Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More Migration!

Well, if you're a birder, you have to love the month of May. All the birds coming back through on their way north, as well as a few rarities here and there make it the most birdy month of the year. Since I have most of the month off, I've been out birding as much as possible! Since my last post, I have added 23 birds to the year list, and should add many more before I head off to work. Some highlights:

May 5 I went to WPBO and birded the whole day with Jason Bojczyk. On the way over, I found 9 Willets at the Tahquamenon Rivermouth, which we went back for later in the day so Jason could get them as a lifer! The point was fairly productive, with my year Red-throated Loon, White-winged Scoter, Lincoln's Sparrow and a few others. A little after noon we decided to head out and bird some other areas. At the WPBO staff house we got the Lark Sparrow that had been hanging out since the previous day, and we found a nice male Spruce Grouse on Vermillion Rd. that allowed close approach. Out at Vermillion Beach, Jason spotted a Northern Mockingbird that wasn't very cooperative. We also found quite a few shorebirds, mostly Yellowlegs but with one Least Sandpiper. After that and the rivermouth, it was pretty late in the day so I had to head home. I finished the day with 90 species - fairly good for this early in the season!

After that, I biked around town once or twice, once to chase a Summer Tanager and once just to see what was around. Didn't end up seeing the Tanager, and didn't find anything else of interest really - the arrival of Common Terns was the highlight.

May 8 I went down to the locks in the middle of a snowstorm, and had 6 species of warbler along with several other birds that I think should be added to the winter list (there was snow on the ground!). Not as many shorebirds as I'd hoped for, but did have the first Spotted Sandpipers for the area this year. After that, I headed to Bellevue and met up with Ken, where there were 9 Lesser Yellowlegs and a Solitary Sandpiper on one of the mudflats, not much else of note. After that, we went on the Sault Naturalists hike to the Desbarats bat cave, and birded out east of town after. Highlights of the trip were an extremely early Great Crested Flycatcher, some lingering Tundra Swans that I added to the yearlist, 20 species of waterfowl including a Ruddy Duck that Ken found, and a Long-billed Dowitcher that I found at the Bruce Mines lagoons. It was pretty skittish, but allowed good scope views and was heard calling. There are only two records from the Sault area that I know of, both at WPBO, however this species should be close to annual - who knows.

Yesterday I got an email about some Pelicans down on the river, so naturally I hopped on the bike and spent a couple hours birding the Locks. The local Wood Duck was still there, along with 8 species of warblers and the two American White Pelicans that Bob found.

So, my year list currently stands at 210 species, and my bigby list is somewhere around 80-85. Lots of work yet to do... Pictures to come soon.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Migration is well under way here in the Sault, and so far about 10 of the 25 regular warblers have been reported, although not in any sort of numbers yet. White-throated Sparrows had a major push the other day, with around 600 birds down at the Locks. Other passerines are slowly moving in, and the south winds the last few days have helped quite a bit. I'll hopefully be out birding quite a bit in the next two and a half weeks before I head off to Southern Ontario to do bird censusing plots.

With the warm weather and strong south winds yesterday there was a massive movement of Hawks across the U.P., and I got an email from Skye Haas partway through the day that said he'd had a Swainson's Hawk fly over his house, along with a ton of Broad-wings and other hawks. I decided it'd be a good idea to do some hawkwatching of my own, so I went and sat out on the back deck with my binocs. I looked up to the sky, and....HOLY *$#& AN ANHINGA!!!!!! was my only thought as I raced to grab my camera. My brother's only comment was "Rare bird?" Rare bird indeed. It didn't stick around for any pics, but I'd had a good look through the binoculars as it went by about 500 feet overhead. I immediately called around and sent a few emails, along with making a sketch of the bird with field marks. Ken and Kirk went down to scan the waterfront for it on the slim chance that it may have turned around. Kirk eventually gave up and spent a while photographing Herman, an extremely tame Wood Duck that has taken a Mallard as its mate and set up shop at the Locks. He then went to look for the Harlequin Duck that's been hanging around, and amazingly had the Anhinga fly back across the river into the States! This would represent the second Michigan record if accepted. As for the Canadian side, I'm not sure, but Ontario is the only province with Anhinga on its list, so this may have been only the third or fourth record for Canada! I will post an update if I find anything out regarding the record status. Oh, and I submitted the record, as did Kirk, for anyone who was wondering.

Ken, Bob and I spent the morning this morning scanning up and down the river without any luck to see if the Anhinga stuck around. There are so many wetlands in this area that if it did stick around, it'd be pretty hard to find.

Other than that, I added a couple year birds with Black-and-White Warbler and Brewer's Blackbird out at the airport. My two-day hawkwatching tally stands at 39 Broad-wings, 4 Sharp-shinneds, and a Merlin. And an Anhinga. Which was new for the Sault checklist. In my backyard. Woot.

It's always nice finding rare birds!

Point Pelee

As I mentioned in the previous post, my dad took me down to Pelee for the April 24/25 weekend. Despite crappy weather (rain, wind, cold) both days, we managed to find 100 species in the day and a half that we were there, with 77 on April 24 and 85 on April 25 (the half day). 53 of these were year birds for me, showing you how much I've been out this spring. The definite highlight was my lifer Louisiana Waterthrush that provided decent looks at the Tip before disappearing. We also had a Northern Waterthrush along with Black-throated Green, Nashville, Palm, and Myrtle Warblers. Other highlights were some southern birds that we don't get very often up here such as Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Carolina Wren, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Purple Martin, Forster's Tern and Ruddy Duck. Some shorebirds were nice to see, with 28 Pectoral Sandpipers and 24 Dunlin at Hillman Marsh along with a few Yellowlegs and Spotted Sandpipers. Other than that, there wasn't much going on (although things have picked up a lot in the last week there!). On the drive back to the Sault, I added 5 more year birds, being Broad-winged, Red-shouldered, and Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, and Pine Siskin.

Red-winged Blackbird at the Marsh Boardwalk

Forster's Tern at Hillman
Pectoral Sandpipers at Hillman

Common Tern at the Tip

Bonaparte's Gulls at the Tip

Field Sparrow at the Tip
Hermit Thrush

Downy Woodpecker

Chipping Sparrow at the Tip

Some Stuff

Alright, so it's been too long since my last real post, and I have some things to tell you.

First of all, I successfully finished first-year physics, with a fairly decent average no less! It was a fun year, but I'm definitely looking forward to getting out of residence and living in a house next year. Secondly, I bought a Nikon D2Xs off Kirk, and got the 70-300VR lens to go with it, and have already gotten some great results. Still have a lot of experimenting to do though. Thirdly, my dad took me down to Point Pelee for April 24/25 as we had the weekend to kill between my last exam and his meetings on Monday in Guelph. Fourthly (is that a word?), I am back in the Sault, catching up with friends, playing with my new camera, and getting a whole year's worth of birding done, all while trying to catch up on sleep.

Couple more posts to go, stay tuned.