Sunday, August 14, 2022

Birding Midewin Tallgrass Prairie







I took a short three day trip with my family to Michigan and Illinois and made an effort to visit a natural area called Midewin Tallgrass Prairie --- which is about 30-40 minutes south of Chicago.

Midewin has an interesting story - it was historically a large tall grass prairie, which was turned into farmland, then the military used the land for making and testing bombs. And most recently, it was turned back into a national tall grass prairie. The name Midewin is derived from a native word meaning "healing" or "recovering". Yes, the ecosystem could be recovering, but also the people that get to visit this wonderful habitat could be recovering and healing as well.  Read more at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/midewin

PLANTS

My visit was essentially limited to a 1 hour walk at the iron bridge trailhead pathway. Lots of great plants were seen - Rattlesnake Master, Royal Catchfly, Prairie Blazingstar as well as countless yellow flowering plants such as cup plant, compass plant, and countless varieties of dark eyed susan type plants.





BUTTERFLIES

I was hoping for better butterfly diversity - and better luck with perching butterrlies: some seen were:

Buckeye

Northern Cresent

Silver Spotted Skipper

Red Spotted Purple

Cabbage Whites

Clouded Sulphur (or Southern Dogface?)


Birds

Dickcissel

Indigo Bunting

American Goldfinch

Barn / Rough Winged Swallow

Blue Grosbeak

Song Sparrow

Field Sparrow

Henslows Sparrow

Buteo Hawk

Chimney Swift



Overall - it was a brief visit to this park - but very nice. I was surprised to see Blue Grosbeaks. I was not expecting to see them there. I was also happy to find Henslows Sparrows- which I have only seen a handful of times at Point Pelee. I dipped on a few area specialties such as Eastern Meadowlark, Upland Sandpiper, Loggerhead Shrike and Bells Vireo. 

Good Birding,

Dwayne




Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Bell's Vireo and Mid-May Pinery Butterfly Watching (2 butterfly lifers?)




(*editors note: This is a blog posting from the middle of May 2022 - I have not posted it until late July 2022)

I took a personal day from work recently - and headed out to Point Pelee for some early May birding. I randomly chose May 12 as a day to go in the second week of May. I spent much of my time on West Beach - looking for Kirtlands Warbler - and had many great birds that I had not seen in some time. Northern Mockingbird, Black Billed Cuckoo, tonnes of Thrushes and Ruby throated Hummingbirds were present on that particular afternoon. But, Bells Vireo was the highlight, and through the power of whatapp - I was able to see this great bird found by "the dutch crew" & Steve Pike. I must have seen 10-15 hummingbirds on this particular day, and it was nice to see one actually do it mating / territory flight right in front of me along the west side foot-path.  Occasionally while photographing these beautiful birds, I would get reflective flashes of "ruby" from the gorget feathers on the birds throat. These colours that we see as birders are unique in that although there are various inks and computer monitor colours made from three primary colours mixing --- I think some of the colours we observe as naturalists can only be seen and fully appreciated in the field. In summary, the colour of red from a Scarlet Tanager, or an indigo bunting is best appreciated IRL (in real life).

Bells Vireo


Clay Coloured Sparrow @ Black Oak Herritage Park in Windsor



Pinery May 15th - Butterfly watching during peak birding season?

I found myself supervising/coaching a tennis tournament that had me in Sarnia on Sat May 14th. Instead of driving home after the tournament, I had booked a hotel to stay the evening and spent the following day at the Pinery. I was with my family, but I attempted to butterfly watch and bird as much as I could. Some May specialties were found, Olympia Marble, Frosted Elfin, American Lady, Dreamy Duskywing. ... I was looking for Mottled Duskywings and instead found a Harvester butterfly - which is famous for having a carnivorous caterpillar. It turns out that an Azure species I had seen on this date is a second life butterfly - According to R. Cavasin (* Northern Spring Azure (C. lucia) ) . Inaturalist is a wonderful tool for us nature lovers! See this link for that sighting: https://inaturalist.ca/observations/117214978 . These two new species are my 159th, and 160th butterfly species. 

Birding was great, with Prairie Warbler heard almost as soon as I entered the lakeside dune habitat that they often frequent. RH Woodpecker, BB Cuckoo, Pine Warbler as well as several empid species were seen. 









Lifer Summary - Last ~10 BIRD species:

Western Screech Owl 453 (AZ)
Scaled Quail 454  (AZ)
Graces Warbler 455  (AZ)
Painted Redstart 456  (AZ)
Yellow Eyed Junco 457  (AZ)
Blue throated Hummingbird 458 (AZ)
Elegant Trogon 459 (AZ)
King Rail 460
Red Phalarope 461
Scissor tailed Flycatcher 462
Hoary Redpoll  463
Cave Swallow 464
Harris' Sparrow 465
Bell's Vireo 466


My last 7 Butterfly Species: 
154 - BOG COPPER  ( Lycaena epixanthe ) - London ON , yes [link]
155 - Compton Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis vaualbum) - Newbury ON - yes [link]
156 - Short Tailed Swallowtail( Papilio brevicauda ) - Kouchibouguac National Park , yes [link]
157 - Maritime Ringlet( Coenonympha nipisiquit ) - St Andrews NB [link]
158 - Green Comma (  Polygonia faunus) - Fredricton NB, yes [link]
159 - Harvester ( Feniseca tarquinius ) - Pinery Provincial Park , yes [link]  
160 - Northern Azure (Celastrina lucia) - Pinery Provincial Park , yes [link] 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Harris' Sparrow Lifer!?!? And some recent birding highlights

 

Harris's Sparrow at Holiday Beach in Amherstburg ON

Almost 1 week ago, a local birder (Kory R) found a Harris' Sparrow at Holiday Beach in Amherstburg. Slowly over the last 3 or 4 days other birders had found it in the same spot it had been originally seen. It was being generous in its migratory stay at Holiday Beach. Today after work, I figured I would try for a second time to see it.

I had stood around on the road in the prescribed area with several other birders. Initially I had obtained a brief and heavily obstructed view.  Paul P, Rick M, Andew and Kara W, even Jeremy B was there. After a long wait - and incredibly birders not pishing or using playback --- the bird flew across the scene from left to right and briefly alighted on a branch. I snapped a few photos with my camera and yes... this is a life bird for me!

While waiting, I had views of some birds that were around. Bald Eagle, Blue Herons, Great Egrets, my FOY Warbling Vireo and I had a stunning look at a Ruby-throated hummingbird. It had alighted in the the air about 4' away from my face at eye level. It twisted mid air and its "gorget" briefly went from black it stunning iridescent ruby red. It was a wonderful birding moment only to later be eclipsed by face melting views of Harris' Sparrow.


This past Sunday, I went to bird at Point Pelee for the first time in quite some time. I had been birding alot locally closer to my house since gasoline is so expensive. 

I had some good birds at the park even though it was "slow".  

I had found at least two White eyed vireos, Red headed Woodpecker, Hooded Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Kentucky Warbler along with about 70 species.













Good birding!

Dwayne


My last ten life birds:

Lifer Summary - Last 10 species:

Western Screech Owl 453 (AZ)

 Scaled Quail 454  (AZ)
 Graces Warbler 455  (AZ)
 Painted Redstart 456  (AZ)
 Yellow Eyed Junco 457  (AZ)
 Blue throated Hummingbird 458 (AZ)
Elegant Trogon 459 (AZ)
King Rail 460
Red Phalarope 461
Scissor tailed Flycatcher 462
Hoary Redpoll  463
Cave Swallow 464
Harris' Sparrow 465


Sunday, April 17, 2022

April Birding + New IBWO Rediscovery Paper

 


Its been a while since my last blog posting. I have been birding alot - I enjoy being outside and getting some exercise - but I have not blogged too much this year. One new thing this year is that I purchased a new camera - and amazingly - I don't think the photos that my new camera produced are as good or better than my previous, 10-year old camera.  My new camera is smaller, lighter, and has a smaller, lighter lens (350mm  vs 400 prime). There is a huge learning curve with this new sony system - so - I'm not as efficient in adjusting the settings like I had been doing with my canon. I might talk further in depth about photography on another posting. 



I've been walking alot at Black Oak Heritage Park in West Windsor.  I've been seeing they typical week by week migrants that generally show up in most decent habitat locals along the great lakes waterways. 

*Eastern Phoebe
*YBSS
*Kinglets
*Winter Wren
*Sparrows (Fox, Towhee, Field, Chipping etc)
*Hermit Thrush

If someone were to go back 11-12 years ago, to my very first posting on this blog, it was my reaction to the Luneau Video about the IBWO sighting in Arkansas. That whole story was so interesting to me. I had faith that yes - IBWO still lives. 

We have not heard much about the IBWO (Ivory Billed Woodpecker) although recently, just 4 days ago actually, the Guardian news website discussed that a new research paper has been released recently - (it is not yet peer-reviewed) - but - I must say that the images provided at the end of that paper look pretty convincing that yes - IBWO still exists in the large forests along the Florida panhandle to Louisiana.  

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/13/ivory-bill-woodpecker-not-extinct-researchers-say

Non-Peer Reviewed Paper: 

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.04.06.487399v1.full.pdf

These are some crude screenshots from the many wonderful exhibits at the end of the paper - but - these seem to be really good trail-cam photos of IBWO - just in the last year or two.  It brings me great joy to think that maybe a few of these beautiful birds still live!!! I would like to go help in the search for this bird in a few years - perhaps in retirement. 



This research will have to be scrutinized by the experts - and I will wait for their assessment - but it seems like a few IBWOs still exist !

Good Birding & Happy Easter
Dwayne



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