Last night, I picked up Laura from the airport, so needless to say I haven't really done anything nature/bird/herp/etc related lately! We did go for a hike at a favorite local area with my brother this afternoon, and it didn't take long for Laura to find a beautiful Eastern Milksnake, only the fourth that I have ever seen in the county! One of the other ones I saw with my brother, as well, so it seems that they are both good luck. :) We also had 3 other species of snakes and a half dozen species of salamanders. I don't have anything else planned until Sunday, when I leave for my first work trip of the season.
I will be in the Fort Frances area of Rainy River doing mainly bird surveys next week with my buddies (and co-workers) Dom and John. I'm sure while I am up there I will run into most of the Rainy River specialties. There are 6 target birds which I should have a chance at while I am up there, all which would be year birds. I have never been to Rainy River so some of them would be new Ontario birds too!
Black-billed Magpie (code 2), Western Kingbird (code 3):
These are the two main target species for the trip. Magpie would be a new Ontario bird, but fortunately they are very common in the district and I should see many of them. Western Kingbird is only occasionally in the area during the summer, however Michael Dawber found one the other day and hopefully it will still be around. He also found several Dickcissels up there, a species that has really invaded the province this summer. The weather conditions sending Dickcissels into the province (hot and dry) may also push Western Kingbirds farther north/east! If I don't get the kingbird this trip, we are heading back up to Rainy River for more surveys in July.
Sharp-tailed Grouse (code 2), Northern Hawk-owl (code 3)
Sharp-tailed Grouse should be easy (and will be a lifer), while Hawk-owl will be much tougher. They are around, so it is just a matter of finding a breeding pair! If I somehow miss one or both species I should still have several opportunities the rest of the year.
Franklin's Gull (code 2), Nelson's Sparrow (code 2)
Both of these species may be tricky. I might not have the time between surveys to check out the Nelson's Sparrow spots, and it may be too early in the season for Franklin's Gulls to have arrived in the area. They breed in nearby Minnesota and then cross over into Rainy River afterwards, staying for the rest of the summer. If I don't get them now, I should hopefully get them on the second trip.
Of course, we'll be keeping our eyes (and mostly our ears) open for rare western birds like Western Wood-pewee, Sprague's Pipit, Chestnut-collared Longspur, and Baird's Sparrow! Plus it will be great to see some of the specialties of the area, such as Brewer's and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Connecticut Warblers, A. White Pelicans, Le Conte's Sparrows, Yellow Rails, etc. Should be fun! :)