Sunday, September 25, 2011


Well, since I never did post an update on how my summer went/what I did, here goes.

I finished up my second year at Guelph in late April and headed back to the Sault where I managed to get out birding 22 of the 29 days I was home...pretty impressive! I spent a lot of time biking the new Hub Trail (a 24-km circuit around the city) which happens to connect up with almost all the good birding locations in town. I also managed to spend a bit of time hawkwatching from my roof, hoping for more rarities (no luck on that but did add 20 species to the yard list!). My annual Big Day was done on May 21, and I actually managed to stay awake the whole day despite only getting 3 hours of sleep the night before. I ended up with a total of 146 species for the day, just 2 short of my record.

I also managed to get a few good birds whilst at home - I found a Field Sparrow and a Western Meadowlark and went to see Eared Grebe and a nice male Golden-winged Warbler, all of which were new for my Algoma list. Of course, not all my time at home was spent birding but I definitely made up for a fairly birdless semester!

At the end of May I packed my bags once again and headed south to start my job as a Research Technician for Bird Studies Canada, working on the Species at Risk project - mainly on Bank Swallows. I lived at the Old Cut station of Long Point Bird Observatory with other staff and volunteers, and it turned out to be a great time! I met a lot of cool people and even got to band some birds after a bit of training.

In early June a Willow Ptarmigan turned up over at the Darlington Nuclear Plant, and with Brett driving a few of us went up to see it (along with 150 other birders who'd also made the trip!). It was a pretty cool bird, fairly tame and almost in full summer plumage, and a lifer for me! The only thing was we had to be bussed out to the site, escorted by armed guards as the nuclear plant is a highly protected area. This turned out to be the first one in the area since 1897, and the first in Southern Ontario for 40-50 years!

Willow Ptarmigan in Darlington

The rest of my summer was spent working, mostly in the field but with some days spent in the office. We did a lot of boat trips to survey for swallow colonies along Lake Erie, boating from Point Pelee all the way up to Rock Point on various days when the weather was nice. We also did a few canoe trips, canoeing the Grand River from Cambridge - Paris and 17km of Big Otter Creek along with some in Lake Erie itself. On days where there wasn't much to do we helped out on other SAR projects, mostly with Hooded Warblers but also on Acadian Flycatchers, Least Bitterns, Chimney Swifts and Louisiana Waterthrushes. I spent most of my weekends in Guelph, but also went up to Sudbury to celebrate various birthdays including my own (20th!) and up to my girlfriend's cottage near Algonquin Park for the August long weekend. I also added my 297th Ontario bird in July, a singing male Prairie Warbler near Flamborough on a Monday morning before work!

Once banding started up again in late August I spent most mornings at the station before work, and decided to stay on my last weekend to band. Some highlights of the 45 species I banded were Eastern Whip-poor-will, American Woodcock, Black-billed Cuckoo (first banded bird for me!) and Belted Kingfisher along with 13 species of warblers (and some Bank Swallows, of course!).

Since I have far too many photos to post on here, check out my Facebook album at!

Monday, September 19, 2011


...definitely make good photo subjects when you're bored! They are usually quite tame (especially the juveniles) and if you sit still they can approach to within arm's reach. This was the case when I headed over to Whitefish Point back on August 31 with my mom during my short week at home before school started. I was hoping for a decent birding/photography day and to see my old friend Scott Schuette who is once again the waterbird counter - see his blog at! (link in the sidebar as well). It turned out that he was on his day off and so wasn't around, but it was a pretty good day nonetheless. In terms of waterbirds the day was pretty crappy, with only a few loons, grebes and mergansers in that department. Early in the morning there was a flock of ~90 shorebirds on the point, including Piping Plover, Baird's Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone along with a few more common species. Since the lighting was terrible and there wasn't anything else around, we decided to walk around the woods where we had a decent diversity of songbirds including about 30 Blackpoll Warblers!

Once the light got a bit better we headed back out to the tip but it turned out a Merlin had come and scared off all the shorebirds (except for the Sanderlings). Since there wasn't a whole lot else to do, I took the opportunity to get a few shots of these cool little birds. They're down at the end!

As the point wasn't too rocking, we left and spent a while looking (unsuccessfully, as usual) for Spruce Grouse. Since we still had quite a bit of time we explored the area just south of the Tahquamenon Rivermouth, which turned out to be a good idea other than the swarms of mosquitos which were still present. We stumbled into a nice little mixed flock which had about 10 species of warblers along with Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglets and a few Red-eyed Vireos. We also managed to find Lone Pine Rd, usually a good shorebird spot but the water was much too high so there was nothing there. Our warbler tally for the day ended up at 16 species, not too shabby for a short morning of birding!

 Sanderlings, WPBO - note most of these are uncropped!
and the ones that are have minimal cropping

I was so disappointed that the wingtip got cut off in this one...I think it still works though

One last closeup (not cropped!)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Some stuff

Well, I'm determined to get more posts on here than last year, even if they are somewhat spread out! I'll start with the most recent and work my way backward through the summer.

I got back to Guelph to start my third year on September 4th, and managed to get over to Hamilton 3 times in the following week before classes and work started piling up. This turned out to be a good decision on my part as I added 3 new birds to my Ontario list, being White-rumped Sandpiper, Parasitic Jaeger and Long-tailed Jaeger (in that order). I was hoping to score a phalarope as well to make one of the jaegers my 300th Ontario bird but that was not to be and I'm currently sitting at 299.

In addition to these I also managed to see a fair number and variety of shorebirds and catch up with Josh and Brett (from the California trip that was my last post!) whom I hadn't seen for a while. Among the 16 species, covering pretty much all the regulars, were Stilt Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope and the aforementioned White-rumped.

I've also managed to close in on some goals I've set recently that should be easy to achieve - being 250 species for the year in Ontario (currently at 248) and 400 for the year in the ABA (currently at 395). Still some easy ones to go!

I'll leave you for now with some (distant) shots. More to come in the near future.

Least and White-rumped Sandpipers with a Semipalmated Plover

Parasitic Jaegers, Van Wagner's Beach (Hamilton)