Monday, December 31, 2012


Some of you may remember that way back at the beginning of the year I set myself the goal of entering at least one checklist into eBird every day this year. Even if that meant just looking out my window a few times while working on homework or walking from my house to the bus stop, I managed it! I also managed to not enter a single 'x' on a checklist. I actually ended up entering exactly 1000 checklists this year - just entered number 1000 from my yard here in the Sault not too long ago.

This whole idea of entering a checklist a day was mostly to get me out birding more, and since I didn't really leave the province this year (with the exception of a couple day trips to MI and QC), that extra birding effort netted me a fairly good Ontario year list! If you count the Plegadis sp. that Brett, Barb and I had at Hillman Marsh back in May, I finished the year with 304 species. 24 of these were also new for my Ontario lifelist, bringing me to 333 for the province. Funnily enough, at the start of the year I told myself I wasn't going to focus on a year list, and only chase birds that were new for Ontario or my local patch. I actually managed to do just that, looking back through my year list I did not go out of my way specifically to chase a single year bird! Of course, I did chase a fair number of rarities that were new for Ontario or my Long Point/Hamilton/Sault Ste. Marie lists, and went birding in some of the best locations in Ontario, so that helped.

Anyway, enough rambling about lists, here's the highlights:

A bit of local birding in the Sault didn't turn up as many goodies as last year although Long-tailed Duck and White-throated Sparrow were good January birds. Then it was back to school where I promptly added my first ON bird of the year with a Mountain Bluebird, making up for my miss in 2011! Since I was (sort of) in a 'Winter Birdfinding Competition', I did a fair bit of birding around Guelph, although I ended up far short of the record holder. A visit to Niagara at the end of the month added Black-headed Gull and Fish Crow to the ON list. 87 species for the year.

School, another Niagara adventure (Black Vulture), school and my first journey into new territory with a reading week trip to Kingston and Ottawa to visit my brother and add Barrow's Goldeneye and Gray Partridge for ON. Oh yeah, and that weird pigeon that showed up in Bracebridge (Band-tailed Pigeon). 103 on the year list.

School, two failed attempts to see the Smew at Long Point, and the beginnings of my yardbirding in Guelph (Peregrine Falcon, Snow Goose, American Woodcock, Purple Martin) were pretty much it for the month! 125 on the year list.

Most of the month was spent finishing projects and preparing for exams, while taking some breaks to hawkwatch from my roof (Northern Goshawk, Lapland Longspur)! Near the end of the month, I had a few days between ending school and starting work, and made a day trip down to Pelee which turned out to be a great idea when the Bell's Vireo turned up! The Yellow-throated Warbler in Rondeau afterward was also new for ON. Another surprise ON bird showed up in Hamilton in the form of a Western Grebe on April 24. After a failed twitch for a Say's Phoebe up in Carden Alvar it was off to Long Point to get settled in for another summer at BSC. 190 for the year.

Most of my work this month involved searching for Louisiana Waterthrushes, and since we didn't start work too early I spent most mornings birding and banding around Old Cut, seeing some cool birds like Golden-winged Warbler, Least Bittern, Cerulean Warbler, Connecticut Warbler (held) and Ontario's first Black Tern of 2012. Of course, searching for LOWA's had some rewards too with finding Worm-eating Warbler and Fish Crow as well as getting to thoroughly explore most of the woodlots in Norfolk County. I also made a couple birding trips, with a weekend at Pelee and a Snowy Egret twitch in Dunnville. Near the end of the month my daily visits to the sewage lagoon paid off with Piping Plover and Western Sandpiper. 261 for the year.

Kind of a slow month for new birds, I spent the majority of the month working on Bank Swallow stuff, with a few weekends up in Guelph to visit friends and explore Wellington County during the breeding season, finding some good stuff like Orchard Oriole and Yellow-throated Vireo. Then there was my mini Big Day by bike (since I didn't do an official Big Day this year) which was actually the first of two such journeys I did over the summer. The other big news was the Dickcissel invasion which gave me my first Dickcissel for ON - also got to hold one! At the end of the month I headed up to Sudbury to spend Canada Day with my family. 266 for the year.

Work, my 21st birthday, visiting friends, heading home for my mom's birthday, visiting more new territory (Luther Marsh), another long bike adventure around Norfolk County and a Red-necked Phalarope near Guelph kept me busy for the month! 275 for the year.

It was around the start of August that I realized I was within striking distance of 300 for the year without having tried for it, so I used Josh's excel sheet to figure out what I still needed for the year. I then decided that Nelson's Sparrow would be my 300th bird for the year (since it was my 300th bird for ON the year previous) - although my rule about not twitching year birds made sure it was my 295th later on... The definite highlight of the month was a King Rail that hung out at BSC for a few days, giving me my first lifer of the year! Then work was done and I headed out to the Tip and then Breakwater field stations for 2 awesome weeks of banding, birding and sitting on the beach. The surprise Thick-billed Kingbird at the end of the month for my 400th Canada bird was the other highlight. Then it was back home for a bit before the start of my last year of my undergrad! 281 for the year.

Buff-breasted Sandpipers, back to school, Red Knot in Hamilton, days at Van Wagner's beach and shorebirding, banding in Cambridge and spending a fair amount of time listening to nocturnal migration sum up the month pretty well! 289 for the year.

Thanksgiving at home turned up a fair number of good birds for the area (Red Phalarope - lifer!), then it was back to school, a relatively unproductive day at Long Point, some birding around Guelph, more nocturnal listening on the roof, and finally the biggest news of the year with Hurricane Sandy dropping all kinds of weird birds in Ontario (Leach's and Wilson's Storm-Petrel)! Also my first Purple Sandpipers in 8 years. Playing soccer and ultimate frisbee were also pretty fun! 299 for the year.

The month started off reasonably well with my lifer Arctic Tern and a Western Tanager on the Hamilton Fall count, and then nothing really happened after that! I did a bit of birding around Guelph near the beginning of the month but then gave up after that and basically resigned myself to school and lounging around the house when I wasn't playing sports or running. 301 for the year.

Winter birding around Guelph and Hamilton, finishing another semester, a failed twitch for a Northern Hawk Owl (now my biggest Ontario nemesis!), a few days in Kingston with my brother, and home for the holidays for some relaxation and preparation for my last semester! 303 for the year (excluding Plegadis sp.).

Overall it was a great year, getting to see more of the province, meeting a LOT of new people, seeing some cool birds, having another awesome summer at Long Point, and even getting home once in a while to spend time with family. It was also nice to get out birding a lot more than usual, and as a few people can testify (cough, Doug and Barb), spend some time doing competitive patch birding (248 species in the Hamilton area, 240 in the Long Point area, 232 in Wellington County and 227 in Algoma District)!

I'd also like to congratulate Josh Vandermeulen on setting a new Ontario Big Year record at 344 - don't think I'll be touching that one anytime soon!

So, what does 2013 bring? I guess we'll have to wait and see on that one but I am hoping to spend more time on my photography and less time 'year-birding', add some new Ontario birds, graduate university and hopefully get out of Ontario for a bit!

Happy New Year everyone and I hope to see you in the field in 2013!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winter Shorebirding

Back on December 2 I joined a group of hardy birders on the annual "Purple Palooza" up at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, hosted by Doug McRae. The goal of the trip is mainly to find Purple Sandpipers, which we had success with - along with the bonus of three other shorebird species! Not something that happens often in the winter in Ontario! Due to the fairly bad weather conditions (windy, cold and rainy), about 95% of my shots turned out horrible, but here's a few that worked out decently:

My first time ever photographing a Purple Sandpiper - prior to this year I had only seen one, back in 2004 in Michigan...saw 6 in a little over a month this year!

 The Purple was keeping company with a White-rumped Sandpiper and a Dunlin - none of my Dunlin shots turned out but here's the White-rump

We originally saw just the three, but when we rounded a corner a Sanderling had appeared with the group!
All four of them together

Little bit sharper (and zoomed out)

The Purple again 

Despite the crappy weather it turned out to be a fun day with great company, and it was worth the trip up for the Purple photos and the awesome brunch afterwards - thanks Doug!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

And Another

I'll be writing a 2012 post in the next day or two, in the meantime I thought I'd keep the owl theme going. Here's a Long-eared Owl from the same day (and place) as the Barred.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Almost there...

I write my last exam of the semester tomorrow! Hooray! Then it's a busy weekend as I go birding and pack up to head home for the holidays. I'll eventually get around to doing a real post.

In the meantime, here is a photo of a Barred Owl (from a few days ago) for your enjoyment.