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... 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Vortex Binoculars

It has been a little while since I've plugged my favourite optics brand, but here we go! I make little secret of the fact that I'm lucky to be a Vortex field staff member for their birding related gear. This means that I get some awesome gear through visits to HQ or occasionally in the mail... In fact, my new favourite T-shirt came from a recent delivery. But alas! No one cares about my T-shirt...

I recently had an experience that is very interesting, and somewhat embarrassing. While in Torngat Mountains National Park I had the strap slip loose, and they fell straight down - with the outer glass making first contact with a rock (99% of Torngat MNP is rock!) - which not only chipped the glass, but (I'm guessing) led to the inevitable shift in the interior prism soon afterwards. Essentially, they either became monoculars, or junk!

(My binoculars - Vortex Razor 8x42's!)

While that sort of thing happens, it gets really embarrassing when I tell you that I not only arrived with my primary pair - but also two sets of backups - AND my Dad's old pair - looking for repairs and/or replacements were necessary....

I know birders (and photographers) are known for having a wide array of gear - but arriving with four pairs of binoculars (at once) seemed like a bit of a stretch for me - but alas, the guys and gals at Vortex were more than happy to accommodate... I'll spare the details, but all required repairs (or replacements) were dealt with right away - and off I went home! (Including a brand spankin new pair of Razor's to replace the Torngat Pair!)

I'm sure this reads like a shameless plug, and it is! Everything I experienced is exactly what everyone else (should) experience with their own Vortex gear. The Vortex website does a far better job than I in explaining it: 


Repair or replace your Vortex product for any reason at NO CHARGE to you. It doesn’t matter how it happened, whose fault it was, or where you purchased it.

- Unlimited lifetime warranty
- Fully transferable
- No warranty card to fill out
-No receipt needed to hang on to


Check out the link here for the full page about warranty 

This sh!^ sells itself! One thing I can also offer - if you see me out in the field at any point in time - don't be shy - and ask to check out whatever I may have at the time. Typically it's my Vortex Razor (8x42) binoculars and/or Razor 20-60x Spotting Scope (below). 

OK! That's all I'll say..

Well, maybe one more. Check out their (somewhat) new website! The birding part is here, and this can be a shameless plug for me - as many of the introductory photos are mine ;) 

(Our recent and upcoming weather. Get used to 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