Monday, April 17, 2017

A real vlog

So... instead of writing a blog post on the limits of air masses/rain & vagrant birds (with exciting weather systems) - I  decided to talk to my computer instead...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Visual ID of American vs. Fish Crow...

How does that make you feel? I'm posting a few crow photos from today with the hopes of generating some discussion as to everyone's comfort level in using visual characteristics in separating these species in a semi-vagrant setting (Ontario).

Set/bird #1:

Set/bird #2 (plus an OOF bird) -

What say you?! I'll write my (100% honest and not influenced by whatever anyone else says) opinions in a few days...

Right now, mega migration is unfolding!!

PS - if you want to know more on these species, check out the holy grail link here: 


Radio-silence leads me to believe that no one is comfortable with visually ID'ing crows... Here's a few more pics from today (one day after the pics above) - if you want to try some more before commenting! 

(I think there are 3 birds in this series, but I may have included a fourth) 

And one more bird:


Edit #3 - 

Here's my take.... 

The fieldmarks for birds in flight are generally not reliable... It may be that there are differences in size/shape in the flight feathers between adults & first year birds (anyone have pyle handy? mine is buried)....

The moe "swept back" the wings are, the harder it is to assess the appearance of P5 vs. P4, P6 & P9...

I can find "one off" pictures of both AMCR & FICR that appear to show exactly what that species SHOULD NOT show... (both primaries and bill structure) 

Therefore I think it'd take 10+ photos (with different postures) to properly assess any differences in primary ratios...

Here's my thoughts on the above birds:

First five photos: 

A key problem here is all my photos show the bird with the wings swept back, which seems to favour FICR appearance regardless of species... 

However, in each photo, P5 seems to have no interest in looking like a finger (or at all longer than P9) and the bill is very hooked, so I'm inclined to identify it as a Fish Crow (with the full disclaimer I'm not really worried if I'm wrong, and am happy to adjust going forwards as we get better information on these birds). 

Second set of five

This bird, and the previous (first set of five) were a flock of five crows that flew past... I managed to get a series of two only... This bird spreads out a bit more, and I'm inclined to say the same features apply regarding the primaries (P5 looks more like P4 than it does P6 - aka not a finger)... The wing spread is a little better in trying to say that P9 is roughly equal to P5, although you can see that each wing looks a bit different, highlighting how awful this is to try with photographs..

(the bill is hard to see)

One other interesting element is that the out of focus crow in the background of two of these images is clearly showing P10-6 in both shots (with the third and final below) with P5 MIA... 

So in summary, I had a flock of 5 crows - that all looked odd to me - so I took pics.... I now have ~30 photos of three birds, and none show any features either strongly against FICR, or strongly pro AMCR, so I'm inclined to say the flock was a group of FICR... So if you're like me, and you enjoy trying to identify every single bird you see regardless of circumstances - it's an interesting thought/conclusion... 

IF you like enjoying your bird observations and NOT making mistakes when identifying birds, then this process probably seems insane...


The last 12 photos (of 5 different birds, I think) - were all taken the next day, as I tried to get some new reference material to test these ideas on... I suspect they're all American Crows.... The vast majority of photos seem to show a semi or strongly-pro AMCR feature on first glance... Some images showed features that seemed to align with Fish Crow, however once I tried another mark (e.g. P5 vs. P9) it was more in line with AMCR... Check out some markups of the origional bunch:

Long story short:

The marks aren't definitive - photos can be misleading - take 15-20 photos of a bird in flight, and then you'll have a chance of being more confident, but not totally confident, if you care. 

Oh, and context is huge as well (I had 5 birds together in a FICR-plausible time/place, when peak AMCR migration has passed, which gave me a really weird vibe - after watching for these things fairly steadily since 2011). 

Saturday, April 8, 2017


Rarity alert! One of the earliest major-exciting weather events I can remember... Is it toooo early? Probably not. Great birding awaits! I'm back to making videos:

I'm probably not going to post these things every time (ok, I'm not) so if you're keen on them - don't be afraid to subscribe to the youtube page...

Get out there!!!

Thursday, April 6, 2017


I dedicated my third video to this! 36-48 hours of spectacular migration & high vagrant potential approaches.

Monday, April 3, 2017

ebird gull media upload

eBird checklists with photos! If you haven't used the ebird media database yet, I encourage you to do so! It's 2 million photos (& growing), and is an unbelievable tool when researching an unusual bird you've observed/photographed...

I use it so much, that I must also do my part, and kicked it off by uploading one of my favourite subjects: GULLS!

Check it out here:

The odd mundane gull pic appears every once in a while, but for the most part I think they have something to offer... Hopefully they updated the "search options" in the future for added refinement (eg, "third winter Herring Gull")... But it's still pretty awesome...

I've tried to only paste an "active" link once, but occasionally I highlighted the same one twice when two really cool/unusual birds were photographed at the same date/site... I have a bunch more Glaucous/Iceland/Lesser Black-backed style photos, but have unfortunately lost my gusto to continue uploading them... At least the *good* stuff is online (until someone from eBird invalidates them!)...  Now enjoy this blog filler! -

Sabine's Gull: (same bird, next day) (a dult)

Black-legged Kittiwake:

Bonaparte's Gull: (dark morph)

Little Gull:

Franklin's Gull: (same as a LIGU link)

Laughing Gull: (really bad)

Great Black-backed Gull:

Great Black-backed X Herring / Herring:

Great Black-backed X Herring Hybrid (Great Lakes Gull):

Great Black-backed X Glaucous Hybrid: (super excited to see this in ON)

Herring/Thayer's Gull:

Herring Gull: (nutty bird) (massive amount of white in the wingtips) (massive white apical spots) (tailband alert)

VEGA (Herring) Gull:

Herring X Lesser Black-backed Hybrid: (2w) (the SAME BIRD a YEAR LATER)

Herring X Lesser Black-backed Hybrid / Herring Gull:

Lesser Black-backed Gull:

Lesser Black-backed / Yellow-legged Gull: (duh same bird)

Herring / Herring X California Gull Hybrid:

Herring X California Gull Hybrid:

California Gull: (same bird) (new bird)

Black-tailed Gull:

Ring-billed Gull:

Ring-billed / Ring-billed X Laughing (?):

Iceland (Kumlien's) Gull:


Thayer's X Iceland Gull: (same bird as above, dif date)

Thayer's Gull:

Nelson's Inuk Gull (Glaucous X Herring):

Glaucous Gull: - barrovianus candidate

Glaucous-winged Gull:

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Birding Weather Videos?!

Is this a good idea or a bad idea? I'm not sure. Just wanted to try it out... Perhaps more interesting weather will = more interesting videos...

Whatcha think? Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Migration tonight!

I know there won't be many people reacting to this idea/post on ~8 hours notice (I kinda missed this approaching) - but I was surprised to see the wind/rain pattern unfolding tonight. As per usual, I'm using Point Pelee as an example...

Despite strong NE winds and colder temps, the rain is moving north of SW Ontario:

Harrow Airport says it's 3.5 degrees...

and here's the surface winds:

(yes, NE winds) - but the south winds aren't terribly far away!

This is (in my opinion) a great setup for big NUMBERS of birds to drop in at migrant traps (like Pelee!)... You'd never know from the ground, but warmer southerly air is flowing over Pelee from places further south. Check out the 850mb winds: 

This is a very similar setup to the BIG day from May 11, 2016 - with huge numbers of neotropic migrants from Pelee / Pelee Island...

IF it turns out, tomorrow will be "March/April" themed - so flickers, winter wrens, kinglets, juncos etc - but it could be a pretty interesting show out there. I won't be there, but maybe you will be? Looking forward to the ebird checklists!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bald Eagle X European Starling hybrid

Or maybe it's a partial albino Starling.. Who's to say? My lovely ladyfriend spotted this beast in our backyard during the recent snowfalls... Snowfall = more birds at your feeder, and spring snowfall = oodles of migrant blackbirds at your feeder!

Managed a few quick grabs from inside the house. Not much else to say about it - although I was pretty surprised to see just HOW the white was coming through... I am not knowledgable about the exact causes of plumage abnormalities in birds (I believe there was a great article several years ago on how the mechanisms are different in birds vs. mammals)  but it seems a little more unusual that the feathers are part normal part white (greater coverts) - or part normal part paler-than-normal (primaries) - or straight up white (head etc). 

Friday, March 10, 2017

New website! Same great blog... Somewhat...

A new incarnation of my website ( has arrived! The previous design had been adjusted several times since its inception in 2003, including a complete overhaul after a virus attack - but always followed the same general design/layout.

One big adjustment is the loss of my old site-specific redirect url ( - which I don't think I'm going to revive... If you're reading this, hopefully you're already aware of the change... is the link of the future!

I've enacted a blogging feature on the new site - which I've decided to call "journal" instead of "blog" to avoid any confusion with this site... I hope to blog about photography-specific endeavours on that page going forward -so while updates may be irregular, I hope the quality of the content will be high. First up will be a series regarding some of the hotspots I was able to visit while in San Diego starting sometime next week. (

So boom! Here it is! Let me know what you think!

Monday, February 20, 2017

20 San Diego Bird Photographs

For the first time in some time, I ventured forth on a bird-photography-specific adventure. My destination was San Diego, where I was lucky to get some tips & tricks from the legendary San Diego birder/photographer Jim Pawlicki. (Thanks Jim!)

Long story short, is that I somehow managed to take 19,000 photos... Since I don't really have a functioning website these days, I came up with roughly twenty photos (each showing a different species) that also happened to be some of my favourite images from the trip. Needless to say, there are more, but i'm not really sure if/when/where they'll surface in the future.

Hope you like them!