Friday, April 28, 2017

FALLOUT potential Sunday (vlog)

I'm vloggin' left, right and centre these days.... A video above to explain why there is potential for big numbers of birds on Sunday. It's not a sure thing at this point, but it looks promising... Watch for details!!!

I didn't even get to Monday - which looks AMAZING in it's own right (migrational surge into the Lake Erie area + overshoots & maybe even mega rares)...

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It's GO TIME!!!

We've been spoiled with great early-season weather in the Great Lakes, and we're already saturated with early migrants, bugs & vagrants... So what happens next?


I'm a bit tired to do a vlog, but I need to post.... Weather models have had a hard time nailing this forecast down, and it might still change a little (esp Sunday-Monday)... But here's a short-term look-ahead....

Wednesday (tomorrow):

This is 850mb winds with the temperature overlay... WARM SW WINDS over ALL the southern Great Lake... This is AWESOME migration weather, moderate vagrant weather, and moderate chances of super-exciting birding at traditional lakeshore stopover sites... Personally, I'm hoping for a light to moderate reverse migration at Pelee (with a recent, or even holdover vagrant taking advantage of the light SSE winds to fly off the tip & get photographed - by me...)


The front & low gets stalled to some degree - so there are still strong SW winds & warm temps happening... This isn't the best vagrant or migration setup IMO, but I can only assume things will be moving - and given that we're already saturated with good birds from previous events - anything can happen (e.g. that Long-billed Curlew curretly undetected in Indiana, may wander to Hillman Marsh...) 


This has MEGA EXCITEMENT potential written all over it... I should really do a vlog post to explain this properly, but for now here's a sneak peak.... 850mb winds are warm & out of the south... surface winds would be cool & strong out of the NE or E... Migrants will fly to the very limit and then drop in spectacular numbers....

The problem - is where exactly will this edge (of warm & cold air - OR the precipitation edge) end up?? If it's south of Lake Erie, you may have a cold dull Sunday am.... If it lines up just right, there could be 5,000 Yellow-rump Warblers at the tip of Point Pelee... It's the knife edge - as the fallout potential increases, so does the potential for nothing... Keep an eye on this day!!!

More to come! Exciting times! 

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?