Sunday, 22 April 2018

Some Sunny Spring Scenes

The gorgeous weather today was a good excuse to get out exploring and I managed to find many first of year species. 
Singing Savannah
This phoebe has returned to the usual nesting area around our back culvert.

Spring greenery is popping up here and there.  Coltsfoot is one of the first to be found.

Wild leeks are popping up in the woodlots.  These wild edibles have a strong flavour reminiscent of onions.

Waterfowl are more numerous now that our ponds have thawed.

I don't see a lot of jack rabbits around here so this guy was a nice find.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

River Ross's and Other Recent Ramblings

As the title references, I finally managed to catch up with the Ross's Goose which has been regularly showing for some at different locations around Stratford.  First stop was the storm water ponds where it had been reported at noon, but it was not to be found here.  It made sense to drive along the river where it was also sometimes reported.

There it was.

Although it may not be as unusual as the Barnacle Goose in Schomberg, it's still a good bird to find locally.

Last Wednesday I attempted to find another lifer by heading to the Ellice Swamp to look for the White-Winged Crossbills which had been reported there.

Although I struck out on the crossbills, it was a nice evening for a walk. 

The swamp usually hosts at least one pair of nesting sandhill cranes and they could be heard trumpeting somewhere in the marsh.
Looking over the marsh.
The swamp feels like a piece of the north here in southern Ontario and it is one of the few areas around here where Ruffed Grouse and Common Raven can be found somewhat regularly.

Last weekend I was down in the Long Point area.  A wide variety of waterfowl provided good views at close range.  A single snowy owl was also found on the dock in Port Rowan.

Sounds like some warmer spring weather is on the way.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Weekend Wetland Walk

With the spring season fast approaching, I decided yesterday to check out the West Perth Wetlands for the first time this year .  Part of my decision to do so came from hearing on Saturday about a Greater White-Fronted Goose that had shown up here.  This would be my first Ontario sighting of the species and I was anxious to try and find it.

  I couldn't get there until later in the day and so the sun was getting low as I arrived.  Not ideal conditions for spotting when the sun is at eye level.

There were lots of geese but no sign of my target.  It didn't help that the flocks seemed skittish and were constantly flying back and forth between cells and surrounding corn fields.

A few other early season waterfowl were present.

A Killdeer flew over as well, my first of the year.

Mallard nest tubes are a new addition to the wetlands, something I hope to try at home someday.

The sun was definitely starting to set and I was prepared to leave when I saw that the majority of the geese had landed in the corn field again and perhaps I should try scoping them again from a distance.


Not great conditions for photos, but I could some great views through the scope of this new Ontario lifer.

A Great Horned Owl was hooting somewhere in the trees as I walked back to the truck in the evening dusk and just before leaving I was treated to several massive flocks of Tundra Swans flying overhead.  I estimated nearly 200, a good number for around here.

It was a great evening at the wetlands and I look forward to more as we move on into spring.

And because I haven't had a chance to share any Snowy Owl photos this season, I'll conclude with one I saw on a January drive through the Linwood area.  We saw five in total on this particular evening.

Monday, 8 January 2018

A Junco Study

Our bird feeders are proving popular in this snowy weather with the most numerous species being Dark-eyed Junco.  Up to now all that I had ever seen was the expected slate-coloured subspecies.  Today however, I noticed an interesting junco that warranted further study.  I attempted photos, but only managed one somewhat decent. 
And a highly cropped version of the above photo.

At quick glance it could be taken for a slate-coloured, but some features just don't match.  Most obvious is the head is darker than the back and wings and the back itself is a reddish-brown. 

After doing some research and sending an email to someone more experienced than I, it seems like this bird is most likely some sort of intergrade between Slate-coloured and Oregon subspecies.  This remains a tentative identification as there seems to be a lot of variation within juncos.  Anyone with additional input is welcome to comment.

An interesting find at the home feeders.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Stratford CBC and Highlights of 2017

I was originally going to make two separate posts for these topics, but I didn't have a lot to share from the bird count.  Despite that, it was an enjoyable CBC and we saw a decent variety (although low numbers) of species.  It snowed quite heavily, giving us little choice but to finish the count a bit early.

 Nevertheless, we ended with 37 species.  Notable species this year, was Turkey Vulture.  Since they first showed up on the count three years ago, they have been seen every year since.  Very low numbers of raptors around here compared to Linwood, but Red-Tailed, Coopers and Rough-Legged hawks were all represented.

2017 was a good year for me in terms of nature related stuff.  I didn't have a lot of time to go out of my way chasing rarities or new species, but still managed to add a good number to my life list.  I thought I would share my most notable sightings from the year.  Clicking on the species name, will take you to the related blog post.

Algonquin Park- Pine Marten

My favorite mammal sighting of the year would have to go to this especially cute Pine Marten.  I had visited Algonquin to look for winter finches.  I managed to find several of my hoped-for species, but this guy was a special bonus.  It popped up on the Spruce Bog Boardwalk, sending the chickadees and nuthatches into a panic.

Rondeau Provincial Park- White-Winged Dove

This bird was quite cooperative for most observers, hanging around for quite some time in the same general area.  Fortunately my trip to this area for some spring birding overlapped with this dove's time in the park and I managed to find it.

Waterloo- Dickcissels

With the influx of Dickcissels into the province this summer, I was fortunate to observe a couple birds in grassy field outside Waterloo. 

Manitoulin Island- White Admiral

I know that this is not at all a rare butterfly, but it meant a lot to me to finally find one.  Ever since I started trying to identify butterflies, I had been on the lookout for this strikingly patterned species.  I finally caught up with several on Manitoulin Island including this one at a campsite on Pike Lake.

West Perth Wetlands- Glossy Ibis

Rarities like this are an uncommon occurrence in my home county and when I heard about this sighting, I arrived as soon as I could to look for it.  It gave me and my nephew some great views as it preened, foraged and finally flew off not to be seen here again.

Waterloo- Mountain Bluebird

After a couple unsuccessful attempts to see this long-staying rarity, I finally managed to catch up with it.  Although a cloudy day, it was a great sighting.

Of course all this doesn't mean that I didn't appreciate the common species as well.  Those special moments of watching a Red-winged Blackbird puffed up in song or a scolding wren bouncing through the brush are some of the many moments that draw me outdoors again and again.

                                              Best wishes to my readers in 2018!

Friday, 29 December 2017

Linwood CBC

Today was the 12th annual Christmas Bird Count in the Linwood region.  It isn't far from me, but this was the first year that I have taken part in any count other than Stratford.  This count circle is different from most, nearly all the birding is done by car and raptors are usually very abundant here.  Each raptor observed, has its location mapped for future reference.  Around 30 people braved the cold and snow to get out and find some birds.

The observers in my zone were juggled around somewhat due to some unexpected issues, but in the end I spent the day counting birds with Dave Rooke.  There were quite a few raptors in our zone, the most numerous being Rough-Legged Hawk (19).

We ended up finding most of our expected species as the day progressed.  The exception being the embarrassing miss of Northern Cardinal.  Where were they??

We met up with the other counters in the evening for a data wrap-up.  It was here that I finally got to meet count organiser and fellow blogger Ken Burrell

This years count ended with a total of 54 species which is slightly above average.

Some of the notable numbers included:

Snowy Owl:  23 were counted in one zone!!  Count total was 35, a new high.

Northern Harrier:  0

Wood Duck: 1

Eastern Screech Owl: Correction- 23

Rough-Legged Hawk:  100

Common Raven: 8

It was fun trying out a new count.  Tomorrow is the Stratford CBC.  I am in charge of leading the Tavistock zone for that count.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Third Time's the Charm

Well after missing out on the Mountain Bluebird last Tuesday and again when I was in the area on Thursday, I decided to give one final try today. 

By early afternoon I was back at the now familiar Snyder's Flats.  I watched carefully while driving in, but no sign of any other birders or the bird itself.  Parking at the end of the road in the last parking lot, I decided to start looking along the north side of the road as that was where it seemed to be most frequently reported.  I did meet another birder over here who was looking for the bird as well.  We continued on our separate ways, promising to try and notify the other if one of us found anything. 

With no sign of anything to north, I decided to move over to the south side and within a couple minutes noticed a lone bird in the top of a tree.  In the dull November light I couldn't make out what it was, but as I got closer there was no doubt.  Here was the target bird.

She didn't seem at all concerned with my presence occasionally hopping around in the small cluster of trees where I found her. 

I wasn't sure where the other birder had gone, but fortunately he had seen me staring at something and came over to the bird as well. 

She seemed to be having no trouble finding food and was apparently having a good meal at one point in a thicket of buckthorn.

Great to finally add this bird to my life list.