Sunday, 15 June 2014

Odds and ends from May

As we move into the summer months the amount of recreational birding I do drops off significantly. May is a hurried and frenetic time for birders throughout eastern North America. Nearly every species of bird that we see regularly in Ontario can show up in May. Neotropical migrants are passing through in huge numbers, strays from the west and south show up frequently, and even some lingering wintering birds can still be found. I tried to make the most of the month, driving down to Pelee every weekend for a few days.

But by the time the calendar switches over into June, my focus turns away from looking for birds. My work schedule picks up significantly and I just don't have the time or ambition to go birding on my own away from work hours. Yes, even obsessive birders can get a little sick of it during the hot summer months! Besides, the summer is also the best time of year to look for dragonflies, butterflies, moths, and reptiles. Not to mention the best time of year to sit by a lake with friends having a few beers....Needless to say my birding is limited to wherever my job takes me.

This is where work took me on Thursday (Shining Tree, Ontario). I may or may not have gone skinny dipping in the lake here.

After completing a breeding bird survey this morning, I debated the possibility of checking out some local areas to see what I could find. In the end though, I figured I might as well go home and take care of some errands that I have been putting off for some time. That North American Birds report isn't going to write itself unfortunately. I also decided that I might as well clear the slate of all my May photos from Pelee that I have yet to post. I'm behind enough on my blog with tons of photos from Panama (and a few from Europe, too) still waiting to be edited and then posted, so hopefully I can catch up on the Pelee photos this week and get to work on writing day reports for Panama shortly after!

I'll start off with a few photos of a male Cape May Warbler that was extremely "co-operative" - basically, another word for "starving and willing to put up with gawking birders for a chance at finding a cold insect on the ground". Dozens of migrant warblers - mostly Wilson's, Blackburnian, Cape May, and Tennessee - along with a healthy dose of Scarlet Tanagers and several orioles, catbirds, vireos, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were all low to the ground on the east side of the park early in the morning. The sun warmed the ground here causing insects to be more active - a welcome sight for tired, cold, and hungry neotropical migrants.

Back on May 13 I visited Paletta Park in Oakville with Kory Renaud in hopes of seeing a reported Cerulean Warbler and Acadian Flycatcher. We dipped on the Cerulean, but did see the Acadian a couple of times high up in a willow. The only flycatcher that was low enough to be photographed was this Traill's Flycatcher. For those unaware, Traill's is a name given to a flycatcher which is either a Willow or an Alder. In fact they used to be considered the same species! These two species are very similar in appearance and are reliably only separated by voice. The bird pictured below was silent so it gets the Traill's label. I used to think that I could tell apart Alder and Willow Flycatchers if I saw them well, but several experiences over the last few years have made me less confident. I've had some that to me look like Willows yet call like Alders, and vice versa. I guess lighting can really change the appearance of a flycatcher from looking more olive-y to looking more gray.

A curious Chestnut-sided Warbler from May 10 at Rondeau Provincial Park...

And finally, a rainy day Tree Swallow.

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