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.