Friday, 6 July 2018

Summer Odds and Ends

Where does time go?  We are into July already and fall migration is right around the corner.  I haven't posted much lately, but like my fellow nature enthusiasts I have been out enjoying the summer weather.
Wood Duck family
Juvenile Red-Winged Blackbird

Unidentified moth.
Common Ringlet

Spotted Sandpiper

Vesper Sparrow
Pine Siskins seem to be popping up over southern Ontario this summer and this one showed up at our feeders.

And of course one of my favorite resident species, the Bobolink.
Although the hay fields where the local Bobolinks nest are cut sooner than recommended (an unfortunate reality when making a living on a farm), we are fortunate to have a good deal of other suitable habitat in the form of pasture fields and scrubby untouched grassy habitat.  I was also pleased to note that one family and their almost fully grown brood moved into a scrubby patch near their field which had been cut.
I got a good look at this young Bobolink, but my camera was more interested in the grass in front.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Return to Rondeau

It was a gorgeous day to be out exploring and fortunately I had arranged time off today to explore Rondeau and area.  It's been a year since my last park visit and the park did not disappoint  that time.  I was hoping for the same results today.

Arriving in the park a bit before noon, first stop was the visitor centre and Tulip Tree Trail.  The main target was Prothonetary Warbler, a species that I've narrowly missed on past visits here.  It wasn't hard to figure out where to go as there was a crowd of birders intently scanning a patch of swamp.  The birds had been showing, but were not around when we arrived. Fortunately it wasn't long before we heard and then saw a couple individuals. 

They didn't seem at all concerned with all the birders and this guy spent some time foraging quite close to the boardwalk.

This was a promising start to the day and I hoped the trend would continue on the next stop at the marsh trail.  A Yellow-throated Vireo was the first bird encountered there.
Most likely because of our late arrival at the park, warbler variety wasn't as great as had been reported in the morning.  Yellow warblers seemed to ignore that trend and were one of the most numerous birds encountered.
A Sora was heard calling along the trail. 

I happened upon this struggle of life and death as this toad was preparing to meet its end.
A couple more trails were walked, but nothing unusual was found.  I wanted to head back to Tulip Tree Trail on last time before leaving the park.  This time, I was able to observe the Prothonotary Warblers again, but without such a big crowd.
I attempted a final drive down Lakeshore Road in search of the White-Winged Dove, but it did not show.  I did at least manage to see it last year so it wasn't a big loss.

After leaving the park, I checked into the nearby Keith McLean CA where American Avocets and Willets had been seen.  Both appeared to have moved on but just when preparing to leave, another birder pulled in to tell us that a Yellow-Headed Blackbird was being seen on the causeway outside the park.  This would be a lifer for me and fortunately within a couple minutes was watching this gorgeous bird sitting on a nest in the marsh.

It was a great day in Chatham-Kent.  Enjoy spring migration while you can, it will be over before we know it.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

It's That Time of Year Again

Last week while on my way over to check on things at our rented farm, I noticed this big guy right in the middle of the road.

Look at that mossy shell
This big ol' snapping turtle was mostly likely in search of a suitable place to lay her eggs.  Unfortunately slow moving turtles can easily become road casualties.  If it is safe to do so, observing which direction the turtle is headed and helping it across can significantly increase its chance of survival.  Keep in mind that turtles like this snapper can deliver a nasty bite.  I recommend this site for tips on how to safely do so. Having read the information provided there, I managed to safely help this turtle to the other side of the road.  Considering that snapping turtles can sometimes live to 100 years or more, I feel it important to respect my elders :-)

Of course it is most important to ensure your safety and that of other drivers.  If it is not safe to stop, it's not worth the risk.  One can easily navigate around a turtle on the road, providing that you carefully scan the road ahead and that the vehicle is travelling at a safe speed.

On another note, I'm eagerly looking forward to a trip to Rondeau this Tuesday.  Hopefully I will have some sightings of interest to post about when I get back.

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.