Wednesday 27 June 2012

Crappy photos of Pelee rarities from this spring

I have a few moments before bed (waking up at 3 to work/bird) so I thought I would finally post some of the rarer birds I had at Pelee this spring. Hopefully most of these I hadn't posted yet!

I'll start off with an Olive-sided Flycather from waaaay  back on May 3. Andrew Keaveney found it north of Wheatley, and since I was driving past the spot at the time I dropped in to take a look! He took me back to the spot, and sure enough, the OSFL was hanging out doing some flycatching. This is the earliest one I have seen in Ontario by over a week.

On May 6th I was just returning from my morning of reverse-migration monitoring at the tip when word got out about a Lark Sparrow that Michael Biro had found at the Northwest Beach parking lot. Not only would it be a new Pelee bird for me, but Lark Sparrow was a code 3, and a tough one at that. I made it to the parking lot in record time (fortunately without hitting any turkeys...this time), and it didn't take long before it was re-found. I took a few distant record shots, than waited for the crowds to disperse. As I was leaving the parking lot a bird flew up into a tree right beside me. It was the Lark Sparrow and I had my camera at the ready! Getting this bird so easily at Pelee was great since I was worried that I would have had to chase one in Ottawa or Rainy River or something later in the year.

Previously that morning while I was at the tip, two very silent crows flew over. Any crows at the tip immediately warrant attention since they are not that common and the potential for Fish Crows is there. I managed to photograph one of them, but after scrutinizing them I am still unsure of the species. Let me know if anyone has any thoughts on what species they are...

That very same day I was lucky to see 2 Summer Tanagers. The first was with Steve Pike as we were walking along the west beach near Dunes I believe. I was up ahead, then Steve came running to inform me of a male Summer Tanager he had just found. It was very distant at the top of a tree (good spot, Steve!) so this is the only photo I managed. The second bird was a brilliant adult male that I saw along the beach at the very north end of the park while looking for butterflies with Steve and Alan Wormington. Unfortunately neither of us had our cameras ready for that one!

Oh yeah, Steve and I also saw a Sleepy Orange Sulfur, one of only a few Canadian records of this southern species at the time. Several more showed up throughout the week, providing many with a new Ontario butterfly for their list! It was a pretty good day on May 6...

Speaking of butterflies, Dainty Sulfurs were also in the news. A crappy photo, and regrettably the best one I took of this species. Hopefully I'll have another opportunity to photograph one in the near future!

A flock of American Avocets is always nice to see...

One of the highlights of the spring was a beautiful adult Blue Grosbeak that I was very fortunate to see. A fellow birder from Goderich found it coming to his feeder. He did not really want hoards of birders coming to see it understandably, but knew that I was doing a big year and allowed me to drive up to see it! If you are reading this, thank you :)  

There were some rumours swirling at one point that I didn't actually see this bird...The photo below is probably the best "proof" I can provide! Yep, that's my dusty old car in the same photo as the Blue Grosbeak...

And just for fun, here's a photo of the Eared Grebe that Pete Read and I found on April 29th. It eventually hung around for 4 days, but the best photos I took of it were from that first morning! I think I posted the photo previously, but oh well you have to see it again!

I have a few more photos from Pelee that still need to be posted, but that can wait until a later date. Time for bed!

Sunday 24 June 2012

Still alive!

Update - photos posted! See below...

I have been kind of MIA in recent days, but I have good reasons! First of all, it is the time of year when those of us who go birding for a living (...err.I mean do environmental impact assessments) are working all the time getting as much work in as possible. After being on a whirlwind 6 day trip to Rainy River, I arrived for about a day and a half, and now I find myself at my hotel in Goderich. Tomorrow morning I do some surveys then race to Toronto to catch a flight to Thunder Bay, and drive to Marathon to spend the week doing some surveys out there.
Laura, as some of you know, is in Ontario for the summer, working in Cambridge and staying at my folks place there, so whenever I am home for a few days between surveys I obviously have my priorities straight and spend as much time as I can with her!
Needless to say, the blog gets neglected every now and then.

I thought that I would post a few more Rainy River highlights from last week. Unfortunately I don't have my photos with me on this computer, but I will add them on Tuesday.

Mob of angry cows

 I can't talk too much about work-related stuff, but can talk about some of the bird highlights. I finished with 144 species for the district (plus a few more on the drive from Thunder Bay). I managed to get all 3 species of grouse while doing surveys, including a family of Sharp-tailed Grouse, a beautiful male Spruce Grouse, and a family of Ruffed Grouse! The only problem is that I am often hiking several kms from the nearest road in the middle of the bush so I don't often bring my camera with me.

Savannah Sparrow - western Rainy River District

Nonetheless, I did snap some shots of a confiding Brewer's Blackbird on a fence post. I caught myself a couple of times seeing a blackbird on a wire/post and saying "just another Red-winged or Grackle" before thinking "wait a minute, a Brewer's!". It is kind of cool to see them being a default species that is found in any open area since they are incredibly uncommon in the south.

Brewer' Blackbird - western Rainy River District

One of the major highlights was finding a Green Heron with Dominic Cormier (my coworker, and long time friend and crazy birder). There are only a handful of Green Heron records accepted by the OBRC för Northern Ontario, maybe 5 or 6 (I don't have the records with me at the moment). Jon Pleizier had seen a Green Heron on several occasions nearby while working here last spring. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a pair or two breeding here! While this was a fun find, unfortunately Green Herons are common in the south and so it wasn't a new year bird.

Some other random highlights:
-several Black Bears, moose, and a wolf howling
-watching a Red-headed Woodpecker packing a hole in a fencepost with horse flies it was catching
-several lifer butterflies, all common northern species, but it was my first time looking at butterflies in the north!

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail - western Rainy River District

-getting a Le Conte's sparrow singing its little heart out at 11:56 PM while we were owl surveying
-seeing yet another Dickcissel as well as several Upland Sandpipers

Dickcissel - western Rainy River District

-21 species of warblers, with the only local breeders I missed being Pine and Tennessee
-adding a few new Ontario herps...Boreal Chorus Frog and Western Painted Turtle (though the turtle is "just"a new subspecies for me)

Western Painted Turtle - western Rainy River District

-our first fall migrants...Lesser Yellowlegs at the Rainy River lagoons on June 19
-seeing soaring flocks of pelicans everywhere we went

American White Pelican - western Rainy River District

Anyways, that's all for now. I'll try to get the photos posted soon. I am at 317 birds for the year and I wouldn't be surprised if I don't get a new yearbird for a while! Unless a rarity shows up and conveniently stays for a weekend, I won't add anything new. But with fall migrants just starting to come through I'll hopefully get a few new birds before I leave for James Bay in early August (more on that later). I still need quite a few shorebirds such as Stilt Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Red Knot, Purple Sandpiper, Red Phalarope, and Red-necked Phalarope, all usually out of that group only Stilt Sandpiper shows up before August.. I still need Nelson's Sparrow and Western Kingbird as well so I'll put in a good effort for them when I am in Rainy River in 10 days. Plus, this is a good time of year for something like a Eurasian Collared-Dove, rare heron/egret/ibis, Ruff, etc to show up. It wouldn't be that surprising if a rare midwestern grassland species follows all the Dickcissels that have influxed into Ontario..maybe something like a Chestnut-collared Longspur or Sprague's Pipit. One can only hope!

Question Mark - western Rainy River District

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Rainy River after 3 days

It's been pouring all day today, putting a damper on our fieldwork, so I thought that I would take the time to mention some of the highlights of my Rainy River trip so far!

I'll start off with my target birds. Black-billed Magpies were almost too easy, and I have seen at least 40 by now! This was a new Ontario bird for me and I think it will take a long time for me to get sick of this beautiful species. There are a couple of flocks of 10-15 of these birds on our study site. Unfortunately I haven't had a good photo opportunity yet, but hopefully soon! My other main target bird was Western Kingbird. Despite a concerted effort yesterday afternoon we failed to turn up neither the previously reported one just southeast of Rainy River, or any others in suitable looking habitat. This pair of Dickcissels, first found by Michael Dawber about a week ago, was certainly a nice consolation!

Dickcissel - western Rainy River District

Another major target of mine was Sharp-tailed Grouse. It would not only be a year bird, but a life bird as well! I hadn't done much birding in areas where this species can be found, and when I had I struck out every single time. Yesterday morning while I was bush-wacking way out in the middle of nowhere doing my point counts, I flushed 14 small grouse-like birds! A bigger one stayed put, and looking at it, it was a beautiful Sharp-tailed Grouse! The 14 small ones were obviously her young. I managed to catch a few quick glimpses of some of the young to confirm. I watched the mama grouse for about 5-10 minutes before I made a hasty retreat to give the grouses their space. This was a very exciting lifer and quite unexpected at that very moment! I made a video of mom (its still on my phone) but I didn't get any photos since I decided to leave my camera behind. Later that afternoon, as my co-workers and I did a bit of birding farther west, we came across about 5 other Sharp-tailed Grouse on the roads and in the fields. Can you spot the Sharp-tailed Grouse in the below photo?

Sharp-tailed Grouse - western Rainy River District

The best way to find Sharp-tailed Grouse in this area is to simply drive the roads and wait until one is flushed from the shoulder. Ruffed Grouse make it a bit easier sometimes by standing in the middle of the road.

Ruffed Grouse - western Rainy River District

Franklin's Gull was another major target, though I wasn't too worried about them since I had plans to do round two of bird surveys for work in early July, a time of year when Franklin's Gulls are much easier to find. However, we found 7 of them at Windy Point! We were busy talking to a land-owner, telling them how we were looking for this particular gull with a black hood, when conveniently the group flew past us. Very cool! Unfortunately I didn't have my camera at the ready, and despite waiting it out, no more Franklin's Gulls flew by. The Franklin's Gulls were year bird 317 for me.

We have seen lots of other good birds over the last couple of days. Highlights for me include American Three-toed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Western Meadowlark, Le Conte's Sparrow (very common out here), 17 species of warbler including Cape May, Bay-breasted, many Golden-winged, and Connecticut, Whip-poor-wills, and Yellow-throated Vireos. Seeing some of the specialties of the area, such as American White Pelican and Brewer's Blackbird is definitely a highlight as well.

Savannah Sparrow - western Rainy River District

American White Pelicans - western Rainy River District

Bobolink - western Rainy River District

There have been lots of interesting butterflies and herps out here also. I was very happy to finally get my lifer Boreal Chorus Frog, though admittedly I cannot tell the difference between this one and Western Chorus Frog, the southern Ontario version of this species. Western Painted Turtles are all over the roads this time of year. This is a new subspecies for me which is also kind of exciting! Anyways, I'll post lots more photos in the days to come.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Arrived in Rainy River!

After flying from Toronto to Thunder Bay, I picked up one of the rental cars with my co-workers Izabela and Said, and we were on HWY 11 heading west by about 6:00 PM. The drive was largely uneventful for the first hour, though I was happy to see several new birds for my Thunder Bay list since I have only birded in the district in January and April.

Things got interesting as we crossed the county line into the Rainy River District. Just east of kilometre marker 1714, I was very excited to see a Northern Hawk Owl perching on the hydro wire, right near a hydro cut! Not long after there was a nice looking Black-backed Woodpecker working a dead snag. I was really stoked to see the Northern Hawk-owl, as it was the last regular occurring species of owl I need for the year, and total species #314. Unfortunately no time for photos since the lighting was really low, my camera was way in the bottom of the suitcase somewhere in the trunk, and we were in a hurry.

We arrived in Fort Frances just as the sun was setting and checked into the hotel. The first thing I did when I checked into my room was to open the back door (with access right on Rainy Lake, I might add) and scan for birds. I was very happy to see a group of 4 American White Pelicans soar over and land way out on the lake. I know that these birds are common in Rainy River, but nonetheless it will be hard to get used to seeing these massive white birds with orange bills soaring over everywhere!

Tomorrow we start our fieldwork which we will be doing for the next 5 days. I'll try to check in every couple of days and if I have time I'll take a few pictures of interesting species we see.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Rainy River trip

Last night, I picked up Laura from the airport, so needless to say I haven't really done anything nature/bird/herp/etc related lately! We did go for a hike at a favorite local area with my brother this afternoon, and it didn't take long for Laura to find a beautiful Eastern Milksnake, only the fourth that I have ever seen in the county! One of the other ones I saw with my brother, as well, so it seems that they are both good luck. :) We also had 3 other species of snakes and a half dozen species of salamanders. I don't have anything else planned until Sunday, when I leave for my first work trip of the season.

I will be in the Fort Frances area of Rainy River doing mainly bird surveys next week with my buddies (and co-workers) Dom and John. I'm sure while I am up there I will run into most of the Rainy River specialties. There are 6 target birds which I should have a chance at while I am up there, all which would be year birds. I have never been to Rainy River so some of them would be new Ontario birds too!

Black-billed Magpie (code 2), Western Kingbird (code 3):

These are the two main target species for the trip. Magpie would be a new Ontario bird, but fortunately they are very common in the district and I should see many of them. Western Kingbird is only occasionally in the area during the summer, however Michael Dawber found one the other day and hopefully it will still be around. He also found several Dickcissels up there, a species that has really invaded the province this summer. The weather conditions sending Dickcissels into the province (hot and dry) may also push Western Kingbirds farther north/east! If I don't get the kingbird this trip, we are heading back up to Rainy River for more surveys in July.

Sharp-tailed Grouse (code 2), Northern Hawk-owl (code 3)

Sharp-tailed Grouse should be easy (and will be a lifer), while Hawk-owl will be much tougher. They are around, so it is just a matter of finding a breeding pair! If I somehow miss one or both species I should still have several opportunities the rest of the year.

Franklin's Gull (code 2), Nelson's Sparrow (code 2)

Both of these species may be tricky. I might not have the time between surveys to check out the Nelson's Sparrow spots, and it may be too early in the season for Franklin's Gulls to have arrived in the area. They breed in nearby Minnesota and then cross over into Rainy River afterwards, staying for the rest of the summer. If I don't get them now, I should hopefully get them on the second trip.

Of course, we'll be keeping our eyes (and mostly our ears) open for rare western birds like Western Wood-pewee, Sprague's Pipit, Chestnut-collared Longspur, and Baird's Sparrow! Plus it will be great to see some of the specialties of the area, such as Brewer's and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Connecticut Warblers, A. White Pelicans, Le Conte's Sparrows, Yellow Rails, etc. Should be fun! :)

Monday 11 June 2012

Dickcissels and car troubles

On Sunday afternoon after taking in the Jays game, I packed up my car and drove the very familiar drive down  the 401 to southwestern Ontario. I had 2 target birds on my mind - Dickcissel and Barn Owl. I already had Dickcissel for the year, but they're cool birds and I wanted to photograph them! Recently they have been popping up all over southwestern Ontario: Blenheim, Wheatley, Sarnia, Long Point, Point Pelee. There is a good chance that any big, weedy field in southwestern Ontario, if you can find one, has a Dickcissel or two! Additionally, I was planning on spending all day Monday herping the Rondeau area to hopefully see some nesting turtles as well as Fowler's Toads.

Dickcissels are related to cardinals and buntings but look like colourful House Sparrows. Sometimes in dry years they disperse from their midwest range to points northward, such as southern Ontario. I'm not sure who named it (and I'm too lazy to look it up) but apparently it is called a Dickcissel because its song sounds like "Dick dick cissel cissel cissel". Still, a hilarious name.

I checked out the Tilbury lagoons, getting my first photographed Great Egret this year as well as a few late shorebirds such as White-rumped and Semipalmated Sandpipers.

Great Egret, Double-crested Cormorant and Mallards - Tilbury lagoons

From here I drove south to Wheatley and checked out the field on the corner of Camper's Cove Road and Talbot Road. Sure enough, several Dickcissels were present! I heard at least 3 males, possibly up to 5, and also saw at least 2 females.

Dickcissel - Wheatley

Most likely they will nest here again this year. Hopefully the field doesn't get mowed!

Dickcissel - Wheatley

With my secondary target in the bag I headed to the Blenheim area where I was going to search for Barn Owls. They have nested here in the past and I was hoping I could drive enough back roads at night and eventually come across one.

While it was still light out I checked out a few hotspots in the area, namely Erieau and the Blenheim lagoons. Nothing happening at Erieau though Blenheim had some lingering waterfowl and about 50 shorebirds. Amongst the many Spotted Sandpipers, Killdeers, and Semipalmated Sandpipers I also had 2 White-rumped Sandpipers, a Dunlin, and a beautiful pair of Wilson's Phalaropes! Maybe they will hang around and nest in the area.

From here it was time for a Barn Owl search. Long story short, after about 2 hours of nothing I was driving slowly down one of the country roads. A deer ran out in front of me, and even though I slammed on the breaks I still hit it going about 50 km/h. The front end of my car was all banged up so I called the police to fill out an accident report.

The hood wouldn't stay closed, but fortunately everything in the engine was intact as was the bumper and fenders. Both headlights are damaged so I may have to replace them as well. I'm just glad that I was going 50 when I hit it, instead of 100!

Needless to say this kind of killed the trip (to say nothing of the deer) so I drove home. I ended up using a bungie cord to keep the hood down, but even then I couldn't really go faster than 60 km/h without it coming up. I took the backroads and finally made it home just after 4:00 AM. Kind of a shitty trip.

So what's next on the agenda?
I should have the new hood in my car tomorrow and I am planning on doing a bit of local birding. Laura is coming to Ontario on Wednesday night, so I will be kind of out of commission for a while! Hopefully nothing too rare shows up in the province.
As well, I start work on Friday doing bird surveys. I may have a few interesting trips with work, stay tuned for more details when I find them out...

Saturday 9 June 2012

Rattlesnakes and other badass herps recently

For the last 3 days I was up in the southern Georgian Bay area with a buddy, Dan Riley. The goal of the trip was to kick back and relax while also seing a few cool herps here and there. The trip was definitely a success on both fronts.

We arrived in the area Thursday afternoon and started herping in the area. It was still hot out, keeping most things out of site, though we did get a few birds such as a Yellow-throated Vireo and a pair of Sandhill Cranes, both firsts for me up there. It was nice to hear Eastern Towhees, Magnolia and Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Brown Thrashers all over the place as we walked the nice upland areas. While the herps were slow to find, there were a few butterflies such as this Juvenal's Duskywing.

Juvenal's Duskywing

Eventually the hot afternoon sun started to slip behind the trees, making temperatures more comfortable for us and the species we were after. As evening set in, we started to find a few herps...

Five-lined Skink

Five-lined Skinks were by far the most abundant species of reptile out on the rocky barrens. They seem to tolerate warmer temperatures than the snakes and will often be found under thin slivers of rock in the heat of the day. Another very common species in the area we were is the Eastern Massasauga. They have very specific habitat requirements, but with a bit of time and experience it isn't difficult to locate a few.

Eastern Massasauga

While Massasaugas spend the winter underground, especially in marshy areas, they will move towards the open areas in late spring, presumably to maximize the amount of heat they can attain for their developing offspring inside of them. They will often bask quietly, partially obscured by branches or rocks but with most of their body exposed to the hot sun.

Eastern Massasauga

Just prior to photographing the above Massasauga, we were surprised to find a beautiful adult female Blanding's Turtle lumbering along!

Blanding's Turtle

It is that time of year, and she was no doubt on her way to find a suitable location to lay her eggs. Blanding's Turtles are capable of long distance travel, often of a kilometer or more.

Blanding's Turtle

We saw several more herps that evening before going out and road-cruising for a bit. Road-cruising is as simple as it sounds - jump in the car and drive slowly down roads in suitable habitat, looking for a herp on the road. It can be quite productive on warm nights. Unfortunately, tonight wasn't as warm as we had hoped, but we still saw a Northern Brownsnake and a Northern Ribbonsnake, as well as Gray Treefrog, American Toad, and other amphibians. At least 9 Whip-poor-wills were heard, as well as several Common Nighthawks and American Woodcocks.

Northern Ribbonsnake

The following day was similar to the previous one - hiking cool habitat and seeing cool herps! We found another Massasauga, another Eastern Milksnake, a Smooth Greensnake, several Ring-necked Snakes, and more. I photographed a few more skinks...

Five-lined Skink
And the Greensnake.

Smooth Greensnake

As the day grew warmer and warmer, we were having a harder time finding herps so we decided to call it quits around noon, head to Dan's cottage near Orillia, and drink some beers for the afternoon! A very good decision.

We ended the trip with 7 species of snakes, as well as Blanding's and Painted turtles, Five-lined Skinks, and a half dozen species of amphibians. Additionally we had about 70 species of birds and a fox. Not a bad trip!

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Two lifers in 12 hours

I returned late last night from a whirlwind trip that took me from Cambridge to Point Pelee to Walpole Island to Pelee to the Holland Marsh and back to Point Pelee. I had three main targets in mind - King Rail, Northern Bobwhite, and Western Kingbird - and was hoping to maybe see a rarity as well!

The trip started off great Sunday evening as I drove down from Cambridge. I decided that I would check out Port Stanley and see what was happening. I've had a fair bit of luck in this part of Ontario, seeing birds such as Black-throated Sparrow, Western Kingbird, Black-tailed Gull, and lots of shorebirds in the past couple of years in Elgin County. I didn't get much at the harbour (though Gavin Platt had seen 2 Red Knots there earlier in the day), but found quite a few shorebirds at the lagoons. A highlight for me was a nice Western Sandpiper hanging out with some Semipalmated Sandpipers. Too distant for photos, unfortunately.

My next stop was the Blenheim lagoons. Just as I was approaching the exit on the 401, my phone rang. It was Alan, and he had 2 White-faced Ibises at the shorebird cell at Hillman! Obviously I scrapped the plans of birding Blenheim and raced down to Hillman Marsh, arriving just as the sun was setting. Dean Ware was already there looking, but we couldn't turn up the ibises in the fading light. They must have just left to roost for the night. Alan showed me his photos that evening - a 1st year bird and an adult.

not a White-faced Ibis - Hillman Marsh

The following day I spent at Pelee. No luck with the ibises, so at about 9:00 AM I headed into the park and walked some trails. 5(!) Prothonotary Warblers on the Woodland Nature Trail was a definite highlight. Butterflies were quite numerous and I was happy to see my lifer Pipevine Swallowtail. This is the only butterfly I photographed, a Spicebush.

Spicebush Swallowtail - Point Pelee Nation Park

I didn't see much the rest of the day so I headed up to Walpole Island to search for Northern Bobwhites and King Rails. I drove around all evening on the island with not a whole lot of success. I amused myself with finding quite a few common species since I was in a new county I had hardly birded before (Lambton). As the sun went down, I gave up with the bobwhites and switched to King Rail hunting.

King Rails are an Endangered species and it is estimated that 25 to 50 pairs breed in the province. About half of these pairs are on Walpole Island, but apparently they are tougher to locate now as opposed to late April and early May. The males are much more vocal early in the season.

I spent an hour or two in perfect habitat, stopping every now and then to listen. At one point I was sitting in my car with the windows open, writing in my notebook, when suddenly I heard a loud "kack-kack-kack" beside me! It was a King Rail! It called several times and was very close to the road. Using my flashlight I had a very brief glimpse of it standing among the reeds before I heard a splash and it vanished. It called several more times in the next 1/2 hour before I drove away. Success!

The following morning I had very low hopes of seeing a bobwhite since they are potentially extirpated from Ontario. I find it is better to be pessimistic when out birding, because then you never get disappointed! Well, the pessimism seemed to work since I found a covey of bobwhite! I never did see them but spent quite a while listening to several of them calling back in an oak savannah about 50-100 meters off of the road. It is hard to estimate how many there were, but probably 3+. They were making a variety of calls too, not just the typical "bob..WHITE!" for which they are so aptly named. This was a very exciting lifer and a bird I never thought that I would ever get in Ontario!

At this point I was two-for-two with my main target species, both being life birds. Feeling lucky, I motored down to Windsor to check the location where a Western Kingbird spent the summer with its Eastern Kingbird mate last summer, producing 3 hybird offspring. Unfortunately the only kingbird I found was an Eastern, so I headed back to Pelee to spend the rest of the day.

young Eastern Foxsnake I rescued from the road

Just as I was nearing the park entrance, I heard that a Cattle Egret was present north of Toronto! I have struck out on this species 3 times this year, so despite the distance, I was determined to finally see one. Since I already had my two main targets for this trip, I figured I would try for the Cattle Egret and leave Pelee a day or two early.

I picked up Barb Charlton en route and we headed up to Toronto. For some reason, Barb and I have had incredible luck whenever we chase a bird. We have been successful this year already chasing Harris's Sparrow, Gray-crowned Rosy-finch, Spotted Towhee, White-winged Dove, Bell's Vireo, Blue Grosbeak, Piping Plover, Yellow Rail, and Curlew Sandpiper! The only birds I can recall that we missed this year were Varied Thrush and Say's Phoebe. Since I can't seem to buy a rare heron/ibis this year I figured that if Barb and I went together it would increase our odds exponentially.

Cattle Egret - Keswick

As you can see from the above photo, we were successful once again! The Cattle Egret was pretty much exactly where it was "supposed" to be and we had great looks of it pulling worms from the lawn. The grackles didn't seem to like it though. At one point a few grackles tried to scare it away, but instead it just flew closer to us.

Cattle Egret with earthworm - Keswick

Cattle Egret - Keswick

Around 7:45 PM, the egret seemed to have had enough and took off to roost for the night. I really like this photo for some reason.

Cattle Egret - Keswick

The Cattle Egret and King Rail were both code-3 species, with the bobwhite being a code-4 species. I am now up to 313 species for the year. Unless another rarity shows up, I will be spending the next three days herping in southern Georgian Bay! 

Saturday 2 June 2012

Finally some photos from Pelee

I've got another trip in the works to head back to southwestern ON. I will probably leave tomorrow evening sometime and stay in the south for about 4 days. I have three main targets - Northern Bobwhite, Western Kingbird, and King Rail. My shots at all three are extremely rare, but hopefully I can find just one of those species! A Western Kingbird mated with an Eastern Kingbird and produced young (Central Kingbirds) at a site in Windsor. I will check it out to see if they have returned this year, but I'm not holding my breath. Northern Bobwhite are possibly extirpated from the wild in Ontario, though there may still be some on Walpole Island. And King Rails are few and very far between. I don't have any intel on any current locations, so I'll have to try lots of decent looking habitat and hopefully get lucky. Additionally, early June is still a fantastic time for rarities. A Snowy Plover showed up today in Conneaut, Ohio, and I wouldn't be surprised if there are more "megas" lurking around Lake Erie. The problem is, everybody is burnt out from the spring and few are out finding these rarities. I tend to think of late May/early June as prime rarity time, maybe even more so than the middle of May.

Before I ramble on too long I thought I should put up some photos from May, since I've finally gone through and edited a bunch!

May 2nd was a pretty decent day with lots of birds around. Actually, it may have been one of the better days of the spring! I grabbed a lot of record shots of common birds, such as this Lincoln's Sparrow.

Lincoln's Sparrow - Point Pelee National Park

May 3rd was a pretty good day as well with quite a few highlights. I took some time photographing the butterflies as it was a phenomenal spring for them.

Mourning Cloak - Point Pelee National Park

Variegated Fritillary was one species which was abnormally abundant this spring. Several hundred (!) were seen over the course of a week or so. It was a lifer for me!

Variegated Fritillary - Point Pelee National Park

American Snouts were also around in huge numbers for this early in the year...

American Snout - Point Pelee National Park

as were Little Yellows (Sulfurs)

Little Yellow - Point Pelee National Park

I did not spend a lot of time photographing warblers this spring because it takes a lot of time and patience! But on the afternoon of May 6 I ran into a nice pocket of them. The lighting was good, they were all down low, and with some pishing I photographed about 10 species in 15 minutes! (By the way, as of this spring pishing was illegal in Point Pelee NP. A rule that many of us were less than pleased with, since it does no harm to migrating birds)

Some of the highlights...

Northern Parula - Point Pelee National Park

Magnolia Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

Black-and-white Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

Chestnut-sided Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

Palm Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

Black-throated Green Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

Cape May Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

That's all for now. There are many more photos to come, including a whole series of "rarities" from throughout the spring.