Sunday, 27 May 2018

Birding with my dad

Last Wednesday my dad drove up from Cambridge to spend the day looking for birds with me. The sun was shining, migrant and resident bird species were plentiful and we had an awesome day together. Below are a few photo highlights!

Our first stop was a Great Horned Owl nest which I had discovered earlier in the year in Niagara-on-the-Lake (just off the QEW in fact). Leaf-out has occurred, making it now impossible to view the nest from the road. We entered the woods and quickly noticed one of the young birds on the nest, while an adult perched nearby, keeping a watchful eye on us. Unfortunately we could only spot one of the two babies, though it is possible that the other was deep in the nest and not visible from the ground during our visit.

For the rest of the morning we explored the Port Weller east pier. Over the course of several hours we enjoyed several great experiences with birds, including this group of Cedar Waxwings that were busily munching down on the petals of a Crabapple. I've never seen waxwings chowing down on petals like this before, though I am sure it is a regular enough behaviour and I just have not been attentive enough around them.

Cedar Waxwing - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region


Cedar Waxwing - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region

Cedar Waxwings are a sleek and attractive species and one that is easy to overlook, given that it is a ubiquitous species in southern Ontario. We spent about 10 minutes with the waxwings, filling our memory cards.

Cedar Waxwing - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region

Cedar Waxwing - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region

Cedar Waxwing - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region

Warblers and other migrant songbirds were easy to find, though the numbers were lower than on my previous few visits. We did have great looks at Blackburnian, Blackpoll and Magnolia Warblers, out of a dozen total species.

While we were walking along the main center path, dad spotted a Common Nighthawk roosting on a branch just off of the trail! That made two nighthawks that he had spotted in the last two days that I have spent birding with him, as he had discovered one at Pelee when we were there together.

Common Nighthawk - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region

This was actually my first ever Common Nighthawk that I've seen on the Port Weller east pier. Thanks dad!

Common Nighthawk - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region

We inadvertently flushed three Black-crowned Night-Herons that were roosting in trees along the eastern shoreline of the pier. One lingered on a nearby rebar and concrete peninsula for a few minutes.

Black-crowned Night-Heron - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region

Song Sparrows are one of the more common denizens of the Port Weller east pier, and several posed nicely for photos during our walk.

Song Sparrow - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region

Song Sparrow - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region

I noticed my first Wild Indigo Duskywing near the small pond, while at the end of the pier we also found a fresh Black Swallowtail.

Black Swallowtail - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region

We finished our walk on the pier with around 65 species, then grabbed lunch and headed off to Short Hills Provincial Park. Located just southwest of St. Catharines, Short Hills has a nice mix of Carolinian forest, meadow ecotypes, streams, and even a waterfall or two. It covers a relatively large area, and contained within is an excellent trail system.

Though the day had become quite warm at that point, a high volume of birdsong reverberated through the woods as we meandered along the trails. Hooded Warblers are quite common at Short Hills, which is a relatively recent development. This species used to be somewhat scarce in the province though in recent years they have been spreading north. During the first Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas compiled during the 1980s, only one 10x10 km square in Niagara Region had breeding evidence for Hooded Warbler. During the second atlas in the early 2000s, about a dozen squares had records, or about half the squares in Niagara.

Hooded Warbler - Short Hills Provincial Park, Niagara Region

Several Six-spotted Tiger Beetles alighted on the trail in front of us at various points; their metallic green bodies shining in the sunlight.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle - Short Hills Provincial Park, Niagara Region

We lucked out with our main bird target at Short Hills - Blue-winged Warbler - which was a lifer for dad! Short Hills is a great place to spot this species in Niagara, as they can be reasonably common in the savannah and meadow habitats, as well as along the utility corridors.

Blue-winged Warbler - Short Hills Provincial Park, Niagara Region

Below are a few more photos from our time at Short Hills of various odds and ends.

Eastern Comma - Short Hills Provincial Park, Niagara Region

Wild Blue Phlox - Short Hills Provincial Park, Niagara Region

Green Frog - Short Hills Provincial Park, Niagara Region

It was an awesome day in the field!

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