Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Almost a new year!

Since my last update I haven't been out birding all that much, although I did get over to Niagara twice this fall - once with John Ralston from the Sault on November 22 and once with the Guelph Wildlife Club the weekend after. My gull totals for the two weekends were 9 and 10 species respectively, most of which were year birds and which included my first California Gull in Ontario (seen both weekends). I also got my lifer Brant at Spencer Smith Park in Burlington and my first Tufted Titmouse (3 of them) for Ontario on the 22nd.

I then spent quite a bit of time studying for exams (and procrastinating the studying with many distractions), and did fairly well on them, more than passing every class I was in this semester.

I got home (to the Sault) late on Dec. 18th, and got up at 7am the next morning to lead a Christmas Bird Count route for the Sault CBC. We ended up with 24 species for the day, not bad considering most of the feeder birds weren't around, and duck numbers on the river were slightly lower than average. The highlight of the day was a Brown Thrasher that has been coming to a feeder since late November, and which is one of the few ever found on the count. That bird brings my SSM winter list up to 89, along with the Belted Kingfisher I got 2 days later.

Then it was off to Sudbury for Christmas with my grandparents, which was very enjoyable, playing pool, other games, winter walking, and many great meals.

Now I am back home for a few days, visiting friends and whatnot, and am off to Colorado tomorrow to go birding with Jacob Cooper! (See his blog on the sidebar) I'm hoping for Ptarmigan, grouse, and Rosy-finches galore, along with a few other lifers that are possible. I'll post pics from all the aforementioned events upon my return.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


On Thursday, Josh Vandermeulen (another birder at Guelph) took me birding along the south shore of Lake Ontario from Hamilton to St. Catharine's and back. The highlight of our 47-species day was most definitely a BARN OWL that popped out of a tree in front of us and gave us a half-second view. I immediately called Barn Owl, but the rarity of this bird in Canada made us have doubts - we consulted 2 different field guides and agreed that was all it could have been. We told Cheryl Edgecombe (the coordinator of rare bird sightings in Hamilton), who told some other people. Sandra Horvath from the Owl Foundation was called the next day as someone found the owl injured, and she went and picked it up - good confirmation of our sighting but unfortunate that it had to happen that way. The owl is expected to make a full recovery and be released soon. Here's a picture that I was sent:

The owl was a lifer, and my 800th world bird! The other highlights of the day were Red-throated Loon in St. Catharine's (new for my Ontario and Canada lists), and finally seeing a Northern Saw-whet Owl (I found 2 at Fifty Point C.A. and had only heard this species before).

Yesterday Chris agreed to take me to Brampton to see the Phainopepla that was found last Monday, we got sweet looks at this second Canadian record (last one was in 1974 apparently), but unfortunately could not stay long enough to get any good photos as Chris had to work and my brother was visiting so we had to get back after only a few minutes of observation. Here are two record shots.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I haven't been out birding since my last post, which is fairly disappointing, but I have been keeping busy with classes, homework, hanging out with my new friends and editing photos. I have quite a few to post here, please comment and let me know what you think!

On another note, my Peru trip got nixed as Jacob (the guy I was meeting in Miami to fly with) suffered from 2 partially collapsed lungs and is not allowed to go anywhere remote for a while in case it happens again. Instead, we decided to do a roadtrip in the southwest USA - starting in Phoenix, heading down to SE Arizona for a few days, then over to southern California and up the coast, possibly to Monterey, and then back to Phoenix to fly home. Should be a fun trip, and there's the possibility of 30-40 lifers for me!

My dad at Robertson Cliffs (Oct 2008)

November Raspberry leaves (2008)

Shadow! (Mar 2009)

My second attempt at the HDR that I posted a while ago (Aug 2009)

Sunset at the waterfront (Aug 2009)

My dorm room! (Sept 2009)
Hunting in Sudbury (Oct 2009)

Fall leaves out my dorm window (Oct 2009)

And again

Johnston Hall HDR (Nov 2009)

Another angle, same day

Log HDR in the Arb (Nov 2009)

Rosebush in the Arb

Some sort of little flower

Oak leaf macro

Monday, September 28, 2009


Saturday morning I went birding with Chris Street and Tom Thomas, heading down to Wildwood Reservoir near Stratford, then up through Hamilton/Burlington to Smithville and back to Guelph. It was a good day despite the rain, and I got 4 new Ontario birds. At Wildwood, the main attraction was an American White Pelican, but I had seen this species in the spring at the Locks so was more interested in the shorebirds. Our list at the end of the hour scanning the mudflats was:

Semipalmated Plover - 6
Killdeer - 100+
Lesser Yellowlegs - 4
Least Sandpiper - 2
Pectoral Sandpiper - 30+
Dunlin - 1
Stilt Sandpiper - 3
Long-billed Dowitcher - 3

The ones in bold were new for my Ontario list, and at one point I had all three in one scope view! There were also a ton of Great Blue Herons around fishing, and quite a few canada geese. Not much else around, so we dropped Tom off and headed down to Smithville, where we saw a Common Moorhen that had been breeding in the sewage lagoons. My fourth new bird of the day, and one I hadn't been expecting to see until next spring.

After reviewing my Ontario list, I found that I missed two birds on the list! Vesper Sparrow and Eastern Towhee were missing from several years ago. That means that I was actually at 262 before I came down here, which also means that I am now at 268 and have passed my Michigan list, with the Common Moorhen! One step closer to my goal of 300 by the end of university.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


It's been a while since I last posted, but I haven't really been birding since then. September 5 was move-in day here at Guelph, but I went to Hamilton for the morning to visit Chris Street and see what the birding is like there in fall. We had a decent few hours, with 60+ species including one new Ontario bird for me - Field Sparrow with several individuals. We missed out on shorebirds and jaegers, but had quite a few warblers and ducks, along with some birds I don't often see up in the Sault like Great Egret, House Sparrow, Trumpeter Swan, Carolina Wren and many, many Northern Cardinals. I got moved in after a good wait in the boiling sun, and made a ton of new friends almost right away. Since then it's been work, but not as much as I expected, and socializing - university life is definitely amazing. As I mentioned though, I haven't been birding, but I did add another Ontario (and Canada) bird - Blue-winged Warbler 8 feet away as we were heading for lunch!

I'll try and get out more sometime soon and take some pictures of these great Southern Ontario birds!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Another day at the Point

Jason and I headed over to WPBO yesterday for my last visit until maybe October. Ended up being a kind of slow day, but we did have a little bit of everything, which was nice. Jason's highlights were his lifer Whimbrel, Northern Goshawk as a year bird, and a nice juvenile Least Sandpiper around 4 feet away! In addition to those, we had a few shorebirds, nothing new for me, some warblers, and quite a few raptors including all 3 summer falcons and a darkish juvenile Broad-winged Hawk. Other than that, the strong northwest winds and sunny conditions didn't produce a whole lot - other than a jaeger species that may have made 3 passes (or maybe it was 3 different birds?). Either way, it was too far out in the distortion to ID.

Sanderling in the early morning light
juv. Least Sandpiper (this pic at about 8 feet or so)

Panorama shot from the Tip

HDR pic of the sunrise over the waterbird shack

Sunday, August 23, 2009

WPBO yesterday

Yesterday I took two new birders (Lynn and Betty) over to WPBO to see what was around. It was a great day for shorebirds, and a not-so-great day for landbirds due to the weather. A cold front overnight followed by strong north winds dropped a lot of shorebirds at the Point, we ended up with 9 species for the day being: Semipalmated Plover (10+), Piping Plover (1), Greater Yellowlegs (1), Whimbrel (2), Sanderling (30+), Semipalmated Sandpiper (20+), Least Sandpiper (15+), Baird's Sandpiper (10+), and Pectoral Sandpiper (1). 4 of those were new for my year list, putting me at 223. 90+ shorebirds is an amazing day in the Sault, and that doesn't include the flock of 50+ birds that took off before we could get an ID on them. There wasn't much else of note for the day, but the shorebirds and great company made it worth it.

Whimbrel looking for bugs

Piping Plover juvenile

2 Baird's and a Sanderling in flight

Whimbrel tracks in the sand

Juvenile Sanderling

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I took an idea from Neil, and started looking at some of the dragonflies that are around at my house, local parks, and at work. I went back through my photos and found a few pics, two of which I'm pretty sure I got the ID right on. I currently only have the beginner's guide to dragonflies and damselflies by the Stokes'.

Common Baskettail at the Locks

Eight-spotted Skimmer in BC
The other day, I biked down to Bellevue Park to see what dragon/damselflies I could find there, found a few, but the only one I could get an ID on was this Sedge Sprite, shown here with a meal.

At work there are a lot of dragonflies and damselflies around the water traps and grassy areas, so far I have been able to ID Common Whitetail, Eight-spotted Skimmer, Canada Darner, and Dot-tailed Whiteface. There are also many species of bluets, damsels, spreadwings, meadowhawks, and a few darners, skimmers, and spiketails that I have no idea on. I'll have to get myself a better field guide on these guys.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Well, my Photoshop has been refusing to work properly, so I've decided I'm going to wait until I get all my files uploaded onto my new laptop to try again on the HDR thing. In the meantime, I'm going to post some of the Photoshop techniques I've learned over the past few months. The first one is pretty simple, as Photoshop actually has a tool made just for it. In CS3, you can just click File - Automate - Photomerge, and then choose which files you want merged. If you choose Interactive Layout, you can play around with the positions afterwards. You can then crop and edit to your liking. Here are a few I've made so far. They're downsized a lot, so the quality might not be the greatest.

Okanagan Valley, BC - August 1, 2007

Whitewater Lake, MB - August 24, 2007
Tahquamenon Rivermouth, MI - May 6, 2007

Tahquamenon Rivermouth, MI - October 21, 2007

Saturday, August 1, 2009

One Month

As the title says, only one month and I will be heading off to university! I've gotten a few necessary things done, but still have a lot more to do... I'm hoping to get over to WPBO once or twice before I leave, as I'm missing a lot of shorebirds for the list along with a few other birds.

Some recent things:

A few weeks ago, went up in a small 4-seater plane with my neighbour. My brother is looking at going into aeronautics, and she is eager to spark his interest, and I got to go along! We flew up the Lake Superior shoreline to Pancake Bay and back, doing a few circles around the more interesting things along the way and photographing parts of the city. I got quite a few shots which I will have to post on here sometime.

Other than that, I've mostly been working. I only have 2 days off from now until the end of my summer job on August 28, and then a couple days to get ready for university. My 18th birthday was on July 25, I had a great day with the family and got quite a few sweet presents, and then had a party at my friend's camp that night.

Not much else to put into this post, I'll hopefully be putting a bunch of stuff up within the next few weeks - so you can look forward to birds, aerial photos, the start of my dragonflying and some interesting shots. For now, I'll leave you with my first attempt at an HDR (high dynamic range) photo, taken yesterday evening. Let me know what you think.

Bellevue Marina at sunset

Sunday, July 5, 2009

It's been a while

For those of you wondering, yes, I am still alive! Just haven't gotten around to posting anything on this for quite some time. I was pretty busy in June, what with prom, exams, graduation, and starting work again - I'm now working full time at the golf course. This spring turned out to be fairly decent, not quite as good as last spring for rarities, but if they showed up every year, they wouldn't be as exciting! Here are some highlights from the spring (since my last post).

Piping Plover at WPBO

May 10 - found a strange-looking Palm Warbler while bigbying, got some pics and reviewed them, turned out to be a Yellow Palm Warbler! A really rare bird in Ontario.

"Yellow" Palm Warbler

May 11 - went and saw the Pelican that was hanging out on the river - stayed from May 10-13.

May 13 - found a Northern Mockingbird down at Bellevue.

Northern Mockingbird

May 16 - went down to the Locks in a huge storm, turned out to be one of my better ideas this spring, had 81 species in a little over an hour, including 19 warbler sp. and my first-ever breeding male Scarlet Tanager for SSM - I've only seen them in fall before.

May 18 - did my Big Day for 2009 - ended with 148 species, smashing my last year's total of 135 and setting yet another record for Algoma District. Drove 343km and walked 21km for that total. Highlights were Boreal Owl (heard-only), Forster's Tern (my first here in several years), and BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (first record for Algoma!), as well as 2000+ Chimney Swifts going in to roost. Also ended with 21 warbler sp. The starting temp for the day was -4C, by the afternoon it was up to 18C.

Short-billed Dowitchers at the Locks

May 19 - got a tip on some Bonaparte's Gulls on the river (missed these on the Big Day), so went down, and counted 128 individuals! A good total for in town.

May 24 - went to WPBO and then cruised Chippewa Co. to fill some holes in the list. Highlights were Green Heron, Whimbrel, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Olive-sided Flycatcher. These last two were new for my SSM list. Another interesting sighting was a flock of 6 Chaffinches visiting the feeders - probably escaped birds so they don't count though.

Green Heron at WPBO

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Semipalmated Plovers
Gray CatbirdSpruce Grouse nest on FR 3344 in Chippewa

June 6-7 - started work and added Great Crested Flycatcher and Black-billed Cuckoo to the year list

June 14 - did a survey in Chippewa Co. for Kirtland's Warblers - didn't find any, but added Field Sparrow to my SSM list at one of the sites. Also added Vesper Sparrow and Common Nighthawk to the year list on the sites. Cruised around afterwards and added Connecticut Warbler and Great Egret to the year list.

June 25 - went out east of town for a couple hours and added Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Black Tern to the year list - also found a new colony of Black Terns, they seem to be doing very well this year. Had my high school Graduation this night as well! Only a few more months and I'm off to Guelph!

So, I'm at 219 sp. (up from 152) for the SSM yearlist (as well as ABA since I haven't gone anywhere this year), and 272 (up from 268) for the SSM life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I have done some birding lately, just haven't gotten around to posting anything. I biked down to Bellevue Park this morning to try and add some birds to my pitifully small Bigby list. Found 64 species, despite a late start (9:30), a lot of which were new for the Bigby, bringing me up to 109 for that. Also added 3 year birds (Black-throated Blue Warbler, Northern Parula, Cliff Swallow), bringing me to 156 for the year. Yesterday I led the Sault Naturalists walk at the Locks, finding 59 species, including a GREEN HERON (SSM bird #269) - a really rare bird for up here, and in town! Went to Bellevue afterwards with Ken and added some more species, bringing the morning list to 75. This bodes well for my big day next weekend! Last weekend I went to Whitefish Point, and added Piping Plover to the year list, another rare bird up here. Also had great looks at a Golden Eagle, and finished my regular hawks for the year with a Northern Goshawk. I'll post all the pics from these three outings later.

In the meantime, back to school work... I also got the new Birds of Peru - I'm hoping to be headed down there in December after exams for two weeks of amazing birding with a couple other youngish birders. If I end up going, I could easily see as many species as are on my ABA list right now - in only 14 days! Even if you aren't headed to the tropics, the book is great, and well worth the buy. It illustrates the 1800+ species found in Peru in full colour plates - this includes 230+ species of flycatcher and 130+ species of hummingbird! It'll take a while to memorize everything for sure.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Quiz 6

Ok, so I missed last week - didn't realize until a few days later. Anyway, here's the next quiz, and congrats to Brendan Fogarty for getting the last one right with Warbling Vireo and Green-tailed Towhee. I think someone else got it right, but I can't remember who - please post your answers in the comments so I don't forget!

I posted 3 shots to make up for missing last week - quizzes from now on will only be one or two pics.