Thursday, November 27, 2014

A "Rarity Alert" recap - it happened!

Sometimes you can't explain it, and often - if a system is packin rarities - some seem to arrive far too early to even be associated with the storm - but somehow they arrive (I'm thinking about the Solitaires)...

MEGA - Brambling

Other: Alcid/Murre in NY (lake ON)
Common Eider in SW MI
2 Solitaires in ON right now
Someone's pet Eurasian Tree Sparrow that arrived in Niagara
Tufted Duck (Buffalo)

That's a pretty solid list! I've seem other reports of "good" birds - GWF Goose, Ross's, Goose etc...

Gotta love those big storms!


But now begins the vicious cycle of twitching. I'm going to come right out and say it - I hate twitching. There have been some birds I was very happy to get. Specifically, the Thick-billed Kingbird - was a remarkably awesome twitch. I also enjoyed the Whitby Smew a fair bit. (The Phainopepla was awesome!)

There are others that I "went for" - that I think I realized that "if I don't go now, I'll regret it later" - rather than being extremely excited to actually witness the bird itself. Some examples may be: The Rondeau Mag Frigatebird, the Elegant Tern, and even the Brown Booby to some degree (note: all of these birds were pretty distant).

Why am I writing about this? Because of that darn Brambling. It's an 8 hour round trip, for an AMAZING bird - but the 8 hours are holding me back...

I don't give a hoot about the Eurasian Tree Sparrow*..

But that Brambling sure looks awesome. I'm not trying to inflict my practice onto others - twitch away and love every second of it - it's just not for me - and I wanted to make a blog post about it. Maybe I'll look back and laugh when I realize I could have seen a Brambling today, but didn't....

Some of my thoughts on twitching:

- you learn a little by going on a twitch (about bird ID)
- you learn more by searching for rarities yourself (about bird ID)
- it is exciting to see a mega via twitch
- it is STUPIDLY exciting to find a mega
- most rarities show up in "vagrant season" - meaning time spent twitching, is time spent not looking for your own rares- at a prime time
- twitching a bird in "non vagrant season" is much more fun (eg,/ Sage Thrasher in February 2006)
- there are considerably more birds to TWITCH than to find (more regular gratification to twitch)
- competitive listing and twitching are practically the same thing

Anyways, just some chatter... It was a good distraction to thinking about that Brambling

Awesome bird!


I have this personal vendetta about introduced species. I still need Gray Partridge for my Ontario list, because I just don't care... I never bothered to chase a Eurasian Collared Dove, but when I found one in 2013 (with Mr. Dave Bell) - we were still really excited... Just as I'm sure I would be if I found a EuroTree Sparrow - but dang, I have a hard time getting excited about them.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rarity Alert Continues

2/3pm radar as the low "wraps up" and is (likely) bombing out... My red arrow shows the path of rarities arriving

By 9am tomorrow, the "back side" of the rain will already be free of southern Ontario - that's a fast moving storm track - with winds from the southern USA - arriving in a single night

Surface winds at 2/3pm (same as the radar image on the top) look pretty dull... 

850mb winds (a bit higher off the surface) - Winds at 2/3pm - blowing in from Texas until it hits the rain - and strong!

850mb wind forecast for tomorrow (monday) morning. What birds are migrating right now in Arkansas??? Cause that's where I'd look to get an idea... Winds will be direct to southern Ontario - strong - and little to no rain in the way.

Water vapor at 9ish pm - showing the clear/dry skies behind the system

Ebird says some of the following are currently chillin in Arkansas - Geese (Snow, GWF), Avocets, Franklin's Gulls, Harris's Sparrows, 

Ugh - that was a boring list... Let's try Oklahoma - Geese, Western Grebe, Frank Gulls, LB Dowitchers, EC and WW Doves, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Prairie Falcon, Scissor-tailed Fly, Rock/Bewicks Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Spotted Towhee, Harris's Sparrow....

Well, it's a start. Let's see if anything gets found! Rare birds are rare for a reason. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Rarity Alert !!! - mega storm early next week...

WPC outlook for Monday - showing a sub 980mb monstrosity. 

WPC outlook for Sunday - showing warm air invading the province - and the two lows that will phase (and bomb) over the great lakes Monday.... This is a setup that can bring rares from multiple directions (west coast and gulf coast!)

WPC for late Saturday/Early Sunday - That odd front over Quebec is a setup I've seen bring rares in the spring - what will happen here? 

Euro 850mb winds (above) and GFS precip below... A few "model runs" giving a hint at what may transpire.. 

This is a BIG ONE - but I always find that ~50% of these storms are not "packin rarities" at all... So IF it does end up bringing the goodies - it should be VERY good...

It's the last week of November - this is rarity time! And (I think) a storm this large has the potential to pull something in from long distances... 


Hence - the first RARITY ALERT i've posted here in quite some time! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Peregrine terrorizing Blue Jays + lookahead

Taken at Pelee several weeks ago (October?)... Over a few different days, I saw Peregrine's catch multiple Blue Jays (and a few starlings) at the very tip... This last image above shows the feathers flying, but no grab!


All winds blow to Fort Erie on Tuesday morning... 40 knots! Who will be there to find the goodies? - Hopefully this primes the river for some great gulling.


Monster sunspot 2192 returned a few days ago - much smaller than it was last time around. It was renumbered 2209, and is still Beta-Delta-Gamma, so maybe we'll get some more fireworks... Will keep an eye on it...



ENSO regions are warming - but NOAA actually decreased their odds of an El Nino event - saying they're not overly convinced it has staying power (needs to be 3 months straight)... Will keep an eye on it


Into the future, the models keep hinting at more snow events, big blasts of arctic air - and the potential for some big storms... Generally too far to really have any confidence, but one thing is for sure - they aren't really seeing any major changes from what we've been experiencing for a few weeks now!
Will keep an eye on it... 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dark "Light Morph" Juvenile Broad-winged Hawk

Back in early/mid October - a very heavily marked "light morph" juvenile Broad-winged Hawk. 

So odd looking (to me), that I didn't really know what it was!

So I took a bunch of photos, and tried to sort it all out later. Can't get past BWHA...

Observed with Ross Wood

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Condo Birding Update - 2nd to 6th November, 2014

After an epic day on Nov 1st, I was set for a repeat on Nov 2nd.. Didn't really go down!

Nov 2nd:

10 RT Loon
1 C Loon
2 RN Grebe
1 Short-eared Owl - BOOM! New for the condo. Kinda overdue in my humble opinion, but there it was - out over the lake - practicing for the SEOW Olympics

Nov 3rd:

1 Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult, late) ... Decent numbers of Pine Siskins going past as well..

Nov 4th: dayumn! A fine morning indeed!

12 Red-throated Loon
16 Common Loon
1 Pacificy Loon! You've seen the bad photos:
1 Juvenile Bald Eagle (out over the lake, for a long time?)
1 Thayer's Gull! (2nd basic) (photo below)
3 Snow Buntingss
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler (odd)

Nov 6th: missed the morning... But...

ungodly duck numbers...
2 BARN SWALLOWS? (what the heck??? I haven't seen any swallow for several weeks here)
1 Northern Mockingbird !?

Have a feeling tomorrow morning could be good, and I'll have some time to watch early... Thought i'd get these out of the way! More birds to come! Moar!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pacificy Loon at the condo - 4 Nov 2014

Had this juvenile Loon go past the condo yesterday. In the scope, it looked small, compact, dark and pretty decent for Pacific Loon...

Knowing that the masses want to see photos, I went for the camera, and ended up with these. That I still think looks like a match to Pacific (and shows anti Red-throated and Common features).

Hard to get tooo excited about a distant flyby loon (pics taken with my 600mm lens AND 2.0xTC), but I think it'd be exciting to ID a fun bird in this manner...

What do you think?

Three pics in one image

Monday, November 3, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Super Fantastic Condo Lakewatch! - 1 November 2014

I watched steady for the first 4+ hours of daylight, then pretty steady after that! No mega's, but it was pretty awesome otherwise. Ebird - show me some totals!


Snow Goose 6
Brant 81
Canada Goose 75
American Wigeon 3
American Black Duck 46
Mallard 241
Northern Pintail 14
Redhead 15
Greater Scaup 400
Lesser Scaup 18
Surf Scoter 2000
White-winged Scoter 2000
Black Scoter 150
Long-tailed Duck 10000
Bufflehead 20
Common Goldeneye 200
Hooded Merganser 3
Common Merganser 2
Red-breasted Merganser 300
Red-throated Loon 79
Common Loon 161
Horned Grebe 3
Red-necked Grebe 1
Double-crested Cormorant 22
Northern Harrier 3
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Rough-legged Hawk 2
Black-bellied Plover 1
Sanderling 6
shorebird sp. 3
Parasitic Jaeger 1
Black-legged Kittiwake 1 adult type
Bonaparte's Gull 5
Thayer's Gull 1  juv
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1 2nd ba
Great Black-backed Gull 40
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 2 albino
Peregrine Falcon 2 one age unknown, one juvenile male

3 new species for my condo list (Brant, Snow Goose, Sanderling) and lots of goodies. 

Check out my actual ebird checklist for more notes/details:


I haven't been posting many photos of late (on here), but decided to keep the camera at the ready today - just in case a mega did pass. Instead, I have a few photos I can share:


Omega Brant Flock!


Red-throated Loon!

Five Red-throated Loons! The loon flight (especially the Commons) was intense! 

Another highlight today - a Leucistic female Greater Scaup! First spotted her in flight, then she landed and was in view for a few hours this afternoon. 


Finally, the juvenile Thayer's Gull from today: 

Wish I had photos of the Kittiwake too, but I don't!


Hamilton fall bird count is tomorrow! Sun and north winds should be superb for migration. Can't wait to see what gets found!