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.


David Bell said...

Your road grouse is a Ruffed haha, nice on the western stuff though, I still need BBMA for Ontario!

Reuven Martin said...

Was about to comment that that was a funny-looking sharp-tailed grouse, but got beat to it!

Anonymous said...

Good catch guys...that's what 3 hours of sleep a night will do lol!

Alan Wormington said...

You're sure those magpies weren't Blue Jays?

Alan Wormington said...

I suspect your best bet for something really rare will be during your next visit in early July. Likely Sprague's Pipit and maybe even Chestnut-collared Longspur. I'll send you some info on what fields can be walked just north of Rainy River townsite.

Alan Wormington said...

It might also be wise to rent a boat and motor and do a circular tour of Sable Island for a 1/2 day. There is a real possibility that something of note is out there, such as maybe Black-necked Stilt or Snowy Plover. If it is low water level, there will be huge areas of good shorebird habitat. Best place to rent the boat is Oak Grove Camp, there is also a Bird Sightings Book there as well, although likely not too many entries. That is also where Dan Lee spends the summer. He might have some secrets.

Brandon Holden said...

I've got to agree 100% on this one... Species that are getting pushed out of "drought areas" further south are reaching SW Ontario in Mid June (Dickcissels)...

Recently there has been a LABU in IL and MN, CCLO in Maine, SPPI in MN (sev days ago now)...

Hopefully by early July, things will have moved around enough to finally get into the R.R. area, and you can snag another mega!