Tuesday, 31 December 2019

2019 (Part 1 of 3)

Another year has come and gone. Like every year that has come before it, 2019 was filled with many ups and downs, but from a birding, herping, mothing and other types of naturalizing perspective, it was a great year. Many lifers were had with quite a few moments to cherish. Without further ado, a summary of a few of the highlights of the year.


For the first two weeks of the year I was based in Ontario. The beginning of the year is always fresh and exciting and I went out of my way to chase a few rare birds that showed up in southern Ontario; namely, a Gyrfalcon in Niagara and a Townsend's Solitaire in Kitchener. I also observed again the Eurasian Collared-Doves that I had found a few weeks earlier in Hamilton.

In mid January I visited Guatemala for the first time. Dan Riley and I flew down and rented a truck, and we completed a big loop from Guatemala City for around ten days. We then flew to the Tikal area and explored for a further four days in the vicinity of that area. Luck was on our side for this trip as we found around 360 species of birds, 8 species of snakes and many other cool critters.

Townsend's Solitaire - Kitchener, Waterloo Region, Ontario

Canivet's Emerald - south of Cabañas, El Progreso, Guatemala

Pink-headed Warbler - Posada Rural y Ecuestre Unicornio Azul, Huehuetenango, Guatemala

Horned Guan - Volcán San Pedro, Sololá, Guatemala

Blunt-headed Tree Snake (Imantodes cenchoa) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Smith's Night Lizard (Lepidophyma smithii) - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Mexican Mouse Opossum - Los Tarrales Natural Reserve, Suchitepéquez, Guatemala

Bright-rumped Attila - Parque Nacional Tikal, Petén, Guatemala

Gartered Trogon - Parque Nacional Tikal, Petén, Guatemala

 Parque Nacional Tikal, Petén, Guatemala

Gray-headed Tanager - Parque Nacional Tikal, Petén, Guatemala

Ocellated Turkey - Parque Nacional Tikal, Petén, Guatemala


I had just returned from Guatemala when it was time to pack my bags again and head south, this time to Cuba. It was my fourth time guiding for Quest Nature Tours in Cuba and we had a blast! I was happy to finally come across my first Black Swift while we also had amazing views of Zapata Wren and Zapata Sparrow for the first time. The herping was also great with a few new lizards and we even managed to get in some snorkelling. A great reprieve from winter in Canada.

Olive-capped Warbler - Hacienda La Cortina, Artemisa, Cuba

Cuban Grassquits - Las Terrazas, Artemisa, Cuba

Cuban Parakeets- Bermejas, Matanzas, Cuba

Cuban Twig Anole (Anolis angusticeps) - Cueva de los Peces, Matanzas, Cuba

Blue-headed Quail-Dove - Cueva de los Peces, Matanzas, Cuba

Zapata Sparrow - Santo Tomas, Matanzas, Cuba

Bee Hummingbird - Palpite, Matanzas, Cuba


For the first two weeks in March I was back in Ontario. I tried to get out a few times locally to find spring migrants and lucked out with some nice sightings, including a big flock of Greater White-fronted Geese. But I was so far behind with trip planning, writing blog posts, and photo editing that that took up a big slice of my free time. By mid-March Laura and I were on our way south, this time to Ecuador. Laura had suffered through all of winter and she was very eager to get away for a short time. We chose Ecuador partly because we would be starting our grand adventure in that country beginning in September, so our visit was somewhat of a scouting mission. We explored the Mindo Valley, Rio Silanche, Papallacta and Guango, followed by four nights at Sani Lodge in the Amazon. It was a quick trip but loaded with great moments!

Laura and I with a Pamphobeteus sp. tarantula - Mindo Valley, Pichincha, Ecuador

Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan - Santa Rosa Bird Lodge, Pichincha, Ecuador

Velvet-purple Coronet - Santa Rosa Bird Lodge, Pichincha, Ecuador

Gorgeted Sunangel - Santa Rosa Bird Lodge, Pichincha, Ecuador

Widesread Eighty-eight - Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary, Pichincha, Ecuador

Tibouchina lepidota - Guango Lodge, Napo, Ecuador

Giant Conebill - Papallacta area, Napo, Ecuador

Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe - Papallacta Pass, Napo, Ecuador

Volcán Antisana (as seen from the Papallacta Pass) - Napo, Ecuador

Masked Crimson Tanagers - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Amazonian Climbing Salamander (Bolitoglossa amazonica) - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Tropical Flat Snake (Siphlophus compressus) - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria) - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Peanut-headed Bug (Fulgora laternaria) - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Map Treefrog (Boana geographica) - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Unidentified katydid - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Amazon Tree Boa (Corallus hortulanus) - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Blue-and-yellow Macaw - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Amazon Bark Anole (Anolis ortonii) - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Capped Heron - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Crested Owl - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Pygmy Marmoset - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Green Jararaca (Bothrops bilineatus) - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Rufescent Tiger-Heron - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Black Caiman (Melanosuchus niger) - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Panacanthus cuspidatus - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Cocha Antshrike - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Many-banded Araçari - Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos, Ecuador


April is one of my favourite months of the year. After a long Canadian winter (relatively speaking, given my location in the "banana belt of Ontario"), the month of March arrives, usually more frustrating than hopeful as winter and spring trade blows. But usually by early April spring seems to have arrived for good, and any lingering bouts of winter are short-lived. New migrant bird species begin arriving daily, wildflowers emerge, first on the south facing slopes but soon carpeting the entire floor of woodlands, and the trills and peeps of Western Chorus Frogs and Spring Peepers reverberate from their ephemeral wetland habitats. With so much life all happening at once I try to spend as much of the month of April outside as I can.

I visited many of my local haunts in Niagara, especially Port Weller, Morgan's Point and Wainfleet bog in search of the new life that abounds. I also completed a few successful bird chases which included a Ruff by Luther Marsh, a Cinnamon Teal at the Sombra lagoons, and a Hermit Warbler at Thickson's Point. The latter two species were my only additions to my Ontario list in 2019 and both occurred within a week of each other.

I also enjoyed a fine weekend in the Point Pelee area which ended slightly prematurely when the Hermit Warbler was reported from Thickson's Woods!

Morgan's Point Conservation Area, Niagara, Ontario

Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) - Port Weller east pier, Niagara, Ontario

Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) - Wainfleet Bog, Niagara, Ontario

Blue-winged Teals - Port Weller east pier, Niagara, Ontario

Ruff - Luther Marsh, Dufferin, Ontario

American Lady - Port Weller east pier, Niagara, Ontario

House Sparrow - Point Pelee National Park, Essex, Ontario

Hermit Warbler - Thickson's Woods, Durham, Ontario

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