlantic... Things will change... BUT - but... I have already done some looking at the nearby coast to see what species we could potentially expect.

Mega, with a chance of possible:

Common Eider
Northern Gannet
Great Cormorant
Thick-billed Murre


Black-legged Kittiwake
Harlequin Duck
Purple Sandpiper

Anything is possible:

Northern Fulmar
Black Skimmer
American Oystercatcher
Atlantic Puffin
Black Guillemot

Common Murre
Saltmarsh Sparrow
Boat-tailed Grackle

Indicator Species: if you see one of these, you deserved an alcid...(hypothetical storm if's)

Great Egret
Black-bellied Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone

Also - an increase in "good gulls" such as Glaucous, Iceland and Lesser Black-backed... Or just an increase in Herring/Great Black-backs - if this storm were to actually happen. Lots of gulls around could show that birds were actually moving...

This is all just crazy talk! But i'll post here as we learn more about a potential storm...