Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Flamenco flamingo

This past weekend, Laura and I went to Spain. Amidst exploring the old city, biking along the beach, enjoying tapas, watching street performers, and unsuccessfully attempting to converse with the locals, we also managed to get out and do some birding for an afternoon at the Delta del Llobregat. I will post a thorough report of this day once I get back to wintery Canada. For now, I'll leave you with some shots of 3 of the 50-odd species we saw at the Delta. 

The most common of all the teal



"Hey cool, its another egret flying by." (takes photos, and looks at them) "Wow, it has a weird bill....oh %$#@ its a spoonbill!"


We saw our first wild flamingos! Sure they may be somewhat common in this area, but we were pretty stoked.







We are back in Edinburgh for the rest of this week until I fly back home on Sunday.

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 Big year news.... on February 26th, Peter Middleton found a Slaty-backed Gull in Owen Sound and it was reported to ONTbirds yesterday morning. I haven't heard any reports, positive or negative, since. If it is still being seen that is my number one priority when I get back to Ontario.

Additionally both the Ottawa Varied Thrush and the Sault Ste. Marie Varied Thrush are still being seen. Which one should I go for? I've already struck out on the Ottawa bird twice(!) already so the Soo bird seems tempting, even though its an extra 2 hours drive. Plus I've vowed never to return to Ottawa again.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Update from Scotland

It is now day 5 in Scotland and it has been a pretty fantastic few days. Obviously we are without a car, so any traveling we have been doing has been by public transit....makes me really miss my car! Laura and I have seen a lot of pretty spectacular views, some castles, and a few birds here and there. I'm finally starting to get the hang of look right THEN left when crossing the street. I haven't really edited many of my photos but I'll get a few posted now from the first day of the trip. Once I return on March 4th I will start posting some day by day recaps.

So what birds have we been seeing? Nothing too out of the ordinary and I haven't seen or chased any rarities since I'm happy seeing the common stuff. However I am up to 68 species so far here in Scotland, not a bad total considering this isn't a birding trip. Many of these are new birds for me. The weather hasn't been bad as the temperature is between 5 and 12 degrees Celsius each day. Flowers are blooming and it definitely feels like spring. However, I am pretty sure that Edinburgh is where they grow the wind because we have seen winds of 35 km/h or greater every day that Ive been here! Today it was 55 km/h. There has been a fair amount of  "liquid sunshine" too.

 Some things that are definite highlights so far:
-great views at a number of species of tits - Long-tailed Tits are awesome!

-finding a male Smew waaaay up in the highlands on a loch - a bit out of their wintering range

-identifying some lifers by their calls/songs without previously having looked up what they sound like. For example, on Monday we were alongside a meandering creek when I heard a flock of tits/finches. As we were going through them, I heard what sounded just like a kinglet from back home. Sure enough, there was a Goldcrest in the buch! Today I thought I heard some goldfinches, and they were European Goldfinches. Pretty cool

-getting familiar with the gulls out here, many which are vagrants to Ontario. Black-headed Gulls are everywhere (even downtown Edinburgh), and Euro Herring Gulls and Common Gulls aren't shy either. All this practice may make it easier to pick these things out in Ontario. Same goes with Eurasian Jackdaw, Common Ringed Plover, Tufted Duck, etc. They're all pretty easy to identify once you see several dozen of them.

Tufted Duck - they're as common as Mallards in small ponds


Carrion Crow - filling the ecological niche of American Crows back home


Laura on top of Arthur's Seat - Edinburgh, UK


view of Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

Eurasian Kestrel


male Common Eider

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Big year news from back home:

In my case, no news is good news! Fortunately no new rarities have been found since I've left and hopefully it will stay that way. The other 2012 Ontario big year birders have now seen the White-winged Dove to keep pace. If you look at the ebird standings I am in 4th place but I'm not worried at this point. Other than the Black-throated Gray Warbler which I missed right at the start of the year, I have seen all the other big rarities. This means that the birds that the others have up on me are, for the most part, birds which I will pick up as the year goes on. As well, once I get back I plan to go pretty much all out until mid-June. I will still have school as a priority until mid April, but there are several trips around the province I intend to make before then. And of course, any big rarity is a top priority!

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Tomorrow Laura and I leave for Spain for 3 days before returning to Edinburgh. We're looking forward to sunshine and no wind!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Scotland

Tomorrow afternoon I will be headed on a jet to Scotland. My girlfriend Laura is currently a vet student at the University of Edinburgh, and with her finishing exams this week now is a perfect time to visit! I will be gone until March 4th. I haven't been to Europe for about 13 years, and I've never looked for birds there, so I am excited to see some new birds. We will be spending a weekend in Spain as well.

When I was planning the Big Year, this seemed like a perfect time to be out of the province for several weeks. Not only did it co-ordinate well with Laura's schedule, it is also traditionally a very slow time for rarities in Ontario. However, given the rash of rarities in the province as of late, I am not so sure about that!

The bird list (see the side panel) has been updated. Good birding everyone, and please don't find any rarities while I am away! Or at least, make them stick around for a few weeks.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Another drive to Muskoka (and beyond), another pigeon

Today was a very long day....and I got in the door about an hour and a half ago.

Long story short, a White-winged Dove has been sporadically coming to a feeder in North Bay and I've been keeping tabs on this bird for a few days. After several days where it wasn't seen, it magically re-appeared yesterday at the feeder! Barb Charlton, Brett Fried and I drove up to look for it today since there are only 32 accepted records of this species in Ontario. Additionally, it is only the 2nd winter record, with the first coming on December 14-19, 1975.

After the long drive from Guelph, we arrived in North Bay around 10:15 AM. The dove had been seen only on sunny afternoons and the gray skies didn't bode well!

In Guelph, squirrels roam the neighbourhoods. Apparently in North Bay, deer roam the neighbourhoods.

neighbourhood deer - North Bay


The friendly deer even came by the feeder we were stationed at to eat seeds. Yum.


After about 15 minutes of waiting, we decided that perhaps we should follow the deer's lead and also roam the neighbourhood in search of the dove. Reasonable, the thought seemed.

Turns out that was a good idea since I spotted the dove hanging out with some MODOs (Mourning Doves) in a tree just down the road. Well that was easy.

White-winged Dove - North Bay, ON

Here it is doing the crazy neck thing that pigeons/doves love to do.

White-winged Dove - North Bay, ON

After a few minutes of checking us out it followed its MODO friends into the backyard. This photo shows the diagnostic tail pattern that White-winged Doves possess.

White-winged Dove - North Bay

Hmmm....what to do, what to do? We could either drive the 4 hours back to Guelph, or perhaps go to Algonquin which was kind of on the way. Looking for Spruce Grouse at Algonquin ended up winning over the less desirable option of studying for my midterm tomorrow, so onward we went.

Algonquin was fantastic! The Spruce Grouse (grice?) eluded us, but everything else wasn't able to be so elusive. I tried to outdo a previous attempt (see here) at getting the world's worst shot of Red Crossbills and I think I succeeded! Check it out - you can hardly even tell they are birds! There were about 30 or so Reds flitting about the Spruce Bog area as well as a few others heard in other spots. This was really cool as you rarely get decent looks at so many Red Crossbills in Ontario (at least I don't). White-winged Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Pine Grosbeaks, and redpolls were flying over while we were here.

Red Crossbills - Spruce Bog, Algonquin


Of course, what is the Spruce Bog boardwalk without several Boreal Chickadees? These vocal little bastards were not as shy as usual.

spread your wings: Boreal Chickadee - Spruce Bog, Algonquin

The highlight of Algonquin for me was getting reacquainted with Marty, the brave little Pine Marten who likes stealing suet from the bird feeder at Spruce Bog. Marty likes granola bars too.

Pine Marten - Spruce Bog, Algonquin

 The visitor centre was somewhat birdy, as usual. Just one Evening Grosbeak this time, but this vocal Common Raven kept us company. Brett had a pretty extensive croaking "conversation" with the raven.

Common Raven - Algonquin visitor centre

A trip down Opeongo road was great - we spent some time feeding the Gray Jays and checking out a Black-backed Woodpecker.

Gray Jay - Opeongo Road, Algonquin

Hoppy McHopperson

Black-backed Woodpecker - Algonquin

A partially leucistic Black-capped Chickadee has been hanging out near the parking lot here, and it didn't take long before we had him in our sights! He was just as inquisitive as the "normal" chickadees, and though he thought about it, he didn't take food from our hands. Cool little guy though.

White-faced Chickadee

White-faced Chickadee

It was another great day in the field with even better company. The weather co-operated, we saw our main target bird (the code 4 White-winged Dove) and we saw a nice variety of wildlife in Algonquin. We didn't get our Sprucers, so that will have to wait until next time!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Not much news + winter birding list

No new birding news since the last update! I haven't gotten out since Thursday since I have a midterm on Monday and another on Wednesday. I've also spent this snowy weekend catching up on rare bird reports for the Ontario Bird Records Committee...done six and counting. I would encourage anyone else to submit written reports and photos to the OBRC when they get a chance...link to the website is http://www.ofo.ca/obrc/reportform.php.

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At the beginning of the month I posted to the listserv about the 2011-2012 Ontario winter list.  In the month of January an additional 9 species were added, and 1 removed (Blue-winged Teal), to bring the total to 215 species. This is easily the highest total we have had since the winter list has been compiled. Edit - 5 more species have been added since! See the end of the post

Among the major highlights were: 

-A total of 4 Gray-crowned Rosy-finches have been seen in Ontario in the last few months including 3 since the start of the winter birding period. One of the Hepburn's race at Geraldton from January 4 to January 5, one at Rocky Bay (east of Lake Nipigon) January 10 to present, and one at Rossport (north Lake Superior coast) January 24 to 25.
-Two female Mountain Bluebirds have been seen in Ontario this winter. The first was found south of Guelph on January 1 and the second was found January 16 north of Thamesville.
-The other major highlight has been Fish Crow, the first winter record for Ontario. A probable bird was seen January 1 along the Niagara River and another probable bird was photographed in Hamilton on January 4. A single bird was found and its call recorded on January 15 and since then up to 5 birds have been seen daily in Fort Erie before continuing over the Niagara River to roost in Buffalo.

The other new birds are:
-Pectoral Sandpiper (January 1): Wheatley harbour
-Black-headed Gull (January 15): Fort Erie. This bird has been present along the Niagara River since December but first found in Ontario waters on January 15
-Ovenbird (December 26): Peterborough
-Vesper Sparrow (January 5): Beachville, southwest of Woodstock
-Lincoln's Sparrow (January 9): Perth
-Indigo Bunting (January 8): Cambridge

The total list is posted on Blake's webpage: http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/maybank/other/onwinter.htm

Edit - 5 species added since
Virginia Rail (January 25):found dead near St. Williams
Gyrfalcon (January 25): Northwest of Crysler which is southeast of Ottawa
Band-tailed Pigeon (February 4): Bracebridge. Was seen at a feeder for 3 days, consequently many birders were able to see and photograph it. Thanks to the Sinclairs for being such gracious hosts.
White-winged Dove: coming to a private residence in North Bay, no longer being seen. Still working on finding out the first date it was seen.
Yellow-throated Warbler (February 1): Windsor

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Gulls and rarities at Niagara

I woke this morning to the sound of a robin singing outside my window as the sun rose and knew that I had picked a good day to spend birding. The Niagara River was my destination, first of all because there had been several interesting species that I "needed" for my big year being sporadically seen, and second of all because I love looking at gulls (actually!).

I pulled into Niagara-on-the-lake around 10:00 AM and immediately began scanning the waterbirds. Among the highlights were a number of White-winged Scoters and singles of Horned and Red-necked Grebe, both new for the year.

This was a good start and I was exited for what the day could have in store. Queenston was next, and after scanning through all the Bonaparte's Gulls (watching a couple of Little Gulls mixed in with them), I parked myself on the lookout to view Queenston, ON and Lewiston, NY. The day was warm and sunny and I was hoping I could find a Black Vulture. Even if I did, it would need to fly across the river for me to be able to count it towards my year list (those are the rules!). After 1/2 an hour, no vultures were in sight and I was getting a little restless. Noisy Tufted Titmice, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and a Carolina Wren kept me company, however.

Finally, I noticed a vulture soaring low over the trees and it turned out to be a Turkey Vulture. Within the next 10 minutes, 4 more joined it. At one point 2 of the vultures briefly flew over to the Ontario side before heading back to New York. Then, after about 45 minutes of waiting, a Black Vulture flew through my scope view, about 1 kilometer away on the New York side. I watched it for a while as it circled around, refusing to cross the river so I could add it to the list. After about 15 minutes of this, it headed straight for the river! I grabbed my camera and took a series of photos as it floated over the river into Ontario airspace. Success! It slowly drifted out of sight towards the Adam Beck lookout.

Black Vulture - Queenston, ON

 Lev Frid soon pulled up, about 5 minutes after the vulture left. Not the greatest luck for him, but he's on his way to North Carolina for a few pelagic trips so it's hard to have sympathy!! ;)

At the Adam Beck lookout I scanned the gulls, coming up with a few interesting things. 2 Thayer's Gulls (1 juv., 1 2nd winter), a Glaucous Gull (2nd winter) and about a dozen Iceland Gulls of various ages were the main attractions until I spotted a slightly smaller gull sitting on the rocks. It was an adult, mostly alternate-plumaged California Gull, presumably the same bird that was seen here last weekend. I managed to grab some very poor shots through my scope. In the photo, it's the third bird from the top.

California Gull (centre) - Adam Beck generating station, Niagara River

While its hard to tell from the photos, this bird was slightly smaller than the nearby Herring Gulls with a mantle that was darker (barely, however). It had a thinner bill with a small, red gonydeal spot, a dark eye, yellowish legs, and a clean white head. In flight there was a large amount of black in the primaries.

This was my 5th year bird of the day for me and I added one more above Niagara Falls. After a considerable amount of scanning I was able to spot several dark lumps on a rock halfway across the river. The 3 lumps woke up, revealing themselves to be female Harlequin Ducks. Two of them went for a swim while the third went back to sleep.

Tundra Swans - Niagara River

After birding the rest of the Niagara River I made it over to Fort Erie in mid-afternoon. It didn't take long before I heard several Fish Crows calling! I was even able to get a photo of one, though not of the greatest quality. At least I can now say that I've seen a Fish Crow this year as my original sighting was heard only.

Fish Crow - Fort Erie, ON


A brief scan across from Rich's Marina in Buffalo only yielded a few Bonaparte's Gulls, so the Black-legged Kittiwake that had been accompanying them will have to wait.

Later in the afternoon, right before sunset, I tried Bayfront Park in Hamilton just to see what was around and to get out and stretch my legs. There was a good variety of waterfowl including several Canvasbacks.
Canvasback - Bayfront Park, Hamilton


Mourning Doves are actually quite beautiful when you see them up close.

Mourning Dove - Bayfront Park, Hamilton


Lots of geese around, though no rare geese mixed in with all the Canadas.

Canada Goose - Bayfront Park, Hamilton

I was surprised to see this 1st winter male King Eider hanging out with a bunch of Mallards. If I recall a King Eider had been reported here recently - this must be him!

King Eider - Bayfront Park, Hamilton

It was an extremely successful day at the river. I added another rarity for the tally with the Black Vulture (code 4), several locally uncommon birds in the California Gull (code 3) and Harlequin Ducks (code 3), as well as Tufted Titmouse (code 2), Red-necked Grebe (code 1) and Horned Grebe (code 1). I still need that darn kittiwake but that will have to wait til I get back from Scotland.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Late afternoon trip to Brampton

After completing a bit of homework today, I decided to travel to Brampton to look for the reported Ross's Goose. Unfortunately traffic did not work in my favor due to an accident on the 410, forcing me to travel through Brampton to get to Professor's Lake. I arrived at around 5:00 PM and immediately found the Ross's Goose (code 3) swimming with a bunch of Canadas.



The ~1000 geese were taking off and heading north throughout the 15/20 minutes I was there, until about 100 geese were left.


Eventually the Ross's took off, disappearing into to the north. I didn't stick around long enough to see if it would return to the lake to roost for the night.


The Ross's Goose makes 130 birds for the year. The only regular waterfowl that I still haven't seen this year include Snow Goose (code 1), Eurasian Wigeon (code 3), Blue-winged Teal (code 1), and Harlequin Duck (code 3). Off to Niagara tomorrow!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Are you sick of the Barred Owl yet?

If so, well too bad! My dad was interested in taking some photos of it, so we headed up to Guelph Lake today. Fortunately it wasn't too hard to find (just look for photographers pointing their lenses up a tree) and we were both happy to get some decent photos.











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Current birding plans....
With no pressing rarities in the province, I have taken it easy a bit the last couple of days and done schoolwork. I have a pretty busy couple of weeks before I go to Scotland but I do have some plans in the works.

Tomorrow morning I am going all the way to Brampton to hopefully see the Ross's Goose that is present every morning and evening. Thursday I don't have class, so if I can catch up on all my schoolwork by then, I am hoping to go to Niagara for the day. Recent sightings of birds I still need include Black-legged Kittiwake, California Gull, possible Mew Gull, etc. Finally, I am hoping to go to Sault Ste. Marie on the weekend (if the Varied Thrush is still around). Should be fun.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Driving to Muskoka for a pigeon. Twice.

Yesterday morning, I was just getting out of bed when I got word from Al Sinclair about a Band-tailed Pigeon that was coming to his feeder in Bracebridge. I immediately rounded up David Bell and Reuven Martin and we were on the road almost immediately. Along the way, Al was giving me constant updates of the bird as I pushed the pedal to the metal. We did see a few birds along the way, including an adult Golden Eagle slowly crossing Mavis Rd. while we were stopped in traffic, and 4 separate Northern Shrikes along HWY 400 and 11. At around 2:00 PM, Al emailed me that the bird had flown into some hemlocks and he was going to wait pursuing it until we arrived. Around 3:15 we rolled into the driving, but despite a few hours of searching his property as well as waiting at the feeder, the pigeon didn't show. Dejected, we headed back to Guelph. That evening I was determined to try again the following morning.

This morning, after sleeping in by accident, David and I left Guelph to try for the pigeon once again. After carpooling with Andrew Keaveney and Sarah-Jane Stranger-Guy we arrived around 10:30. Jean Iron and Ron Pittaway were already there, and Jean informed us that it was still present but hidden in some branches. Eventually Jean's sharp eye picked out a pigeon like shape and got everyone else on it. My first view of Ontario's 12th Band-tailed Pigeon:


The pigeon spent its entire time while we there resting in the tree, occasionally eating snow. We were hoping that it would go to the bird feeders so that we could have better looks at it, but it stayed in place. It may be "only" a pigeon, but I was happy to see one in Ontario! The last record was in 2003.


The bird was a juvenile and can be identified by its bright yellow bill, yellow feet, large size, and tail band, among other things.

Band-tailed Pigeon is a code-5 rarity - my 6th rarity of the year so far. With the Golden Eagle and Band-tailed Pigeon, my year list is now 129 and I am still missing species like Common Grackle, Chipping Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, etc.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Come on, spring

We may be currently experiencing one of the mildest winters in recent memory, but I've just about reached that point where I can't wait for spring to come! Perhaps it has to do with my recent trip to the north, or the fact that I wasn't able to make it south this winter, or because I've spent the last 4 days more or less couped up inside doing "important" things like studying. I heard on the radio the other day that January 30th is usually the coldest day of the year but fortunately, we are now past that. Not sure if there's any truth to that, but it seemed about right (and I'm too lazy to actually look it up). At any rate, the days have been growing longer. The shortest day of the year, usually in mid to late December, is apparently about 8 hours and 56 minutes long here in Guelph. Ouch! Currently the day length is just under 10 hours and its only going up from here! So while spring may seem a long ways off...there is hope. I'm itching for the day when I see my first grackle singing (or grackling, or making that sound of a rusty fence or whatever) from the top of a tree. Or perhaps seeing the first familiar Killdeer pecking at the edge of a muddy field.

Some of the first spring "migrants" have already shown up, perhaps a little too eagerly. Flocks of Northern Pintails and other ducks were reported about a week ago when we had a bout of warmish weather. It won't be long before the musical songs of Horned Larks can be heard in most agricultural areas. And my favorite sign of spring....the first Spring Peeper in a thawing out vernal pond. Usually I find my first amphibians of the spring sometime in mid-March.

Here are a few photos of some local herps and other organisms which signal the beginning of spring to me. Hang in there, its just around the corner...

Often the first "leps" seen - Mourning Cloak (from March 15)
N. Ribbon Snake out for the first bask of the year (March 15)
one of the first plants of the year - Skunk Cabbage (March 16)

Four-toed Salamander (March 24)
polyploid Ambystoma about to take the first plunge of the year - March 31
Northern Ribbon Snake basking - April 1
Love is in the air - April 7
Spotted Salamander mating dance - April 4

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Northern trip stuff and another owl for the list

I had a number of target species to get on the northern trip. The following is that list and how successful I was at seeing them.

Varied Thrush

Spotted Towhee

Harris’s Sparrow
Gray-crowned Rosy-finch

These were the four rarities that we hoped to see and the Gray-crowned Rosy-finch (code 5) and Spotted Towhee (code 4) were the main reason for this trip! Fortunately we saw both of them, immediately making the trip worthwhile. The Harris's Sparrow (code 3) was nice to get early on. I will probably see Harris's Sparrows when I go north in the fall (they migrate through in small numbers), but even still I don't want to have to worry about this bird later in the year! We missed the Varied Thrush (code 3) in Ottawa which was really depressing since it was my second unsuccessful try for that individual. Two days after passing through Sault Ste. Marie we heard about a Varied Thrush near the Soo that had been present for several weeks....that's how it goes I guess. 


Ruffed Grouse

Spruce Grouse

Sharp-tailed Grouse

The grouse weren't major targets on the trip, simply because I will pick them all up at various points throughout the year. We were hoping that we would stumble upon them at some point on the trip but didn't have really high expectations. We did see Ruffed Grouse (code 1) in a number of locations, but missed the other two species.


Great Gray Owl

Boreal Owl

Northern Hawk-Owl
Barred Owl

There were extremely few small mammals up north and that would explain the paucity of owls. We missed all three of the northern species! I already had seen Great Gray Owl (code 3) in Kingsville and was really hoping to get the other species. We tried several times for calling Boreal Owls (code 3) in suitable habitat, but it was perhaps too early in their breeding season and we were unsuccessful. Northern Hawk-owl (code 3) was one that I thought we would stumble across as we drove backroads in the north, but that was not to be. We had a probable Barred Owl fly over the road in the north but didn't get a great look. Fortunately, I picked up Barred Owl yesterday in Guelph (scroll down the post).


N. Three-toed Woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpecker

We did get Black-backed Woodpecker in Sault Ste. Marie, but struck out on Three-toeds in several locations. Weather definitely played a factor. 


Gray Jay

Bohemian Waxwing

Boreal Chickadee

We got Gray Jays in several locations and a big flock of Bohemian Waxwings in Sault Ste. Marie. Surprisingly we didn't get any Boreal Chickadees in the boreal forest, but I did see a single bird in Algonquin on the way back. 


Pine Grosbeak

Hoary Redpoll

Evening Grosbeak

These were the remaining 3 regular finches I needed to see and we saw many individuals of all three species (all were code 2 birds). Getting the northern subspecies of Hoary Redpoll (Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll) was a great bird, even if it doesn't count as a year bird.

So when it all comes down to it, I got 3 of my 4 main targets, and 8 of my 15 secondary targets. Not great, but at least I saw the birds that mattered the most for my big year! I should get multiple opportunities to see all the secondary targets I missed.
 

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Yesterday I spend a couple hours in the morning doing some local birding around Guelph. The Barred Owl which had been hanging out at Guelph Lake all winter wasn't too hard to find and Matt Strimas-Mackey and I spent some time watching it hunt in the early morning sun. Very cool bird! 

Barred Owl - Guelph Lake

Barred Owl - Guelph Lake

I tried unsuccesfully for a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Guelph (not a bird I'll miss this year, but a cool bird to get in the winter), and succesfully saw my first Northern Pintail of the year, a drake. Brings the list up to 127.

Northern Pintail - Guelph


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You may recall at the beginning of the year that I made a goal of seeing all 10 regular finches and 10 regular owls early in the year. I have now seen all the finches (plus the bonus rosy-finch) and 8 of the 10 owls. I'll probably head north in April to get Boreal Owls calling on territory as well as trying for Three-toed Woodpeckers again.

There are several other birds that I hope to see before I leave for Scotland on February 16. They are:

Northern Hawk-owl
Black-legged Kittiwake (Fort Erie bird still being seen)
California Gull (one was seen on the weekend at the Niagara River - could very well be around)
Varied Thrush (might have to drive to the Soo for this one)
Tufted Titmouse (not really rare, but I should get them in Niagara)
Harlequin Duck (female bird occasionally being seen in Niagara)
Snow Goose (several birds are in the province, hopefully I can see the one in Hamilton)
Sharp-tailed Grouse (would be a life bird for me. Will try for them when I am back in the Soo)

I have to keep forcing myself to stay focused and only look for winter specialties and rarities. I could easily go to Long Point and get 5 or more year birds, but they would be all common birds that I will pick up later. If I spend time doing that I may miss a great rarity because of that.



This post is getting fairly long-winded so I think I'll end it here.