Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Weekend Birding

Well I'm back.  I know it's been a while since my last post.  It's spring and that means that life on the farm is getting busy.  It won't be long and we can be out working the fields.  It's also a great time of year to watch for returning migrants. 

This past Sunday, I had a free afternoon and decided to cover as much ground as I could at home.  I got my bike out and headed around through the back lanes.  I won't bore you with a long write up.  The pictures can pretty much speak for themselves.  I didn't get any new lifers, but it was still a great day.  Ebird List

Blurry bluebird- my first of the year.  Hopefully it will nest in one of our boxes.

The old elm tree.

One of our rows of ash trees.  As the emerald ash borer moves in, they are almost certainly doomed.
 Tonight I got a couple decent photos of some fairly new spring arrivals, the barn swallows.

Won't be long before we can expect flashes of summer colour.
Indigo bunting-taken last year at bird feeder.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Birding at Long Point, Bird Studies Canada Property

With business up in the Long Point area today, I decided it would be a good time to hit a birding location that I had been hoping to return to for quite a while, the Long Point Bird Studies Canada Headquarters Property.  I was here once earlier in the spring, but it was a time with lots of snow and few birds.  I was hopeful to get a good list today.
Looking back on the the buildings from the trail.

The property is not as well known as the park itself, but according to eBird, many species are reported here.  It has a great mix of habitats from grassland, to waterfront, to forest.  It allows for a good chance at a wide variety of birds.

We arrived not long after 11:00 and got right to it.  There was plenty of activity around the purple martin and eastern bluebird boxes, but it wasn't martins or bluebirds that I saw.  Many tree swallows were swooping around and appeared to be checking out the nest boxes.  A couple house sparrows were investigating them as well.  House sparrows and starlings can be a serious problem to our native nest box birds.  Careful box management can help keep things under control.
House sparrow on bluebird/tree swallow box.

House sparrow on purple martin house.

Tree swallow checking out a nest box.

In the nearby marsh, several species of waterfowl were visible.  I saw ring-necked duck, hooded merganser and redhead at the first pond and added bufflehead and shoveler to that list on the way back.

Ring-necked ducks and redhead.
Distant ducks.

We followed the trail which eventually came out overlooking the lake.  This was one of those 'kid in a candy store' moments for me.  One of my favorite parts to birding is being able to pick through large flocks of birds that are not moving around much and are relatively close.  Ducks thickly peppered the water and I got into a comfortable position, preparing to pick through the birds.  I immediatly noticed several familiar species, gadwall, scaup and ruddy duck were some of the most common.  I could not identify the scaup as greater or lesser.  To my knowledge they are practically identical at a distance.  Then I saw the canvasbacks.  This was the first time that I had a decent glimpse of cans and here were about 75 spread out in front of me.  I added canvasbacks to my life list and had a great time watching them coming in, swimming around and diving.
Ducks on the lake-as close as I could get with the camera.

Red-winged blackbird.

Two bald eagles caught me by surprise as they flew off to the side.  I have seen bald eagles in the USA and in Alberta, but this was my first for Ontario.

We continued on through a forested section of trail.  Song sparrows were both heard and seen.  I caught a quick glimpse of a thrush (hermit possibly).
We returned to the car over an hour later.  It was a great morning at a great location.  The Long Point Area offers a fantastic display of birds and I definitely hope to be back.  

My eBird list for the morning can be seen here.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Morning Along the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario.

Looking down the river at part of downtown Stratford.
I had some time this morning before my classes started at school so I decided to leave home a bit early and visit the Avon River.  The main reason for my visit was to try and pick up a couple lifers that had been reported on eBird the previous day.  A pair of red-breasted mergansers and several horned grebes had been seen here and I was hopeful to add a couple species to my life list.  Neither of those birds are extremely unusual, but for the time of year and location eBird considers them rare.

I arrived at the river in good time and began scanning the ducks right away.  A pair of wigeon caught my eye, not unusual but nice to see.
American Wigeon pair- Avon River
I bit further down and I spotted six ring-necked ducks floating out in the middle of the river.  They were too far to get a good photo of, but with binoculars I was able to confirm identity.  A pair of buffleheads showed up as well.

I soon spotted a small duck-like bird bobbing around and occasionally diving.  I was soon on it with the binoculars and had my first view of a breeding plumage horned grebe.  Along the walk, I found two other horned grebes giving my a grand total of three.  The red-breasted mergansers did not show, but I was still satisfied.  I added one lifer to my list and I definitely hope to be back to the river again soon.
My river list ended with:
20 Canada Goose
50 Mallard
2 American Wigeon
4 American Black Duck
6 Ring-necked Duck
2 Bufflehead
2 Common Merganser
3 Horned Grebe
1 Killdeer
3 Ring-Billed Gull
1 Belted Kingfisher
2 Black-Capped Chickadee
1 American Robin
1 Dark-Eyed Junco
20 Red-Winged Blackbird
10 Common Grackle
3 House Sparrow
Canada Geese and American Black Ducks- Avon River
Mallards-Avon River

The warmer weather also has me birding more at home again.  Yesterday I recorded six tree swallows swooping around over one of our ponds, the first ones I've seen this year.  I made sure the nest boxes there were cleaned out in case they started looking for a nesting site.  Tonight I managed to pick up a pair of wood ducks.  Spring bird sightings are picking up.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Afternoon in the Ellice Swamp

I was glad to have a free afternoon at my disposal and I decided to spend it at the Ellice Swamp.  I had not been there for a few weeks and was anxious to see what might have moved in with our recent spell of somewhat milder temperatures.

I was also interested to check the nearby field where tundra swans had been spotted the previous day.  The pictures below are ones that I took the other day when about 40 swans were present.  When I checked on the way to the swamp, only about 10 were in the field.  Some distant waterfowl were present as well.

After checking on the swans, I continued on to the snowmobile trail entrance into the swamp on a nearby sideroad.  I hadn't been able to travel these trails before due to the snowmobile traffic that had kept them busy most of the winter.  Today I had the trails to myself.  Golden crowned kinglets were common along the trail, but none appeared cooperative for a photo.  Three blue herons flew overhead and the sounds of distant canada geese, tundra swans and chickadees rounded out my experience.

Views looking down the trail

Tired looking autumn leaves.

Signs of a woodpecker meal.

I still had a bit of time upon leaving the snowmobile trail, so I headed on to the rail trail in a different part of the swamp.  Upon arriving there, I could see that birds were much more active here and I added many species to my list for the day.  Plenty of turkey vultures were roosting in the trees. The distinctive sound of a northern flicker caught my attention and I soon picked out the bird in the top of a tree.  The marsh along the trail had thawed and was a bustle of activity.  More canada geese were swimming around. Red winged blackbirds, starlings and grackles were very vocal.  There was also a large number of crows and gulls some distance over.  The gulls appeared to be mostly herring, but the odd ring-billed could have been there too.  Four wood ducks glided into the marsh as I prepared to leave and a flock of american wigeon flew overhead calling loudly.  I would have stayed longer, but I had to be home to do the milking that evening.  In the coming weeks I hope to be back to watch for new arrivals of the year.
Turkey Vultures

Snow dusted mallard nest tube along the rail trail.

Turkey passed by.

Receding Snow Along the Rail Trail

I submitted an ebird list available here. 

I hope to get out at home again soon to check out the wetlands and woodlots on our farm.  I'll conclude with a few feeder shots again.

The male goldfinches are really becoming obvious.