Saturday, February 18, 2017

Places I'd love to check this June...

If only there were more than 24hrs. in a day you'd likely find me at one or two of these locations:

Bickford Oak Woods
Back in 2007 I did two rounds of breeding bird surveys in Bickford Oak Woods, consisting of a total of 7 days was buggy, the American Prickly-Ash was pretty damn annoying in certain spots, and wet...but it was also really interesting and one location I hope to get back to in the near future in June. Over the course of our fieldwork, we found the Swamp Cottonwood grove, a singing male Acadian Flycatcher, 3 male Cerulean Warblers, Red-headed Woodpecker and Brewster's Warbler.  Not too mention that there's a large swamp (I vividly remember wading chest deep for >100m) that screams Prothonotary Warbler (Larry Cornelis had a singing male PROW here in 2001 or 2003). 

Moraviantown FN
I've only birded Moraviantown FN once (June 24, 2015), but was impressed with the quality and numbers, as well as several Species at Risk and Species of Conservation Concern present in only 45 minutes of driving, including White-eyed Vireo and several Hooded Warblers. I'd love to go back for a morning, and would expect Cerulean Warbler and Acadian Flycatcher as high candidates.

Chippewa's of the Thames FN
For the first time last year, I checked out the Chippewa's of the Thames First Nations, on June 13th and 21st and wasn't disappointed....a total of 3 Cerulean's, a Prothonotary, and several Hooded Warblers made it a great morning. Other things like Yellow-throated Vireo and Blue-winged Warblers were also plentiful (~10 of each species). 

Wainfleet Bog
I haven't ever checked out Wainfleet in the summer, but recently toured the area and was really impressed with some of the habitats along the road, particularly in the western area of the natural area. Species like Prothonotary Warbler and King Rail really stand out as having suitable habitat here...hopefully I'll be able to check it out this June! If there are any Niagara birders who read this...I'd definitely check it out!

Hopefully this spur some birders to check these areas out (or other hotspots)!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Eastern Ontario fieldwork this week

This past week, I headed out to Morrisburg, with my colleague, James Barber, Thursday through Saturday, for some field work, north of the St. Lawrence.  Having said this, it wasn't all 'work' and we managed a good haul of eastern Ontario birds too.

I left Waterloo early on Thursday (Feb. 9th) to pick up James in Kingston. On my way I saw a dead Barred Owl, 3km east of the Port Hope Onroute.  I had heard rumblings of owls throughout the Ottawa area and this was certainly an indication of more to come.

Picking up James in Kingston, we were soon bound for Morrsiburg.  Just before getting off the Hwy. we picked out a nice adult Red-shouldered Hawk, again, just east of the Morrsiburg Onroute, as well as a single Northern Shrike -- a species I've had a really hard time getting west of Toronto over the last 2-3 winters.

James and I did a few hours of field work until 4:30 or so, and were heading back when we picked out an eagle just over the 401.  Coming to a stop revealed it to be an adult Golden Eagle! Here's a pic. James managed:
Friday, we were out for the whole day bush-whacking in the cold (-17 C!!), doing some ELC; our best bird during the day was a female Red-bellied Woodpecker near Finch.  As we were finishing and coming back to Morrisburg, we wandered some of the roads north of the 401 and found this beauty, just before dusk (also photographed by James)!

I hadn't seen a Great Gray Owl in quite some time (last was 2013) --- it is always a treat to see one of these and hopefully I'll see a few more this winter!

Saturday, we were only in the field until 10:30am or so, and then started making our way home.  On our way though we had 2 more Northern Shrikes, the Red-shouldered Hawk near Napannee and another Barred Owl -- this time alive (I had managed to make a detour to visit Mike and his family near Peterborough).

Sunday, January 8, 2017

LP + Haldimand

I had grand ideas of heading down to the north shore of Erie to see some sparrows, driving along the lake in Haldimand County, then heading to the Niagara River, however, things were not to be.

Getting up this am, I realized we had gotten 10-15cm of snow overnight and there was serious lake effect (Lake Huron) snow still coming down at 6:30am. Anyways, I made my way down to Simcoe and realized there was pretty strong lake effect occurring even in Haldimand, so I made a detour to Long Point and checked out a few spots before heading east.

First up, I picked up the long-staying Smith's Longspur - so long, in fact that it is no longer a flagged species in eBird for Norfolk...!

Continuing, I checked Front Road in Port Royal, as the bridge area would likely be sheltered from the strong NW winds. Managed a few WTSP, and my year Sandhill Cranes and Brown Creeper. After this I headed to Old Cut, to check the feeders, and managed to get Tufted Titmouse, Red-winged Blackbird, a few Cowbirds, and more WTSPs, but missed the good stuff (Northern Goshawk, Fox Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Gray Catbird) seen later by Adam and Taylor -- oh well!

After this I started heading back east, as the lake effect snow was now dissipating on the radar. Best highlights were a single Double-crested Cormorant near Selkirk and a Pied-billed Grebe below the dam in Dunnville (a great winter spot). I also checked out the conifer plantations at Selkirk hoping for some owls...but no dice. It was interesting to see the left-over banding operations from John Miles. 

With the wind being pretty persistent, and few birds, I decided to head straight to Vineland, where I had to drop some things off at an acquaintance and headed home. I always like checking out Haldimand County, especially in winter -- John Miles was on to something with his banding at Selkirk. All in all, managed to up my year list to 76, but who's counting.

On a different, tomorrow I'm off to the Cornwall for work and am really hoping for some Gray Partridge. That got me onto thinking...has anyone checked out the Brantford airport in recent years for them? I checked eBird and they were last there in January 2013 (15!) ....I don't see why they wouldn't be around -- who's going to check???

Way back in '04...I've seen GRPA as recently as 2011, which was also the last time I checked for the species.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

2016 Big Year at a glance

At this time of year, I always like to see where I'd be at if I were doing an Ontario Big Year. So far in 2016, I've seen 294 species. Several of these species

Grace's Warbler (!!)
Common Ringed-Plover (!)

Crested Caracara (!)

Shearwater sp. (!)
Townsend's Warbler

 Added with these, a few nice self-finds, like these:
Swainson's Hawk
Western Sandpiper
Carolina X Black-capped Chickadee hybrid (obviously not counted in the species list)
Henslow's Sparrow
Neotropic Cormorant
Eurasian Collared-Dove

When this is added in, there's a total 51 species + 6 possible species seen in Ontario that I would have been able to see:

Bohemian Waxwing
Hudsonian Godwit
Red Knot
Long-eared Owl
Purple Sandpiper
Red Crossbill
Hoary Redpoll
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Barrow's Goldeneye
Ross's Goose
Spruce Grouse
Red Phalarope
Pomarine Jaeger
Eared Grebe
Great Gray Owl
American White Pelican
Le Conte's Sparrow
Snowy Egret Holiday Beach - August
American Three-toed Woodpecker
Boreal Owl
Laughing Gull Rock Point
Gray Partridge Ottawa
Yellow-throated Warbler June - Thickson's Woods
Prairie Warbler
Western Meadowlark Rainy River
Yellow Rail
Northern Bobwhite Walpole Island
Ruff May - Brighton
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck July - Hamilton
Common Eider May/June - Burlington
Varied Thrush Feb/March - Kirkland Lake
Arctic Tern Burnt Point
Smith's Longspur Burnt Point
Willow Ptarmigan Burnt Point
Worm-eating Warbler May - Pelee 
Mississippi Kite May - Pelee/Niagara
Louisiana Waterthrush
Spotted Towhee February - Thunder Bay
Eurasian Tree-Sparrow January - Bruce Peninsula
Bullock's Oriole January - Ottawa
Vermilion Flycatcher January 1 - Wallaceburg
Townsend's Solitaire January - Toronto
Western Grebe Spring - Toronto
Cattle Egret October 14 - Hamilton
Thick-billed Murre 11/25/2016 - Cobden
Black Guillemot November - Netitshi
Cave Swallow November - Pelee
Glossy Ibis October - New Liskeard
Lark Sparrow December - Toronto
Black-headed Gull December - Niagara

Unlikely, but Possible
Little Blue Heron July - Harrow/Holiday Beach
California Gull
Northern Fulmar
Western Kingbird July - Rainy River
Mountain Bluebird November - Moosonee
Barn Owl

Had I seen the 51 species would be enough to break the record, coming in at 345. The additional 6 species would bring me in at 351(!). Considering this hasn't been the greatest year for vagrants; and the Ontario big year is within the grasp of anyone looking to break the record.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

More Zion...

Last week the weather looked pretty promising early in the week for some late fall hawk-watching. With this in mind I decided to use some of my banked hours and took Thursday and Friday off to head down to Zion Road -- one of my newest and favourite eBird hotspots to bird.

I unfortunately got a late start on Thursday morning, largely due to the World Series insane game, however, it was a pretty exciting game. I made quick stops at the Ridgetown and Blenheim lagoons, getting a pair of Snow Geese at Ridgetown and the long-staying pair of Cattle Egrets at Blenheim.

After leaving Blenheim and getting onto Hwy. 3, it was evident that a great hawk flight was moving forward, I managed to get a light Rough-legged and a Red-shouldered Hawk quickly before pulling into the hawk-watch location at the end of Zion Road.

From about 11:30 until 2:30 the flight was right over-top of me, at the lakeshore. Highlights included 5 Golden Eagles, 429 Red-tailed, 62 Red-shouldered, 3 Rough-legged Hawks, and 2 Northern Goshawks! Here's my eBird checklist for the day:

Friday, the flight didn't really materialize as I had hoped for, but I was joined by Nathan Miller. Nonetheless, Nathan and I made the most of our situation and enjoyed the morning flight of passerines, getting some pretty good numbers of things like Cedar Waxwings (523) and American Goldfinches (582), as well as a single Golden Eagle and Rough-legged Hawk. Our real highlight, however, came shortly after 11am, when an adult Broad-winged Hawk(!) flew over, getting harassed by some A. Crows.

And if this is pretty exciting to you as it is for me, there's a vacant piece of property for sale for $24,900 a few hundred metres from where I've been setting up to watch....who knows, but that property would likely have a pretty sweet yard list if a birder built a house there...

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The road to Zion (October 22nd)

Don't worry, I'm not trying to get all religious on you...but with the perfect set-up for Saturday, my Dad and I motored down to just east of Wheatley for a hawk-watch at the end of Zion Road.

This isn't technically the wind map for Saturday, but it's pretty close (Sunday night - 11 EST).
For those who don't know, this little spot, at the end of Zion Road, likely like every other dead-end road that hits Lake Erie should be an excellent spot to do diurnal watches.

We did our hawkwatch from the end of Zion Road where it bends 90 degrees to the west
The wind set-up was so good, that driving down we passed through lake-effect rain(!) from London to the West Lorne onroute along the 401. I was getting abit worried that the rain would 'block' the hawk movement, but these worries were shortly lived.

Getting down to the Wheatley area, we checked the canary pond, north of Comber, where we saw a few shorebirds and some early-ish Tundra Swans (

After the Canary ponds, we went to Hillman, where we saw 5 Long-billed Dowitchers among a few other things (

After this, we headed over to the end of Zion to start our hawkwatch, only to find the one and only Brandon Holden - quite the pleasant surprise, if I might say so. Apparently great minds think alike. By this time it was about 10am and birds were really moving. Being right by the lake we were getting not only good numbers and great looks with the strong NW winds of hawks/vultures, including a juv. Broad-winged Hawk, but there also a decent number of waterbirds moving, with Common Loons being quite common as well as appearances of 2 Surf Scoters and 3 Long-tailed Ducks, both species that are fairly good in this part of the province.

Around noon, we were noticing that the hawk-flight was moving inland, so we moved up to Hwy. 3 and weren't disappointed. Our highlights for the day came in a short, rapid-fire over 20 minutes, starting at 14:20, when a juv. dark morph Swainson's Hawk flew by, quite close!!! I must say, I was definitely not expecting a SWHA, which was likely why I confused it for a weird male intermediate RLHA at first.

A few minutes late a nice light morph Rough-legged Hawk flew over, following the same flight line as the SWHA. If things weren't good enough, Brandon picked out a rufous/dark morph adult Red-tailed Hawk at 14:38! Talk about a day! We didn't stay much longer, as my Dad had some prior commitments, but all in all, a nice day with good company.

Our eBird checklist for your viewing pleasure:

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Coves -- a new 'thing' in Ontario birding?

The title might be a bit dramatic, but I've been nonetheless enthralled the last few days with the notion that we, Ontario birders, may have our very own Cape May morning flight going's just that we don't have to travel all the way to New Jersey to see it...

Rewind a few weeks ago: Barb Charlton, aka Barbed-Wire, and Big Country (formerly known as Tim Lucas) and I went down to Hatteras, North Carolina for some pelagics (I will be doing a blogpost on this at some point!) in late August. During one of our countless, random conversations during our 30 hours of driving Tim mentioned that he thought the Coves might provide a location where morning flights of landbirds could be observed. This was a really interesting idea and left me thinking a fair bit over the next little while about the location and the phenomenon.

Editors Note: For those that don't know where the Coves are....the Coves are the extreme western edge of Big Creek Marsh and the base of the Long Point peninsula, slightly raised above the lakeshore (~40 feet up?), where the vegetation from Big Creek marsh narrows to <100m of vegetation along the lakeshore. This geographical feature acts as a natural funnel for birds moving westwards, along the lakeshore.

Pardon my 'Bradon-esk' map making (they're not as nice as what Brandon would do); yellow star is where the Coves are. Yellow arrows are where birds would move (west along the point, west along the shore, and south along the Big Creek corridor), with lesser movements overland through the various green patches (orange arrows).

Fast forward to last week: I was able to take last Friday (Sept. 9th) off and luckily also had some conducive weather for songbird migration too -- north winds and slightly cooler temps.

I got down to the Coves on the 9th and immediately had Warblers and other landbirds migrating overhead, moving west. I was excited! Tim was right! Over the course of the next few hours I had about 2,000 birds that would be counted if I was doing a 'standard' morning flight at Cape May -- which is pretty decent. Warblers accounted for about 500 individuals, with American Redstarts (38), Magnolia (29), Chestnut-sided (11), and Blackpoll (7) comprising the main numbers (that I was able to identify). Other species like Bobolink (64), Rose-breasted Grosbeak (54) and Red-eyed Vireos (38) were also around in good numbers.

To top things off, I also had a Eurasian Collared-Dove(!) flyby! Pretty sweet! See my eBird checklist, here to see everything I observed:

Sunday (Sept 11), I managed to make it back down and again there was a decent movement, however, not as good, though I somewhat expected this after taking a look at the wind map the night before, looking at the wind field. Again, decent numbers of warblers, with ~150 individuals noted:

It was interesting to compare the 2 days that I've been down there so far; it appears that any day with a north wind could be good for a morning flight. I think the rarity potential for this site is excellent (look at my Sept. 9th checklist), with species like Dickcissel, Western Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher surely occurring on a 'regular' basis, while other species like American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, Bobolinks, American Goldfinches expected to show up in huge numbers.