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?..