Sunday, 25 June 2017

Dickcissels in Waterloo

Most Ontario birders have likely by now heard of or seen evidence of the influx of Dickcissels into the province.  I had eagerly hoped to see some this year, but most of the reports were too far away for me to easily check out.  That all changed when I heard that they were being reported in a grassy field outside of the city of Waterloo. 

Things seemed quiet when I first arrived early this afternoon, but it wasn't long before I could hear them singing and got brief glimpses as they moved around the field.

Photographing a small bird at a distance in the bright sunlight isn't easy, but I managed to leave with a couple record shots to confirm that I did see the species.

And of course plenty of photos of the surrounding vegetation when I was intending for the  Dickcissels :)

There was supposed to be a Dickcissel in this photo.
The habitat there seemed good so hopefully they will successfully nest.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

From Perth County to Rondeau Park, the Story of One Woodpecker.

First of all, a couple things I wanted to note.  I finally changed the header photo at the top of this blog to something more springlike.  Warbler migration is upon us and the Yellow Warbler is one of the few that stays around here to nest. 

My first monarch butterfly of the season was observed on our farm on May 16, the earliest that I ever remember seeing one around here.

Now on to the main post.

This story begins sometime back in early March.  It was a Sunday afternoon and I had just returned up to the house from a walk over the farm.  Rounding the corner of the house, I came across a Hairy Woodpecker laying under the window.  An unfortunate victim of a window strike.

I picked it up and looked it over, marvelling at the colour patterns, that one rarely gets to see so close. 

 I didn't like the thought of leaving it there to go to waste and so I decided to try and give it a new life.  I am familiar with the process of bird taxidermy and I started to wonder whether this bird could have a new life in a display or exhibit of some sort.

I contacted fellow blogger and Rondeau area naturalist Allen Woodliffe to get his opinion on whether it would be something that would be of interest to Rondeau Park.  He put me in touch with the park and they seemed interested in having it mounted for display in an existing exhibit. 

It was somewhat of a challenge, but the piece was finished and took the trip with me on my park visit at the end of April.
Woodpecker near bottom of the tree that the eagles are nesting in.

 This woodpecker met an unfortunate end, but now has the opportunity to be used to educate visitors to the park.  In this day and age, wildlife face various threats, but hopefully through pieces such as this, the general public can see the beauty of nature up close and build an awareness of how important it is to conserve it.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Year of the Morel

At least that is what it seems like around here.  These unique little mushrooms are popping up in great abundance on one part of our farm.

Sometimes we go a full year without finding a single one which makes it even more strange that there would be so many this year.

As far as edible mushrooms go, morels are one of the tastiest.  A welcome spring gift.

This post was a bit different than what I usually write about here but every aspect of the natural world, even the mushrooms, can be interesting.

Anyone else seeing unusual numbers of morels this year?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Essex Explorations

After an enjoyable day in Chatham-Kent yesterday, I was looking forward to visiting Point Pelee.  The morning dawned cool and cloudy, I hoped that the rain would hold off long enough to explore the park. 

Marsh boardwalk was up first.
Red-Winged Blackbird, Marsh Boardwalk
Red-Winged Blackbird, Marsh Boardwalk
Swamp Sparrow, Marsh Boardwalk

 I was interested to see how the recent marsh fire had affected the landscape of the marsh.  It was impressive to see fresh shoots of green rising up through the charred remains.

Most of the other trails were rather quiet and birds were not overly active.
American Robin, Tilden Woods
The tip was where things started to become interesting.  It started with meeting Kory Renaud who directed me to pockets of warblers actively moving through the trees. 
I was interested to watch a large raft of Red-Breasted Mergansers bobbing around in the rough waves. They seemed condensed right around the end of the tip, seemed as though the wind and the waves had forced them there. 

Red-Breasted Mergansers, Point Pelee Tip
No sign of the Eared Grebe that I had heard was reported earlier, but several Horned were bobbing around.

Swallows were thick. 
Northern Rough-Winged and Tree Swallows, Point Pelee Tip

Mixed in with them I found a first-of-the-year Least Flycatcher along with a Blue-Headed and Red-Eyed Vireo.  It was about then that the rain started, bringing my Pelee visit to a close.
 Least Flycatcher hanging out with Tree Swallows, Point Pelee Tip
After a brief lunch in Leamington, it was off to Hillman Marsh before heading home.  The rain had let up by this time.  There were several birders scanning the shorebird cell as I arrived and I was glad to be able to meet Blake Mann.

With the exception of a large flock of Dunlin, most of the shorebirds I was hoping to see were quite distant.  Fortunately with the aid of the scope, I was able to add American Avocet, Marbled Godwit and Willet to my life list along with distant photos of each.
American Avocets, Hillman Marsh

Willets and Dunlin, Hillman Marsh

Marbled Godwits, Hillman Marsh

It was an enjoyable two days spent visiting Essex and Chatham-Kent.  I'm glad the trip worked out before things get too busy here at home.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Down to Rondeau

This trip came up on somewhat short notice.  I had arranged the weekend off for other plans which ended up being cancelled.  It was decided to take a couple days and come down to visit Rondeau and Point Pelee.  I had been planning to make the trek to Rondeau sometime this spring to deliver a project that I had been working on for the park visitor centre (more on that in a future post).

We arrived in the park around 11:00 and the first place that I wanted to check was Lakeshore Road.  White-Winged Dove was one of the target species that I had really been hoping for today.  Upon arrival at the dove's typical spot, I was treated to the sight of empty chimney. 

I looked around the area for a bit, but the dove didn't seem to be present.  Deciding to return later, it was on to the visitor centre where I was greeted by first of year Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles along with the other usual feeder birds.

  While checking things out here, I talked to a couple who mentioned having seen the dove that very morning.  We decided to return to the spot and look again.

The dove still wasn't there upon arrival, but finally I spotted something on the chimney several cottages north of where I had been looking.  It was indeed the target bird, favoring cottage number 17202.

After some great views, it was on to Tulip Tree Trail.  Notable species included numerous Garter Snakes, Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and an extremely tame Black-Throated Blue Warbler.

A walk along part of the South Point Trail was next producing several Hermit Thrush.

And this Eastern Ribbon Snake.

We covered a section of the Marsh Trail as well, walking to the lookout tower and back.  It was rather slow, but an active Marsh Wren was working amongst the cattails.

Before leaving the park, I was hoping to walk part of Lakeshore Road and hopefully see the White-Winged Dove again.  The dove didn't show, but I watched a pair of Red-Headed Woodpeckers, a species I don't often see.

Below are several other photos from over the course of the day.  I try not to spend all my time looking up :-)
Interesting Coloured Violet 
Dutchman's Breeches
First of Year White Trilliums

I don't get to Rondeau often so it was a great day spent in the Park.  Tomorrow the plan is to check out Point Pelee before heading for home.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Spring Update

The mild weather of late has encouraged the first push of migrating birds, emerging mammals and some early spring plant life.

Just steps from the front door, the familiar snowdrops and crocuses are making their presence known. 

Spring birds are also beginning to trickle in.  Red-Winged Blackbirds are here in full force, colonizing territory around available wet and marshy areas.

Tundra swan migration started early this year.  However the odd flock continues to pass overhead from time to time.

Migrating ducks are here in good numbers.  One of our ponds is hosting ring-necked ducks in larger numbers than I have ever seen here.  Recently I counted 17, not a big number for some places but a good total for one pond around here.  A pair of hooded mergansers were present as well.  Hopefully they will nest on this pond again this year.

Two weekends ago, I visited Norfolk county with the Stratford Naturalists.  The main objective of this yearly trip is to see the tundra swans that congregate there on route to breeding grounds.  I thought that most of them might have passed through early this year due to the early mild spell in February.  However there were still plenty of swans around down there along with a wide variety of other waterfowl.  An early eastern phoebe also made a brief appearance.
Gaggle of Gadwall

I have made several recent trips to Stratford's TJ Dolan Natural Area in search of the long staying Tufted Titmouse.  A couple Titmouse (titmice?) showed up here last fall back during a Titmouse eruption here in southern Ontario when the species was showing up in areas not commonly found.  The first couple times that I went to look for the bird it eluded me, but the regular species are always fun to watch.

Last weekend, I decided to try again. Armed with more precise information on where it was commonly being seen, it wasn't long until I was setting eyes on my first Ontario Tufted Titmouse.

This afternoon, I decided to check out the West Perth Wetlands.  Highlights included my first Northern Shrike and a rare for this area Horned Grebe.
The coming weeks should bring some good sightings.

Friday, 24 February 2017

A Not-So-Seasonal Day in Algonquin

Yesterday afternoon was spent up north in Algonquin Park.  It was a trip that I had been interested in for a long time after reading several different blog posts on the winter species being seen up there. 

I arrived at the West Gate of Algonquin Park by early afternoon and after picking up a park permit, headed down toward the other end of the park to start the day at some of the best birding locations.  Not far along the highway, I spotted a small flock of birds feeding at the roadside.  After pulling over and several photos later, I had seen my first flock of Red Crossbills of the trip.

From there it was on to the Visitor Centre. 

All that remains of the moose carcase which at one time hosted a wide variety of species.

 My main target here was Evening Grosbeak.  They visited the home feeders at least once that I can remember many years ago, but I didn't have the same interest in birds and nature back then that I do now.  I was hoping for some good views of this species.  At the feeders, I quickly picked out several grosbeaks.  The large numbers that had been seen at the feeders didn't show up, but I was happy with the few that I saw.

Large flocks of goldfinches along with familiar faces from the feeders back home were also observed.  A pileated woodpecker was also heard somewhere out in the trees.

Many red squirrels were taking advantage of the birdseed buffet, a species I only rarely see at home.

The spruce bog boardwalk was the next location of interest for me and so that is where we went.  Arriving in the parking lot, we were immediately swamped by friendly black-capped chickadees and nuthatches.

Although great to see such close views of these familiar birds, I was hoping to see some more Algonquin specialties at some point along the trail. 

There was plenty of snow still around despite the 7 degree temperatures.

Partway along the trail, I heard what sounded suspiciously like a boreal chickadee.  Unfortunately it didn't come out into the open.  We reached the end of the trail and I decided to walk back over to the feeders in the hopes of one last chance at something new.  Arriving at the feeder, I immediately spotted a boreal chickadee just up ahead.  Unfortunately it didn't want to sit still long enough for a photo.  The cause of its nervousness became apparent as I watched a pine marten creeping through the branches and sending the birds into a fluster.  I turned my attention to the marten and got some great views.

Another photographer was there also snapping shots of the marten.  We got talking and I discovered he had travelled up from the Rondeau area.  To my surprise I found out it was fellow blogger Rondeau Ric.  It was great to finally put a face to the name.  Ric had obtained some excellent shots of the boreal chickadees before the marten showed up.

Ric suggested checking out Opiongo road for a chance at gray jays and Mew Lake Campground for close views of more pine martens.  Unfortunately both locations turned up empty for what I was looking for, but the afternoon had provided other great sightings so it was not a big lose. 

By this time it was getting late in the day and so rather than push for home the same day, the night was spent in Huntsville.

The drive home started with periods of heavy rain, but as we neared home, things cleared up.  I made a brief stop at the Nith River in Wellesley and picked up my first Common  Mergansers of the year. 


I had some free time upon arriving home and so I decided to revisit familiar territory and take a hike over the farm.  What a contrast from Algonquin.  Practically no snow left here and Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird and Tundra Swan were around earlier than I ever remember seeing them.