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.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Late Fall Day Trip

First off, a couple sightings of interest since my last post.  I had my first sighting of Short-Eared Owl back in mid October when it flew up in front of me out of the cow pasture.  I didn't have my camera but my nephew got back to see it and managed some photos.

A few days ago I had a Common Raven fly over our farm.  There seem to be more and more sightings of them in our area.  Possibly a sign that they are returning to territory that they may once have occupied.


I haven't taken time to do a lot of birding lately, but today managed to take a day off for just that.  The question was, where to go?  I had been wanting to get down to Long Point for a long while, Wildwood Lake by St. Marys had some good sightings of recent, potential Fish Crows had shown up in Stratford and as many of you know a Mountain Bluebird was being reliably seen in Waterloo. 

It was a lot for one day, but I decided to try for as many of the above as I could.  Decided to start the day at Long Point and by 10:00 was at the Bird Studies Canada property in Port Rowan.  The wind was incredibly strong, but there was a good deal of activity out on the lake.  American Coots were by far the most numerous close to shore.

 Wigeon, Redhead, Scaup, Mallard and Gadwall were also in close range but a large raft of birds farther out remained unidentified. 

A small flock of Tundra Swans flew over. 

I decided to scope out the lake again from Lions Park in Port Rowan.  Less activity here, but I managed to pick out a Great-black Backed Gull amongst the Herring and Ring-billed. 

This young Pied-billed Grebe was quite tame.
Aside from the occasional duck, there didn't seem to be much activity along the causeway or at the Old Cut field Station.  A stop at the beach showed how windy it was today.

The last stop in Norfolk was at the Lee Brown WMA.  This place has often been good for waterfowl whenever I've been here before.  Today there was not much other than a few geese, but across the road a large flock of Tundra Swans was picking through a harvested corn field. 

I kept an eye out for Snowy Owls in the fields along the way and had several close calls that turned out to be plastic bags.  The only owl of the day was an unfortunate casualty of a roadkilled Screech Owl near Ingersoll. 

By early afternoon I was at Wildwood and scanning the lake.  All three species of merganser were present and after a while I found the continuing Common Loon.  I was hoping for the previously reported Red-necked Grebe and it was reported again after I left, but I didn't see it while I was there.

It was early enough in the afternoon to take a chance and head into Waterloo to try for the Mountain Bluebird.  There were a couple of birders from Guelph searching for the bird when I arrived and I joined them.  Unfortunately wherever it was, it didn't show itself for us.  That's birding for you.  Have to get used to the misses as well as the hits. 

I photographed this bush right around where the bluebird should have been.  You can visualise the missing bird in the branches :)

Monday, 16 October 2017

Fall Leps

Leps or Lepidoptera is a term used to refer to the order of insects containing moths and butterflies.  Likely due in part to the warmer than usual fall, I have seen quite a few when out and about. 

This year was good for monarch butterflies.  I found more caterpillars this past season than I could even raise, a promising sign for a species facing many threats.  I did raise some this year and on short notice decided to purchase tags for the butterflies I was releasing.  Although many of the caterpillars in my care hatched into butterflies and were released before the tags arrived, I still ended up tagging 16 monarchs this year raised by my nephew and I. 

The size and position of the tag on the wing is such that it does not impact flight and can provide valuable information on the monarch migration cycle if they happen to be recovered.  I have done this once before a couple years ago, but only ended up tagging six, none of which were found.  It will be interesting to see what happens this time.

Milbert's Tortiseshell have shown up from time to time.
Not rare, but a lifer butterfly for me was finding this Bronze Copper.

I had a run in this fall with a lifer moth species, but not in the way I would have expected.  I pulled on a sweater that had been laying outdoors for some time only to feel a prickling up one arm.  It was the defence mechanism of one of these guys.

Apparently a Hickory Tussock Moth had decided to crawl into the sweater and was none too happy when I interrupted things.  It left me with an itchy prickling rash for a couple days.  Definitely a species to be cautious of if you come across one. 

Nice to take advantage of the mild fall weather while we have it.  Winter is on its way.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Miscellaneous Photos

Long time no post for me.  I haven't had much to post about for the last while, but have been out many times and enjoying fall migration.  I thought I would share some miscellaneous photos from the past breeding season and into this fall.

Chipping Sparrow feeding Brown-headed Cowbird

Black Squirrel with brown tail.

Wood Ducks and Pintails on our farm.
Curious Chickadee
Blue Heron taking off
American Golden Plovers at Mitchell Sewage Lagoons.
New observation deck at Mitchell Sewage Lagoons.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

An Exciting Local Rarity: Mitchell Glossy Ibis

It came as quite a surprise to me this morning, when I was checking over the local bird sightings and saw that a probable Glossy Ibis had been reported at the West Perth Wetlands last night.  Due to my unpredictable schedule, it rarely works to travel too far after rare sightings.  However something so close to home was hard to pass up and by 5:30 PM, my nephew and I were headed into Mitchell to check things out.  I had been monitoring reports over the course of the day and the bird was being seen again today.  By this time, others had determined it to be a juvenile Glossy Ibis as opposed to the similar looking White-Faced Ibis.

We arrived at the wetlands not long after 6:00 and immediately noticed someone scanning the first cell through the scope.  It was Dave Szmyr who had stopped by the wetlands for the first time to search for the bird.  He informed us that it had been flushed up only moments before, but had gone down somewhere along the edge out of sight.  We were soon joined by others and the group of us scanned the water.  Suddenly we were alerted to something flying over head.  It was our target bird, but there were only brief views as it landed again out of sight at the other side of the cell. 

The others had already gotten good views so they left and my nephew and I wandered around the other side to try and see it closer.  It was very cooperative and let us get good unobstructed views.

It spent most of the time actively preening amongst a group of Mallards.

It wasn't the only bird of interest.  Green herons were numerous and we counted six in a row as they flew across the water.

Along with a good variety of the expected species of shorebirds.  No photos of them, but the water levels are quite good for shorebird activity right now.

As we prepared to leave, we caught one last glimpse of the Ibis in flight.  This time it flew off towards Mitchell.  We did not see it again so I'm not sure whether it will be reported here again or not.

An enjoyable evening at the wetlands.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Perils of Being a Pollinator

While out for a walk a couple weeks ago, I found a patch of Joe Pye Weed that seemed to be popular with the pollinators.  It looked to be an easily accessible and abundant nectar source and I assumed that this Red-Spotted Purple was taking advantage of that.

However when it didn't move I moved in for a closer look and found it's antennae and proboscis tightly in the clutch of an odd looking bug.

And there wasn't just one, upon closer examination I found several more, carefully tucked in and waiting for an unsuspecting meal.

Nearby this Cabbage White had met its end in the same manner.
They are Ambush Bugs, a species I had heard of before but had never seen them.  I did some research and discovered that their preferred method of hunting is lurking in among flowers and attacking unsuspecting prey.  They do help control various insect pests, but are not so appreciated when they prey on pollinators.  Beekeepers in particular, sometimes consider them to be a pest.

I went back a few days later and found several still present.  This one had snagged a more manageable sized meal.
Despite the fact that they can sometimes be considered a pest, it was interesting to observe a new insect species.

I found this monarch caterpillar on the way out.

It's been a good year for monarch caterpillars around here.  In two evenings of searching, I managed to find nearly 70 eggs on milkweed in the yard.

Found this tattered Giant Swallowtail a few days later.

Sourced From:  Proctor Foster, Leslie. Garden Bugs of Ontario. Lone Pine Publishing, 2008

Friday, 4 August 2017

North to Manitoulin

It's been a while since my last post.  Summer is always a hectic time when living on a farm and it seems to slip by much too fast.  Hard to believe it's August already and fall migrants are already starting to trickle through.

I managed to take some time to visit Manitoulin Island for several days last week.  I have many fond memories of summers spent visiting the island and I was looking forward to exploring a new area this year.  Our neighbors had rented a cottage on the island for a week and had invited us to come join them.  Some family issues meant that plans had to be altered somewhat, but I still had several days up there to explore flora and fauna.

The first target when headed up the Bruce Peninsula was to check around the community of Mar for Brewer's Blackbird.  A fellow birder had told me where to look for this species and it wasn't long before I came across this individual, my first lifer of the trip.

An early foggy ferry crossing the following morning, meant an early arrival at Pike Lake, home for the next few days.
Fog over the ferry.
Pike Lake
Pike Lake

It was here that I finally managed to set my eyes on a White Admiral, the northern counterpart of the Red-Spotted Purple butterflies that I am familiar with back home.

This Black Swallowtail also posed nicely.

I realized that I should brush up on dragonfly identification as I watched them cruise over the water.  I believe that the two below are widow skimmers.
Male Widow Skimmer
Female Widow Skimmer

Birds are harder to track down when leaves are on the trees, but I did manage to see and hear numerous species.
A pair of Alder Flycatchers were seen and heard regularly.

American Redstart
We spent a lot of time out on Pike Lake in the canoe.  The fishing wasn't great but it was peaceful floating out there.

We also spent some time driving around the island.
Striped Hairstreak, Gore Bay
Ring-Billed Gull, Providence Bay
Roadside Meadowlark
The final morning on the island, we decided to take a walk around South Baymouth before having to leave on the ferry.  There is a series of little known trails on the edge of the town which provided a great place to walk through true northern scenery accompanied by singing warblers, croaking ravens and crashing waves.

Common Yellowthroats were numerous but they dont't seem to want to sit still for long.
Prickly Wild Rose

Red Squirrel

Our time on the island came to a close as the Chi-Cheemaun came sailing in.  

Cove Island Lighthouse seen from the Chi Cheemaun.
The last stop of the trip was to look for one of the previously reported Dickcissels on the Bruce peninsula.  No luck, but it was an enjoyable trip nonetheless.