Thursday, 1 January 2015

A Look Back on 2014 and Looking Ahead

Finally, I've managed to get blogging again.   I hope that everyone's had a great Christmas and New Years holiday.  I'm trying to make the most of mine before school starts again next week.My last year of high school is almost half over. . .  It's kind of a scary thought.

Anyway, this post is meant to review what happened in 2014, back before I started this blog.  Lets start of with with late winter and early spring.
Keeping the feeders filled meant that there was often something to watch there even when most of my usual areas were slow.

The Avon river in Stratford was typically a busy location even during the coldest months.  Lots of ducks stay around, many of them depending on handouts from locals.  Relatively new with my life list at the time, I picked up hooded and common mergansers and common goldeneyes during the early part of the year.

Later on in the spring and summer is when the action really began to pick up.  I made several lifer observations and learned a lot.

It started late in the spring when a Eurasian  Wigeon was sighted at the nearby Mitchell Sewage Lagoons (West Perth Wetlands).  The fact that it had been seen for several days had me itching to get out there with the binoculars.  I arrived with my parents on that day with high hopes.  I knew that a rarity like that was questionable as to how long it would stay in the area.  I scanned a group of American Wigeon with the binoculars and in the centre of the group I found him.  The reddish brown head and creamy patch on front made it obvious what I was seeing.  It was seen for about another day before it left and didn't come back.  But hey,  I saw it!!

My eurasian wigeon checklist-

The first half of the summer was filled with birding around home and raising monarch butterflies.  I added many bird species to my life list, but nothing unusual for this time and area.  I have always been fascinated with monarch butterflies and for the past few years have been raising some.  My dad and I built a cage a couple years back and I have raised multiple batches of larvae in it since.  My 2014 total monarchs raised and released was 12 females and 18 males.  I was happy with the total.  Next year my goal is to purchase and stick tags onto the butterflies that I release in the hopes that at least one might be recorded in Mexico.
                                         A small sample of my successful monarch year.

My family was shaken late in the summer when my dad passed away.  I found that the outdoors was a very healing environment and I still turn to it when I am feeling low.

Early fall was when my mom and I took  a visit to Point Pelee.  I had been there once before and was interested in visiting again.  I was not disappointed.  I highly recommend Pelee for a visit if any of you get the opportunity.  I would like to mention that the pictures I show you from the Pelee area were taken by a friend that I met this fall, Frank Shepley.  I met him at Hillman marsh just outside of Pelee and at Holiday Beach Conservation Area.

We arrived on a Friday night and went straight to the motel for the night.  The following morning we headed off in the Pelee direction.  On the way, we stopped to look for a rarity that had only recently been seen in the area and seemed to be hanging around, a Eurasian Collared Dove.  I realise that many of you reading this will be unimpressed.  Eurasian Collared Doves are rapidly advancing across North America.  However Ontario only has a small handful of records of the species.  They are more common in recent years, but exciting nonetheless.  Maybe someday they will establish themselves here as a common species, but I was still thrilled to spot the two doves perched together on the power line.

We left the doves and headed for Point Pelee National Park where we spent the morning.  Nothing especially unusual.  There were plenty of wood ducks in the marsh and the trees thick with warblers and ruby throated hummers.  The pelee tip had surprising amounts of double-crested cormorants, at least 1000.  They were constantly flying over and landing in the water far off shore.  The monarchs had also arrived and were resting in trees along the beach.  We saw at least 100 in our 15 minute walk.  I wonder if any of the ones I released were there.

After Pelee, we visited Hillman Marsh.  Great egrets, great blue herons, ring-billed gulls and more cormorants were the most common form of bird life.  I did see a duck out in the water that proved to be a female bufflehead.  It was considered rare for this time of year according to Ebird.
                                             Frank takes some beautifully clear photos

The last stage of the Pelee trip was a visit to Holiday Beach Conservation Area during the hawk festival.  This seems to be one of the best times to visit the area.  The numerous hawks soaring overhead and experienced birders spotting and willing to point out the species was an added bonus.  It was here that I put together one of my largest ebird checklists in a long time.

 I was excited to see two of the several snowy egrets that had recently been visiting the area.  This was another lifer species.  Luckily Frank was there and got an excellent photo of the birds.

He also took an unusual photo of a great blue heron sharing a rock with a muskrat/beaver??
                                                         Beautiful looking birds

I will end my series of pictures with some nice closeups of a birds of prey display at Holiday.  Thanks again Frank.
Please remember these photos are property of Frank Shepley

This marks the close of my major events of the year.  Let's hope for another great birding year in 2015.
Happy Birding!!


  1. Hi Jonathan, welcome to the world of blogging!

    I was interested in your comments on Monarch tagging - I'd never come across it before and had to investigate further. Nor have I ever seen a Monarch butterfly, which I'd love to. When I was younger, butterflies and moths were my primary love in nature; now supplanted with help from my eldest son by birds. He's younger than you (Grade 6) but will be pleased to see another young birder's blog - check his out at if you're interested.

    We have friends in KW and Cambridge, so aren't entirely unfamiliar with your area - and Point Pelee is naturally on our list of places to visit sometime.

    So sorry to hear you lost your father in 2014; what a hard thing to have to cope with.

  2. Hi Neil,
    Thanks for the comments on my blog. I'm always glad to hear about other birders and I'm interested to check out your sons blog. I'll post a link to it on my home page. I'm glad you were interested in the monarchs. I'm fascinated with all insects and monarchs are no exception.
    Wishing you and your son happy birding.