Friday, 29 November 2013

Yellow-headed Blackbirds at Long Point

I'm back to blogging, wow has it been a while. Once you take a break, sometimes it's hard to get back into it. Plus you have to find something worth blogging about - and that day was today!

I'll make this short and sweet. Heading west of Long Point looking for Mike Burrell's previously e-birded Greater White-fronted Geese I ran into a flock of blackbirds feeding along Gore Rd. There were a lot of Rustys so I thought I'd try and pick out a Brewer's. I ended up e-birding ~800 RUBL, so maybe that's why I didn't see a Brewers.

Anyways, at the corner of Gore and Concession A I looked up into a tree and was shocked to see a gorgeous male Yellow-headed Blackbird. I quickly texted some local birders, and looked back up to see another YHBL a short distance away! I couldn't believe my luck.

Here's a phone-scoped shot of the female/immature male. Feel free to make comments on the sex.

If you go to look for these YHBLs it might take a while. Even with 5 people looking it can be tough to pick them out if obscured by corn stubble, tree branches, and raptors keep putting them up.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

2013 Long Point Butterfly Count

On a mostly sunny and warm July 6th the Norfolk Field Naturalists held the 22nd Long Point Butterfly Count.

Most groups commented on the relatively low numbers of butterflies but we did manage to come up with a respectable 2186 individuals of 49 species (average of 2572 and 49 respectively since 1992). The species total doesn't include the single larvae of Giant Swallowtail or the White Admiral form that is considered the same species as Red-spotted Purple. The North American Butterfly Association simply uses the common name Red-Spotted Admiral to refer to both subspecies.

Highlights and Lowlights:

New for the count: 3 American Snout, bringing us to 77 species all time
1004 Edward's Hairstreaks is a new count high (previous was 73)
2 Gray Comma passes previous record of 1
12 Crossline Skippers ties the previous high
2 Striped Hairstreaks are the first since 2007
4 Monarch beats previous record low of 5 set in 2002 (average of 51 since 1992)
1 Question Mark ties record low
4 Monarch beats previous record low of 5 set in 2002 (average of 51 since 1992)
1 Question Mark ties record low

The full list is below. 

July 6th, 2013 Long Point Butterfly Count
English Name Number
Black Swallowtail 1
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail 44
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
Spicebush Swallowtail 13
Pipevine Swallowtail
Checkered White
Mustard White
Cabbage White 261
Clouded Sulphur 35
Orange Sulphur 8
American Copper 11
Bronze Copper 3
Coral Hairstreak 11
Acadian Hairstreak
Edward's Hairstreak 1004
Banded Hairstreak 2
Hickory Hairstreak 1
Striped Hairstreak 2
Gray Hairstreak
Eastern Tailed-Blue 7
Summer Azure 37
American Snout 3
Variegated Fritillary
Great Spangled Fritillary 18
Silver-bordered Fritillary
Meadow Fritillary
Aphrodite Fritillary
Silvery Checkerspot 19
Pearl Crescent 8
Northern Crescent 333
Baltimore Checkerspot 40
Question Mark 1
Eastern Comma 6
Grey Comma 2
Compton Tortoiseshell
Mourning Cloak 14
Milbert's Tortoiseshell
American Lady
Painted Lady 1
Red Admiral 8
Red-spotted Purple 16
Viceroy 6
Tawny Emperor 17
Northern Pearly-Eye 6
Eyed Brown 24
Appalacian Brown 1
Little Wood-Satyr 30
Common Ringlet
Common Wood-Nymph 40
Monarch 4
Silver-spotted Skipper 78
Southern Cloudywing
Northern Cloudywing 2
Dreamy Duskywing
Sleepy Duskywing
Juvenal's Duskywing
Wild Indigo Duskywing
Common Sootywing
Least Skipper 3
European Skipper 18
Peck's Skipper 2
Tawny-edged Skipper 1
Crossline Skipper 12
Long Dash 3
Northern Broken-Dash 11
Little Glassywing
Delaware Skipper 1
Hobomok Skipper 2
Broad-winged Skipper 1
Dion Skipper
Black Dash
Two-spotted Skipper
Dun Skipper 15
Common Checkered Skipper
Total Individuals 2186
Total Species 49

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Piping Plover and RUTU leg flag

On June 4th I was doing a boat trip on the south shore of Long Point. When doing such trips I’m always on the lookout for shorebirds and there’s always something to be spotted. On this day I was very lucky to spot an unbanded Piping Plover feeding along the water’s edge. Had it been further up on the beach I almost certainly would not have spotted it. This species had been a nemesis bird of mine having never seen one before in Ontario. I have never bothered to twitch any of the breeders in other parts of the province and seem to miss them each year by some stroke of bad luck.
Ghostly colouration makes them hard to spot on the beach - particularly from a moving boat!

A note on some cool band recoveries: In late May I had a Ruddy Turnstone that was carrying a leg-flag on one leg and a geolocator on the other. I was able to read the leg flag and it turned out the bird was banded in Brazil back in February of this year! Then I saw a Caspian Tern with a white band and I could read the 3 letter code of that band as well. Turned out it was banded in Hamilton Harbour back in 2009 as a hatchling. We even had a racing pigeon turn up out here this spring and it turned out he was from the GTA. I wish there were more legbands/flags out there to look for as it’s really fun spotted them and getting feedback on the birds. It reminds me of when I was a youngster and we used to spot neck bands on Tundra Swans around Long Point.

 A photo of Charles the racing pigeon, or at least that's what we called him.

Nothing of note on the butterfly front...yet. Odes are increasing and I've seen 4 Painted Skimmer's so far but am hoping for something better...

Monday, 20 May 2013

Spring at the tip of Long Point

Haven't blogged in a while so I thought I'd provide a bit of an update. I've been living at the tip of Long Point more or less for much of late April and May doing some amphibian and reptile surveys for Bird Studies Canada. It's been an awesome experience so far and I get to see lots of cool birds too - both the free flying kinds and the ones that the bird banders are catching as well. Check out the Bird Studies Canada board to see highlights from week to week:

I'd love to blog more about the whole experience but with no internet out there, almost no cell service, and a pretty full day herping, birding, and keeping up with daily chores, blogging takes a backseat. It's also nice to kind of "un-plug" while out there with no T.V. and not being glued to a computer (except for some data entry). 

So far I've managed to add two long overdue birds to my Ontario bird list - Chuck-Wills-Widow and Laughing Gull. I was hoping to add some bigger rarities but have had some terrible luck. Twice I've left the tip only for a rare bird to turn up the following morning! Missing out on the Swainson's Warbler and Bewick's Wren hurt bad. It still stings... Keeping up with tradition, a Loggerhead Shrike turned up yesterday after I had already left the tip that morning! 

Here are some random phone-photos:

 Eastern Gartersnake eating a Chorus Frog.

 A late Evening Grosbeak

 Me checking some beautiful inland wetlands on the point.

 Not everyday you see Cerulean Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler in the hand side-by-side.

 Woke-up to this photo text - damn Swainson's Warbler! 

 These two photos were taken from the exact same location - looking south to the dunes and north to what you'd think was somewhere in northern Ontario. 

Baby Woodcock!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

American Avocet - Long Point

On the morning of April 15th, Josh Nieuwenhuis discovered an American Avocet off the Bird Studies Canada headquarters on the inner bay of Long Point. At first it flew off before anyone else could see the bird, but luckily it shortly returned and many observers got to see this beautiful bird (including myself). It was showing well in great light, not very far away, and actively feeding sweeping it's head side to side with it's upcurved bill. It seemed to be finding lots to eat as well.

It was a new Long Point bird for me, and the first one I had seen in many years. It was in gorgeous breeding plumage as opposed to the all black and white winter plumaged ones I had seen previously in Ontario. 

Although there were no Ontbirds reports today, e-bird tells me it was seen today (Tuesday) before an eagle scared off the ducks, and possibly the avocet as well. I wouldn't be surprised if the avocet is gone, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's still there Wednesday! Definitely worth a look if you are in the area. 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Vulcan Baru birds - Panama 2013

So I was doing some stuff on my computer and wandered into my unedited photos from my winter Panama trip. Lots of photos still need to be edited and shared, but I find that task very boring! Periodically (like today) I might post some stuff from my trip.

I did a crazy midnight hike up Vulcan Baru, the tallest mountain in Central America. A group of us left at midnight, making it to the peak in time to watch the sunrise over the mountains. It's about 13.5 km each way, with a change in elevation of about 1,700 metres. It was very beautiful, but also incredibly exhausting! Even though it's in tropical Panama, you risk hypothermia near the summit before the sun has come out.

The Birds:

Volcano Hummingbird - Stunning little guy with a black/grey/lilac gorget depending on the light. Feed on a little heather-like plant at the very peak. They buzz around mere inches/feet off the ground! Very cool.

 That's pollen on the front of his face I believe.

Volcano Junco - After the hummingbird, this was the next one I wanted to see. Photo doesn't do it justice, but the gold eyes are pretty intense. 

Sooty Thrush - Easily found at the summit hopping all over the rocky outcroppings. Quite entertaining and nice company when you are sucking air. 

Peg-billed Finch - Below the summit in the bamboo zone feeding on bamboo seeds. In the guide it says they are very rare but can be found when the bamboo is seeding. Not sure how rare they actually are, but it was a very good bonus bird. 

Monday, 8 April 2013


Tis the season to be cleaning out bird boxes - and putting more up if you have them. I've already got several pairs of Bluebirds inspecting boxes and usually end up with 3-4 pairs each year. Anyways, while checking on a Wood Duck box I found this Screech Owl sleeping comfortably. I'd like to hope it's sitting on eggs, but wouldn't it be roosting with it's partner if that was the case?

Sidenote: I'm working on updating the butterfly list for Norfolk. Species most likely to occur here but not yet found include West Virginia White and Mulberry Wing. Consider these target species should anybody reading this find themselves in Norfolk! You could become famous ;)

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Greater White-fronted Geese

Haven't posted for a while so I thought I'd throw up some photos of the GWFG that have been hanging around Lee Brown's for a while down at Long Point. They seemed to have disappeared for a week before showing up again - luckily for me since I missed them when they first showed up. People have been seeing Cacklers here as well, but I haven't caught up with them yet. Lee Brown's is also one of the best places to find Eurasian Wigeons around Long Point but nothing so far. Well, until Richard Skevington found one way up the Big Creek valley off the E 1/4 Line by RR#45. I dipped on it today.
and then it lost it's head...

Blackbirds are always fun to pick through for goodies. 

I had a flock of Redpolls today near Walsingham feeding in a weedy field and one of them jumped out as being extremely pale. I was 95% sure it was going to be Hoary if I could manage a decent look at it - they weren't that close and I didn't have my scope. They flew up into some trees and I couldn't relocate the bird in question. The redpoll above was the palest one I could find but it's just a CORE (streaked undertail coverts for one).

Saturday, 16 March 2013

De-extinction video and links

There's a bit of buzz out there with the idea of de-extinction - bringing back extinct species using cutting edge science technology and techniques. It looks like a group of scientists are already working on bringing back the Passenger Pigeon. Instead of rehashing articles already out there I'll simply provide some links. I personally found the TED talks video informative and entertaining - like most of their videos.

Stewart Brand: The dawn of de-extinction. Are you ready?

The Plan to Bring the Iconic Passenger Pigeon Back From Extinction


Locally, I went out for a quick jaunt into Haldimand County today and found a pair of Sandhill Cranes near the Grand River. While they are easy to find around Long Point, I'm always pleasantly surprised when I see them elsewhere.

And love'm or hate'm, the wind turbines are starting to go up fast in Haldimand

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Snow Geese - Long Point

Back to blogging now that I'm back in Canada. I just posted photos of Resplendent Quetzals I saw in Panama, so check my previous post if you are interested in seeing those. This blog will be a Panama / Norfolk County mash up for the next little while. 

As everyone knows, spring migration is well underway with blackbirds, Killdeer, Tundra Swans, geese and ducks leading the charge. Every expected duck species is back at Long Point except for Blue-winged Teal as far as I can tell. Still thousands of swans around - check the waters off Port Rowan and the fields west of Port Royal. I'm still hoping for some Greater White-fronted and Ross's Geese to make an appearance, but I was happy to find 6 Snow Geese on Tuesday landing in a field with Tundra Swans. Once they landed it was tough to see all 6 of them, although a few were visible. 

Viewed from Front Rd 

As viewed from the Port Rowan pier.

 Large flocks of Wild Turkey are often easy to find in Haldimand County.

Resplendent Quetzal !!! - Feb 3rd, 2013

Yup, I know, I haven't blogged in forever - and no my fingers weren't broken. Basically wifi was hard to come by for part of my trip, and I made a decision to postpone blogging until I was back home in Canada. It's also nice to "disconnect" from technology when backpacking and I thoroughly enjoyed not having a cell phone, and barely turning on a computer.

For the next few weeks or so this blog is going to be a mash-up of Panama adventures and Norfolk nature sightings as we head into spring migration.  Hopefully I can get the Panama stuff out of the way relatively quickly. 

February 3rd was all about the Resplendent Quetzals - easily found at the start of the Los Quetzales trail on the Cerro Punta / Guadalupe side of Vulcan Baru. We saw 1 female, 1 immature male, and 2 full males as I recall. We got stunning views of them feeding, and flying directly overhead with the long tail streamers - incredible! 

First, the crappy back-lit photos I was able to obtain:

And here are a few AMAZING photos (of the same birds) from a photographer I was birding with:

Photo credits Michael Kuijl. Do not use his photos without permission please. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Guadalupe - Los Quetzales Ecolodge

I just typed up a bunch of stuff and then lost it all. Damn blogger. Somehow it didn't automatically save a draft either.

Day 9 - January 30th - entirely spent in transit to the Western Highlands, Guadalupe to be exact. It's easy to travel by bus when there's only one main highway running east/west across the country. Just get on buses headed the direction you want to go. The weather in the highlands was warm at times, and a bit cool, rainy, and breezy at other times.

Day 10, 11, 12, 13 - January 31st to the morning of February 3rd. Birded the Los Quetzales Ecolodge trails, La Amistad International Park (shared with Costa Rica), Finca (farm) Rios, and the trailhead of the Los Quetzales Trail. Day 13 will get it's own post in the near future.

Guadalupe is just about Cerro Punta, beside Vulcan Baru, the tallest mountain in Central America. I liked the area so much I spent an extra day here. The Los Quetzales Ecolodge is nice because although it has some fancy cabins in the woods, it also has a dormitory for the more budget minded traveller. The weather in the

The farmers in the area have these beautiful fields of vegetable up the slopes - but it's also a big reason why there's a lot of deforestation in the area. 

 Mountain Elaenia - correct me if I'm wrong.

 Ochraceous Pewee was a bird I wasn't expecting. Basically only found in Panama on the trail above Los Quetzales Ecolodge.

Hummingbirds go nuts at the feeders here. I ID'd 8 species, but missed a couple no doubt. Clockwise: Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Violet Sabrewing, White-throated Mountain-gem. 

Yellow-thighed Finches are common.

 Flame-colored Tanagers are nice to look at. 

 Long-tailed Silky-flycatchers are abundant.