Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Bad photos of good birds

For the last week I have been completing surveys for work near Lindsay, Ontario. I happen to be done by early afternoon each day, giving me lots of time to search for birds after work on my way home! Some of the areas I have checked include the Carden Alvar, the southern shore of Lake Simcoe, and several towns on lakes and rivermouths that attract ducks (Bobcaygeon, Fenelon Falls, etc).

This morning, while checking the Colborne Street ponds in Lindsay on my way to the site, I noticed a raptor hovering in the distance, directly into the wind. It was a familiar bird - a Rough-legged Hawk. Roughies winter in southern Ontario but by now most will have flown north again. With this late winter, several other species have been lingering in the province, including Snow Buntings, Snowy Owls, and to an extent some of the waterfowl (pintails can be found in big flocks, rare geese are still frequently being seen).

On my way home I took a detour north to check out the ice conditions at Beaverton. I have been trying so far this year to stop and scan every flock of geese/ducks/gulls etc whenever possible. It is easy to get bored of this or to only scan the really big flocks, but by forcing myself to check them out more often I am hoping to come across some great birds.

While driving, a noticed a small flock of geese around a wet area of a field. There weren't that many, I did not see any white ones from the road, and there were no shorebirds or ducks to speak of. I turned the car around just in case and began scanning with my binoculars. One of the geese looked a little funny, but they were all sleeping so it was hard to be sure.

I focused on the bird in the bottom right of the above photo and grabbed my spotting scope from the back seat, not attached to my tripod. By steadying it against the window sill (it was too windy to try standing up with the scope on a tripod), I was able to pick out more details on the mystery goose, which was revealing itself as a Greater White-fronted Goose. It lifted its head and the orange and white bill/face combo was obvious. Also check out the black on the belly. Cool!

Greater White-fronted Geese, like many other geese species, are increasing in number and as a result wayward ones are more common in Ontario. While at one point they were an OBRC rarity, now they show up fairly frequently, perhaps with 20 to 30 records a year in Ontario. The reason I was so happy to see one, even though I had seen a white-front the previous day at Luther Marsh, was because this was the first one that I stumbled across on my one. One of my lists that I keep is my Ontario self-found list, which after the goose is sitting at 327. My criteria for this list roughly follows that which was described so eloquently by Punkbirder. Basically, if I find it, or if I am next to another birder which first spots/identifies it, then it goes on the list. The Black Vulture on the weekend was also new even though Kory Renaud first observed the bird. It is tricky with some birds like Loggerhead Shrike and Piping Plover, since they nest at known locations in very small numbers. I don't count seeing birds at these "colonies" - I have to find a vagrant well away from the colony. As a result, Piping Plover and Loggerhead Shrike are still missing from my list! Other big misses include Barrow's Goldeneye, Gray Partridge, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Great Gray Owl, and Harris's day, hopefully. A few weeks ago Brandon Holden wrote a blog entry about trying to find 400 species in Ontario.

We are now into that late-April window when pretty much anything can show up, and given the right weather, great stuff usually does! American Avocet, Worm-eating Warbler, more Cattle Egrets, and Eared Grebes seem like obvious choices to show up in the province in the upcoming week. There is always the possibility, however rare it may be, of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Swainson's Warbler, Lazuli Bunting or something crazier. I am hoping to make it down to Pelee this weekend - hopefully the winds cooperate!


  1. We need some good photos of bad-ass birds !!!

  2. Love following your explorations, even though I don't do as much birding as I used to.