Saturday, 1 October 2016


I recently returned from an enjoyable trip to Tennessee. 

Magnolia tree

Magnolia tree

Common buckeye butterflies were a lot more common down here.

Common Buckeye, Shelby county Tennessee

While watching the buckeyes in a parking lot, I noticed a group of vultures soaring overhead.  The light wing tips identified them as black vultures, a new species for me.  Occasionally they are reported in Ontario, but down here they are just as common as the turkey vultures.

Black Vultures, Shelby county Tennessee

Black Vulture, Shelby county Tennessee
Another bird highlight was coming across a fully coloured male summer tanager.  My photos are zoomed as far as I could and cropped so they are not as clear as they could be. 

Interestingly, unlike the scarlet tanager who turns to a dull coloured winter plumage, the male summer tanager remains brightly coloured year round.

Summer Tanager, Fayette County Tennessee

Summer Tanager, Fayette county Tennessee
 Another bird highlight was hearing the nasal calls of the fish crow one morning.

I also saw many familiar species.
Northern Mockingbird, Fayette county Tennessee

Magnolia Warbler, Fayette county Tennessee

Brown Thrasher, Fayette county Tennessee
I had the opportunity to taste the fruit of this persimmon tree. 
Persimmon tree , Tennessee
Our Tennessee visit was right around the time of cotton harvest.
Cotton field, Tennessee

On the way home we toured through the Great Smoky Mountains .

Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains

American Crow, Great Smoky Mountains
American Crow, Great Smoky Mountains  

Another stop on the way home was at Seven Islands State Birding Park.  I was hoping for a northern bobwhite, but none showed themselves. I did get several lifer butterflies and saw another five lined skink.  Much better views this time.
Seven Islands State Birding Park, Tennessee

Five-Lined Skink, Seven Islands State Birding Park, Tennessee
Gulf Fritillary, Fayette county Tennessee

American Snout Butterfly, Seven Islands State Birding Park,Tennessee
Pipevine Swallowtail, Seven Islands State Birding Park,Tennessee

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Point Pelee and Tennessee: Part 1

I had the opportunity recently to travel with family to visit friends in Tennessee and to stop at Point Pelee on the way there.  I was looking forward to visiting Pelee again and hopeful for the chance to see some southern specialtys afterward.

We arrived in good time at Pelee and first up was the marsh boardwalk.
A familar scene.

There can often be some good sightings in the marsh but on that day it was rather slow.  For me the most interesting was watching an active marsh wren along the edge of the boardwalk.

From there we headed straight down to the visitor centre and were soon on the shuttle heading down to the tip.  I got off the shuttle and immediately noticed something on the boardwalk.  Then I saw the blue tail.  My first five-lined skink, Ontario's only lizard.  It disappeared down under the boardwalk, but then peeked back up and I managed a photo.  Not as good an image as I had hoped for but better than nothing.

An excellent tip was visible on that day, a lot longer than it has been on past visits.

Numerous gulls were milling about on the tip and several red-breasted mergansers were swimming nearby. 

A small flock of blackpoll warblers were working among the trees along the edge.

  A few giant swallowtails and common buckeyes were around the tip as well.  I do not often see these species around home so I was happy to find them here.  A few monarchs were around,but not the numbers that I was expecting to see.  I remember visiting the tip in September a couple years ago and seeing masses of them.  Perhaps it is past their peak migration through Pelee?

We were undecided where to go from the tip, but finally settled on the Delaurier homestead trail, one that I had not actually been on before.  It was an interesting walk through the buildings and along a gorgeous trail.

  Not a lot of activity here either but some close views of a soaring immature bald eagle and a breeding plumage male wood duck were nice sightings.
 It was starting to get late in the afternoon and we were hoping to cross the border into the US that day.  I was looking forward to the coming days and exploring Tennessee.

To be continued...

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Afternoon in Mitchell

There have been some interesting sightings reported lately at the West Perth Wetlands in Mitchell and today my nephew and I decided to take a look.  Recent reports included an american bittern that had been offering some good views and a red-necked phalarope.  The phalarope had only hung around a couple days but the bittern had been reported at the wetlands for some time now and I was hoping to finally get a good view of a species that has only offered me one brief glimpse in the past.

Arriving at the wetlands I promptly discovered that I had forgotten  my camera.  All that I had was my phone camera and a scope with which I could maybe use to do some digi scoping.

Lots of monarchs are showing up now and many were seen throughout the afternoon.

The large numbers of shorebirds that had been around also seemed to have moved out and although there was some decent variety, I was expecting a bit more. Likely a lot of that had to do with two cells being almost completely dry.

 Lots of yellowlegs, pectoral, least and stilt to sort through.  No killdeer today for some reason.
Stilt sandpiper doing 'sewing machine' action.
A northern harrier made periodic flyovers and was later observed feeding on something out in the soccer field.
Duck variety was quite good today including several first of the fall species for me. 

The bittern did not make an appearance today, but it was an enjoyable afternoon regardless.  The lagoons will be changing daily as fall migration continues. I hope to be back again soon and hopefully next time I will remember my camera.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Shorebirding in Perth and Oxford.

I spent most of my day along with members of the Stratford Field Naturalists checking out the shorebirds.  The plan was to start at the Mitchell Sewage Lagoons in the morning and after lunch check in on the birds on Wildwood Lake outside of Harrington.

I arrived at the lagoons at 9 am and we began our search.

 The leader of the day was skilled in picking through the birds and we found killdeer, lesser yellowlegs, solitary, least and semipalmated sandpipers in a quick sweep of the first cell.

 Further along, a northern harrier flushed the birds and when they landed, we found spotted and baird's sandpiper.

Ducks and geese were also present in good numbers.  Good numbers of blue-winged and green-winged teal along with a few shovelers, a single black duck and the numerous wood ducks and mallards.

Several snapping turtles showed themselves.

Many butterflies as well.  Plenty of monarchs and the odd viceroy.
After a lunch break, those of us that had the time headed over to Harrington to continue the shorebird studies.

Great Egrets

The group leader discovered the first stilt sandpiper of the day.  It was mixed with the lesser yellowlegs but almost everyone managed to see it.  We also managed to find pectoral sandpiper and greater yellowlegs, two species that we had missed in Mitchell.  The shorebirds were not close enough for great photo opportunities, but I managed a decent shot of the two species of yellowlegs earlier this month.
Great weather and a great day to be outdoors.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Canoeing Algonquin Park

I returned on Saturday from a very busy but enjoyable canoe and portage trip through Algonquin Park.  My friend and I were gone for six days and during that time we covered a lot of ground and saw a lot of amazing sights.

Our Route (distance by water taxi not included).  Red dots indicate our campsites.
We left early Monday morning and arrived in the park around mid morning.  We planned to take a water taxi across Lake Opeongo to allow us to cover as much ground as we could in the time we had.
Water taxi ready to go.
The ride was rather rough as we bumped over the waves and about 20 minutes later we arrived at the far end of Opeongo's north arm.  Upon being dropped off, we re-organised our packs for easier carrying.  We had 73 lbs of supplies to carry along and we wanted to make it as easy to transport as possible.  With the bags ready to go, we set off on our first portage.

The portage dropped us off at Proux Lake for the first night and I was immediatly captivated by the stillness and serenity of the lake.

We made our camp for the night on Proux.

And made sure to hang our food sack up high.  It would really have messed up our plans for a bear to have raided our supplies.

This family of common mergansers swam along the edge of our camp that evening, providing some great views.

We started bright and early the next morning paddling through winding marshland.

Along the way, we found numerous birds including a family of black ducks and one of wood ducks.  A beaver appeared near the canoe briefly which was great to see.  The songs of hermit thrush, white-throated sparrow and common yellowthroat rang out in the morning air.

A fire tower on Big Crow Lake caught our attention.

We flushed a ruffed grouse as we walked over to the tower.  I watched a kestrel doing its aerial acrobatics as well.
We took our first decent length portage from Big Crow to Hogan, a distance of 3.75km.  We arrived at Hogan early afternoon where we had lunch in the canoe and watched the loons swimming around us.
Later on in the afternoon, we paddled past a bald eagle being harassed by a crow.  It is a bit blurry, but I found it difficult to hold steady in a rocking canoe.
The next morning dawned cool and foggy from our camp on Philip Lake.  We heard splashing and my friend saw a moose and her calf wading along the far side of the lake.  However by the time I got looking, they were out of sight and I did not see them.

We continued up the winding Little Madawaska River, stopping to portage occasionally.  An american bittern flushed up in the marsh as we paddled and ravens croaked around us.  I found a garter snake along one of the portages, but not much else of note.

We spent our third night at our farthest point on the trip, at Radiant Lake.The next morning we headed down the Crow River.
Eastern Painted Turtle
We spent our fourth night on a beautiful island campsite on Lake Lavielle.  Connecting lakes Hardy and Dickson are closed to camping due to a blue-green algae bloom, but much of Lavielle remains open and we were glad be be able to stay there. 

Big red pine.
The next morning we headed on to our final campsite on the East Arm of Lake Opeongo.  Passing through Hardy Bay and Dickson Lake, the water had a murky green look to it, likely due to the algae blooms.  Our longest portage of the trip (and the longest in the park) was a 5.3 km portage from Dixon to Bonfield.  It actually went better than I expected, likely because we were getting more used to that type of physical activity.  By mid afternoon we were back on Lake Opeongo where we camped on a small island on the East Arm.  We enjoyed the sound of an overnight thunderstorm from the comfort of the tent and by early morning were ready to paddle out back to our starting point and back to civilization.  The trip was quite a workout, but was a great experience.  Algonquin has so much to offer and sometime I hope to return again.