Saturday 27 August 2011

Day one in Nova Scotia - now with photos

I'll add the photos to this post once I get back home (September 6 or so)

I had about 6 hours today to take the car and go birding by myself as Laura had to work at the rehab from 10 till 4:30 today. My route was from Lawrencetown beach west to the Eastern passage near Dartmouth, and back to Lawrencetown via some of the back roads along the coast near Cole Harbour. The Lawrencetown area was very productive and I found a Nelson's sparrow which was vocolizing. Tough to get a good view though! Also seen here were Short-billed Dowitchers, Eastern Willets, Semi-palmated Sandpipers and Plovers, Least Sandpipers, both Yellowlegs, and a Belted Kingfisher.


The rest of the day was spent touring the Eastern Passage area, though I didn't see much. I did get my first Nova Scotia Vesper Sparrow, great views of Osprey diving and catching flounder not 20 meters away, and multiple Northern Gannets. Of course a nice variety of shorebirds were present as well.

Osprey - Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia

crab - Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia

juvenile Semipalmated Plover - Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia

juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper - Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia

In Cow Bay I unexpectedly ran into a gentleman who introduced himself as Blake Maybank, one of Nova Scotia's top birders. It was really good chatting with him and he put me on a spot where he and his group had a Black-headed Gull earlier. While I was here I photographed a Common Eider that hauled itself onto a nearby rock. Common Eiders molt many of their flight feathers at one time, rendering them flightless for a time. Check out the crazy feather wear on this guy...

Common Eider - Cow Bay, Nova Scotia

I was running out of time so I checked out the Black-headed Gull spot at Rainbow Haven Provincial Park. I was surprised to find not one but two BHGUs! I had only previously seen this species once - a long distance view of one at Niagara Falls, so it was a nice opportunity to finally study this species up close. According to Blake, later in the fall at this location there are about equal numbers of Bonaparte's and Black-headed Gulls. On these birds, note the pale mantle, bright red bill, and large amount of black on the underside of the primaries to seperate it from the similar Bonaparte's Gull.

Black-headed Gull #1 - Rainbow Haven Provincial Park

Black-headed Gull #2 - Rainbow Haven Provincial Park

That's all for now. It looks like we will be going to Brier Island for some whale-watching. Apparently this is a really good place to do some sea-birding as well, with decent numbers of Great and Sooty Shearwaters, Wilson's Storm-petrels, both oceanic phalaropes, and the chance at Manx Shearwater, Northern Fulmar, Leach's Storm-petrel, etc. Should be fun!

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Nova Scotia bound!

In about 24 hours I will be leaving Windsor (for good, this time) and driving back to Cambridge. Friday evening I have a flight booked to Halifax, where I will be spending the next 10 days or so with Laura. Nova Scotia is a beautiful place and I'm looking forward to breathing in clean ocean air, hiking up mountains, walking down beaches, sailing, and all sorts of other things, BUT this blog is about birds so I'll talk about that.

This will be my 5th visit to the place, with the other four visits split between August and December/January. While I haven't really done too much birding, the few times I have been out Nova Scotia has been really good to me.

On my first visit, Laura and I did a bit of shorebirding along the coast. We saw some decent stuff including what was at the time my lifer White-rumped Sandpipers. An afternoon of whale-watching also produced some seabirds (but no whales!) including Greater Shearwater, Black-legged Kittiwakes, a Razorbill, some Arctic Terns, etc. We were surprised to see some American Golden-Plovers on an offshore island.

On December 31, 2009, I spent a day along the coast west of Halifax with Laura and our friend and former Guelphite Dom Cormier, as well as local birder Fulton Lavender. We had quite a bit of luck, finding both species of Murre, a young male King Eider with all the Commons, a Double-crested Cormorants with all the Greats (they are rare in winter), and a flock of Purple Sandpipers. We also took a look at a long-staying male Barrow's Goldeneye. The highlight though was when some pishing along a lonely road caused a House Wren to pop up for a bit! They are rare birds in Nova Scotia, and even rarer in the winter.

Finally, this past January while checking out the wildlife rehab centre where Laura works, I came across a female Eurasian Wigeon in the pond! They are a little more common out there than in Ontario.

I'll be returning on September 5, just when the jaeger season really heats up in Hamilton (oh yeah, and classes).

Monday 22 August 2011

More phalarope awesomeness

I decided to once again make the short trek over to Tilbury this afternoon while taking a break from work. Many of the same ducks and herons were still present, including the female Northern Shoveler (she was joined by 5 others on Saturday, but they were now gone), a handful of teal, a couple of Black Ducks, and a dozen Wood Ducks. While scanning the shorebirds, I was happy to see that the young Red-necked Phalarope had returned. It had been absent yesterday, apparently.

This is an awesome little bird and one of my favorite species. The lighting wasn't ideal at this time of day, but even still I slowly crawled down the embankment and grabbed about 100 photos of the little guy. Makes me wish I had an extra 100 or 200 mm on my lens!

juvenile Red-necked Phalarope - Tilbury lagoons

Every so often, the phalarope would spin quickly in a circle, creating a vortex that sucks tiny invertebrates up to the surface, which it promptly plucked off of the water.

juvenile Red-necked Phalarope - Tilbury lagoons

About a dozen total species of shorebirds were present including 4 juvenile Baird's Sandpipers, an adult White-rumped Sandpiper (the first of the fall for me at Tilbury), and 3 adult Long-billed Dowitchers.

adult Long-billed Dowitcher - Tilbury lagoons

While I was watching the shorebirds, I noticed that they all started lifting a wary eye to the sky. I took this as a hint and looked up, but the only raptorish shape I could see was a Chimney Swift way up high. About 10 minutes later the same thing took place.

juvenile Red-necked Phalarope - Tilbury lagoons

This time, though, the culprit was a juvenile Peregrine barelling in. It chased a flock of peeps around for a bit before eventually leaving. At one point the falcon was dangerously close to the phalarope, huddling close to the water! I found it interesting that the dowitchers and Greater Yellowlegs didn't fly when the Peregrine flew in - in fact the dowitchers never stopped feeding the entire time the aerial assault was on.

Peregrine Falcon - Tilbury lagoons

The flocks dissappeared, but over the next 20 minutes slowly started arriving and feeding. Here is a Lesser Yellowlegs trailed by a couple of peeps. I think the front two are Semi-sands and the back one is a Least.

shorebirds - Tilbury lagoons

Also seen was a single American Pipit, my first of the fall and first for Tilbury. I also heard a couple of Bobolinks as they migrated south over the lagoons (also new for my Tilbury list). I think I've seen close to 100 species of birds there over the last year.

Some forgotten shots from this summer

I was going through some of my photos today and realized there were quite a few that I had taken but hadn't taken the time to edit. Since I never made it out to Pelee as planned (work got in the way), this will be my only contribution of the day.

An awesome little bug that I tried to be "artsy" with.

This is one of my radioed females. She was implanted in early June, moved almost 1/2 a km to give birth (the farthest movement I've seen so far out of this species), gave birth in mid July, and then traveled the entire distance back back to her home range. Quite an accomplishment for a little snake that weighs just 50 grams!

Butler's Gartersnake - Windsor, ON

In early summer, I took some time to photograph some of the metamorph frogs. In some areas it was possible to have at least 10 of these little Northern Leopard Frogs hop away with every step one takes.

Northern Leopard Frog - Windsor, ON

One afternoon, a few of us went on an Eastern Prairie-Fringed Orchid hunt in Ojibway. This plant is Endangered in Ontario with only a handful of populations left. On our way to the orchids, I stopped to take some (very poor) photos of some metamorph Western Chorus Frogs.

Western Chorus Frog - Ojibway

And the star attraction of the day...

Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid - Ojibway

July 2 was the Ojibway butterfly count. I met up with Tom Preney and we spent the morning scouring our area for whatever butterflies we could find. We didn't see much and I didn't photograph too many things, but here is a small sample of some of the insect life... Not photographed (but seen) was the endangered Rapids Clubtail near the Ojibway Nature Centre.

Robber fly sp. - Ojibway

Mourning Cloak - Ojibway

Saturday 20 August 2011

Finally! A change at Tilbury

This morning when I posted I lamented how, despite excellent conditions, the rare birds were just not showing up at the Tilbury lagoons. I did have an American Avocet there early in July, but ever since then the rarest birds have been the regular Long-billed Dowitchers.

It seems that for today at least, the curse was slightly broken. While no rarities were found, there was a huge change in the numbers and diversity at Tilbury with a few interesting birds mixed in. Beforehand, let me mention that the quality of the photos leave something to desire. The birds were a little too far away for me to use the 300mm, so I resorted to digiscoping with my 18-55 lens.

My coworker, Matt, and I took a break from work and made the quick trip over to the lagoons. One of the first birds we saw was this Horned Grebe, hanging out with a couple of Pied-billed Grebes. What a weird sighting! I have never seen one at the lagoons. It almost seems that an Eared Grebe would have been more likely.

Horned Grebe - Tilbury lagoons

Around this time, another car pulled in and I realized it was my friends Ken and Mike Burrell. They were doing a big loop of the southern Ontario shorebird spots and had already seen an Upland Sandpiper at Mitchell and 2 Red-necked Phalaropes at Exeter. Together, the 4 of us scoped the "shorebird cell" at Tilbury with a few highlights.

This juvenile Red-necked Phalarope stood out and was one of the first birds I looked at. I nice surprise, and a new one for my Tilbury list (as well as Ontario year list, but who's counting).

juvenile Red-necked Phalarope - Tilbury lagoons

Stilt Sandpipers had arrived. Earlier in the fall I had seen 1 or 2 adults, but today 3 juveniles were present. Neat looking birds, and one of my favorites.

juvenile Stilt Sandpiper - Tilbury lagoons

I was happy to finally see a few Baird's Sandpipers at Tilbury - the first ones of the fall for me here. They were both juveniles.

juvenile Baird's Sandpiper - Tilbury lagoons

Of course there were still Dowitchers - 3 adult Long-billed, and the rest juvenile and adult Short-billed. Some of the Long-billed Dowitchers were quite far along in their prebasic molt. No pics today.

Other birds seen include 14 Great Egrets (a lot less than the 40 Blake had!), 2 Black-crowned Night-herons, both species of Teal, 5 Northern Shovelers, and 8 Wood Ducks.

This afternoon I brought my camera into the field with me in case I came across any butterflies. I found a few Fiery Skippers and an un-IDed Duskywing. My guess is Wild Indigo.

female Fiery Skipper - Turkey Creek, Windsor

I kind of like this shot of a Viceroy on the gravel path.

Viceroy - Turkey Creek, Windsor

This mama and her two fauns kept an eye on me as I approached.

White-tailed Deer - Turkey Creek, Windsor

White-tailed Deer - Turkey Creek, Windsor

That's all for now. I am hoping to go to Pelee first thing tomorrow, or at the very least Tilbury again.

Not much news

Another week, come and gone. I did make it out to the Tilbury lagoons twice, and as expected, nothing new was seen.

Shorebirds included 11 species, and the highlight were the same 4 Long-billed Dowitchers. Many of them are undergoing extensive feather molt.

Long-billed Dowitcher - Tilbury lagoons

The duck scene is getting slightly more interesting. On Wednesday, among the 300 Mallards I noticed a female Bufflehead, 3 Northern Shoveler, 11 Wood Ducks, and a smattering of both species of teal. One can only hope for a Cinnamon Teal or Garganey.

At work, I spent an hour one afternoon with 3 of my co-workers as well as Tom Preney hiking through the Springgarden ANSI. We checked out a nice spot that had a large amount of Rough Blazingstar. Here is a Silver-spotted Skipper on it:

Silver-spotted Skipper on Rough Blazingstar

This appears to be a meadowhawk of some sort.

Meadowhawk sp.

And finally, a little American toad I found sitting on a trail.

American Toad

This weekend I am slated to work a fair bit but I am hoping to get out at least once to Point Pelee or Tilbury. I would also like to take a walk in the Ojibway Prairie and try to turn up some new butterflies.....

In other news...its almost jaeger time!!!! Once we get a few cold fronts followed by some east winds, Long-tailed and perhaps Parasitic should start to show up in western Lake Ontario. SW winds may bring something good to the tip of Pelee. Unfortunately I will miss the majority of Long-tailed Jaeger season because of my trip to Nova Scotia. It was not too long ago that a Manx Shearwater was spotted at Van Wagner's Beach early in the jaeger season (August 31, 2006), as well as a Long-billed Curlew (August 23, 2009).

Sunday 14 August 2011

Townsend Sewage Lagoons

This evening I headed to the Townsend sewage lagoons with Brett Fried with the hopes that the looming thunderstorms would ground some shorebirds. The first lagoon has had decent shorebird habitat all summer and good numbers of peeps had been reported. This was my first visit to the site in over a year.

The weather hadn't grounded as many shorebirds as we had anticipated but we still had good numbers of 11 species. Highlights included:

-Thousands and thousands of swallows. Brett and I estimated that there were somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 present. All 6 species were there including 3 lingering Purple Martins. Tree and Bank Swallows made up 95 percent of the swallows.
-1 White-rumped Sandpiper (adult)
-1 Short-billed Dowitcher (juv)
-3 Baird's Sandpipers (adult)

No pictures due to the weather.

Tomorrow I will check out Tilbury on my way to work. I'm getting pretty excited - only 2 more weeks of work and then I am done. My job is great, don't get me wrong (after all, I spend all day wandering around in tallgrass prairie!) but I am ready for a change. I have a flight booked to Nova Scotia on August 26th, where I will spend 10 days with my lovely girlfriend, Laura. I doubt I will get out birding much, but we might do a bit of shorebirding on the coast, a much more scenic location than the stinky sewage lagoons of Ontario. After that I will be back in Guelph for my last year at the university.

Central Kingbirds and more

This past week I brought my camera into the field a couple of times and managed to get a few shots of some butterflies. Common Ringlets are becoming more and more common. I saw at least one every day last week!

Common Ringlet - Windsor, Ontario

Among the skippers seen last week was this Peck's.

Peck's Skipper - Windsor, Ontario

On Wednesday, I noticed an Ontbirds post from James Holdsworth about a Western Kingbird and 3 hybrid juvenile Eastern x Western Kingbirds. I have never seen hybrid kingbirds and the location was about 2 minutes from my office, so Dan Riley and I swung by one afternoon and took a look at these "Central" Kingbirds. Pretty cool to see Westerns attempt breeding in Windsor, even though only one half of the pair was the right species. The photos are pretty bad and I'll attribute that to the very poor lighting and heavy cropping.

juvenile Eastern x Western Kingbird - Windsor, Ontario
juvenile Eastern x Western Kingbird - Windsor, Ontario

The adult Western Kingbird was present too. I had only seen this species once before (an adult seen in November, 2009 in Port Burwell) so it was nice to reacquaint myself with the species. For better photos that were taken by James Holdsworth and Dwayne Murphy, check out Dwayne's blog:

Western Kingbird - Windsor, Ontario
Yesterday I decided to check out Point Pelee before going to Cambridge for the weekend. It was a beautiful day - warm but not hot, with a nice breeze coming in off the lake. Seacliff Beach was first on my agenda. I had a bit of fun taking some shots of the abundant Larids. There were 8 species of gulls/terns present - Caspian, Forster's, and Common Terns as well as Bonaparte's, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Ring-billed, and Herring Gulls. The only LBBG was this individual, molting from 1st summer to 2nd winter plumage.

Lesser Black-backed Gull - Seacliff Beach, Ontario

I had limited time in the park so I decided to walk the West Beach trail from the VC to the tip. Many Giant Swallowtails were taking advantage of the abundant Spotted Knapweed.

Giant Swallowtail - Point Pelee National Park

I was happy to see 2 new butterflies - 2 Dun Skippers (no photos) and 3 Horace's Duskywngs. Horace's had been reported on and off for the past week or two, but I was still surprised when I came across them.  They were all within 5 feet of the water's edge, landing on some of the vegetation that had washed up on shore.

Horace's Duskywing - Point Pelee National Park

Horace's Duskywing - Point Pelee National Park

This was an odd sight - a Great Blue Heron flocking with the gulls. Another 1st summer/2nd winter LBBG was with this flock as well.

Great Blue Heron - Point Pelee National Park

A single Eastern Comma allowed me to take its photo.

Eastern Comma - Point Pelee National Park

From there, I headed over to the Tilbury lagoons. The conditions still remain excellent but still there wasn't much turnover. These lagoons are now probably being checked close to every day so I would imagine that if something really rare drops in, it has a good chance of being seen and reported.

Among the 12 species of shorebirds were 4 adult Long-billed Dowitchers, 3 Short-billed Dowitchers (including 2 juvies), and an adult Stilt Sandpiper. Only 3 Great Egrets this time.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Leps from work

This afternoon I took a bit of time to try out my new lens. I have owned it for a more than a week and used it a few times, but that was mostly for documentation purposes. Today was fairly overcast and I noticed quite a bit of activity with the butterflies, so I dragged the lens out into the field. 

Some of the first butterflies I noticed were some skippers low in the sedges of the tallgrass prairie. Here is a Least: 

Least Skipper - Windsor, Ontario

 and presumably, a Little Glassywing.

Little Glassywing - Windsor, ON

This was the only American Lady seen -it was frequenting a patch of Ironweed.

American Lady - Windsor, Ontario

It didn't take me long before I decided to chase after some of the swallowtails, working a bunch of Ironweed and Dense Blazingstar. I was happy to get close to a pair of Giant Swallowtails and grab my first shots of this species.

Giant Swallowtail - Windsor, Ontario

 This Black Swallowtail was an easy photo subject. The clouds had lifted at this point, making the light slightly harsher.

Black Swallowtail - Windsor, Ontario

Black Swallowtail - Windsor, Ontario

Also observed were Eastern Tiger and Spicebush Swallowtails. It was easy to miss a lot of the skippers with the big, gaudy species vying for attention. I did snap a few photos.

Silver-spotted Skippers were seen from far away as they patrolled many of the flowering plants.

Silver-spotted Skipper - Windsor, Ontario

There were a few small, whitish butterflies down low in the grasses. I managed to get a good look at an Acadian Hairstreak as well as photograph Eastern Tailed-Blue and Summer Azure.
Eastern Tailed-Blue - Windsor, Ontario

Summer Azure - Windsor, Ontario
A few Hummingbird Clearwings were see and I was happy to get a photo I was quite happy with, even though I didn't freeze the wings.

Hummingbird Clearwing - Windsor, ON

Monarch - Windsor, ON