Friday 17 May 2013

Photos from Pelee this May

Seeing as I am leaving tomorrow for 2 weeks of non stop working/birding in central Ontario, I figured I might as well get the rest of my Pelee photos online. It has been a bit of a change for me so far this May. Last year I was in the midst of the most important stretch of my big year, and I was out every single day looking at birds for the entire spring migration. Between April 18 and June 5, 2012, there was only 1 day where I did not spend a significant amount of time birding. In spring 2011 and spring 2010 I was working about an hour away from Point Pelee, so I was birding quite often before work. My job consisted of looking for wildlife in tall grass prairie in Windsor,  allowing me to see some really interesting birds. Among the notables were Snowy Egret, Acadian Flycatcher, Common Raven (quite rare in Essex County!), large-non-Chimney Swift-sp., Kentucky Warbler, and Connecticut Warbler.

This spring I was birding frequently until May 3 and since then I have been quite busy at work. It is a nice change to have a permanent, full-time position with a great company (doing a lot of bird surveys, too!), though I am also more than a little envious to hear about all the great birds being seen elsewhere in Ontario! If I was doing my big year this year instead, I would have probably seen Violet-green Swallow, Swallow-tailed Kite, Black-necked Stilt, Pacific Loon, Kirtland's Warbler, Lark Bunting, Glossy Ibis, plus maybe a few more rarities. But I'm slowly getting used to the fact that I can't see everything that gets reported anymore! Besides, I've already seen Hooded Warbler and Acadian Flycatcher less than 4 km from my house in the few times I have gone birding after work. It's a fantastic area for breeding species and I'm looking forward to seeing these southern species regularly over the next two months.

So while I can't be reporting daily on my blog about all the fantastic rarities at Pelee, the least I can do is post SOMETHING from Pelee. Without further ado, some random photos (mostly of common birds) from my almost 2 weeks at Pelee from early this spring.

Scarlet Tanager - May 3, 2013

The colour of a Scarlet Tanager is incredible to see up close and in good light. While they are a common breeding bird throughout much of central Ontario, they often attract a gaggle of excited birders when one is found in the park. On a decent reverse migration, several dozen may be seen flying off the tip.

Scarlet Tanager - May 3, 2013

Their colours really pop when the sun is shining on them. No saturation boost in Photoshop needed!

Speaking of reverse migration, I happened to devote a few hours every morning down at the tip to see what interesting birds would be flying off the tip.One of the more common species in the water off the tip is the Red-breasted Merganser. Most birders hardly give them a second look, however on May 3 they were flying right over the tip in good lighting, allowing me to snap some decent photos.

female mergie

male mergie

Of course the main reason I (and many others) devoted so much time at the tip was for the chance of finding a rarity. This Prothonotary Warbler (expertly picked out in flight by Ken Burrell) was a fun bird! This is the 3rd Prothon I have seen reverse-migrate over the past two springs.

reversing Prothonotary Warbler

It's a pretty easy ID in flight - dark wings, white undertail coverts, and a yellow/orange underside that really seems to "pop" towards the front of the body.

Birds-in-flight photos I find incredibly difficult, though that probably has a lot to do with the focusing abilities (or lack there-of) of my cheap 200$ SLR that I am currently using. Big subjects such as gulls and ducks are waaaay easier.

Bonaparte's Gull - May 3, 2013

Bonaparte's Gull - May 3, 2013

This next photo is of an abundant species that is in no way desirable for the average birder. It is sporting kind of an ugly plumage too, and it's hard to be creative with birds-in-flight photos. But I don't have any decent photos of Ring-billed Gulls so I snapped a few anyways.

Ring-billed Gull - May 3, 2013

I'll finish with a few more photos of another common species - this time the Common Grackle. Grackles are kind of fun to watch as they always seem to be "up to no good". That and their comically Darth-Vader-esque appearance makes them a good candidate for photography. While David Bell and I were about to photograph some Willets at the tip on May 2, this grackle sauntered along the shoreline.

Common Grackle - Point Pelee (May 2, 2013)

Common Grackle - Point Pelee (May 2, 2013)

Common Grackle - Point Pelee (May 2, 2013)

Common Grackle - Point Pelee (May 2, 2013)

That's all for now. Tomorrow morning I leave for North Bay/Sudbury/Timmins/Wawa for close to 2 weeks to do some bird surveys - should be fun! I do miss those blackflies.

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