Saturday, April 26, 2008

Owls and Thunderstorms

Despite massive downpours yesterday evening, I went across the border to do an Owl Prowl with the Sault Naturalists. Only 4 people showed up (including me and Ken), but it stopped raining around 6, and didn't start again until 10:30, luckily for us. Some new migrants were pushed up by the system, plus more of the migrants that have already appeared. Short-eared Owls were surprisingly nonexistent, they're usually back by now, although the vole/mouse crash of the winter that meant there were no Rough-legs or Snowy Owls here may mean they won't breed here this year. Who knows? Anyway, we ended up with 47 species for the evening, 5 of which were new for the year list, being American Bittern, Le Conte's Sparrow, Pectoral Sandpiper, Barn Swallow, and Northern Saw-whet Owl. We also found 3 Barred Owls and a Long-eared on the outing. Right after the Saw-whet called, the sky opened up, with massive thunder and lightning bolts, and torrential rain. Needless to say, we headed home after that, and the rain followed us all the way back. I managed to pick up laryngitis, and was sick all day yesterday, and again today, so it is unlikely I will get much birding done in the next few days. It's supposed to be cold with strong winds all week anyway, not the greatest weather for birding.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Owling, hawkwatching, and more

Went out east of town with Ken yesterday evening to do another owl route, plus bird around the countryside beforehand. We saw quite a bit, including the most Pintails I've ever seen in the Sault area - 49 in a single pond! Good numbers of ducks have arrived/are still here, and more migrants are arriving by the day - Brewer's Blackbird and Swamp Sparrow were both new. We ended up with 53 sp. for the evening, giving me a total of 78 sp. for yesterday! As for the owl route, the first 5 stations were very active, with 9 Barred, 1 Long-eared, and 1 Boreal Owl(s). The Boreal was a lifer for me, and my first new bird for SSM of the year. The next 5 stations proved to be completely dead, we were hoping for at least a Great Horned, but we found nothing but Woodcocks, frogs, and toads. The peepers and Wood Frogs have become very active, as well as Leopard Frogs and American Toads to a lesser extent.

I biked down around Bellevue Park this morning, as a threat to our school (some kid playing a prank that got them expelled...) gave us a day off. Not much to see, found a few more Tree Swallows, Gadwall, and Loons, but that's about it. I spent an hour and a half up on my shed roof hawkwatching, but lack of activity and heat sent me back inside. Did see 2 Sharpies, a Turkey Vulture, a Broad-wing, and a Northern Harrier which was new for my yard. The temp in the shade was 22ºC, with a 10 km/h SE wind and sun, you'd think there'd be more hawks moving. I took a thermometer up on the roof with me, turns out the air temp up there near the hot shingles was 47ºC! Later in the day I heard a Brown Creeper out in the yard, I'm sure I've had them before but it wasn't on my yard list for some reason, so another new one! I'm hoping to break 100 this year, so far I've added 11 species, and migration is just beginning!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bigbying again plus hawkwatching

Biked down to the Locks and Bellevue Park again early this morning, where I met up with Ken again. Not as much around as yesterday, managed 48 species from 6:30-9:00. The new speedometer/odometer works well though, I biked 12.3 km this morning (took a different route from yesterday) at an average speed of 19.5 km/h, still don't know how far I walked though. Added Tree Swallow to the year list at Bellevue, plus saw quite a few Pied-billed Grebes around. Other than that, the same species as yesterday, minus a few. This afternoon I took Ken's advice and did a hawkwatch from my house, sitting up on my roof from 1:00 - 4:00 pm. It was nice and sunny, but hot...26ºC is not what I'm used to at this point in the year. Ended up wearing shorts and sandals up on the roof! Anyway, while up there I added 6 species to my yard list, and saw quite a bit. Here are the highlights:

Raptors (in order of obs.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk** - 9
Turkey Vulture - 2
Red-tailed Hawk - 3
Rough-legged Hawk** - 1 light phase
Merlin - 1
Bald Eagle - 1 juv.
Broad-winged Hawk - 4
American Kestrel** - 1
Osprey** - 1
Total: 23 individuals of 9 sp.
Sandhill Crane - 11+25+10+21+2+3 = 72 total
Common Merganser** - 1
Common Loon - 1 flying due south...?
Killdeer** - 1
Yellow-rumps - 2
Chipping Sparrow - 1

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Biked down to Bellevue Park yesterday after school, and then down to the Locks and Bellevue Park this morning early. Had 66 species total, with 62 just this morning. Also, my Bigby list went from 41 up to 72! Added 9 new species for the year, #100 for SSM was a Savannah Sparrow this morning. Did about 35 km on my bike, plus about 7 km on foot. My legs are a bit sore, but it was definitely worth it. I now have a speedometer/odometer on my bike, so I'll get a more accurate reading in the weeks to come.

New Species for the year:
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Common Loon
American Wigeon
Savannah Sparrow
Greater Yellowlegs
Winter Wren
Pine Siskin

**Note: If I haven't mentioned this before, Bigbying is a green birding year - all species seen biking/walking from your house - i.e. a big year without burning fossil fuels.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Locks this morning

Headed down to the locks for an hour before school. It was pretty active when I was there, but Ken was there just after me and said it was mostly dead. I had 42 species in the hour I was there, including 3 new species for my Locks list (Fox Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe, Osprey), and 5 year birds (Belted Kingfisher, Rusty Blackbird, White-throated Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush). The Osprey caught a fish (good sized one too) while I was there, and the sunrise was pretty nice...would have been better without all the buildings in front of it though. No pics as of yet, as the uploader is giving me error messages. Anyway, songbirds are picking up, other warblers should be here soon!

As I said in an earlier post, the Locks are probably the best place here in town for birds, and to prove it, my Locks list is up to about 165 after today. Considering that my total SSM area list is at 255, that's a pretty decent percentage from such a small place...well...relatively small anyway.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More recent birding

Tundra Swans - April 8 - Bar River
Haven't posted for a while, but I have been getting out! On Saturday I went out east of town for a while with Kirk, and found Blue-winged Teal, Redhead, and a Great Black-backed Gull in the way of SSM yearbirds, along with 2 pairs of Canvasbacks at Pumpkin Point - this is the most I've seen in one year in the Sault area! We also went to Kirk's place where his feeders found us Northern Cardinal, Boreal Chickadee, and Hoary Redpoll. Not yearbirds, but good sightings nonetheless.
Sandhill Cranes - April 13 - Bar River
Monday night I did an owl survey route with Ken and Stan, and found Wilson's Snipe and Long-eared Owl (ABA year #100!) for yearbirds, plus quite a few Barred Owls, American Woodcock, and an Eastern Meadowlark, right as Ken was about to say we should be seeing one soon!

After school today I headed down to the Locks, finding Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and some Yellow-rumped Warblers, along with a few migrant hawks and sparrows. Also found the first Garter Snake and Mourning Cloaks for the year, along with the resident Red Fox whom I haven't seen for a while.

Garter Snake - April 16 - Locks
Red Fox
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker pair
Also, the weather is starting to warm up (18ºC today!!!!), and all the snow that fell April 11th and 12th is now melted, along with some of the stuff that was there before that.

Here's my list of recent species (April 13-16).

Canada Goose - 2500+
Tundra Swan - 7
Wood Duck - 10+
American Black Duck - 100+
Mallard - 300+
Blue-winged Teal - 2
Northern Pintail - 4
Green-winged Teal - 2
Canvasback - 4
Redhead - 5
Ring-necked Duck - 40+
Greater Scaup - 30+
Lesser Scaup - 50+
Bufflehead - 10+
Common Goldeneye - 30+
Hooded Merganser - 100+
Common Merganser - 100+
Ruffed Grouse - 1
Double-crested Cormorant - 10+
Great Blue Heron - 5
Turkey Vulture - 9
Osprey - 3
Bald Eagle - 7
Northern Harrier - 5+
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1
Red-tailed Hawk - 3
Rough-legged Hawk - 8 (2 dark phase, 2 intermediate)
American Kestrel - 15+
Merlin - 2
Sandhill Crane - 60+
Killdeer - 4
Wilson's Snipe - 7
American Woodcock - 24
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull - 1
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 2
Downy Woodpecker - 4
Hairy Woodpecker - 2
Northern Flicker - 2
Barred Owl - 12
Long-eared Owl - 1
Northern Shrike - 1
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Boreal Chickadee - 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 2
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Brown Creeper - 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
American Robin - 100+
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 8
American Tree Sparrow - 30+
Fox Sparrow - 2
Song Sparrow - 30+
Dark-eyed Junco - 50+
Northern Cardinal - 1
Red-winged Blackbird - 30+
Eastern Meadowlark - 2
Common Grackle - 30+
Brown-headed Cowbird - 5+
Common Redpoll - 40+
Hoary Redpoll - 2
American Goldfinch - 4
House Sparrow - 10+

Number of Species: 70

Friday, April 11, 2008


After a beautiful spring day yesterday, today was horrible, with freezing rain turning to snow. I'm not sure exactly how much snow we got today, but the forecast said 15-20 cm (6-8 in), with more for tonight...

No new birds, not surprisingly, but the crocuses are still alive, standing out against all the white in the backyard!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Recent birding

Scratch that post from the other day, thunderstorms are perfect weather for Bigbying! Well...ok maybe not, but it did provide me with my first Ring-necked Ducks for my yard list.

Yesterday I headed out east of town after school, to be greeted by water, and lots of it. Yes, the ice is still covering most of the lakes, but the fields in Bar River are almost all under 1-2 feet of water. Diving ducks were swimming out in the fields, definitely an odd sight for the Sault. The ducks overall are building in numbers, and I had my first Green-winged Teal, Wood Ducks, and Pied-billed Grebes for my SSM yearlist. The highlights were definitely the above mentioned year birds, plus over 250 Tundra Swans in the fields, huge numbers of both Hooded and Common Mergansers, and the Ross's Goose that I found the other day, hanging out with around 1500 Canada Geese and a few Cackling Geese.

I'll not post a list, as they get kind of repetitive (at least at this time of year) but I saw 52 species in the few hours I was out, my highest total for one day so far this year.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Photos from yesterday

Weather isn't great today, so no bigbying. Here are the better shots from yesterday at WPBO.

Sandhill Crane

Fox Sparrow (with song sparrow and junco)

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Turkey Vulture

Sharp-shinned Hawk x2

Northern Goshawk immature

Rough-legged Hawk (intermediate phase)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

WPBO - Hawks and Migrants

Went over to the point today with Kirk Zufelt. Despite being fairly warm in the parking lot, the hawk tower proved yet again that it is the coldest place on the point. The winds were pretty strong from the SE, which stopped most hawks from crossing, so they bottled up near the point. There were some decent numbers, plus I added a couple new ones for the year and got a few decent shots. My first-of-season (FOS) Yellow-rumped Warbler (about 10 days early!), Eastern Phoebe, American Tree Sparrow and Fox Sparrow (about a week late) were also at the point, and the phoebe turned out to be a new bird for my WPBO list! #195, only 5 more to go to the 200 mark! After the hawks stopped coming through the point, we headed out and cruised the back roads south of the Sault, adding Eastern Meadowlark among others, but mainly boosting the numbers of individuals for the day. As always, the day list is below, with my SSM year birds in bold. Numbers of species are picking up, maybe I'll beat last year's April total?

Cackling Goose - 2
Canada Goose - 20+
American Black Duck - 10+
Mallard - 60+
Bufflehead - 4
Common Goldeneye - 10+
Common Merganser - 15+
Sharp-tailed Grouse - 17
Great Blue Heron - 1
Turkey Vulture - 12
Bald Eagle - 7
Northern Harrier - 15
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 50+
Northern Goshawk - 1
Red-shouldered Hawk - 1
Red-tailed Hawk - 20+
Rough-legged Hawk - 60+
American Kestrel - 8
Merlin - 3
Sandhill Crane - 150+
Killdeer - 5
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker - 2
Eastern Phoebe - 1
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch - 2
American Robin - 200+ easily - some groups of up to 30 birds
European Starling
Bohemian Waxwing - 7
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1
American Tree Sparrow - 10+
Fox Sparrow - 1

Song Sparrow - 10+
Dark-eyed Junco - 20+
Snow Bunting - 40+
Red-winged Blackbird - 15+
Eastern Meadowlark - 2
Common Grackle - 30+
Brown-headed Cowbird - 40+
Red Crossbill - 3
Common Redpoll - 100+
Hoary Redpoll - 1
American Goldfinch - 2 at my feeders
Number of Species: 49

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ross's Goose!!!!! and others

Got the truck for the morning and headed out east of town to try and find some new arrivals and/or rare geese. Had some luck with both!

Opened the window early this morning to the sound of Song Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Brown-headed Cowbirds, all new for the Sault area year! Definitely a good sign for things to come.

First stop was Echo Bay, where there were 56 Tundra Swans, along with Ring-necked Ducks, Bufflehead, Great Blue Herons, 32 Sandhill Cranes on the ice, and 2 Cackling Geese in with many Canadas, plus the usuals. After that I headed out to Barr River, where there is usually a good flock of geese. Before even getting a chance at the geese, I heard a Ring-necked Pheasant calling, another new bird for the year. The flock of geese consisted of about 300 Canadas, and in with them a single white Ross's Goose! Perseverance pays off! I got some fairly bad digiscoped shots for record, then went to check on the flooded fields about 2 km away.

Ross's Goose at Barr River
Turns out they weren't so flooded anymore, so I headed back to Barr River to get more looks at the Ross's. Dave Euler was there, just about to leave when I pulled up. He hadn't seen the Ross's Goose, as it was behind some shrubs and other geese when he looked. It was still there though, and he and his wife Gail got good looks at it beside some Sandhill Cranes and other Canadas. Satisfied, I headed out to Pumpkin Point, where there were more Tundra Swans and Canada Geese (no rarities this time though), along with both Greater and Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Ducks, Bufflehead, a Northern Harrier, Snow Buntings, Killdeer, and Red-winged Blackbirds. Then I headed out to St. Joe's Island, where there weren't as many geese as last year, but did pick up an Eastern Meadowlark. Then I retraced my route, where the Ross's Goose was still hanging around, and back to the new birds on the way back other than a Red-tailed Hawk circling the highway. The list for the morning is below, SSM year birds are in bold as usual. Hopefully I will get out to WPBO tomorrow, maybe see some new stuff!

Ross's Goose - 1
Cackling Goose - 2
Canada Goose - 600+
Tundra Swan - 68
American Black Duck - 60+
Ring-necked Duck - 16
Greater Scaup - 6
Lesser Scaup - 4
Bufflehead - 12
Common Goldeneye - 50+
Hooded Merganser - 20+
Common Merganser - 40+
Ring-necked Pheasant - 1
Great Blue Heron - 2
Turkey Vulture - 29
Bald Eagle - 2
Northern Harrier - 2
Red-tailed Hawk - 1
Rough-legged Hawk - 2
Sandhill Crane - 44
Killdeer - 3
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch - 2
American Robin - 10+
European Starling
Song Sparrow - 10
Dark-eyed Junco - 3
Snow Bunting - 20+
Red-winged Blackbird - 13
Eastern Meadowlark - 1
Common Grackle - 20+
Brown-headed Cowbird - 3
American Goldfinch - 9
House Sparrow - 20+

Number of Species: 44

Friday, April 4, 2008

Afternoon birding and some recent photos

Biked down along the waterfront for an hour this afternoon, saw the Great Blue Herons on the rookery, and some Double-crested Cormorants in the river. Also re-found the female Lesser Scaup that's been hanging around the OMNR building. In my backyard, the birds were fairly active, with 5 Robins, some singing Goldfinches (haven't been any around this winter! first singing ones), a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers being very vocal, a flock of Grackles, and a lone White-breasted Nuthatch. With the thermometer reading a blistering 13ºC, and over 3 inches of snow melting today alone, spring is most definitely here!

Since I haven't been keeping the photos up-to-date with the posts, here are some from the past little while, from oldest to newest.

Northern Shovelers at OMNR - March 31
Canvasbacks at OMNR - April 1
"Wild" Turkey at Pumpkin Point - April 3
Sunset over Lake George Rd. - April 3
Killdeer at Bellevue Park - April 4

Spring - finally!

Yes, although there is still over 3 feet of snow on the ground in some places, it's spring here in the Soo. Daily temps are going up to 10ºC, and the nights are barely going below 0. Sun almost every day, and south winds are causing the snow to melt, and there is bare ground in some places. Ken McIlwrick and I went out east of town last night to find any and all migrants that were blown in on the south winds and warm temps. Robins have arrived, and Great Blue Herons are back on the rookery (I have yet to see them though).

The back roads east of town that are usually good for geese and ducks are muddy or flooded, even though the fields are still snow-covered, and Pumpkin Point (a great spot for ducks and swans) is still 95% frozen. We still managed some new birds in the river and flying above the snow - Ring-necked Ducks, Turkey Vultures, Barred Owls calling, American Woodcocks displaying, and Sandhill Cranes setting up territory, as well as Rough-legged Hawks migrating north. Canada Geese are grouping up, hopefully they will stay a while and attract some rarer stuff!

Here's our list for the evening. Bolded ones were new for the SSM yearlist. I'll add some photos into this and my latest posts in the next little while.

Canada Goose - 200+
Ring-necked Duck - 3
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Wild Turkey - 5 tame, walked right up to the van
Turkey Vulture - 30
Bald Eagle - 6
Rough-legged Hawk - 5 (4 dark morph, 1 light)
Sandhill Crane - 7
American Woodcock - 5
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl - 2
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
American Robin - 1
European Starling
Red-winged Blackbird - 1
Common Grackle - 4
Number of Species: 26

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

And again...

Yep, I went down to check out the Ross's Goose again...with no luck..again - seems it has flown the coop, at least for now. However, there was a pair of Canvasbacks, along with the Lesser Scaup from yesterday! First time I have ever seen Canvasbacks in town! We usually get a pair or two on a bay about 40km outside town, but since everything but the river is still frozen, they're here :). As for the weather, it's being a little freaky as of late, with temps fluctuating from about -10ºC up to 5ºC, with snow, pouring rain, hail, and gale-force winds. Clouds change to sun, back to clouds, back to sun. Spring is definitely here - although isn't it supposed to be March that has the lion-lamb thing going on?