Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quiz answer - quick post

I know, I know - no quiz last week, I'm a slacker...I couldn't find anything good to post, maybe tomorrow there will be another quiz?

Thanks to Dwayne Murphy for being the only person to comment on the quiz (on the blog at least)! C'mon people - was it that intimidating?

So, to the answer... The bird is clearly an Empidonax flycatcher, the bane of most birders (due to shape, size, posture, etc). Since it has a yellowish brown underside, we can quickly rule out most of the empids! This leaves Acadian, Yellow-bellied, Pacific-slope, Cordilleran, Buff-breasted and Dusky. The eye-crescent (teardrop-shaped instead of rounded as in an eyering) allows us to eliminate Yellow-bellied and Acadian. Since this bird has orange wingbars (no that is not a trick of the light!), Dusky is eliminated (only yellow in the winter).

That leaves us with Buff-breasted and the two 'Western' flycatchers. Since this bird is not very 'buffy' on the underside, and not in a high-elevation pine forest, it's a Western. This is further split into Pacific-slope (which is the quiz bird!!!) and Cordilleran, but since they are very difficult to tell without a call I would accept either answer.

Congrats to Brett Fried and Josh Vandermeulen for both getting "Western" Flycatcher.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Long Point adventure

On Saturday, Brett Fried, Myles Falconer and I braved the wild weather and birded the Long Point area, including Turkey Point, BSC HQ and the inner bay, Big Creek marsh, Old Cut and Long Point Provincial Park. Despite the 90+ km/h winds and frequent rain storms (including a little bit of lightning very early on!), we managed to find 74 species including a few rarities. First and foremost was the female Yellow-headed Blackbird that flew by us at Big Creek - new for my Ontario list! Old Cut and the park held the rest of the rarities, including extremely late Eastern Kingbirds, Black-and-white Warblers, Black-throated Blue Warblers and a Cape May Warbler along with 5 other species of warbler. Yellow-rumps made up the majority of the birds we found, easily over 1000 of these guys finding shelter from the wind and feeding. In with them were many of the expected migrants (Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, both Kinglets, Brown Creeper, several sparrow sp, etc) but no mega-rarities as we were hoping. The inner bay was also loaded with birds keeping out of the wind, most were too far out to ID though. We did find a good flock of Bonaparte's Gulls, some Pied-billed Grebes, a lone juvenile Caspian Tern and quite a few ducks, although apparently less than is usual for this time of year according to Myles and Brett. Anyway, it was a pretty good day despite the weather and lack of mega-birds but there is still plenty of time for something to turn up on these winds!

If you're wondering about the two new additions to my blog (namely the little birds that perch on either side of the logo), they're for a cool competition that Audubon is hosting via Facebook. Unfortunately, living in Canada, I am not eligible for prizes but it is still fun to try to find them all! Go give it a shot if you want, there are currently 15+ species out there to find!

Also, answer the quiz! I've only received one comment so far!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quiz Answers - and a new quiz!

Well, last week's quiz didn't get as many comments as I'd hoped, but I'm putting up another one anyway! I'm going to put up a weekly quiz for the next little while to see how it goes, I'll try to get them up on Friday and then the answers will be released with the next quiz (on the next Friday). Good luck!

Congrats to Brandon Holden for getting all 3 right on the last quiz, and to Dwayne Murphy for getting two!

The answers: Orange-crowned Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. The gnatcatcher is in the bottom right quarter of the photo, blurred out!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Banding this a bonus!

I know I said this would be up yesterday, but things didn't quite go as planned (in a good way!).

Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings I joined Brett Fried (along with his girlfriend Erika on two days) for some bird banding at Springbank Park (also known as RARE). We had a pretty good time and banded 236 birds (141, 80, 15 were the daily totals), most of which were goldfinches but we had about 17 other species to keep things interesting. 12 of them were new for my banding totals, putting me up to 58 species! Definite highlights were Rusty Blackbird, Brown Creeper, Northern Flicker and 7 species of sparrow.

On Monday Brett and I packed up banding early, partly due to the slow day and partly because we wanted to get over to Port Weller, where a Purple Gallinule had been found! After helping to move a shed and picking Erika up we headed out and got to Port Weller in the early afternoon, right when the day was at it's hottest. Once we got to the pond, we didn't have to wait long before somebody spotted the bird, and after a short walk we had it in the scope. Lifer! My first one since June too, quite the Thanksgiving bonus. It was much too far for any kind of decent pic but at least the scope views were good. It was also in juvenile plumage - guess I'll just have to head south at some point to see an adult!

Also - comments on the quiz are published, I won't say whether they're right or wrong but feel free to add your own!!!!

 Emily and Brett with a mound of birds on Saturday

Rusty Blackbird!!!! (female, Brett banded a nice male in the next net run)

 Field Sparrow

 Northern Flicker "intergrade" Red x Yellow-shafted

"Western" Palm Warbler

 Lincoln's Sparrow - the softest bird I've ever held

Chickadees are feisty little buggers

Distant Purple Gallinule in Port Weller!!!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

In search of Nelson's

Well, I hadn't been out in a while so I decided that since I don't have too much work to do, I'd go birding this weekend. My girlfriend and I joined Brett, Erika and Julian at RARE this morning for some banding, which I will go into more detail on tomorrow, as I plan on going again in the morning! Afterward, we all piled into Brett's car and headed over to Hamilton, mainly to look for the Nelson's Sparrows that have been reported recently. We managed to get to the spot just as another group was preparing to head out into the marsh, and it turned out to be Anthony Miller and Tom Thomas leading the group, two friends of mine. So, we joined up with them and headed off into the willows. After a bit of a hike we got to the more marshy spot where the Nelson's like to hang out, and after some searching we eventually got a look at one.

Typical look at a Nelson's Sparrow...

It was a lifer for most people in the group (I'd seen them previously in MB and NC), but it was still special as it was my 300th bird for Ontario! Yes, I know some people see 300 in Ontario in one year but I don't put in that kind of effort... After getting the Nelson's we continued on to check the mudflats, and sure enough the previously reported Hudsonian Godwits were there, poking away in the shallows. Unfortunately they were too far out for any kind of decent pic, but good scope views were had. Hudwit was also new for my Ontario list, making today my first two-bird day since December last year, and was also the 40th bird I've added to my list since getting to university a little over 2 years ago! It also happened to be my 250th bird for Ontario this year. Milestones all around today apparently.

Also, have a try at the quiz posted yesterday! It isn't a trick, I promise! I've only had one comment so far, I'll publish that and any others I receive on October 10th and post the quiz answers sometime after that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Quiz 7

My last quiz on here was posted in May 2009, and with the recent eBird fall quiz and Brandon Holden's quiz (Peregrine Prints on the sidebar), I've decided to post one of my own! These were all taken in Ontario this spring. If you can find the bird in the last one it shouldn't be too difficult!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Well, in the last 2 days my total pageviews counter passed 10,000 hits and my unique visitors list topped 5,000 - so thanks for all your views and comments!

Monday, October 3, 2011


In the last 2 years I've gotten more into macro photography - not just of bugs really but anything small (bugs just happen to be the easiest thing to find most days!). Unfortunately, I don't have a macro lens! So, I've had to make due with what I've got. (note: some of you may have seen these before on Facebook!). The first eight are from this summer, the last 4 are from last year.

Fruit flies in my kitchen

Thumbnail-sized mushroom in the yard


White-faced Meadowhawk

Crane Fly

Cool spider

 Green weevil of some sort

Fly sp.

'Red Rocket' flower

Water drops

Ok, so the water drops aren't really 'macro' when compared with the other photos, but it's still cool. It also wasn't taken with the same technique as I'm about to explain!

So, how did I get these without a macro lens you ask? Simple, really. I borrowed my mom's old manual-focus 50mm f/1.8 that she bought back in the 80's (which you can get for around $80 now), opened it all the way up and held it up backwards to either my 70-300 (last 3 macros) or my 18-55 (first 8) hooked up to my D2Xs, which I also hand-held. If this sounds like a lot of hand-holding, it is! Making sure the lenses line up perfectly while manually focusing on something smaller than your pinky fingernail with a depth-of-field of about 1mm isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world, but when it works out, you can get some great results! My 18-55 at 55mm backwards to the 50mm provided about a 45x zoom, as measured using the fruit fly. If you use a larger lens (like the 70-300), you will get a higher magnification, but a very tiny depth of field! (and fewer good results). This also works with any sort of magnifying device - if you even have a magnifying glass, your minimum focusing distance will be reduced enough to get some cool shots with a 300mm!