Sunday, January 10, 2016

Snowy Owl Caps off Another Great Year of Birding - 2015 in Review

Looking back at 2015...
And ahead to 2016

For the last 5 years, I've written a year end reflection on the previous year of birding and nature viewing. So this year, I've continued with tradition. This year was a lot more restrained compared to say 2014 when I took several ambitious trips (Florida, Michigan, Oregon, Carden Alvar).  My family moved into a new home this year, so I felt that having a major trip in March or over the summer was not economically responsible. So instead, we stayed closer to home this year, with a trip to Ottawa to visit family and a day trips to St Thomas and the Pinery Provincial Park in Grand Bend.

I don't really have too many birding highlights this year (although there were some) but I must say that I attempted to broaden my appreciation of the natural world by starting to seek out and list plants formally -  which has been fun!  Patrick & Allen have awesome blogs that have encouraged me to seek out some great plants. Some highlights include:

Colic Root
Culver's Root
Tall Ironweed
Tall Boneset
Prairie Dock
Indian Pipe
Fringed Gentian
Closed Gentian
Big Bluestem
Little Bluestem
Prairie Cordgrass
Indian Grass
Sullivants Milkweed
Prairie & Michigan Lily
Nodding Ladies Tresses
Eastern Fringed Prairie Orchid
... and many more

One plant I really wanted to see was Purple Twayblade Orchid.  I might have started to look for it way past its flowering stage (late July) so next summer, I will start looking for it in June when hopefully it is flowering. There are a handful of other flowers that I would like to see but this one stands out as one I should find with a little effort and luck.

Lepidopteric Highlights from 2015:

Grey Hairstreak (Point Pelee - rare is some years)
Leonards Skipper (Grand Bend ON)
Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Strathroy, Ottawa)
Zebra Swallowtail (Portsmouth OH)

I still have not seen a Mulberry Winged or Dion Skipper convincingly so I will be looking for these next summer.

Instead of doing a month by month breakdown of birding... I will just list out and comment on several seasonal highlights:

April visit to Shawnee State Forest in Southern Ohio- Three life list birds were added on this trip - Carolina Chickadee, Worm eating Warbler and Kentucky Warbler. Shawnee State Park is a beautiful park located about 4 hours south of Windsor/Detroit. It is located on the southern border of Ohio, bordering the state of Kentucky! I wanted to get butterflies on this trip, but the cold rainy weather put a damper on butterfly action. Still, I picked up a Zebra Swallowtail and a Horaces Duskywing.

May Migration at Pelee- I had a couple of great days in May at Point Pelee. May 6th was an excellent day that I won't soon forget. At one point, I was looking at a Golden Winged Warbler, an Eastern Whip poor will and a Cape May Warbler, all within a few feet of each other.  All three goatsucker species were pretty easily seen this year. I had a fleeting look at Mississippi Kite and nice looks at Pacific Loon which was pretty amazing. Gray Kingbird was pretty awesome to see along the eastern edge of Hillman Marsh. Finding a Summer Tanager at Malden Park in Windsor was exciting as well. I am convinced that I also saw an Acadian Flycatcher that same afternoon but well.. you know...

Summer Birding- I think the birding highlight of the summer would by my accidental discovery of a Hooded Warbler at Ojibway Park in the later part of June. A Scarlet Tanager that was nearby was also a pretty cool bird to see. Another summer highlight was just sitting in my back yard and witnessing the birds that appeared consistently through the summer as well as the birds that stopped by during their southbound migration. I had Common Checkered Skippers and Common Sootywing in my back yard which was pretty cool to see.

Visiting the Canard Valley - I visited Canard Valley Conservation Area for the first time. It is a little hidden jem that I had neglected to discover until this summer. A dimorphic pair of Dukes Skippers were a highlight.

Ottawa Area- A trip to Ottawa this summer had limited nature viewing opportunities, but a drive through Larose Forest in Limoges Ontario was pretty nice. Milbert's Tortoiseshell and Meadow Fritillary were nice to see. Butterflies were mysteriously difficult to find this summer in Ottawa.

Fall & Winter Birding - Highlights here are two gull species that were excellent to see. Sabine's Gull & a first winter plumaged Franklin's Gull was a great find at Wheatly Harbour. I found a Common Redpoll at Pelee which is really really rare in my opinion. A Snow Goose as well as White Fronted Geese were seen in Lasalle by my friend Karen but I was unable to twitch these birds. She also spotted a Gyrfalcon at Vollmer Ponds. Needless to say, two rare flycatcher species that were seen in Chatham-Kent were: Says Phobe and Vermilion Flycatcher.

Birding from my own backyard was really fun. I built a deck on the back of my house and on a daily basis, I typically see decent birds. I saw Blue headed Vireo, Wilsons Warbler, Nashville,  American Redstart, Palm , Eastern Bluebird & Fox Sparrow migrating through among others! (I need to compile a list!)

Late November to December was not very birdy for me, but some highlights were Golden Eagles, Rough legged and Red shouldered Hawks at Holiday Beach. A pair of Great horned Owls during the Point Pelee CBC and and an end of year Snowy Owl seen in Harrow capped off a great year of birding!

A pair of Great Horned Owls at Point Pelee

Snowy Owl in Harrow

I wanted to end off this posting with some thoughts on Ojibway Park --- but again, I can't find the words. Sadly, without an intervention from the Ministry of the Environment or the unlikely chance that a local philanthropist steps in --- the 'dozers will be brought in any time now and Ontario's best tallgrass prairie ecosystem will be further fragmented and impacted by a Coco Paving's planned Wal-Mart Plaza. Windsor's municipal politicians don't even realize how special Ojibway Park is.

Have a great 2016...


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Vermilion Flycatcher in Wallaceburg?

Vermilion Flycatcher in Wallaceburg? What a wacky year its been for vagrants! I was torn on whether I should go out to Wallaceburg to see this amazing bird, but with reports coming in early this morning that it was still present, I went ahead and committed to the drive.  I wanted to go out to the Mitchel's Bay area to see Snowy Owls, but I didn't see any on the drive between Wallaceburg and Chatham. I got a chance to see Rick, JB & Ellen Smout at this location as well. The property owners were gracious in letting birders walk back to their pasture and it seems like this little bird was seen by mobs of birders.

This amazing bird is not a lifer as I've seen it in Florida a few years ago. It is mainly a bird from deep southwestern US and Mexico as shown on the range map below. To think that it strayed so far in the wrong direction during migration is almost unbelievable - but I guess first year males sometimes exhibit this directional dyslexia. It seems that although the weather is going to be mild for the next week or so, it seems like this beautiful little bird is probably doomed to perish due to cold weather and lack of food.

Image Source:

A friend of mine who sometimes commutes to Chatham told me a while ago about "Chatham Burger". He swore it was one of the best burgers he had ever had. I just happened to drive by on my way back to Windsor and figured I would support a local business. Amazing burgers! I would say its a great burger for a birder birding in the 'burg.

Good birding,

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Fight to Save Windsor's Ojibway Park

I have so much to say about this but I don't even know where to begin. This video is a great production that would help people appreciate what is happening and give them some context. Please watch this video and consider the petition below.

Allen Woodliffe wrote a wonderful posting about Ojibway - with his expert and authoritative knowledge on botany. Check it out here:

There is an online petition that is currently at over 12,000 signatures at the link below. Please feel free to sign if you think southwestern ontario's last tallgrass prairie is worth preserving. Please feel free to share this link with friends or with social media.

Good Naturing,

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Seasonal November Birding Observations

Lapland Longspur

Rusty Blackbirds
I've had mediocre birding observations over the last few weeks. I haven't had as much time to bird as I'm taking night school courses at the U of Windsor along with full time work and parenting duties. I've had two or three major highlights though - I had my first Common Redpoll in Essex County yesterday at Point Pelee. Common Redpolls are a great bird for me. I've only seen them on a few rare occasions at Rondeau, never in Essex County.  A female Purple finch, as well as some seasonal raptors were seen at Point Pelee. I also had a Richard C. sighting aka LLB.

I think the photo above is a Franklin's Gull - I could be wrong- (let me down gently if I am).  I photographed it at Wheatley Harbour flying Southwest towards Hike Metal products (Essex Co). I'm quite certain I saw Franklin's Gulls in Calgary Alberta a few summers ago, so this is not a life bird, but its a first for Ontario and now a Chatham-Kent and Essex bird. It was exciting to read about these birds from Allen and Blakes' blogs over the last few days. Hopefully some stick around for more closer observation and study.

Closer to home, I've had some cool nature sightings just from my back porch. I've seen a Fox Sparrow briefly every weekend for the last three or four weeks, but when I grab my camera, its gone! But today, I finally saw this sparrow foraging along my fence line and had my camera close. Along with seeing a Fox Sparrow this morning I had 2-3 Eastern Bluebirds - ***mind blown*** perched on a tree in my back yard! Last weekend, I had an American Kestrel perched in my back yard as well. As I was looking at the bluebirds (couldn't get more than a diagnostic photo) and Fox Sparrow, a male deer walked by- pretty cool! I've also had Coyotes howling and barking after sunset last week, which is kind of scary. Red bellied Woodpeckers have been seen and heard with surprising regularity over the last few weeks as well.

Diagnostic Backyard Bluebird

I've had decent back-yard birds since I moved in this summer and fall migration season. I will need to compile a list of everything. I'm trying to keep an ongoing list with Ebird as well.

Good birding!


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