Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pelee!!! April 29th, 2014

My FOY migrant today

I kinda thought today might be good for rarities... Turns out I didn't see that much in the way of numbers - but there was definitely rarities around!

To start, I didn't see the Western Grebe or the Smith's Longspurs - but it's my fault (I didn't look)... Whenever rarities start showing up, I get excited about finding my own and end up missing out on the "birds of the day"... What can ya do?

Ohio also had a good batch of rares - including a Neotropic Cormorant! Those things are everywhere...

To the birds!!!!!!!!!! -

Highlights - 

2 !!! Acadian Flycatchers
1 White-eyed Vireo (singing)
1 Yellow-throated Vireo
1 Hooded Warbler
1 adult Lesser Black-backed Gull

Other FOY (for me) - 

Baltimore Oriole
Eastern Kingbird
Common Yellowthroat 

Warblers - eight species (Pine, Y-Rump, Palm, B&W, Nashville, BT Green + above) 


I think this bird (above - young female) is 90% Myrtle and 10% Audubons... I'll leave it at that. 

Long day (walked 23ish km) - hoping tomorrow is great! All depends on the rain and winds... I think rarities will be around no matter what though. It's an exciting time!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Back at Pelee!!! - April 28th

Underrated beauty - a Greater Yellowlegs in breeding plumage!


Pelee!!! Sure, I didn't get back until maybe 5pm - but that doesn't stop me from doing some damage!!!

Wheatley Harbour - slowwww - big waves though... And Common/Forster's Terns about.

Nearby fields - 1 juv Glaucous Gull

Nearby cottages - 2 Lesser Yellowlegs - only notable because they were in the front yard of a cottage, surrounded by trees:


Hillman Marsh Shorebird Cell - boom!

1 EURASIAN WIGEON (female to boot) that I picked out soon after arriving. A bird i've long searched for in Ontario (sorting through plain birds for plain rarities seems to be a hobby of mine). It was all reddish/orange washed on the head and lacked any black at the base of the bill. Perfection!

1 Marbled Godwit - beauty!!! Walked in front of the wigeon to reveal itself.

1 Lesser Black-backed Gull - 3rd alternate. 

3 Great Black-backs, 1 Caspian Tern, Forster's etc + the expected shorebirds and ducks. There are a ton of teal here - I'm hoping for a Garganey! Or a Cinnamon! 

The 3rd alt LBBG

Yellow dot shows my awful photo of the female EUWI - maybe shows the colour of the head? (It's pretty bad)... 

 I've got high hopes for tomorrow (today!!!) - I'll have a full day's report up in 24 hours... Feels like a cosmic-rare kinda day... 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Tuesday birding forecast - Very good in SW Ontario?!

I've got really high hopes for some awesome birding Tuesday morning in SW Ontario (Pelee?) - the winds aloft are very strong and from the southwest -

I'm loving these new maps from tropical tidbits!! It's showing 2am local for Pelee - STRONG SW winds pushing into the Pelee area, and rain should be heavy - but hopefully ending by morning (and I hope - with birds riding the back side of the rain)..

I'm not really 100% sure about this one, but it doesn't hurt to have high hopes!

8am for Tuesday  (GFS model run) - hopefully the rain is pushing past Pelee in time to drop some awesome birds. It's right on the edge!! The low is being blocked, and looks to be trying to get "cut off" - I typically like these lows (that wrap around themselves) - in the fall, but what the heck - let's see some good birds!!!

Maybe Tuesday? 


Make sure you keep tabs on those Newfoundland blogs along the side bar! They're just getting warmed up with euro-vagrants out there. Looks pretty darn exciting!


I'm on bad internet, so I can't really keep track of what's happening with the severe weather in the USA - but it looks pretty cool. I'm hoping to be back at Pelee by late this afternoon (this is pre-written Sunday) - so I'll have more birds and weather to report later!

Bird on!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pelee!!! - April 26th

Before you get your hopes up (for good news and photos), I'm a bit short on material! I left Pelee around 11:30am...

Tip early - lots of the same migrants. Yellow-rumps, White-throats and Chipping Sparrows make up the bulk of the action...

I had the Hooded Warbler sing while riding the tram! Near it's spot (N of sparrow field).

There are still 1-2 American Tree Sparrows around the tip, which seem a bit odd! Although there's still snowdrifts along the west beach, so I guess it's ok... 3 Sandhill Cranes were on the east beach with a few turkeys.. Looked odd... A male Merlin was hanging around.

Warblers today:

Northern Waterthrush (my FOY)  - singing along the WNT

Only 1 Carolina Wren in the last 3 days!


There was some north winds before I left, so I saw a few raptors -

Sharp-shinned - 3
TV - 10+
Red-tail - 2
Bald Eagle - 2
Osprey - 1

Not much else though...


I didn't check hillman and had little in the fields... Wheatley Harbour was dull to say the least!


On the drive home, I had 200+ Broad-winged Hawks along HWY 3 !!! They were seriously getting pushed south in due to the strong N winds... They must be really late in their spring migration... So much north winds!!!

I've also temporarily lost my card-reader, so any warbler photos from today will have to wait (or be forever deleted). 

My Dad had the Yellow-throated Warbler again today on WNT, and there were Marbled Godwits!!! So the fun never ends at Pelee.


I'll be back in the park early next week! Based on the forecast maps I'm seeing - TUESDAY could be AMAZING!!! But I'll try to update later (maybe some maps tmrw?)

This is THEE GroundHOG from Pelee on the 25th... Has anyone ever seen one in the park before?! I meant to ask Alan today - but I forgot.. Alan? I know it was my first!


Lots of great rarities around the continent in the last few days. You'd think it was nearly MAY!!!

Willow Ptarm!! On LAKE ONTARIO!! In NEW YORK !!! -

GARGANEY! In Wisconsin! -

Rustic Bunting?! - Too far away, but so cool...

Tufted Flycatcher?! - In Texas! I'm not even worried about this one, but it's just too easy to copy and paste the aba blog link:

Check out Alvan's blog for some awesome Euro-shorebirds in NF! -

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pelee!!! - April 25th

Dayumn! There be birds!

Warblers Today -

Hooded - 1
Louisiana Waterthrush - 1
Pine - 10+
Nashville - 4+
Black-and-white - 4+
Black-throated Green - 5+
Yellow Warbler - 2+
Yellow-rump - 200+
Palm Warbler 25+

The "Palm" of the day - a Yellow ! (or close enough, as far as I'm concerned) -

It's mostly yellow - has little streaking (but is reddish) and looks awesome. I'm counting it!

Others - 

Glaucous Gull - 1 (adult!)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo - 2
Blue-headed Vireo - 8+
Chimney Swift

Lots of sparrows (Chipping everywhere  + Savannahs, Fields, Swamps!!) (One Junco, one A. Tree) 

Also this weird Empid.... The photos look gray, but it was GREEN - 

Ken is leaning towards Acadian... I agree with him (and not just out of fear). 

Time for sleep! (I'm tired....)

Oh - I also saw a groundhog inside the park today.. (Ken and I) - is that normal?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pelee!!!! - April 24th

I worked in Sarnia, then did a crazy route to Pelee...

I stopped at Sombra SL - and there were people there, so I didn't go in...

I then missed the turn for Port Lambton SL - so I didn't go there...

I drove past Roberta Stewart Wetland and saw the same birds Blake Mann keeps seeing!

I tried to hit Lighthouse Cove on Lake St. Clair and missed the turn...

I passed some wetland that I forgot to note the name of! - But it had Pectoral Sandpipers and a Sora calling... Nice spot!

Tilbury SL had very little - 2 Lesser Scaup, 1 Redhead, 2 Gadwall, both teal, and a few others... Also 1 Cliff Swallow...

This sign was AMAZING to see while at Tilbury... How often do you see something like this? 


Wheatley Harbour - pretty boring... Although 2 Green Herons at Muddy Creek were very nice to see!

On the drive away, I found 200+ Lapland Longspurs in a nearby field. Couldn't turn any into Smith's though...


A quick check of the hillman bridge had lots of shorebird habitat!!! 200 Dunlin, both yellowlegs, Pec's, Wilson's Snipe and my FOY Spotted Sandpiper! It's lookin decent..

From the road I could see a number of Gulls and ~7 Black-bellied Plovers in the shorebird cell, but I didn't go in! In the evening, I had the chance to see huge numbers of teal in the cell.


Inside the park, I walked the VC to the tip. The highlights among the expected migrants -

Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler (very bright western)
~40 Yellow-rumps


A Hooded Warbler!!!

VERY bright Western Palm... Singing a lot... 

Overall a good start! Tomorrow (today) - friday - looks like it could get rather exciting.

Expect the first week of May to be COLD!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

IT'S TIME!!!!!!!!

Pelee Pelee Pelee!!! A few years ago, I made this image - which was pretty popular methinks..

A few times I tried to re-create the magic, and failed horribly... This year I took another stab at it - and while it may not be quite the same - I'm fairly happy with it... It also has more species, so I think that's neat... 

So what do you think? Look good? Which is beter?

What's Pelee going to be like in 2014?!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Severe weather outbreak in USA = Mega's for the Great Lakes?!?!?!

Forecasting/understanding the weather over the past week has been one of the craziest rides in all my times of watching the models. It felt like every model disagreed with each other... Heck, it felt like each individual run of each model disagreed with all before it...

I think they're starting to make sense though! Or at least, I hope they are... If my understanding is correct, we may be rather chilly - but in a darn good position to land a truly mega-rare bird!

850mb heights (Euro model run) - 168 hours out for next Tuesday early...

The above map is for winds up off the ground... I'm guessing 1000m to 1500m up... Maybe too high for migrant birds? Maybe not? I think it's a pretty good height...

On the ground, we'll be getting blasted with strong NE winds. In the past, I have been confused as to why MEGA rare's have often arrived BEFORE we feel warm temps and south winds on the ground... I can only assume it's because the warm air is "riding up" and the birds are flying ABOVE the NE winds, and are eventually grounded when they encounter them (or rain). 

If that is truly a good way to get mega's in our neighbourhood - then we are IN LUCK if these forecasts verify...

SPC severe weather outlook for 4-8 days out - those colour patches are for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. 

One thing i've known for a while is that severe weather (tornado outbreaks) seem to have a strong relation to stupidly rare birds in the province. Some examples -

April 1991 - large outbreak = Black-capped Vireo at Long Point

May 6-7 1995 - outbreak = Varied Bunting at Long Point (details of this event are scarce)

May 3-11 2003 - very large/prolonged outbreak - 2 Hermit (accepted), 1 Virginia's (accepted) and 1 Red-faced (not accepted) Warblers reported in the province.

May 21-31 2004 - long outbreak - Lazuli Bunting, 2 Yellow-crowned N-herons, Tricoloured Heron...

May 3-5 2007 - outbreak - Townsend's Warbler (Rondeau)

May 1-2, 2008 - outbreak - Mottled Duck (Pelee)

May 22-25, 2008 - outbreak - Audubon's Warbler (male at Pelee) - seemed odd...

Apr 30 - May 2, 2010 - outbreak - Anhinga in SS Marie.

May 22-25, 2010 -outbreak - Audubon's Warbler (male at Long Point) - also seems odd...

Those are just a few samples... Some have almost nothing associated with the outbreak (in Ontario) - whereas others had noticeable spikes in OBRC birds reported, just nothing "insane" - A huge outbreak occurred in late April 2011 - see here - and the birding was AMAZING - although the OBRC records don't' reflect that... (Ken Burrell and I found YT Warbler, Eared Grebe, Glossy Ibis, Laughing Gull and an ad. male Summer Tanager in 24 hours on Pelee Island).

Each one is also a little different than the other depending on how/why/where the storms form and where the frontal boundaries are... What I CAN say, is that looking at the 1991 outbreak - the maps at the time look pretty similar to the maps that the euro is showing for next week...

Maybe we'll see nothing... Maybe it will be average, or maybe we should make sure the car is fueled up for a road trip somewhere to see a Painted Redstart...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Far Eastern Ontario Geese

In mid April I was out in Eastern Ontario doing some day-long soul-sucking type work! Ross Wood happened to be doing the same, and despite our lack of free time, we still managed to get out to a goose hot-spot and enjoy the show. Some photos:

Our ebird checklist from the (abvoe) morning photos -

Record photo of the Ross's Goose we had - (you can only see the head)... We had limited time to scan, leaving us wondering how many more could be around...

It was my first time seeing huge flocks of "Greater" Snow Geese - they're really freakin big! (I had seen the subspecies before, just not thousands)..

The "Snow's" were all in once place - whereas huge groups of Canada's were all over the place... I have little doubt that Ross and I would have nailed a Pink-footed with a day of free time to bird ;)

Some other highlights were a Sandhill Crane and 6 Tundra Swans (some shown above) - decent birds for far-eastern Ontario methinks?

Monday, April 21, 2014

The "Rarity Event" happened!

Remember that rarity alert I was jabbering about? It happened! -

It blurs the lines (in my opinion) after an event like last Sunday/Monday happens - that "good birds" are found several days after the fact... We just can't find everything right away! And presumably, some just "wander around" after arriving, making it even harder to figure out... Overall, I would say that the vast majority of rare birds in Ontario (this past week) can be directly attributed to that single weather event. A brief/incomplete roundup:


Snowy Egret
Cattle Egrets
Blue Grosbeak
2+ Yellow-throated Warblers
Summer Tanager
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Black Vulture
Henslow's Sparrow
Swainson's Hawk
Spotted Towhee
Eurasian Wigeon
Ross's/GWF Geese
American White Pelican
Eared Grebes

Quebec -


New York (Lake Ontario area) -

Western Grebe
Black Vulture
Swainson's Hawk
American White Pelican
Eurasian Wigeon

Ohio (Lake Erie area)-

Little Blue Heron
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Ibis Species (4)
Yellow-throated Warblers

Michigan - ??? Hello?

Smith's Longspurs are moving through Ohio/Indiana etc... It still boggles my mind that Pelee doesn't have a record of this species!


Anyways - you get the idea... It was happening out there!!! It was still reallly early, so I think that limited the "enjoyment" of the birding (eg,/ no pretty warblers to sort through) - but the sky could have been the limit for mega's....

April 13th conditions at the Burlington lift bridge... What a change!!!!

Epic wind map on April 13th...


Watch this space for all your rarity-weather news!!!!!! The weather forecasts shifted today for some (possible) AWFUL weather for late april, so here's hoping it improves!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ice, ice, phoebes!

Everyone (bloggers?) had their chance to share their little moment last week where birds were dealing with the cold/snow... Mine was watching a group of Phoebes "flycatch" off the surface of a frozen swamp.. Phoebes and Ice!

On the brightside, all extreme/severe weather outbreaks for the next 6 weeks will bring us insane vagrants - instead of "just" snow and cold!


I updated the blog header to a new "pelee edition" a bit early, but thought it would counter balance this icy post!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Condo Birding Update - April 10th to 13th (AWESOME)

April 10th - HUGE blast of southerly winds. SOO warm. I was up at 7am and at the window. I "worked from home" for the day, and kept tabs on what was happening. Interestingly, the morning flight was slow but exciting. The afternoon was downright dull at times, until the evening where I had a few more cool birds...

Some morning highlights:

(see below)

2 LITTLE GULLS (different adults) - a superb bird for Hamilton. (see above)
~150 Bonaparte's Gulls
1 Glaucous Gull
2 Great Black-backed Gulls

3 Common Loons
2 Great Blue Herons
2 Belted Kingfishers
1 American Kestrel

3 KING EIDERS (flyby flock!)
10 Tundra Swans (late?)
7 Wood Ducks
All 3 Scoter species (still numerous)

Eastern Bluebird - 4
~40 Tree Swallows
Northern Flicker - 3
Rusty Blackbird !!! - 1 --- this is a NEW condo/patch bird. I have probably seen hundreds, but this is the first time i've been totally confident to ID one flying past...

Two snaps of the King Eider "flock"

Throughout the day, I had high hopes for a hawk migration along the shore in the strong SW winds. It didn't happen... (The afternoon shift) -

1 Northern Harrier
2 American Kestrel
1 Rough-legged Hawk (light ad male)
1 Osprey
2 Red-tailed Hawk
5 Sharp-shinned Hawk

1 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
2 Blue-winged Teal - NEW condo BIRD(s)!!! Overdue, but I'll take it!
1 Wood Duck
2 Great Blue Herons
1 Common Tern (!!!) - this is EARLY

Thankfully I had another pulse (mainly the non-raptors above) of activity in the late afternoon...

April 11th - I wasn't home! Although I did hear a Woodcock in the dark....

April 12th - calm winds! Warm temps! It was awesome! I did a solid morning watch and was thoroughly rewarded... First up, I might as well cover the "sketchy" bird sighting of the day:


I picked up on these two small geese - flying waay out over Lake Ontario (going east)... I snapped three photos (shown above) and looked at them in my scope. Only one problem - they just looked dark in the crummy light! I could tell they weren't Canada's - and didn't look great for Cackling either... After a very limited amount of research, I figured they weren't Cackling or Brant due to their long necks (both species have very short necks)... A bit of a stretch I guess, but what the heck - it's just my patch list.


CACKLING GOOSE - 2 (above photo) - flew past close to shore with a decent flock of Canada's mid-morning...

KING EIDERs - 6! (yes six) in a single flock feeding offshore of LP Sayer's park. 2 young males, 4 females!

Tundra Swan - 15

Great Egret - 1 !

Peregrine Falcon - 1 beauty of a juv female (unbanded) spent over an hour hanging around the buildings. Some remarkably good/close looks (down to 20 feet!)

Purple Martin - 3

Barn Swallow - sev

Northern Rough-winged Swallow - sev

Northern Flicker - 100+ !!!!!!!

Northern Mockingbird - 1 (flying 150 ft in the air, going west, during the "morning flight" !!!!!!!!!!)

Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1 (same as the NOMO! Fresh migrant male!!!)

Rusty Blackbird - several!

Other migrants that were "new" a week ago were downright common - Caspian Terns, Tree Swallows, etc. Still huge numbers of blackbirds and Robins on the go... Some photos from the morning:

Nothing like a morning with a Peregrine "hangin out" - we could see it during breakfast from the table! This guy shown had no idea what was above him... 

Another highlight (per say) was this Pigeon! It was up high with a mixed flock of migrants - moving steadily westwards along the Lakeshore. It looked too "slim" to be a Rock Pigeon at first, and I snapped photos. I think I can see a band on the leg, and it looks like something tried to take a chunk out of its belly... I can only assume it is someones "pet" pigeon (racing/homing or something)... I could really tell the difference from the "local" pigeons - and sure got my hopes up (briefly) for a rarity...

April 13th !!!

I was expecting a blast of warm air in the morning, but it was COLD with gentle NE winds... I also woke up an hour later than the previous day, so I can only assume I missed something... The highlights:

FORSTER'S TERN - 1 !!!!! New condo bird!!!!!

LITTLE GULL - 1 (adult!)

Peregrine Falcon - 1 un-aged female flew due east. (Same bird as yest? who knows?)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 3 (flybys - down low - from the condo!)

Fox Sparrow - 1 (same as the sapsuckers)

E. Phoebe - landed on the roof of the next condo building!

Bank Swallow - 1

Northern Flicker - hundreds... I would guess they were averaging 1.5-2 per minute, for 4-5 hours straight in the morning... That's easily over 300 birds! 400 wouldn't be crazy, based on the numbers - but I had no desire to sit and count flickers all morning! They are awesome to watch though - so colourful!

Once again, species that were notable just days ago (Barn Swallow, Common Tern etc) - were like an afterthought today... I listed species above like the Sapsuckers and Fox Sparrow - not because they're unusual - it was just unusual to see them flying past while inside my condo. Pretty fun! I could only imagine the nearby woodlots had a lot of birds! I also stopped keeping track of the ducks.. I had species like Scaup (big flocks) Pintail, Wigeon etc... My desire to check the woods panned out in the afternoon.

Walking from my condo down Van Wagner's Beach was the destination. Highlights were the migrants - Field Sparrow, Chipping Sparrows, Savannah Sparrow, White-throats, Towhees, Sapsuckers, Hermit Thrush, Swallows - and this beautiful Pine Warbler!

This was uber exciting on the 13th! I'm a little behind schedule with my reporting here, so a week later, it doesn't seem quite as exciting - but he sure was a beauty.

That evening I had another Forster's Tern do a few flybys - along with a few more migrants... It's almost "that" time of year!