Sunday, 30 December 2012

Western Tanager and Barred Owl

The long staying Western Tanager in Oshawa was a bird that I just had to go and see. Not only would it be a new Ontario bird for me, but it seemed like a fairly reliable bird to go and "twitch" since it was being seen daily. My only issue was that I didn't really want to drive all the way to Oshawa just for the tanager and a few other good birds. Luckily, an old teaching friend from Taiwan was in Toronto for the day, invited me up for a visit, and presto, more than enough reason to go and see the tanager. In reality, the tanager was enough reason to go and I would have went anyway sooner or later. I got killer looks at the tanager after waiting only about 5 minutes. Tick. It fed heavily on the buckthorn berries almost the entire time I watched it.

A Barred Owl at Hall's Rd in Whitby was also a very cooperative photo subject.  Also, the two Harlequin Ducks off Whitby were still present at the mouth of Lynde Creek (distant).

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Experience Nature blog

Another Ontario birder has started a birding blog - this one by my friend and fellow Guelph Gryphon Jenn Sinasac. This blog is distinctly tropical with posts from her recent adventures in Honduras and Ecuador. While it's fun to see what crazy birds there are in the tropics, it also leaves the reader extremely envious and with the case of itchy feet.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Woodhouse CBC

For people that aren't familiar with the Woodhouse CBC, it is located in Norfolk County and includes Simcoe, Townsend, Waterford and Port Dover. My area doesn't include any water so we don't really rack up species but we usually find a few goodies. Highlights for our area were Pileated Woodpecker, 80 American Pipits, and Northern Shrike.

I didn't stay for the entire wrap-up but the count usually ends up in the mid 70's to low 80's depending on the year.

Sounds like the best bird for the count was a probable Varied Thrush found near Port Dover with a flock of robins. Several people, including myself, will be looking for this bird tomorrow so I'll post to ontbirds if it's relocated.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Long Point CBC results

I'll keep this brief as I'm exhausted and have another count to do tomorrow. Preliminary results from the Long Point CBC are in.

Some highlights (my point of view of course since some are common on other counts) and I'll no doubt forget some. I won't include numbers since I don't know totals for some. Many are just singles. No particular order:

Horned Grebe
Greater White-fronted Goose
Cackling Goose
Turkey Vulture
Golden Eagle
Black-legged Kittiwake
Double-crested Cormorant
Snowy Owl
Brewer's Blackbird
Eastern Phoebe
American Woodcock
Wood Duck
Trumpeter Swan
Common Yellowthroat
All finches but Pine Grosbeak and Hoary Redpoll

No megas or crazy warblers. No sign of my Cape May Warbler since Wednesday despite multiple people looking.

Species Total: 112

Saturday, 8 December 2012

E. Wood-pewee and Wood Thrush - listed by COSEWIC

I haven't made any posts in a while so I thought I'd do a quick PSA for those of you that don't follow changes to Canada's endangered species list made by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada). The addition of Wood Thrush and Eastern Wood-pewee are probably of most interest to people reading this blog, but I've also included any changes to species applicable to Ontario. Please go to for more information.


Wood Thrush - Threatened

In Canada, this forest-nesting species has shown significant long and short-term declines in population abundance. The species is threatened by habitat loss on its wintering grounds and habitat fragmentation and degradation on its breeding grounds. It also suffers from high rates of nest predation and cowbird parasitism associated with habitat fragmentation on the breeding grounds.

Eastern Wood-pewee - Special Concern

Reason for Designation: This species is one of the most common and widespread songbirds associated with North America’s eastern forests. While the species is apparently resilient to many kinds of habitat changes, like most other long-distance migrants that specialize on a diet of flying insects, it has experienced persistent declines over the past 40 years both in Canada and the United States. The 10-year rate of decline (25%) comes close to satisfying the criteria for Threatened. The causes of the decline are not understood, but might be linked to habitat loss or degradation on its wintering grounds in South America or changes in availability of insect prey. If the population declines continue to persist, the species may become Threatened in the foreseeable future.


Massassauga got split into two different populations with the Carolinian population being listed as Endangered and the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence population being listed as Threatened.

Eastern Musk Turtle got downgraded from Threatened to Special Concern.

Northern Map Turtle and Eastern Ribbonsnake got reviewed and remained unchanged at Special Concern.

Eastern Tiger Salamander got listed as Extirpated.


American Badger got split into two populations with the jacksoni subspecies (southern Ontario) getting listed as Endangered and the taxus subspecies found in the prairies being Special Concern.


Riverine Clubtail: Endangered (Great Lakes Plains population)
Mottled Duskywing: Endangered (Great Lakes Plains population)

Crooked-stem Aster - downgraded from Threatened to Special Concern

Posts without photos are boring, so here is a delicious bluebird cookie that I got to devour as I wrote this. Today was the CBC for kids down at Bird Studies Canada and a parent of some of the participants brought a whole box of these! They were delicious! Oh, and the birding today was lots of fun. A couple highlights for our group were Double-crested Cormorant, Horned Grebe, and Northern Goshawk.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Tip of Long Point during Sandy

I ventured out to the Tip of Long Point on October 27th to observe birds and help out with banding duties out there - but mainly to look for rarities during superstorm Sandy. Bad weather kept me out there longer than planned but I'm not complaining about that! I made it back to the mainland on November 8th. While we didn't get any mega-rarities we still had many good birds and I was happy to have spent the time out there. Much of my birding time was spent scanning the lake from the Tip, sometimes spending 8 hours a day within a very small area. It was wet at times, windy and cold, but it's what you gotta do. Thankfully, there's a small shelter out there referred to as "The Shanty". Without it, long periods of birding would be close to impossible at such an exposed location.
 The Shanty provides great shelter from rain and wind (Max. occupancy 2-3)
View from the Shanty

Highlights were Jaegers, Little Gulls, and two Black-legged Kittiwakes. It was tough to pick out rare gulls when we had almost 10,000 Bonaparte's Gulls, and 1200+ Common Terns during Sandy.

Over 200 Brant, 17 Snow Geese, numerous Long-tailed Ducks and all three Scoter species were waterfowl highlights.

Purple Sandpiper was the best shorebird, Cave Swallows were seen several times, and flocks of Evening Grosbeaks were a nice treat.

My first Bohemian Waxwing for Long Point I found on November 3rd with a group of Cedar Waxwings.

The banders were extremely busy banding flocks of Chickadees, Siskins, and all sorts of migrants. Owl banding at night was great with hundreds of Saw-whet's getting banded and several Long-eared Owls. The Boreal Owl got banded the night I left!

To read about all the birds we saw check out the Long Point Bird Observatory Sightings board:

 These 2 Peregrine Falcons made a brief visit to the tip. Several thousand raptors moved through the Tip following Sandy.

I watched several Merlin's snag passerines that ventured to far from cover. This one is munching a kinglet.
 One of the Cave Swallows got banded giving us a chance to study it a bit closer.

 Evening Grosbeaks look bad-ass and give a good bite from what I hear.
Flock of waxwings - that's a Bohemian at the top of the tree. You will have to take my word for it, although you can see that it is a bit larger.
Below are some photos of a few Horned Larks. The one individual looked really buffy on the throat and lores so I snagged a few photos of it. I know there are many subspecies, some more identifiable than others. Any thoughts on this guy/gal? Is it perhaps just a younger bird?


Friday, 26 October 2012

To the Tip!

Exciting times!!! I'm headed to the Tip of Long Point tomorrow morning for a week, give or take a few days either way. I think they already have plenty of volunteers for the banding duties but I'll help out in any way they like. Depending on the weather it's either going to be really exciting, or a touch on the boring side if landbirds aren't moving. Obviously with "Frankenstorm" potentially reaching Lake Erie I'll be positioned perfectly to spot any seabirds that get pushed onto Lake Erie. Even if the storm veers out into the Atlantic, the tip of Long Point is still a major migrant trap that always turns up rare birds in the fall. I think the odds are in my favour that something good turns up while I'm out there; but the question is whether or not I see it flying freely or suspended in a mistnet, or in a bander's hand...

While it may seem like a great place to spot a rare bird for the 50DOR competition, there are a few things going against me. There will be ~7 other people out there also spotting birds so I'd have to beat them to the punch; there are mistnets catching birds so I can't count those birds, and if "Twitchability" factors into the competition then it won't help me too much since people aren't allowed to visit the tip unannounced to chase birds.

While I'd love to update my blog on a daily basis I don't think it's going to happen. I don't have a laptop and I'm not sure what the power/internet situation is going to be out there. My blog may go silent for a week or so...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Long Point today = very birdy

I spent a  few hours this morning birding Long Point Provincial Park and it was really hopping. Streams of birds were moving from east to west - flocks of Robins, Myrtles, Pipits, Finches, Sparrows, etc were all on the move. It felt like a great day to find a rarity, but it's challenging when there are so many birds! Do you look at the sparrows on the ground, the warblers in the bushes, or the birds flying over? You can't do it all justice. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the remote field stations turned up something good. While I didn't find any rare birds, a late Red-eyed Vireo was probably my best bird. Brown Thrasher was a nice surprise and a Tufted Titmouse was my first for Long Point, a tough bird locally for some reason. A single Nashville Warbler was my most interesting warbler. At one point I looked up and saw a flock of Tree Swallows overhead - it made me wonder how long they had been there and how many Cave Swallows I may have missed.

Yesterday I checked Turkey Point beach - there was a large flock of Dunlin and Sanderling and good numbers of Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers. There had been a Golden-plover hanging around but perhaps it has moved on. I didn't look too hard for it. I then went over to Burwell for a quick jaunt where I bumped into Brandon Holden and his dad who had just completed a circuit in the park. Again nothing remarkable, the hybrid gull Brandon mentions on his blog, and a Blue-headed Vireo were my personal highlights.

A large flock of Dunlin and Sanderling feeding along the beaches at T.P. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Myiarchus Flycatcher - No

Saturday night most people probably saw the ontbirds message about a Myiarchus flycatcher seen by Chris Burris on Hasting's Drive at Long Point. Myiarchus is of course a genus, containing a number of species that occur in North America. In Ontario, Great-crested Flycatcher is the only regularly species, a familiar breeder to 99% of all birders. If this sighting had of occurred in May or June it might have not raised any eyebrows at all. But it occurred on October 13th, and GCFLs should be long gone. In fact, the record late date for Long Point is October 10th (or perhaps this date is Ontario, I'm not sure). So, we either have a record late GCFL, or a mega has found it's way to Ontario. Ash-throated Flycatcher is the most likely vagrant, and this is why the message got posted to ontbirds, and why many birders were out searching Hasting's Drive today.

It probably goes without saying that no one refound the bird today or we would have seen an ontbirds post. Birders from afar, as well as the locals scoured Hasting's all morning/early afternoon and didn't turn the bird up. It was windy however so the bird could have hunkered down out of sight. Hasting's is definitely worth checking in the days to come - if not for the flycatcher but for the fact that this road turns up its fare share of rarities.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Lifer Tiger Beetle

First I'll talk birds - fifty days of rare competition. Nothing exciting on my end... Seeing some birds that are getting late - various shorebirds, American Bittern, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, etc. It seems like my birding plans at the beginning of a week always change and I never get out to as many spots as I had planned, so I'm not surprised I haven't turned up anything remotely exciting. Birding plans for the rest of this week: I think I'll bird Long Point once or twice and try to snag a rarity before it finds it's way out to the tip (to be found by Stu no doubt!).

O.K., insects. While checking Old-Cut bird observatory rather briefly this week I spotted a tiger beetle on a pathway and thought, cool, I think that's a new one for me. I took some photos and have since identified it as the Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela duodecimguttata). It's not rare as far as I know, and I probably overlooked it before amongst the masses of the more common C. repanda.

 Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela duodecimguttata)

 The Ontario Odonata message board has been fairly quiet recently with no southern rarities showing up apparently. Black Saddlebags are still making their way south and I couldn't help but take a photo of this one at Old Cut.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Raven at Turkey Point, Owl Banding at Cayuga

Over the weekend the Long Point Basin Land Trust held its third annual hawkwatch at Long Point Eco-Adventures located on Front Rd just west of Turkey Point. Sunday was my turn to man the count and I scanned the skies from 10:00 until 3:00. While the flight wasn't crazy we had a nice diversity with many regular species being found. Of course I was secretly hoping for a Swainson's Hawk to go over for the 50 days of rare competition. Two peregrines were nice to see and we counted up to 11 Bald Eagles although several were probably local birds. The highlight of the count was a Raven that I spotted making it's way east. It didn't call, and it wasn't soaring around on thermals so I was a bit lucky to look in its direction as it went by. It really stood out by it's massive size, slow wingbeats, and wedge-shaped tail. Oddly enough we had a Raven on last years count as well! I guess these guys are coming from the escarpment, but we aren't very far from birds in the Appalachians either. I wonder how much they intermingle.

Later that night I went to Ruthven Park near Cayuga. It's a historic site on the Grand River that does bird banding. My brother Matt was running the Owl nets that night so I tagged along to help process the birds. We caught 3 Saw-whet Owls between 8:00 and 2:00. Not exactly overwhelming but it's better than getting skunked! The light looks a little harsh in some of the photos below, but it really isn't that bright in the banding lab. We try and keep as much light off the birds as possible to minimize stress and to not bother their eyes.

 Me and the little monster

Birding plans for the week include getting out to Long Point to look for passerines at least a couple mornings. Van Wagner's is on my "to-do" list but the wind doesn't seem to be cooperating... we'll see if that changes. Maybe Port Burwell?..

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Lesser Black-backed Gull - Port Stanley

I'm guessing if anyone is following this blog they likely follow Brandon Holden's blog as well and are aware of the "50 Days of Rare competition". In a nutshell, a bunch of birders are seeing who can find the "rarest" bird over the next 6-7 weeks. So far the best I have been able to do is a Lesser Black-backed Gull that I found today at Port Stanley today. It seems like everyone is finding these guys this year.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

At Port Burwell there were hundreds of gulls but nothing rare amongst them that I could see. Six Sanderling were a nice consolation prize on the west beach along with three Black-bellied Plovers.


Yesterday at Turkey Point I checked the beach and was surprised at the large amount of shorebird habitat along the beach. The low water levels are a bonus for shorebirding this fall. I spied a single American-golden Plover amongst the more numerous Black-bellieds, and there were several Baird's Sandpipers mixed in with the more regular peeps.

 Turkey Point beach

 Baird's Sandpipers
Black-bellied Plover on the left, American Golden-Plover on the right.
 At first I thought I "found" the AGPL but after checking ebird I realized one (perhaps this one) was first seen on September 22nd by several observers. If we pretend this was a mega-rarity and I was hoping to win the 50 days of rare competition with this bird, I may not be able to count it as a "self-found" bird. The rules are strict and the issue of "news ignorance" and "re-finds" is dealt with. See for all the rules

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Ruffed Grouse beside road

Title says it all... I haven't posted much in September - I'll try and do better!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Tip of Long Point

I had the opportunity last week (Wednesday) to go to the Tip of Long Point for the day - my first time in many years! Birds were slow, and I didn't find any rare migrant b-flies or d-flies but it was still an interesting trip. I had wishes of a Frigatebird or Brown Pelican on the boat rides to and from the point but neither materialized. Bird highlight was a Hudsonian Godwit we found on a sandbar with gulls and other shorebirds. A Laughing Gull turned up at the tip - but not until we had already left and were back at the mainland! That's the way it goes sometimes...

We came across this dead Softshell Turtle up on one of the dunes next to the shoreline. Apparently it had been there since June and was basically mummified and not scavenged at all. We also found 1 or 2 predated softshell nests.
  Melanistic Gartersnakes are super common at Long Point.
 Dragonflies were flying in huge numbers and Monarchs were starting to amass on this willow.
 Phragmites are a real problem on the point...

 The Tip! It often has rarities galore and large numbers of gulls loaf there. Sitting on the sand not too far from the gulls were 2 Peregrine Falcons (below). Don't think I've even seen them sitting on the ground before.

 This was a new Tiger Beetle for me (Cicindela hirticollis). They are a shoreline species but I'm not too sure how common or rare they are. I'm guessing Pelee has them.
 O.K. these were not from the Tip, but rather from St. Williams earlier in the week. I was happy to find Dainty Sulphurs in several places, including at my place.