Tuesday, December 31, 2013


More posts to come on BP when I get around to it, but for now here's a look back at 2013!

The year started off pretty typically, back home seeing a few new birds for the year before heading back to Guelph for my last semester! During the month I actually got in a fair number of birding trips before the workload really kicked in, with some local tours around Wellington County, a trip up to Durham for a Townsend's Solitaire with a finale around Hamilton, a day in Niagara and finishing off with a Wildlife Club trip to Algonquin Park (which was awesome!). This got me up to 113 species for the year, not a bad start for not leaving Ontario!

This month was spent mainly doing school work, although 2 weeks of that 'work' were spent on a field course based out of the Queen's University Biological Station just north of Kingston, where I had a great time learning more about the winter ecology of birds while hiking around in the snow and visiting some new parts of Ontario. At the end of the course I made a quick pit stop in Puslinch to add Harris's Sparrow to my Ontario list. 120 species for the year.

More school work (a lot!) and unfortunately no real birding trips other than a couple hours locally. Toward the end of the month I did spend some time trying to add to my yard list with some success (Brewer's Blackbird and Cackling Goose)! 126 species for the year.

The start of spring and the end of school were welcome reliefs for me! I finished up my classes in early April and had 2 weeks of nothing before my 2 exams (which were both scheduled on the last day of the exam period...), so I packed some of my stuff and carted it home. I then used my freedom to bird around Wellington before writing my exams and thus ending my time at the University of Guelph! It was a great 4 years but I was ready to move on. At the end of the month my mom did a trip to pick up my brother in Kingston and then picked up the rest of my stuff (thanks mom!) in Guelph before trekking back to the Sault. This allowed me to head directly to Point Pelee where I would be bumming around for the next 2.5 weeks. 206 species for the year.

The first 16 days of the month were spent in the Pelee area, where I teamed up with quite a few other Ontario birders to see/find a crazy number of rarities and rack up 227 species. More details on this can be found in previous posts but needless to say I had an amazing time! Late snowpack in Hearst (where I was supposed to be working/training) allowed me to spend an extra week at Pelee which really helped! The other part of the month found me back home for a couple of days before heading out to eastern Ontario for my summer contract surveying birds and trees in the Petawawa Research Forest. 281 species for the year.

As my work was weather-dependent, I didn't have a lot of days off (if it was nice out, I had to work in order to get everything done in time!), but our first rain day came on June 2, and I left Ontario for the first time since Feb. 22, 2012 (when I also did a quick jaunt into QC)! I went a whole 5km over the border into Quebec, to boost my QC list and explore some new territory. I then spent another 2 weeks working (with 2 rain days) before taking some time off to visit my brother in Kingston, once we figured out we were going to finish our work before the deadline. I took the long route there, to boost my Ontario county ticks, cruising through Renfrew, Ottawa, Prescott, Stormont and Frontenac counties. On the way back I took a different route through Frontenac, Leeds, Lanark and Renfrew and thus got a fair number of new county ticks! The end of the month saw me heading back to the Sault and then turning around for a Canada Day weekend in Sudbury. 288 species for the year.

Back in the Sault I spent most of the month in a lab, analyzing songmeters. I did manage a few local outings for birds and butterflies though, managing to find some breeding Willow Flycatchers and a Grasshopper Sparrow (both very rare locally). 290 species for the year.

I finished up in the lab and got in a few last local outings before packing my bags and flying out to Nova Scotia for the fall - my first real trip (not just a few km over the border) out of the province since I went to California back in Feb. 2011. I spent a few days sorting things out in the office in Wolfville before heading out to Bon Portage Island to set up the station for the fall season and meet my first round of volunteers! Other than grocery trips and a brief visit to Cape Sable Island, I spent the entirety of the fall migration period on the island. 308 species for the year.

I watched the seasons change, added a few species to the Nova Scotia list, did a lot of seawatching and bird-banding, learned a bit about living in rustic conditions, and generally had a great time with the various volunteers and birds that visited the island! As I mentioned before there is more to come on this adventure in my next few posts. 321 species for the year.

My time on the island ended and I spent the next 3.5 weeks in Wolfville, doing end-of-season office work such as report writing and band inventories. Of course I also managed to explore a bit more of Nova Scotia with some help from my friend Dom (who is now off birding in South America...), adding a trio of geese to my ABA (and, more importantly, Canada) list.324 species for the year.

Most of the month was spent relaxing and catching up on sleep, but I also managed to plan a trip while I wasn't posting about my time on the island! More on that later. I also spent the holidays with my family - snowshoeing, drinking and playing games amongst many great meals! 324 species is my final tally for 2013.

Overall I think it was a pretty good year - added a fair number of birds to my Canada list, met a lot of new people, saw some new territory, managed to be employed for most of the time that I wasn't in school, etc. I also achieved most of my hopes for the year (detailed in my 2012 post), by graduating university, getting out of Ontario for a while, adding some new Ontario birds while not focusing on year-listing, and also managing to keep up my eBird checklist a day habit (other than 1 day in November when I didn't go outside and therefore didn't see any birds). I didn't spend as much time on photography as I would have liked - maybe that will be one of my 2014 resolutions. At the moment I am also hoping to spend most of 2014 outside of Ontario - I guess we'll have to wait and see how that goes!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bon Portage - the weirdos

No, I'm not talking about the volunteers ;) - here are some odd birds we got on the island this fall!

Starting off with the weirdest bird of all - American Snout

Another American, one that isn't often caught in mist nets - unfortunately we didn't have a band big enough for it!

An odd warbler - was originally going to make this a quiz - maybe it can be a mini-quiz within this post?

Partially leucistic Blue-headed Vireo

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet with a white crown

And one with an orange crown! Weird.

Monday, December 2, 2013

We interrupt this broadcast...

Ok, so it isn't much of a broadcast but whatever. Today, Kirk and I decided to attempt to boost our winter lists by cruising around on the Michigan side (where I haven't been since last October!). Just to get things started, here's an excerpt from an email I sent to Kirk TWO days ago when he asked if I was up for an outing:

"Sure - see if we can find some interesting winter waterfowl! (PALO??)"

Guess what we saw? Yep, a friggin' Pacific Loon!!! Within the first 10 minutes of the day too. This is only the second winter record for the area (and the 7th for Michigan), the first being on the St. Mary's River in February 2002 (a one-day wonder). Most, if not all, of the other area records come from Whitefish Point. There are 46 records for Michigan up to August of this year (plus at least 3 more from WPBO this fall) so this would be about the 50th record for the state.

So to summarize, a pretty good bird! We were happy anyway. This is my 290th species for the 'Sault area'.

Here are some crappy record photos through my scope at 60x. Note the pale nape, bulbous head, thin straight bill and dark 'collar'. The lack of white on the flanks (not really visible in these pics but seen well in the field) separates it from Arctic Loon.

Pacific Loon, St. Ignace, MI - Dec 2, 2013 9:02-9:20am