Thursday, November 26, 2015

If I were doing an Ontario Big Year....

I've been mentally keeping track of species seen in Ontario this year, inconjunction with my 2015 Ontario year list. 2015 is turning out to be quite a good year, in terms of species seen in the province. eBird lists 351 species seen so far, a fair bit higher than last year's 345.

So far this year I've seen 301 species, a pretty good total by my standards, particularly for someone who hasn't chased the 'easy' species I'm missing. Having said that, I was down at Pelee in May for 2 weeks, which really helps my 2015 species total.

Going by JV's rules/codes from 2012, I've seen the following Code 4-6 birds:

Pink-footed Goose
Neotropic Cormorant
Little Egret
White-faced Ibis
Black Vulture
Mississippi Kite
Swainson's Hawk
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Chuck-will's Widow
Fish Crow
Kirtland's Warbler
Swainson's Warbler

(It's kind of interesting/crazy to think species like BLVU, ECDO, and FICR are now 'pretty much' established in Ontario; you just have to go look for them).

Anywho, based on my species list seen in Ontario this year, the following species are near certainties had I tried for them:
1. Pine Grosbeak
2. Whimrel
3. Black-billed Magpie
4. Great Gray Owl
5. King Eider
6. Le Conte's Sparrow
7. Nelson's Sparrow
8. Barrow's Goldeneye
9. Buff-breasted Sandpiper
10. Northern Hawk Owl
11. Arctic Tern*
12. Purple Sandpiper
13. Franklin's Gull**
14. Gray Partridge
15. Willow Ptarmigan
16. Smith's Longspur
17. Boreal Owl
18. Black-legged Kittiwake
19. Western Meadowlark**
20. American Three-toed Woodpecker
21. Pacific Loon*
22. Gyrfalcon***
23. Northern Bobwhite (Walpole)
24. Black Guillemot***

* assumes going to Hudson's Bay Coast
**assumes going to Rainy River
***assumes going to James Bay in late fall

Assuming I saw all 24 species mentioned above, I'd be sitting at 325, 18 species shy of JV's record (343). If I had been chasing species left, right, and centre, the following species would allow me to tie the record.

326. Western Grebe (Sept. in Toronto)
327. Eurasian Tree-Sparrow (May Pelee)
328. Black-headed Gull (May Pelee/Novemer and December? Niagara)
329. California Gull (May Pelee)
330. Western Sandpiper (August or Sept at Presqu'ile)
331. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (June Ottawa)
332. Western Kingbird (Septemer Ottawa)
333. Lark Sparrow (April or May Kingston)
334. Lark Bunting (May Flamborough)
335. White-winged Dove (July Rondeau)
336. Wilson's Plover (May Toronto)
337. Gray Kingbird (May Hillman)
338. Tricolored Heron (April Holiday Beach)
339. Mottled Duck (May Hillman)
340. Say's Phoebe (September Rondeau)
341. Gray Kingbird (May Hillman)
342. Worm-eating Warbler (May 17, Pelee, 1 bird twitchable)
343. Townsend's Solitaire (October Col. Sam Smith)

Now, before I hear the comments "Ken, you can't think that you would've gotten ALL of those species??". My reply is, well, why not?? If I had been doing a big year I'd be chasing everything...I'd likely miss a few species in the process, but I'd like to think that I'd find a few species not listed above which would let me be sitting at a tie as it stands right meow.

Anywho, I just thought it was interesting to ponder a "what if" scenario.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Recent Happening's -- June 2015

It's been a while; June has, as like most years, been incredibly busy; I can't believe it's just about over!! I've been in the field every day this month, covering principally southern Ontario, west of Toronto, to the Bruce, to the Pelee area. I've given a select few highlights from the past month that I can remember.

I've had a work-site just NE of Blenheim, where I've done 2 (out of 3) breeding bird surveys so far. The habitat is quite interesting (old field), given the area. I haven't had any Dickcissel's or Henslow's Sparrows that I was hoping for, but have had up to 3 singing male Clay-colored Sparrows and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, both of which were quite nice to have (

Being down in the extreme SW area of the province, I've also had the chance to do some decent birding on my own, picking up some White-rump's at Hillman in early June (, and checking out some backroads. On June 12th (my first trip down), I checked the area around Port Glasgow out and had some nice stuff along Gray Line, including Hooded Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo ( I was back down for my 2nd trip on the 24th and decided to check out Moraviantown First Nations and Skunk's Misery--I wasn't disappointed! Just driving the backroads, I had a total of 8 Hooded's, 2 Yellow-throated Vireos, 3 Blue-winged's, 1 Magnolia (pretty surprising), and best of all a singing male White-eyed Vireo!
Moraviantown FN:
Skunk's Misery:

Somewhere in between (June 15-18) I went with Chris Law up to Sault Ste. Marie to do some Canada Warbler and Common Nighthawk surveys. We saw lots on my work surveys, including calling Barred Owl, Cape May and Canada Warblers (among 14 other species of warblers). In our free time, we checked out some local Sault hotspots, including driving Hwy. 638 and the Bruce Mine's sewage lagoons. Highlights included (in no order), Sedge Wren, 3 Clay-colored Sparrows, Black-billed Cuckoo (, a few Purple Finches, a single Red Crossbill (, a pair of Mute Swans ( 

One of my point counts, about 2km from the nearest road; pretty nice. The bugs like it too!
More recently (Friday June 26th) I had grassland breeding bird surveys near Clinton. The site was quite nice, with some interesting birds too: Grasshopper, Clay-colored Sparrows, and an Orchard Oriole (
Nice view, with the 'umbrella' tree in the background.

Coming back from the site I realized that the Little Egret was being seeing, rather consistently, in Ottawa. I had the next 80 minutes to debate driving another 300 minutes to Ottawa....getting back to Waterloo I gassed up, checked Ontbirds and decided to give'r! Leaving at 9:50, stopping for 2 minutes in Tweed to go pee, then picking Mike up in Perth, we arrived at Brittania at 3:15 to have Bruce Di Labio have the bird in the scope awaiting! Damn! That was good!
I probably won't be able to justify going this far for a rarity for a while....
I almost forgot too...there was an American Avocet also hanging out (! Kind of cool! Not what you're thinking though when you head to Ottawa! I was pretty happy to get the Little Egret though, I couldn't imagine driving twice let alone three times for it (sorry Barb and Josh)!!

With so much happening in June, you'd think I'd be tired of it? In terms of lack of sleep, then yes, but for fun, no. On Thursday, my Dad and I are heading up to Cochrane and the Detour Lake Gold Mine for our 3rd annual BBS surveys! It'll be nice to get some boreal species.
We should see some of these! :)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Pelee area May 15th

What turned out to be my last day at Pelee turned out to be a doozy!

Things started very quietly, however, with the rain that moved through the region starting at 0600hr, activity really picked up. First thing in the morning I had a Yellow-throated Vireo and my foy Connecticut Warbler at the tip area.

At the lunch, I got word of a Chuck-will's Widow in Post Woods, being seen easily from the trail. We headed there right away, and I was easily able to get it. I managed one phone-binocular photo of it, here.
The bird was a female (brown tail)

After getting the Mrs. Chuck, we headed to Hillman, which turned out to be a great idea. At Hillman we had a huge number of shorebirds, including close to 200 Short-billed Dowitchers, as well as the continuing American Avocet and 2 Willets!

After checking the shorebird cell, Adam (Timpf) and I decided to listen for rails, east of the barn. While we were chilling out, Adam got on a bird, which turned out to be a sub-adult Mississippi Kite! I can't really explain how awesome the next 5 minutes were, we were pretty damn excited (I had spent 5.5hrs looking for kites on Wednesday, only to miss a MIKI by literally 10 feet and my back turned!!). We watched the bird soaring and hunting over the marsh for about 30 minutes, before losing it to the north, only to realize that it was perched beside Mersea Road 2!! I managed a few shots on my phone.

I'm pretty sure it would be classified as a sub-adult in 'late' stage according to Raptors of Eastern N.A.
I couldn't really believe it...this was the bird I was hoping to find this year, given the fact I had shittily missed one, this was pretty awesome!!

After this I packed up and started heading home, only to check my phone and see that a Marbled Godwit had been reported at Erieau. Luckily for me, I checked my phone 4 minutes after the post (7:23pm), and was only 15 minutes away. I made it to Erieau just in time. I got my scope set-up, exchanged pleasantries with some fine Rondeau gents, and got a few photos, before the Marbled Godwit and its 2 Willet companions flew off to the north! What a finish, holy shit!!

Will I have as good of timing next year?

What should I do next year? Caribou Island? Pelee? Pelee Island?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Recent happenings at Pelee

I've been down now at Pelee and have been having a pretty sweet time. The birding has been really quite good, especially after such a crappy Apil.

Today was quite good; 21 species of warblers, 116 species, including a few highlights...

I found my 2nd Henslow's Sparrow in 24 hours today...! This one along the West Beach, just south of the parking lot; makes you wonder how many are missed.

Photo taken by Bryan Teat
We also came across this previously found Cerulean Warbler on Tilden's Woods.
Looked like a SY male. Photo by Bran Teat.
There were lots of decent stuff around; Hooded Warbler at the tip, 2 Yellow-throated Vireos.

Friday, May 1, 2015


I made it down today...and despite just the late afternoon, managed a few goodies, including the Kentucky Warbler found on the Anders Footpath.

Also had an Orange-crowned Warbler nearby.

After checking Hillman, I went over to Wheatley Harbour and had an Eared Grebe.

The next few days look really good!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dreamin' of these....

Despite this being one of the latest springs I can remember, May is literally just around the corner. Having said this, things always seem to even out by the 10th of May.

This year, like many of the past, I'll be off for a few weeks, hopefully enjoying and basking in some serious CMF's. I'll be down at Pelee from May 1-18, so I will potentially see many of you there.

Here's to hoping everyone has a great May, with lots of star-studded rarities, and lots of fallouts.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Long Point - April 10th

I took the day off yesterday, and Lill and I headed down bright and early to Long Point for the morning and part of the afternoon. Overnight we had had lots of rain, thunder and lightning, and the temperature was +14 when I got up (0545)....things were looking good!

Heading straight for the peninsula itself yielded lots of nicely new spring migrants. We saw quite a number of sparrows species, between our time at Old Cut, Hasting's Dirve, and the Provincial Park. Lots of Flicker's, Fox, Chipping, a few Vesper, and 1 Savannah Sparrows as well as our FOY Pine Warbler, Brown Thrasher. Lillian was the official photographer today:

Merlin staking the sparrows out in the fog at the entrance to LPPP.

What does the fox say??? I think it's something about getting enough to eat at home...

Good numbers of Chippers, a few Fields, and tonnes of Junco's along Hwy. 59.

Mr. Savannah (our 1 and only).

Lots of ATSP were moving (around 120 seen throughout LP Proper).

Good numbers of NOFLs too!

And 3 EABLs along Hasting's.
I also saw a really interesting female Junco at Old Cut, right by the banding lab, that looked like a Pink-sided....but alas no photos or good enough looks to confirm.

Here's our eBird checklist:

After checking LP, we toured the roads west of Hwy. 59 along the lake, but didn't really see anything of interest, so we went for some lunch at the Boat House. After lunch, we checked the Port Rowan overlook and had a few things, despite the crazy strong winds (gusting to 85km/hr), including our only Purple Martin, and 2 Caspian and 9 Forster's Terns hunkering down out of the wind.

eBird checklists:

Next up was Turkey Point, where we really quickly checked and had another FOY: Barn Swallow, as well as 3 Forster's Terns. Deciding we had had a nice day, we headed home, checking for the Eurasian Wigeon, where we dipped, but it offered a nice selection of dabblers nonetheless.

All in all a good day (85 species). Spring is here!!!