Friday, September 28, 2012

Jaegerfest at VWB on Day 3

Yesterday, Reuven and I went down to Van Wagner's Beach, hoping the NE winds would turn up something good. The radar was lit up like a lightbulb the night before, so our first stop was at Woodland Cemetery where there were a good number of late fall migrants around - Golden-crowned Kinglets, White-crowned Sparrows, Myrtle Warblers, Pine Siskins, etc. After a quick stop at Windermere (Dunlin, Pectoral Sandpiper, Green Heron) we were at the beach and were greeted wind. However, a Franklin's Gull flying away in the distance provided disappointing views but a new year bird. After about an hour of standing around not seeing anything (other than 2 Surf Scoters), we took a walk down the shoreline, searching the sparrow flocks for something rare. Once in a while we stopped to scan the lake and managed to pick up a Pomarine Jaeger that apparently the others missed. Then it was back to the beach for the remainder of the afternoon, where the crowd slowly grew and as the wind picked up, so did the birds! Through the afternoon we had 2 juvenile Pomarine Jaegers, 2 juvenile Long-tailed Jaegers, and a variety of ages and morphs of Parasitic Jaegers, mainly buzzing the zodiac where Brandon and Barb were 'chumming' - thanks guys! The other highlight was getting amazing views of 2 juvenile Sabine's Gulls, one of which flew low over our heads before continuing inland! Thanks to Barb for letting me use her awesome scope for the afternoon - was a considerable help! Three year birds were nice to get, leaving me at 289 for the year - well within striking distance of 300!

On another note, school has picked up (can you tell by the lack of posts here?) so my birding time will be limited... However, Brandon Holden (blog on sidebar) has created a challenge for the fall season (Sept 24-Nov 14, although this may be extended?), called 50 days of rare in which whoever finds the rarest bird wins bragging rights and perhaps some alcoholic beverages. Of course, I couldn't turn down that offer! So far I am nowhere close to the lead, with my rarest 'found' bird being one of the Long-tailed Jaegers yesterday that I followed from waaaaayyy out on the lake until it came close enough to ID. Of course, I am at a bit of a disadvantage given that I'm stuck in school or doing school-related stuff most of the time, but I haven't found any mega-rarities yet this year so I think I am due for one!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Home and stuff

Ok, after this post I think I will be all caught up for the summer! I'm now back at school and birding time is limited (and is going to be for a while...) but hopefully I will still make it out!

As mentioned previously, on August 29 I left Long Point after an awesome 4 months, headed up to Presqu'ile for the Kingbird, then zoomed to Sudbury for the night. After a relaxing day there it was back home to the Sault for a few days of birding and visiting and whatnot.

Determined to find some new birds for the Sault, I was out at Gros Cap on the morning of the 31st, where I was greeted by strong NW winds and a fair number of birds including 264 Red-necked Grebes, a Parasitic Jaeger and a Red Crossbill - all new for the year and PAJA was new for Algoma. There was also a pretty good assortment of ducks including a White-winged Scoter and a good number of loons! The next morning I was back at it but with NE winds it was not so great for waterbirds with only a smattering of loons and grebes, and very few ducks! Passerines were on the move, however, with quite a few mixed flocks of warblers going through.

September 2 was my second-ever visit to Goertimus Island, an amazing shorebird spot that was basically unknown until last year. It did not disappoint, with 10 species of shorebirds (highlights: Whimbrel and 7 Buff-breasted Sandpipers), and what was likely a young Yellow Rail ticking in the extensive sedges. They probably breed here but were not confirmed this year. The next day I was back at it with Kirk, and we turned up 11 species of shorebirds (different composition to the day before though, making 13 species total), the definite highlight being a grand total of 16(!) Buff-breasted Sandpipers! Although the total number of shorebirds was much lower than usual, any day with 16 BBSA's is a good one in my books.

September 4 promised a wind change and rainstorm overnight, so down to Whitefish Island I went in the morning, and was far from disappointed. In the few hours I was there I racked up 80 species including Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Olive-sided Flycatcher, American Golden-Plover and the best, a Carolina Wren! I also had 20 species of warblers which is always nice. The next morning saw me back for a quick walk which didn't yield much different from the day before besides a Red Crossbill, my 200th species for the island.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper on Goertimus Island - 1 of 7 that day

My first decent shot of a Pectoral Sandpiper

The two of them in flight

One of 23 Baird's Sandpipers - wish I'd put more effort into these guys

The next day, Kirk on the flats - the whole west side of the island looks like this

Ruddy Turnstone, my first for Algoma

4 of 16 Buff-breasted Sandpipers

Mixed flock of shorebirds, mostly Leasts but 1 Semi Plover, 1 SemiSand and 1 BB Sand

Least Sandpipers

Semipalmated Sandpipers

Buffies in flight - one has a feather stuck to its foot

Interesting dark toad that I found

Yellow-billed Cuckoo at the Locks - a fairly rare bird in Algoma

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Summer 2012 in photos

This is going to be a long one! I finally made it through my 3000+ photos from the summer, these are pretty much the highlights (or the ones that tell parts of the story the best anyway!).

At the end of April, I made a trip up to the Carden Alvar with Josh and Barb to look for a Say's Phoebe with no luck, but did add some year birds!

Vesper Sparrow

Short-eared Owl

Upland Sandpiper

On April 28 I headed down to Long Point to start what would end up being 4 months at this amazing place! During that time I was mostly working but also managed to get in a fair amount of birding and banding.


Leucistic White-throated Sparrow with a white head!

Scarlet Tanager

Black-and-White Warbler

Hooded Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

My first-banded Great Crested Flycatcher!

Common Yellowthroat

White-eyed Vireo

The view from the dyke at Old Cut

My first good looks at Prairie Warbler in Ontario

Eastern Whip-poor-will banded by Avery

I spent quite a bit of time on Hastings Drive, hoping for rare shorebirds/gulls/terns, and in doing so got a few interesting shots of Forster's Terns!

Eastern Kingbird

Clay-colored Sparrow pretending to be a Brown Creeper

Warbling Vireo

In mid-May I made a weekend trip down to Point Pelee where there wasn't much around in terms of rarities but I had a good time nonetheless with Josh, Brett and Barb (and the many other people I met)!

Prothonotary Warbler

We spent a bit of time in the afternoon looking for Five-lined Skinks with a fair bit of luck

Red-tailed Hawk

Bonaparte's Gulls off the Tip

Orchard Orioles were everywhere!

A friendly Black-billed Cuckoo came to check us out

It was quickly followed by this Rose-breasted Grosbeak

My FOY Eastern Screech-Owl, a nice red morph

 I couldn't resist a sunset shot of the windmills on the way back to Long Point

On May 19 we banded 145 birds between 2 people! 

Blackpoll Warbler

Eastern Wood-Pewee

We caught a fair number of Gray-cheeked Thrushes

And a lot of Swainson's Thrushes for nice comparison

Good example of a second-year bird! Rose-breasted Grosbeak

This Yellow-breasted Chat was one of the late-spring highlights

On May 21 Barb, Tyler Hoar and I went for a jaunt around the north shore of Lake Erie, picking up this Snowy Egret in Dunnville, but missing the reported Laughing Gull

One of my daily stops on Hastings Drive yielded these 4 Whimbrel!

Connecticut Warblers are fairly rare in spring at Long Point, this day saw 3 at Old Cut! (1 banded)

Mourning Warbler

Blackburnian Warblers are definitely one of my favourites

A radio-tagged bat that was found roosting during the day - this one is a Silver-haired

My main work this summer involved putting radio transmitters on Bank Swallows and then tracking their daily movements (foraging and roosting) - this is a freshly tagged adult ready for release - you can see the antenna if you look closely!

One of our study sites - note the capture devices in some of the burrows (cardboard tube with a bag on the end) - the swallows eventually crawl out of the burrows and fall into the bags, where we immediately transfer them to a cloth bag before banding, tagging, and releasing unharmed

One of our radio towers, detects the movements of the swallows

Adult Bank Swallow receiving a transmitter

Release! The transmitter and band are both visible in this photo

In late May a few Little Gulls appeared on Hastings, so naturally I decided to wade out to their sandbar for some photos - these 2 appeared to be a male/female pair in courtship (although they are both non-breeding second-year birds) - I'm guessing that the male is on the right in this photo

They are quite easy to pick out in flight!

More courtship behaviour? Any thoughts?

The (presumed) female was quite tame and allowed me to belly-crawl right up to her



Only to land a few feet away

The (male) immediately came to check out what was going on

They then sat there for a few minutes, allowing for a lot of pics

Eventually they'd had enough, and flew a little ways off at which point I decided to leave them alone!

Weird-looking gull - just a bleached Herring?

I spent a little bit of time doing macro photography (still without a macro lens), and liked how this one turned out (note the grains of sand)

One of the final days of banding for the spring - Northern Flicker

I took my camera out with me a few times to the Bank Swallow colonies, and on this day decided to get some in-burrow shots! This is a female brooding either young or eggs

Baby Bank Swallows!

These ones are slightly older

This is what the eggs look like, these ones were abandoned due to a bank collapse. Most of the burrows are 40-70cm deep, making photos difficult - these photos were all taken in burrows under 30cm!

Myles and I found a few Dickcissels over the summer, and managed to catch and band one male

I made a few weekend trips up to Guelph over the summer to add stuff to my Wellington list and do laundry - this Indigo Bunting was fairly cooperative (although he's only a second-year bird so not as nice-looking as the adults!)

Myles and Carolyn doing some exciting radio-tracking point surveys

We banded some Northern Mockingbird chicks one day

I caught this baby Killdeer and banded it - isn't it cute?

Mid-June turned up a Lesser Black-backed Gull on Hastings - not quite the Laughing I was hoping for

More Bank Swallows! This is how we do nest monitoring

While trying for some flight shots, I managed to photograph one of our transmitter birds! 

This turned out to be my best one - manual focus!

We put some transmitters on juvenile Bank Swallows later in the season

Note the rusty edging to the feathers which tells them apart from adults quite easily when fresh

One of the many Dickcissels that were around this summer

In mid-July I went up to the Sault for my mom's birthday and managed to get some birding in - ended up with 130 species one day and 140 total for the weekend!

Sandhill Crane

This herd of captive-bred Buffalo provided a good photo-op

Early August marked the beginning of banding season with a morning in Cambridge with Brett, where this Northern Waterthrush was my first banded bird since the spring!


Some flies on the deck in Guelph provided me with another macro opportunity

August 14 was my last day of work, and I spent the morning of August 15 at Old Cut getting lessons on fall aging/sexing!

Nice comparison of Least (left) and Yellow-bellied (right) Flycatchers - front

And back

That afternoon I headed out to the Tip to begin my (awesome) 2 weeks of banding and birding adventures (and being cut off from civilization, internet, tv, etc)

A few young Eastern Wood-Pewees hung out by the block building every day

Young and old Bonaparte's Gulls hung out at the Tip

It was nice to see sunrise and sunset every day, this one was kind of weird though! If you look carefully you can see a sunspot in the yellow area! (not a speck of dust, this is in all my pics!)

Old male Blackburnian Warbler - looking a little different from the spring one above!

Warbling Vireo

The lighthouse at the Tip was one of my favourite subjects in the 4 days I was there, I even sacrificed a few hours of sleep to get some nocturnal photos

August 17 was a great day, with this young female Prairie Warbler that I extracted being a definite highlight!

Adult male Cape May Warbler - I think fall warblers are just as nice as spring ones!

Least Sandpiper getting sandblasted

One of the other highlights from the 17th was this 2nd-cycle California Gull that I found in the morning while doing a lakewatch - James and I went back in the afternoon for better photos and had considerable luck! This is the 7th record for Long Point and the first one in August

Red-breasted Nuthatches are irrupting into Southern Ontario this year!

I saw Great Egrets pretty much every day!

The sunrise on my last morning at the Tip was pretty incredible!

Juvie Chipping Sparrows are kind of strange-looking

On August 19 I was transferred to Breakwater to run the station for 9 days, after getting nets set up in the afternoon this Orchard Oriole was the first bird banded for the fall at Breakwater! (and a banding tick for me)

Tennessee Warbler

My first-banded Bay-breasted Warbler

The view from the deck at Breakwater

Breakwater from the beach

Nice male Blue-winged Warbler

We befriended this baby Deer Mouse(?) and named him Stu

Our first Blackpoll Warbler of the fall - also quite different-looking compared to spring

Up close and personal with an Ovenbird

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have a painful bite - this one was a wimp though

Red-eyed Vireos are also surprisingly good biters!

Wilson's Warblers are nice and calm though

One day we had many warblers flying overhead, I managed to get only one decent shot though! This is a Cape May Warbler

I saw 3 Olive-sided Flycatchers during my time at Breakwater - only this one posed for photos though

This young Bald Eagle came to see me off!

On August 28 I headed back to Old Cut, and on the 29th I was in charge of running the place! We had a good morning for banding, with decent diversity and lots of warblers! Afterwards I hurriedly packed up and hopped in the truck, dropped a lot of my stuff off (including the truck) in Guelph, and carpooled with my mom up to the Sault via Sudbury and a detour to Presqu'ile to see the Thick-billed Kingbird!

My best shot with the 300mm - not quite as good as the cell phone/scope combo posted before!

I've been out birding every day I've been home, but that will have to wait for another post - I am headed back to Guelph tomorrow to start school on Thursday so it may have to wait till the weekend! We'll see...