Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Western Grebe, etc

I was sitting at home on the computer yesterday morning, fairly bored and checking the weather - crap, basically summed it up - so I decided to go birding. Here are some pics to tell the story:

First stop was Mountsberg CA, where there were a few ducks, some warblers, and a lot of cold swallows pushed down by the rain and snow

Nearby were some Northern Flickers displaying to one another, which was pretty cool

I spent about 15 minutes trying to get flight shots of swallows in less-than-perfect light, pretty much to no avail

I did manage to get a new 'photographed' species though - Cliff Swallow

The swallows really didn't feel like moving when it started raining/snowing

I then got a text from Barb saying there was a Western Grebe down at Van Wagner's Beach in Hamilton, so I immediately went back to the truck and headed over there! When I got there, it was waiting in the scope for me - this is what happens when you put a 70mm lens up to a scope...

And to compare, this was taken with my cellphone (and its crappy 1.3MP camera), through the same scope at the same magnification (60x)

And some heavy crops of the bird with my 300mm lens from about 100 feet or so away

Which do you think turned out the best?

This Iceland gull provided some added entertainment, edited a bit to exaggerate the feeling of stormy weather

There were quite a few Caspian Terns floating around as well, along with a couple Common and a single Forster's

 Since I had some time, I went over to LaSalle marina to see if the King Eider was still around, and I found this interesting male Black Duck x Mallard hybrid with no green in the head...backcross maybe?

The King Eider was indeed there, although he didn't want to come anywhere close enough for good pics. I did hear him call a few times though which was pretty cool!

It'll be interesting to see if he sticks around all summer - I predict hundreds of photos of a stunning male King Eider next winter if he does

Hermaphrodite Mallard, more pronounced than the one I found in the Sault back in the winter

Afterward I headed to a few other spots around Wellington County, found a lot more swallows and spotted this Red-tailed Hawk right beside the road - he didn't stick around for more photos though

Anyway, it was a pretty good day with 84 species in a couple hours (in the rain and snow, no less), and I added 6 new ones for Wellington - now only 35 from my goal of 200!

This morning I biked over to the Arb to try to add some things to the Bigby list, found a Black-throated Green Warbler and some House Wrens but not a whole lot else - was nice to get outside in the sunshine for a bit though!

Monday, April 23, 2012

April Song Quiz

Thanks to everyone who answered the photo quiz this month! Everyone got it right with a calurus or "Western" Red-tailed Hawk (dark morph) and a Common Ground-Dove - both of these were taken at Whitefish Point in Michigan.

Here's the April song quiz - format stolen from Alvan (blog link on sidebar!). Good luck!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I got up yesterday at 2:30am after about 3 hour's sleep to the sound of my alarm. Sounds pretty brutal, I know, but it was well worth it! I met Brett and Barb at 3:30 down in Kitchener, and we headed off towards Essex county and Point Pelee National Park. We got into Wheatley around 6am, and made a quick stop at Muddy Creek where a Great Egret was almost glowing in the dark. Then it was off to the park for about 6.5 hours of wandering the park in search of birds. In this venture we had a fair bit of success, managing 9 species of warblers including an early Blue-winged, good numbers of early-arriving migrants, and even a rarity to top things off! As we were walking down the road to the Tip, Barb checked her phone, only to receive a message that said a Bell's Vireo had been found less than a minute ago, about 100m from where we were standing! We rushed over there, but unfortunately it had disappeared. After quite the search effort, we decided to move on and went to the Tip itself, which was looking pretty pitiful on this windy day. We did manage to find a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers and a small flock of warblers and gnatcatchers roving the tip though. We then made our way back toward the tip loop, and had just made it when Barb got a phone call saying the Bell's had been refound, again less than 100m from where we were! After a bit of a search, everyone had seen it - except for me that is... I spent another few minutes searching the last place it was seen, and just when I was really starting to worry I wouldn't see it, it popped up on a branch about 20 feet from me, gave me a look, then dove into a bush. It eventually came out for a few pics before disappearing again. Success! It was then back to wandering the trails, where we picked up a couple White-eyed Vireos and a Blackburnian Warbler before we decided it was lunchtime. Since the park was pretty quiet (76 species in the 6.5 hours), we headed off to Hillman Marsh, where there were good numbers of ducks and Dunlin, along with a huge flock of Forster's Terns and a single Least Sandpiper to keep us occupied.

Since there were no other mega-rarities being seen and Essex was fairly quiet (alright, it was pretty good for late April, but you can only look at April migrants for so long!), we decided to try our luck at Rondeau, where a Yellow-throated Warbler was being seen. We stopped in at the Visitor centre to see exactly where it was hanging out, and spent a little while watching the feeders where a tame Raccoon was trying its luck with the peanut feeder (with a fair bit of success). We then spent about an hour walking the road and waiting by the feeders where it had been seen in the last few days, with no luck, not even a chip note for our efforts. We did however see a fairly early Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a flock of Rusty Blackbirds as a consolation prize. Just as we were walking back down the road to the car, I noticed a tiny bird flying off in the distance, and as it landed on a distant tree it gave a chip note. Interesting... I got my bins on it and immediately saw a black-and-white striped bird with a yellow throat. Got it! The other three came rushing back and we spent a good 20 minutes or so with the little guy, who was constantly talking to himself and even caught a few bugs, including a Red Admiral, while we watched. Since it was getting late we decided to head out, and I got back to Guelph just before 9pm. A very long but awesome day - only my third-ever visit to Pelee, and it continues to impress!

Bell's Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler were both new Ontario (and Canada) birds for me, and I managed to add a solid 20 birds to the year list (out of 104 total species for the day!).

As I'm sure you've all noticed, my photography has been lacking from posts since about mid-February...I've been really bad about taking the camera out, but I plan on changing that now that school's out and the birds are arriving!

Pied-billed Grebes from last weekend south of Guelph

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher shot from Pelee that didn't turn out, but I thought this was kind of interesting

The bird of the day - Bell's Vireo! Probably the 15th record for Ontario and the first ever in April

My best shot yet of a Blue-headed Vireo

Part of the huge (~225) flock of Forster's Terns at Hillman Marsh, along with a Bonaparte's Gull (top right)

A White-breasted Nuthatch looks on as the raccoon tries to figure out the pole


This Red-bellied Woodpecker probably wasn't too happy about the raccoon stealing all the peanuts

A highly cropped photo of the Yellow-throated Warbler at Rondeau

Monday, April 16, 2012

Roofin' It

Studying for exams has taken up most of my time in the past week or so (since my last post), but I have managed to take a few study breaks to get some birding in! The majority of them involved me sitting up on my roof, but yesterday Reuven and I got out for a few hours to cruise around southern Wellington County in the rain to see what we could find. Quite a bit, it turned out - the highlights of 63 species being White-winged Scoter (rare migrant in the county) and Red-headed Woodpecker. I also got my first warbler for the year - as usual, a Yellow-rumped. Another two weeks and most of the warblers will be back!

Back to the roof-sitting. I put in 2 good mornings up there, with 41 and 43 species respectively. I also managed to add a solid 15 species to the yard list (coincidentally I've added the same number to my Wellington list in the past week as well!), with some highlights being Lapland Longspur, Northern Goshawk (my 12th raptor for the yard), and a FISH CROW back on April 8! This brings the yard list up to 87 - getting quite close to my goal of 100 already - perhaps I should've set it higher? Another cool thing today was seeing hundreds of Red Admiral butterflies winging past - looks like these south winds created quite the invasion of this species in the last 2 days.

Record shot of my first Broad-winged Hawk of the year, taken from the roof (April 14)
Another thing I've been doing while not studying is attempting to learn my flight calls - tested it out a bit in the last 2 nights with all these south winds, managed to pick out Hermit Thrush and 5 sparrow species including a Field! For anyone who's interested in such things, this is an extremely good site (for Ontario anyway): Just follow the links on the sidebar for songs and calls!

Now, back to studying...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Wind map

Haven't had much going on lately as final exams/projects are looming! I have had a few new ones for the yard though, namely Northern Mockingbird and a very early Barn Swallow. I'm still hoping for a Fish Crow to fly over, especially as there seem to be about 7 or 8 birds in the Hamilton/Guelph/Cambridge area.

For those of you interested in wind patterns (and seeing whether birds will be getting pushed into Ontario), check out this link: - it shows an hourly forecast of wind conditions in the US, but Southern Ontario is close enough. My guess is that on days with strong southerly flow from the Gulf coast all the way up here will be pretty good for migration (and rarities?)! It's also pretty cool to see the Coriolis effect in action once in a while, as winds spin counter-clockwise into a low pressure system and clockwise out of a high pressure system due to the rotation of the Earth.

Don't forget to try the quiz below!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Quiz, etc.

Well, the March Song quiz did not go as well as I'd hoped - only one person responded! The answers in order were: Black-capped Chickadee, Black-and-white Warbler, Winter Wren and Spring Peeper (bit of a trick there).

In other news, I've added 2 new ones to the yard list: Fox Sparrow and Purple Martin, and added one pretty sweet bird to the Bigby list: Fish Crow a few minutes before a project meeting yesterday! Thanks to Reuven for finding these birds! Purple Martin was kind of an interesting one, not only in that it was quite early and completely unexpected, but it was my 100th species for March (first month to get over 100 this year), and my 2500th Ontario tick in eBird! Pretty cool stuff. I didn't manage to actually get out birding this weekend due to homework issues but maybe sometime this week...

Now, on to the April quiz. Good luck!