Sunday 28 October 2012

Punk Rock big year

If all goes well, this post should go up on October 28. Hopefully at this point I will have added 3 or 4 year birds! I should be on the southern James Bay coast until November 1st, and back in southern Ontario late on November 3.


Some of you probably remember Paul Riss, a father of twins and director at an advertising agency who embarked on an Ontario big year last year. From the sounds of it, it was an insanely busy year but he stuck with it to the end. As an interesting twist, he promised that he would tattoo the latin name of every bird species he saw throughout the year!

Paul went to great lengths to ensure the entire year was documented, and now he wants to go through and finish the film. Unfortunately he is left to funding everything himself, so he is hoping to raise 10,000$ to go towards producing the documentary. Check out the following link for more information including how to donate! I know he will really appreciate it, and it will go a long ways towards helping him out with his goal. I'm already getting excited about this documentary as I'm sure it will be kick-ass...

Saturday 27 October 2012

California and Arizona - February, 2011: part 5

February 19 and 20, 2011 - Los Angeles area
February 21 and 22, 2011 - San Diego and the Salton Sea
February 23, 2011 - Phoenix, Tucson, the Santa Cruz flats and Madera Canyon
February 24, 2011 - Madera Canyon, Patagonia, and the San Rafael Grasslands
February 25, 2011 - Cave Creek Canyon, Barfoot Canyon, drive to Ventura, CA
February 26, 2011 - Kern and Santa Barbara Counties, CA
February 27, 2011 - Santa Cruz Island
February 28, 2011 - Los Angeles, flight home

February 25
We awoke early in Cave Creek Canyon to yet another cold morning, on our last full day in Arizona. Come to think of it, on most days this trip we encountered temperatures before freezing! This cold morning did not deter Dave though – he still had a “road shower”. All you need is a bottle of water, a t-shirt to use as a towel, and a road.

road shower

Like the previous day, we started this day by driving back down the mountain to the desert where the temperatures would hopefully be warmer. We ended up at the NM/AZ border and the birds were active. It didn’t take long before we spotted a covey of Scaled Quail on the New Mexico side. We got out and admired the birds, but couldn’t tease one to run across the road into Arizona (Dave still needs this bird for AZ!).  Other birds around included “Lillian’s Eastern Meadowlark (NM), Ferruginous Hawk (NM), Lark Bunting (AZ, NM), Vesper Sparrow (AZ, NM), and Prairie Falcon (AZ). Our main goal though was to check out the area around Willow Tank where a few species of longspurs had been seen lately. Well, as expected, we dipped on these birds.
After a bit of confusion, we managed to find Dave Jasper’s famous feeders where we saw, among common birds, Curve-billed Thrasher, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, and Western Scrub-Jay.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Gambel's Quail

The sun had finally started to warm the area so we headed right back up the mountain. All we ever seemed to do on this trip was drive up and down mountains!

We drove down to Paradise and managed to get brief looks at a Black-chinned Sparrow and Golden-crowned Kinglets. The hike up Cave Creek Canyon was fairly uneventful bird wise, but slowly the birds started to show themselves. A Northern Mockingbird was nice to see as were the Red-naped Sapsucker and Spotted Towhee. I was really determined to find an Arizona Woodpecker so I pulled over at a decent looking spot and promptly saw a woodpecker fly across the road. We finally had good looks, and it was an Arizona! A second one was near the vicinity. Perhaps our luck in Arizona had finally turned.

We were getting a little tired of birding so we made a detour to hike straight up the side of the mountain to a cave where a mountain lion supposedly hangs out. It was really nice to actually spend some time hiking in this incredibly scenic place, as most of our time in Arizona so far had been spent driving. We explored the cave for quite some time, enjoying the scenery and soaking up the rays. 

What a cool place! I definitely would love to return some time as this place looked perfect for some species of hard to find snakes such as montane rattlesnakes. Unfortunately we didn’t really see any herps on this February day.

Up next on the agenda – Barfoot Canyon for some of the montane specialties we had yet to see. Yellow-eyed Junco, Juniper Titmouse, and Mexican Chickadee were our main targets here and we managed to get great looks at them all! We saw our only Brown Creeper for the trip and got a Hairy Woodpecker too. The ride up the Canyon was filled with switchbacks, random spots with a foot of snow, and incredible views. We parked near the summit and hiked the rest of the way up. Here, at 12,000 feet we saw a roving flock of Pygmy Nuthatches. I mentioned to Dave that this was my “highest” lifer, but he had to one up me and mention the White-tailed Ptarmigans he had out west at a higher elevation.

The view at the top of Barfoot was, as expected, spectacular! Mountains surrounded us, gradually diminishing to foothills and eventually desert. Unfortunately we had to leave this wonderful place, and Arizona, shortly after to head back to Cali.

On the way we made a last ditch effort for some desert birds near Tuscon but didn’t see anything new. Afterwards we made the decision to race over to the Santa Cruz flats for one last shot at the rarities that were still being reported there. We missed them once so there is no way we would miss them again! Well, we did. At one point we were so desperate to see some Colorado Dirtpipers (er...Mountain Plovers) that we ended up spotlighting a field in the dark for them. I even jogged to the middle of the field with a flashlight and searched all around. I did hear some shorebirds calling in the distance but wasn’t 100% confident they were the dirtpipers. Fortunately the farmer did not see who, as I certainly would have been taken out with a shotgun. From here we drove straight through the night to Ventura on the California coast to hopefully take a boat to Santa Cruz Island. Matt and I drove the whole way while Dave and Brett were passed out in the back, probably getting the best night’s sleep of the trip! It was not one of the easier drives I have done, as I fought sleep-deprivation, hallucinating, torrential rainfall, and idiotic California drivers.
While we struck out on most of our target species in Arizona, we still had a blast and saw a ton of cool things. We still managed to see most of the montane birds, tried some awesome local restaurants, saw some amazing scenery, and overall had a good time with a good group of guys.

Part 6 of our trip will cover a full day of birding in Santa Barbara County, California.

Thursday 25 October 2012

California and Arizona - February, 2011: part 4

February 19 and 20, 2011 - Los Angeles area
February 21 and 22, 2011 - San Diego and the Salton Sea
February 23, 2011 - Phoenix, Tucson, the Santa Cruz flats and Madera Canyon
February 24, 2011 - Madera Canyon, Patagonia, and the San Rafael Grasslands
February 25, 2011 - Cave Creek Canyon, Barfoot Canyon, drive to Ventura, CA
February 26, 2011 - Kern and Santa Barbara Counties, CA
February 27, 2011 - Santa Cruz Island
February 28, 2011 - Los Angeles, flight home

February 24
The day held a lot of promise – we were going to spend the morning picking up the specialties in Madera Canyon, then head over to Patagonia to check some famous hummingbird feeders and find about a dozen species of hummingbirds, then check the famous Patagonia Lake State Park (with a detour at Pena Blanca for the Least Grebes) and find a whole bunch of Mexican strays (birds, not people), and finally a check of the San Rafael Grasslands for prairie species.
It took a while for the canyon to warm up in the morning, so birdsong was quiet. After a brief vigil at the Santa Rita Lodge feeders, birds finally appeared. I called out Hermit Thrush, and a junco flushed from a bush. The guys made fun of me, but then seconds later they got on the thrush. Come on, my ID skills are not THAT bad.... Around the feeders we picked up Bridled Titmouse, three subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco, Acorn Woodpecker, and brief looks at a Hepatic Tanager that stopped in. I was especially happy with the tanager - a species that I had long wanted to see! Unfortunately the hummingbird feeders were not active this time of year. 

Acorn Woodpecker

Mexican Jay

Hepatic Tanager

At this point it was still quite cool out (about 30 degrees F), so we drove down the canyon to see what was active in the sun. This was a good move as we found a huge sparrow flock containing 11 species (including our first Green-tailed and Canyon Towhees and Lark Buntings). Many other birds were around and we had great looks at Pyrrhuloxia, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Cactus Wren.

Brewer's Sparrow

We left with smiles on our faces and drove to Pena Blanca Lake to check out the Least Grebes. Along the route we had a couple of Black Vultures!

Black Vulture

 I split from the guys and  found 3 at the far end of the lake (with a flock of Mexican Mallards), while they found the other 3 grebes at their end of the lake. I really enjoyed this place and was happy to find an Eastern Winter Wren (very rare in Arizona), Bewick’s Wren, and Rufous-crowned Sparrows. The other guys got Sora, Gray Flycatcher, and a few others. 

Least Grebe

Rock Wren rocking out

We continued on to Patagonia, but for a moment were slightly confused as the signs were in metric around here! We also briefly looked at Mexico. Nice place!

view of Mexico

The main targets at Patagonia were Neotropic Cormorant, Rufous-backed Robins, and a trogon. Well, the theme of Arizona continued and we missed them all. White-throated Swifts were nice to see and we had some interesting passerines including Plumbeous Vireo, Hammond’s, Gray, and a “Western” flycatcher, and marsh wrens. We had some fun angering the belligerent cows that roamed the area as well. It was a nice park and it felt great to be walking around on this beautiful spring day!

The famous feeders of the Paton’s were next on the agenda. These hummingbird feeders have been visited by nearly every birder who goes to southeastern Arizona, and for good reason! As expected, when we arrived there was a vigilant group of birders keeping an eye on the feeders. Inca and White-winged Doves were new for us and a male Lazuli Bunting made a few brief visits.

The Paton's

Lazuli Bunting

The only hummers we got were Rufous, Allen’s, and Anna’s - so much for a huge hummingbird day! It was, however, great to have killer looks at these birds in perfect lighting. 

Anna's Hummingbird

A Red-breasted Sapsucker was in the trees just down the road, which I believe is a rare bird for southeastern Arizona.

Red-breasted Sapsucker

We spent the afternoon at the San Rafael Grasslands, a stop that ended up being one of the highlights of the trip for all of us. While bird life was scant, the place was spectacular. Endless rolling grasslands extended almost as far as the eye could see.

San Rafael grasslands

San Rafael grasslands

It was so peaceful with a gentle breeze rolling through, the sounds of Meadowlarks everywhere (both species), and the warm glow of the setting sun behind us. We spent much of the time just cruising around.

Birdlife, while not incredible, did include Grasshopper Sparrow, Lillian’s Meadowlark, Northern Harrier, “Prairie” Merlin, White-tailed Kite, and Say’s Phoebe. We ended up scoping a flock of Pronghorns in the distance.

Lillian's Eastern Meadowlarks

Grasshopper Sparrow


Dave of course, had to emulate their behaviour. Nice prancing, buddy.

I left this place with a great feeling – it was so relaxing and peaceful to be in this wonderful place.
Dinner was spent at a local joint (the Wagon Wheel), then it was off on the long drive to Portal. We arrived in Cave Creek Canyon under a blanket of stars that were visible in the dry desert air.

Cave Creek Canyon Campground

It was time for yet another long night in the car, but I had a surprisingly decent sleep curled up in the back seat. I guess total exhaustion will do that to you! 

Monday 22 October 2012

California and Arizona - February, 2011: part 3

February 19 and 20, 2011 - Los Angeles area
February 21 and 22, 2011 - San Diego and the Salton Sea
February 23, 2011 - Phoenix, Tucson, the Santa Cruz flats and Madera Canyon
February 24, 2011 - Madera Canyon, Patagonia, and the San Rafael Grasslands
February 25, 2011 - Cave Creek Canyon, Barfoot Canyon, drive to Ventura, CA
February 26, 2011 - Kern and Santa Barbara Counties, CA
February 27, 2011 - Santa Cruz Island
February 28, 2011 - Los Angeles, flight home

February 23
We awoke bright and early to freezing temperatures on our first full day in Arizona. We made the drive to the famous Salome-Baseline intersection near Buckeye to do a search for the 5 species of thrashers that can be found in the area. Crissal Thrasher was easy as a male was singing right near the intersection, allowing great looks and photos.

Crissal Thrasher

Walking through the scrub habitat was quite productive. I was happy to pick out a few Brewer’s sparrows (they ended up being quite common in AZ), while Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Harrier, and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher were also in the vicinity. Dave left to check out one area while the rest of us spread out in a different area. The thrashers slowly started to show – Brett had a LeConte’s and I had fun chasing a Bendire’s through the scrub. A Costa’s hummingbird was a nice surprise! Dave was pissed when he got back as those would have been lifers. He eventually got the thrashers though. While in the area we turned up some new –for-the-trip Abert’s Towhee, Sage and Black-throated Sparrows, and Ash-throated Flycatcher. A Greater Roadrunner was spotted running on the road – how ironic! I missed seeing it though. I wonder what they did before roads? Hmm..
Breakfast time! Dave and I took advantage of the glorious deal of all you can eat pancakes at IHop for 5 bucks, while Matt gained 5 pounds by eating Cheesecake Pancakes. The Santa Cruz flats were up next and we had hoped to pick up some of the rarities being seen there – Rufous-backed Robin and Ruddy Ground-doves, as well as Dirtpipers. Long story short, we struck out horribly on these targets. Maybe we would get a Caracara while we were here? Nope, struck out on that too. The morning was not a total waste as we got to see about 10000 cows, and the flock of blackbirds that accompanied them. 

A very good rule

We were glad to escape the flats and head to Sweetwater wetlands in Tuscon. Around the very birdy pond we saw Cinamon Teal, Black-throated Gray Warbler (nice find, Brett!), Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Lesser Goldfinch, Costa’s Hummingbird (Dave missed it again), and Mexican Mallard. Not a bad mid-afternoon stop!

We raced over to Madera Canyon which would be our destination for the night. We had a few hours of light left so we figured we would find some of the specialties of the area. Well basically, we saw 4 species before dark, and half of them were found roosting. 

Sleepy Red-naped Sapsucker

Brett being obscene

Since nothing was happening up in the mountains we decided that it would be a good idea to go down into the grasslands at the base to see what was going on. There were few birds, however the scenery was stunning and we spent quite a bit of time taking scenery photos.

We drove back into town to pick up some McDicks where we indulged in 50 chicken Mcnuggets for 10 bucks - fortunately they don't have this promotion in Canada as it could be bad news. It was back up the canyon to spend the night. We tried for a few owl species unsuccessfully, but eventually heard the distinctive song of a Whiskered Screech-Owl! In North America, this species is restricted to the mountains of southeast Arizona so we were pretty happy to find one! It didn't take much searching before we found the little guy hanging out in a tree.

Whiskered Screech-Owl - Madera Canyon

The next day we had plans to tour southeastern Arizona fully. I was really looking forward to it! Stay tuned four part 4...

Sunday 21 October 2012

Still stuck in Moosonee...

Another day has come and gone, and another day where we are stuck in Moosonee. There is a low pressure system right over southern James Bay, causing there to be a lot of fog, mist, and drizzle. Saying that we are frustrated would be a severe understatement!

If the weather clears our pilot Kimball will try to get us out there as soon as possible. At the moment it doesn't look good until Tuesday, but who knows.


Tufted Duck in Ottawa.....

If was thought to be a hybrid, and now they are saying that it is a "good" Tufted Duck. Check out the photos on Bruce's blog and see for yourself!

While it is frustrating that I am stuck in Moosonee and not looking at the Tufted Duck, I am trying to stay optimistic about this sighting. First of all, vagrant Tufted Ducks have a tendancy to hang around for a while.  In fact, 19 out of Ontario's 29 Tufted Duck records are of birds that hung around for more than a week! That's got to be the largest "sticking around rate" out of any vagrant species in Ontario with more than 10 records. Who knows if this bird, traveling with a flock of scaup, will actually hang around though. If it is still present when we return from Moosonee I will drive straight there. Besides, Ottawa is on the way to back home. Kind of.

Tufted Duck

Additionally, this is a very early record for Tufted Duck in Ontario. Quite a few of Ontario's Tufted Ducks have occured in the same year(s), so maybe this is a sign of more to come. Or, more European birds.

If a Tufted Duck will show up in southern Ontario, maybe other European vagrants will be around, particularly at Netitishi Point! Which would be fantastic for us (if we ever got out to the coast).

Saturday 20 October 2012

Back from Netitishi!!!

Yep, we went to Netitishi and back. Twice. Our bird totals included some Canada Geese and some duck sp. Trip highlight was probably the 4 Moose we saw!

See that blue/white thing in the top of the crappy cellphone shot I took from the chopper? Its a massive fog bank that seemed to cover the whole coast. We tried to land, but it was way too thick and we had to go back, despite being only 400 meters from Netitishi Point. We tried again a few hours later, but the fog was even thicker, so we were forced to call it a day. It was super frustrating not only for us, but for our pilot who was hoping to get a few more flights in today.

To make matters worse, a Tufted Duck was found by Bruce DiLabio and co. in Ottawa today! Not only a potential year bird, but it would be a new Ontario bird for me as well. So for those keeping score at home, this is "Rarity and Potential Yearbird" #1. How many more will I miss before this Netitishi trip is over? My guess is 4...

Here's hoping the fog lifts tomorrow, the weather forecast improves, and we can actually get to the coast!

Friday 19 October 2012

Update from Moosonee

Woohoo! Less than 20 hours to do until Alan and I are back on the ocean at Netitishi Point, James Bay. A quick recap of the birds in the last few days:

Yesterday was spent doing more driving then birding, but I made a bunch of stops and saw a few birds. It was surprisingly slow and I had a really hard time turning up ANY passerines. On the last trip (in late September), sparrows and pipits were everywhere! Anyways, the highlight was probably a Surf Scoter at the New Liskeard lagoons. I checked about 8 other spots without any real highlights.

This morning we drove up to Fraserdale to catch the train and also to check Abitibi Canyon. That place just screams mega-rarity, today especially with the construction being finished. That pesky wheatear wouldn't show though. We had a few sparrows that were relatively late for Cochrane District, including Savannah, Swamp, Song, and White-throated Sparrow. It was also good to get re-aquianted with Spruce Grouse! The road from Smooth Rock Falls to Abitibi Canyon has to be the best road I've ever driven for Spruce Grouse. I've seen them every time. Today was slow with only 2 Spruce and 1 Ruffed!

Spruce Grouse - road to Abitibi Canyon

We got on the train and after 3 hours of scanning every tree and hydro pole for Northern Hawk-owls, we were skunked! I don't recall seeing anything interesting on the train.

Moosonee was a bit of an ornithological desert as well with all landbirds seemingly gone. It was nice to get a few Boreal Chickadees, the first Pine Grosbeaks of the trip, and a few pipits, Horned Larks, and Snow Buntings. A few Redheads at the lagoons were record late for southern James Bay, and an adult Thayer's Gull at the dump was my first of the fall, and also my first for southern James Bay.

The most astounding part of the day was the summer like temperatures. Around sunset it was about 15 degrees with a warm, light breeze. It felt more like early September than late October! Dark skies to the northeast combined with sun on the river led to some dramatic lighting.

Moose River


I had a bit of a scare last night when I read a post on Ontbirds about an adult godwit at Presqu\ile that had barring on its tail....however, it was very distant and the observer did not see the bird fly (to see relevant field marks) so it made the ID not confirmed. Considering the date, it is very unusual for an adult Hudsonian to be around. Additionally, it is prime rarity season so it seemed like a possibility that it could have been Ontario's first Bar-tailed Godwit. I was freaking out a bit since we had a train to catch in the morning and cancelling that to drive 8 hours to Presqu'ile would have thrown a huge wrench in the plan! Fortunately, this morning the godwit was seen closer and the ID confirmed as a Hudsonian, a species I saw hundreds of in James Bay this summer. A relief!


Netitishi dreaming is a Top 10 list of crazy rarities that I think Alan and I have a chance at seeing this trip! I have them listed from least likely to most likely. Note that we will almost certainly see none of these species, but it is fun to dream sometimes.

Bar-tailed Godwit
Short-tailed Shearwater
White Wagtail (though any other wagtail species would be OK)
Leach's Storm-petrel
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Glaucous-winged Gull
Atlantic Puffin
Great Shearwater
Ivory Gull

My next "real" blog post will probably be November 1 when we return from Netitishi. Until then I have a few pre-written posts that should automatically post throughout the two weeks. Cheers!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

How many year-birds will I get on James Bay?

Less than two days until I leave for the north!!! Woo!!!

So, how could Netitishi help my year list?

In the autumn of 2010, Brandon Holden and Alan Wormington spent several weeks in November sea-watching from Netitishi Point. In the two weeks, they managed to see 6 species that would be potential year birds for me: Purple Sandpiper, Gyrfalcon, Black-legged Kittiwake, Pacific Loon, Dovekie (2 birds), and the aforementioned shearwater. And that was with only getting about one day of north winds!

On the other hand, the crew that went up last year was "blessed" with warm, south winds for most of the trip. They only saw two birds which would be new for my big year: Purple Sandpiper and Gyrfalcon (however then had some "probable" Pacific Loons too).

For quite a while, I debated whether it was worth it for me to do this Netitishi trip. I'm quite sure that I will miss a few potential year birds in southern Ontario while I am gone, and perhaps all hell will break loose and I'll be kicking myself for going! But on the other hand, I am only 5 away from setting a new big year record and Netitishi should, at the very least, give me about 3 year birds. I've done a lot of thinking about it and I think that on average, a Netitishi trip would be better than not going.

The main target species, apart from rarities, that I hope to see at Netitishi Point is Gyrfalcon. This huge arctic falcon is one of those birds that you read about but not one I really expect to see. Seeing one of these beautiful raptors has long been a goal of mine and fortunately James Bay is the place to go! Gyrfalcons have been seen on every late fall Netitishi Point trip that birders have gone on. However, only two gyrs were seen on last years trip, and only two on the trip the previous November. Gyrfalcon is by no means guaranteed but I would think I have at least a 75% chance of seeing one.

Gyrfalcon (from wikipedia)

Purple Sandpiper is another one which we should get. It is only a code 2 species and I will probably have the opportunity to chase one when I am back home in November. But, it is one that I can hopefully get out of the way now to save me a trip to Presqui'le later in November. I believe that Purple Sands have been seen on every late autumn Netitishi trip as well.

Black-legged Kittiwake and Pacific Loon are both Code-3 birds and species that I have a decent chance at seeing. On the 2010 trip, 3 kittiwakes and 1 Pacific Loon were seen. On last years trip, 0 kittiwakes and the probable Pac Loons were seen. I am really hoping to get one of the two species - preferably Pacific Loon!

Pacific Loon (from wikipedia)

And finally, rarities. I will be very happy if we manage to see one rarity which is a year bird. Northern Fulmar is obviously the leading candidate but other strong possibilities include Dovekie, a shearwater/storm petrel, Ivory Gull, Northern Gannet, Common Eider, or a rare passerine.

I think that I will get somewhere between 2 and 5 year birds on this trip. My goal is 4, which would tie the big year record.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Return to Ontario's ocean coast

Yes, it is official. I am heading back north to James Bay! Here are some details on the trip...

Netitishi Point is located at the very base of James Bay, east of Moosonee. Check out the maps below, which I stole from Brandon's blog...

So why am I going back up to James Bay, considering I was there a few months ago? Rarities!

Southern James Bay has got to be one of the best birding locations in the province, considering the numbers of rarities that have been found there in a relatively small amount of time. Birders have only spent a cumulative total of several months birding here, yet check out this list of rarities:

Ivory Gull
Northern Gannet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Varied Thrush
Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater
large alcid sp. (either Razorbill, Thick-billed, or Common Murre)
another Dovekie!
Northern Fulmar (dozens!!!)
Western Sandpiper
Field Sparrow
Pacific Loon
all three jaegers

Northern Fulmar (from Nova Scotia)

You get the point! It is a fantastic spot that is rarely checked, and it holds a lot of promise for my big year. Why do so many rarities show up at Netitishi Point? Well, for several reasons...

1. Netitishi Point is on the OCEAN. Ocean birds don't like flying over land and ocean birds often wander. This can cause birds from the Atlantic to drift into Hudson's Bay, where all it takes is a north wind to blow them towards Netitishi. Additionally, there is a lot less arctic sea ice than years past, so it is possible that even west coast birds could be sucked into Hudson's and James Bay.

2. Netitishi Point is at the very bottom of James Bay. While locations all along the James Bay coast can be good for sea-watching, Netitishi is where all the birds congregate on a north wind. On that fateful day of November 6, 1981, at least 14 Northern Fulmars were seen! Alan had said that there were probably many more than just 14.

3. Netitishi is on higher ground than a lot of the coast, meaning that the difference between the low-tide and high-tide mark is a lot smaller than at other spots along the coast. What this means is: the birds are closer!

4. Netitishi has a huge stand of spruce trees. While most of the coast consists of stunted alders, tamaracks, willows, etc, the looming mound of huge spruce trees is a big attraction to "tree-birds". Think Field Sparrow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Varied Thrush from recent trips...We are going up early enough that many Passerines may still be around. If we went up later in November, the number of Passerines really drop off, including whatever rarities may be hanging around the spruces. Maybe we'll get lucky and run into a Townsend's Warbler or something...

3. Netitishi is rarely checked. While birds like storm-petrels, gannets, and shearwaters are all MEGA rarities for Ontario, part of the reason is that prime spots for them (like Netitishi Point) are rarely checked. I'm quite sure that if James Bay had the coverage of Point Pelee or Hamilton or Toronto or Presqui'le, those species may no longer be considered mega-rare.

Great Shearwater - maybe not as rare as once thought??

I will be leaving southern Ontario on Thursday morning, spending the entire day checking out some spots between here and Cochrane, and spending the night in Cochrane. Alan Wormington and I will then board the train and head up to Moosonee. On October 20 a helicopter is taking us to the coast where we will do nothing but bird until November 1.

The next post will cover what species I am expecting to get and what rarities have a decent possibility of showing up.