Monday, December 31, 2012


Some of you may remember that way back at the beginning of the year I set myself the goal of entering at least one checklist into eBird every day this year. Even if that meant just looking out my window a few times while working on homework or walking from my house to the bus stop, I managed it! I also managed to not enter a single 'x' on a checklist. I actually ended up entering exactly 1000 checklists this year - just entered number 1000 from my yard here in the Sault not too long ago.

This whole idea of entering a checklist a day was mostly to get me out birding more, and since I didn't really leave the province this year (with the exception of a couple day trips to MI and QC), that extra birding effort netted me a fairly good Ontario year list! If you count the Plegadis sp. that Brett, Barb and I had at Hillman Marsh back in May, I finished the year with 304 species. 24 of these were also new for my Ontario lifelist, bringing me to 333 for the province. Funnily enough, at the start of the year I told myself I wasn't going to focus on a year list, and only chase birds that were new for Ontario or my local patch. I actually managed to do just that, looking back through my year list I did not go out of my way specifically to chase a single year bird! Of course, I did chase a fair number of rarities that were new for Ontario or my Long Point/Hamilton/Sault Ste. Marie lists, and went birding in some of the best locations in Ontario, so that helped.

Anyway, enough rambling about lists, here's the highlights:

A bit of local birding in the Sault didn't turn up as many goodies as last year although Long-tailed Duck and White-throated Sparrow were good January birds. Then it was back to school where I promptly added my first ON bird of the year with a Mountain Bluebird, making up for my miss in 2011! Since I was (sort of) in a 'Winter Birdfinding Competition', I did a fair bit of birding around Guelph, although I ended up far short of the record holder. A visit to Niagara at the end of the month added Black-headed Gull and Fish Crow to the ON list. 87 species for the year.

School, another Niagara adventure (Black Vulture), school and my first journey into new territory with a reading week trip to Kingston and Ottawa to visit my brother and add Barrow's Goldeneye and Gray Partridge for ON. Oh yeah, and that weird pigeon that showed up in Bracebridge (Band-tailed Pigeon). 103 on the year list.

School, two failed attempts to see the Smew at Long Point, and the beginnings of my yardbirding in Guelph (Peregrine Falcon, Snow Goose, American Woodcock, Purple Martin) were pretty much it for the month! 125 on the year list.

Most of the month was spent finishing projects and preparing for exams, while taking some breaks to hawkwatch from my roof (Northern Goshawk, Lapland Longspur)! Near the end of the month, I had a few days between ending school and starting work, and made a day trip down to Pelee which turned out to be a great idea when the Bell's Vireo turned up! The Yellow-throated Warbler in Rondeau afterward was also new for ON. Another surprise ON bird showed up in Hamilton in the form of a Western Grebe on April 24. After a failed twitch for a Say's Phoebe up in Carden Alvar it was off to Long Point to get settled in for another summer at BSC. 190 for the year.

Most of my work this month involved searching for Louisiana Waterthrushes, and since we didn't start work too early I spent most mornings birding and banding around Old Cut, seeing some cool birds like Golden-winged Warbler, Least Bittern, Cerulean Warbler, Connecticut Warbler (held) and Ontario's first Black Tern of 2012. Of course, searching for LOWA's had some rewards too with finding Worm-eating Warbler and Fish Crow as well as getting to thoroughly explore most of the woodlots in Norfolk County. I also made a couple birding trips, with a weekend at Pelee and a Snowy Egret twitch in Dunnville. Near the end of the month my daily visits to the sewage lagoon paid off with Piping Plover and Western Sandpiper. 261 for the year.

Kind of a slow month for new birds, I spent the majority of the month working on Bank Swallow stuff, with a few weekends up in Guelph to visit friends and explore Wellington County during the breeding season, finding some good stuff like Orchard Oriole and Yellow-throated Vireo. Then there was my mini Big Day by bike (since I didn't do an official Big Day this year) which was actually the first of two such journeys I did over the summer. The other big news was the Dickcissel invasion which gave me my first Dickcissel for ON - also got to hold one! At the end of the month I headed up to Sudbury to spend Canada Day with my family. 266 for the year.

Work, my 21st birthday, visiting friends, heading home for my mom's birthday, visiting more new territory (Luther Marsh), another long bike adventure around Norfolk County and a Red-necked Phalarope near Guelph kept me busy for the month! 275 for the year.

It was around the start of August that I realized I was within striking distance of 300 for the year without having tried for it, so I used Josh's excel sheet to figure out what I still needed for the year. I then decided that Nelson's Sparrow would be my 300th bird for the year (since it was my 300th bird for ON the year previous) - although my rule about not twitching year birds made sure it was my 295th later on... The definite highlight of the month was a King Rail that hung out at BSC for a few days, giving me my first lifer of the year! Then work was done and I headed out to the Tip and then Breakwater field stations for 2 awesome weeks of banding, birding and sitting on the beach. The surprise Thick-billed Kingbird at the end of the month for my 400th Canada bird was the other highlight. Then it was back home for a bit before the start of my last year of my undergrad! 281 for the year.

Buff-breasted Sandpipers, back to school, Red Knot in Hamilton, days at Van Wagner's beach and shorebirding, banding in Cambridge and spending a fair amount of time listening to nocturnal migration sum up the month pretty well! 289 for the year.

Thanksgiving at home turned up a fair number of good birds for the area (Red Phalarope - lifer!), then it was back to school, a relatively unproductive day at Long Point, some birding around Guelph, more nocturnal listening on the roof, and finally the biggest news of the year with Hurricane Sandy dropping all kinds of weird birds in Ontario (Leach's and Wilson's Storm-Petrel)! Also my first Purple Sandpipers in 8 years. Playing soccer and ultimate frisbee were also pretty fun! 299 for the year.

The month started off reasonably well with my lifer Arctic Tern and a Western Tanager on the Hamilton Fall count, and then nothing really happened after that! I did a bit of birding around Guelph near the beginning of the month but then gave up after that and basically resigned myself to school and lounging around the house when I wasn't playing sports or running. 301 for the year.

Winter birding around Guelph and Hamilton, finishing another semester, a failed twitch for a Northern Hawk Owl (now my biggest Ontario nemesis!), a few days in Kingston with my brother, and home for the holidays for some relaxation and preparation for my last semester! 303 for the year (excluding Plegadis sp.).

Overall it was a great year, getting to see more of the province, meeting a LOT of new people, seeing some cool birds, having another awesome summer at Long Point, and even getting home once in a while to spend time with family. It was also nice to get out birding a lot more than usual, and as a few people can testify (cough, Doug and Barb), spend some time doing competitive patch birding (248 species in the Hamilton area, 240 in the Long Point area, 232 in Wellington County and 227 in Algoma District)!

I'd also like to congratulate Josh Vandermeulen on setting a new Ontario Big Year record at 344 - don't think I'll be touching that one anytime soon!

So, what does 2013 bring? I guess we'll have to wait and see on that one but I am hoping to spend more time on my photography and less time 'year-birding', add some new Ontario birds, graduate university and hopefully get out of Ontario for a bit!

Happy New Year everyone and I hope to see you in the field in 2013!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winter Shorebirding

Back on December 2 I joined a group of hardy birders on the annual "Purple Palooza" up at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, hosted by Doug McRae. The goal of the trip is mainly to find Purple Sandpipers, which we had success with - along with the bonus of three other shorebird species! Not something that happens often in the winter in Ontario! Due to the fairly bad weather conditions (windy, cold and rainy), about 95% of my shots turned out horrible, but here's a few that worked out decently:

My first time ever photographing a Purple Sandpiper - prior to this year I had only seen one, back in 2004 in Michigan...saw 6 in a little over a month this year!

 The Purple was keeping company with a White-rumped Sandpiper and a Dunlin - none of my Dunlin shots turned out but here's the White-rump

We originally saw just the three, but when we rounded a corner a Sanderling had appeared with the group!
All four of them together

Little bit sharper (and zoomed out)

The Purple again 

Despite the crappy weather it turned out to be a fun day with great company, and it was worth the trip up for the Purple photos and the awesome brunch afterwards - thanks Doug!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

And Another

I'll be writing a 2012 post in the next day or two, in the meantime I thought I'd keep the owl theme going. Here's a Long-eared Owl from the same day (and place) as the Barred.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Almost there...

I write my last exam of the semester tomorrow! Hooray! Then it's a busy weekend as I go birding and pack up to head home for the holidays. I'll eventually get around to doing a real post.

In the meantime, here is a photo of a Barred Owl (from a few days ago) for your enjoyment.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I really need to go birding...

Northern Saw-whet Owl from Hamilton on Nov. 11 - aka my latest birding adventure

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hamilton Count, EUWI...

On Sunday I joined Brandon Holden for the annual Hamilton Fall Bird Count, our area was LaSalle Marina - Windemere Basin. We had a pretty good morning of mostly counting ducks, with some good finds being Eastern Towhee and a juv. female American Redstart! We ended up at 76 species for our route (Brandon forgot a few on his post!). Partway through the day we decided to head down to the lake to see what was around, and were quickly called away to chase a Western Tanager that Cheryl Edgecombe and Rob Dobos had found. Brett, Erika and I had a very brief view of it flying across the path almost immediately upon our arrival, but unfortunately it did not show for anyone else (or better views)! To my knowledge it hasn't been seen since. While we were looking, we managed to turn up a few more good birds with an American Woodcock, a very confiding Winter Wren which I wish I had my camera out for and a few flocks of White-winged Crossbills. After a while we kind of lost interest in looking and headed back to the lake for a bit of a quiet watch until it started getting dark. After that it was time for Chilifest at Cheryl's (which was awesome) to meet some of the other participants, eat a great dinner and tally up the day's species total. I ended up with a little over 80 species for the day, not too bad for November! I don't know what the total for the count was yet, but it was probably somewhere around 140.

On Tuesday I heard about a Eurasian Wigeon that had been found at Mountsberg on the count, so Reuven, Mark and I headed down there on lunch break to see it. We eventually managed to pick it out of the giant duck flock in the middle of the reservoir, and had it drifting around both counties! It looked like a young male to me as it was rather drab compared to the one I had back in early October, but I think closer looks are needed to call it! Lots of other waterfowl present including a few Long-tailed Ducks and Red-necked Grebes, rare migrants in the county. We proceeded to check a few other spots but didn't turn up anything too great other than a few more Long-tails and Red-necks.

Winds are switching to strong south/southwest this weekend so I'm hoping for something good to turn up! Painted Bunting in Toronto not too long ago (which wasn't reported until over a week later) and a Hepatic Tanager in Saskatchewan bode well for the upcoming week.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Catching up with a nemesis - and one last present from Sandy

Yesterday I headed to Niagara-on-the-Lake with Brett and Barb to set up shop as the winds looked decent to push something our way. We had some good birds, with Kittiwakes, Brants and my personal highlight - 3 Purple Sandpipers!!!! Anyone who's gone birding with me in November/December will have heard how many times I've looked for these things with no luck. The only one I'd ever seen was at point-blank range in 2004 at Whitefish Point. On Tuesday, we had 2 go by at Van Wagner's, but I got about a millisecond view before they ducked behind a wave and I couldn't pick them up again. So, I was quite happy to have picked these 3 out myself! Not exactly the point-blank views and photographs I was hoping for but at least I've now seen them in Canada! 5 in a week definitely makes up for none in 8 years. The big story yesterday however was that we were at the wrong end of the Niagara River and missed a ROSS'S GULL!!! AHHHHH....oh well, win some lose some - hopefully there will be a chaseable one sometime soon, this is the second one I've missed in Niagara...

Today the three of us joined the Burrells, Brandon Holden and Ross Wood out in Port Weller where the single highlight of a fairly slow morning was an ARCTIC TERN that I picked up wayyyy out in the lake. As it got closer it became apparent that it was different from the Forster's it was hanging out with, and we had decent (but distant) views of the field marks to ID it - shallow, pumping flight, white secondaries, long tail, small/slender build, etc. After about a minute it turned around and headed back east, not to be seen again. Later on we had 2 or maybe 3 Common Terns, making for a very rare 3-tern day in November! The only other things of interest were a Red-throated Loon flyby and a Field Sparrow in with a flock of American Tree Sparrows.

Arctic Tern was a long-awaited lifer for me, and my 300th bird for Ontario this year!!!!!!!! To put this in perspective a bit, I saw my 300th bird for Ontario (all-time) on October 8, 2011 - just over a year ago!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Crappy photos of good birds

As you can probably tell from the lack of posts, I've been pretty busy lately and haven't been birding all that much! A few weekends ago I went down to Long Point with Brett and Barb, but despite the nice storm and strong SW winds we didn't turn up any rarities (a few unusual things though, like 8 species of warblers...). Since then it's just been local stuff when I have time which hasn't been too productive (other than a Golden Eagle and some White-winged and Surf Scoters over the house)!

Yesterday though, I decided to try my luck with this hurricane - and my first taste of hurricane birding was a pretty big success! If you haven't checked out the list I posted yesterday I'd recommend it (but be prepared to be a little jealous...).

 5 Black-legged Kittiwakes out of our total of 88 (includes 2 ADULTS, and which may be an undercount) - a new high count for Hamilton (and maybe Ontario???) - before this date I had seen 3 (juveniles) in my entire life! (2 in November, 2008 and 1 in January, 2012)

 LEACH'S STORM-PETREL - to put this in perspective a bit, there are 2 previous records for Southern Ontario - one in 1939 and one in 1955 - both specimens - There is also one record for Northern Ontario back in 1981 - crazy bird!!!!!

I unfortunately didn't get a shot of the Wilson's - most of the time was spent looking at it in the scope, by the time I aimed my camera at it, it had disappeared into a trough, to be refound a few minutes later further down the beach. I promptly ran up there but it had disappeared behind a wave! The Wilson's would be the 7th record for Ontario, with most of the previous ones being specimens.

I'll leave you with a record shot of the 2 Snow Geese I had back on October 9 near the Sault - my first for Algoma!

A tip of my hat to Sandy

Going to add more stuff later but have been home for a total of about 30 minutes since 730am when I woke up...and have to get up at 7 for class! AHHH...not looking forward to missing tomorrow but I may have some time in the afternoon for chasing ;).

Long story short:

The last time I saw these birds was in 2008 in North Carolina (where they should be). Anyone who read the Ontbirds post by Barb will know what else we saw, but here is my eBird checklist for the day in case you haven't:

more to come....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

50 Days of Rare update

As mentioned in the previous post, I ended up going home for the weekend. It had its ups and downs, but as far as birding went it was mostly ups! The west/south winds and some storms proved fairly productive! Some highlights below.

Friday - the (adult) male Eurasian Wigeon on the way up, 2nd area record and probably my best bird for the competition so far! Only the second I've ever seen in Ontario, the other was in May 2005 at Hillman marsh.

Saturday I did a lakewatch at Gros Cap, on the way out I had 3 Cackling Geese in a field, a fairly rare bird locally. The highlights of the lakewatch were my FOY Red-throated Loon and Black Scoter, along with a BRANT - another local mega-rarity, this was the first record for Algoma (although WPBO has 21 previous records). That night I got a message from Tyler Hoar saying he'd found a Western Grebe and Nelson's Sparrow up at Batchawana, so I knew what I was doing the next day!

Sunday I obviously headed up to Batchawana Bay first thing in the morning, where it was snowing fairly heavily when I arrived. I eventually refound the Western Grebe (first confirmed Algoma record and 3rd area record), but was unable to locate the Nelson's. There were a ton of birds around, however, with a good mix of late-fall migrants. Unfortunately I was unable to turn up anything too out of the ordinary. An adult Thayer's Gull was nice to see though! On my way back I stopped in at Havilland Bay where there were pretty much no waterfowl, but I did find another (or maybe the same?) Nelson's Sparrow - this is only the third I've heard of in Algoma (Tyler's would be the second)! I then drove around some backroads hoping to find a northern owl but only managed to turn up a Gray Jay. Afterwards I did a fairly solid search of all the local gull hotspots hoping for Kirk's Mew Gull to materialize but alas, I did not find it.

Monday, I joined Kirk on a local rarity roundup as he'd been out of town for the weekend and wanted to see all the goodies we'd found! Our first stop was Bruce Mines where the Eurasian Wigeon was still present and provided good views (and some better pics which I will post later). Next was the Dafter landfill (on the Michigan side) where we hoped the Mew would be hanging out, as our dump was closed for the day. No luck on that unfortunately, but we did have 2 adult Thayer's Gulls and I added Lesser Black-backed Gull to my MI list with a 3rd-cycle individual. Since it was still fairly early in the day we motored up to Batchawana where we failed to turn up either Nelson's Sparrow. We then went out to the point on the west side of the bay, where I'd had the Western Grebe the day before, and pretty much immediately got a brief distant view of it. At this point the wind was howling out of the south/southwest and the waves were huge, making waterbirding quite difficult. I noticed a small bird flying by that looked suspiciously like a phalarope, and got Kirk on it about a second before it landed and promptly disappeared behind a wave. Kirk had a better look than I did and immediately agreed with phalarope, and after reviewing the book we decided it was a molting juvenile RED PHALAROPE due to the general patterning and short, thick-looking bill. Only my second lifer of the year and another first for Algoma! We then spent a bit of time sorting through the Horned and Red-necked Grebes offshore before I got bored and went for a walk to try to relocate the phalarope. I was scanning the open water way offshore when I spotted a distant jaeger sp. shearwatering above the surf. I watched it for a while as it got closer and when it started chasing a Herring Gull I realized it was a Pomarine! I ran to get Kirk but by the time we got back it was heading back out into the distance. Less than a minute later another jaeger came in on the same flight line as the first, only this one was somewhat smaller and slimmer - Parasitic! Pomarine was a first for Algoma and Parasitic only the second (I had the first back at the end of August!). We spent a while after that continuing the lakewatch but didn't turn up anything else before heading home.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I headed back to Guelph, but not before finding one more new bird for my Algoma list - 2 Snow Geese out in a field with a bunch of Sandhill Cranes (and no other geese which was kind of odd)! This was my 6th goose species for Algoma (kind of unexpected as they are regular migrants through the area in early spring and late fall...). A quick stop at the Bruce Mines lagoons turned up the continuing Eurasian Wigeon, and coming into Guelph I picked up Josh's Nelson's Sparrow at Mountsberg along with 4 Tundra Swans.

Overall a pretty birdy weekend with 3 self-found first county records (along with two seconds and a third), and got to see another first county record (thanks Tyler!). Just goes to show how productive the area really is when it gets covered! Of course, as soon as I left a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher showed up at Whitefish Point, a species which I had in mind all weekend but failed to find on our side! Win some lose some I guess.

In case you're wondering, I did actually spend some time with my family and friends! It was a good time with lots of good meals (which I didn't have to cook!), only dampened by the loss of my 6-year-old cat, Shadow, who I will (and already do) miss very much!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Quick Post - EUWI

I'll keep this brief and to the point and do a better summary later of my weekend adventures. Suffice it to say that I am in the Sault on west winds with high hopes.

On my way up today I found a Eurasian Wigeon in Bruce Mines, hopefully it sticks around so some other people can see it as this is the 2nd record for Algoma! (and 2nd for the Sault area, the other one was on the Michigan side though, the 1st Algoma record was outside of the Sault area).

Here are some horrible documentation shots (crappy phone camera, small scope, terrible light, etc, etc). Hopefully you'll still get the idea!

Another interesting find was a Mallard x Northern Pintail hybrid hanging out with a female Pintail at Echo Bay - no pics of that one unfortunately.