Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sabine's Gull & Little Gull at Hillman Marsh

Sabine's Gull near Point Pelee
The OFO Convention that took place at Point Pelee this weekend brought in many great birders from across the province. It was also reported recently that Sabine's Gulls (Xema sabini) were seen near Rondeau a rare bird for sure.  So this morning at about 10:30am, I was amazed to see that a Sabine's Gull was found near Hillman Marsh. I have been feeling a little under the weather lately so I almost did not twitch this beautiful gull.

Many birders were around when I arrived and Jeremy Bensette quickly had me looking at Red-necked Phalarope and Little gulls. Barb C had re-found the Sabine's Gull after it had not been seen for a while. It was hard to pick out because by this time in the afternoon, it was cold, windy and raining. The bird came close to the road for a brief time then flew back a few hundred meters. While it was in flight, I managed to get a few diagnostic photos of its beautiful wing plumage. This is a life bird for me ... and one I had been hoping to see for the last few years.

Because I was sick, I did not stay in the Pelee area too long. Lots of familiar faces around to see this rare gull - Blake, Barb, Jeremy, Rick, Kevin and more! Not much else too exciting this week. I found a few migrants at Ojibway, along with a few patches of Little Bluestem - a wild prairie grass that grows at Ojibway.

Good birding!

Life bird summary:
Mississippi Kite 394
Grey Flycatcher 395
Sabine's Gull 396

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Grey Hairstreak and other Recent September Migrants

Grey Hairstreak at Point Pelee

[Editor's Note: This posting is a hodge-podge mix of like three separate nature viewing hikes. My last posting about Fringed Gentian Wildflowers merited its own post so this one covers the last two weekends.. Thanks... ]

Seeing this Grey Hairstreak last weekend was a nice recent nature viewing highlight.There are years when I don't see this so it is somewhat rare in my opinion.  Shortly after seeing it, I was informed that a Funereal Duskywing was seen at the tip of Point Pelee --- but the small group of butterfly enthusiasts that I was with could not re-find it. The Duskywing and Crescent species below are sometimes confusing to identify but the time of year helps with their identification. 

Over the month of September, I've had amazing birding in my back yard.  Palm, Nashville, have been the most common, but Common Yellowthroats, American Redstart, Wilsons have been seen in lesser numbers.

Today at Pelee, I walked around with the family, and noted few birds.  At one point, Blue Jays were going crazy near the tip, and looking up, it would easy to see 5 sharp shinned hawks and even a Peregrine Falcon! A few Sanderlings and a group of about 10 Surf Scoters flew by in the short time I was at the tip.

Last weekend, I joined Jeremy Bensette for an OFO guided hike at  Point Pelee. It was pretty birdy and one of my personal highlights was Grey Checked Thrush, Winter Wren and a nice assortment of Warblers. A perched Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly was a nice find.

Hermit or Grey Cheeked?

I've seen many thrush species in the month, but have questioned myself ... I think I'm seeing Swainson's Thrush and Grey Cheeked... but what about Hermit Thrushes?

Good birding!
Tall Boneset? It was over 5' tall. Growing in the sandy soils of Black Oak Heritage Park.

Sarah R in the news

VW Accused of fooling emissions tests with software

2015 On Pace to being the hottest year in the last 140 years

Asian Carp found in Lake Erie:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fringed Gentian at Ojibway Park

Fringed Gentian at Ojibway Park
During a recent dinner, I mentioned to my wife that I wanted to go for a walk at Ojibway Tallgrass Prairie --- to look for a rare flower  .... The Fringed Gentian! My wife looked down at her plate and cleared her throat. "First birds, then butterflies... please tell me you are not getting into plants...".  Lol, she was kidding around but kind of serious.  I reminded her that I refuse to get into dragonflies or other insects ...but there are so many interesting plants to discover at Ojibway --- Just around the corner!

 So today, after work, I headed out to the Spring Garden area and finally crossed paths with this beautiful native species. I must have walked 10km for this blue botanical beauty. Nature appreciation, if nothing else, is good exercise!

In researching this plant, I came across a reference to them in Windsor's Coat of Arms! Even Windsor's Coat of Arms features a nod to our local botanical endowment in our tallgrass prairies. A rose, trillium and a fringed gentian grace the bottom portion of our coat of arms.

"On a grassy mound rising above the waters of the River are two floral sprays celebrating the varied and multicultural character of Windsor's population: the rose, the trillium, and fringed gentian. The gentian also honours a unique part of local natural heritage: the unusual plants and flowers of the tall grass prairie. "( Source-

Its ironic that Windsor's Coat of Arms pays homage to its natural history by featuring this plant. Even the moto of our city: "The River and the Land Sustain Us" has a certain irony. Windsor and Essex county are at 5% natural coverage when its understood that an ecosystem needs over 15% to remain functional. Our city politicians have blindly encouraged a local paving company to build a strip mall adjacent to the Ojibway tallgrass prairie. I have even heard recently that when the province (OLG) shut down the Windsor Raceway, it was quietly sold land to the Coco Paving company, which is well known to have liberal ties. Coco also owns the (Ambassador) golf course on the other side of the road, so the adjacent property, along with its proximity to Lasalle make it a desirable development property.

I cant end this posting on a negative, political note, so I leave you with this poem instead:

To the Fringed Gentian
William Cullen Bryant

Thou blossom bright with autumn dew,
And colored with the heaven’s own blue,
That openest when the quiet light
Succeeds the keen and frosty night.

Thou comest not when violets lean
O’er wandering brooks and springs unseen,
Or columbines, in purple dressed,
Nod o’er the ground-bird’s hidden nest.

Thou waitest late and com’st alone,
When woods are bare and birds are flown,
And frosts and shortening days portend
The aged year is near his end.

Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
Look through its fringes to the sky,
Blue-blue-as if that sky let fall
A flower from its cerulean wall.

I would that thus, when I shall see
The hour of death draw near to me,
Hope, blossoming within my heart,
May look to heaven as I depart.

Good Birding, Herping, Leping and  Botanizing

PS: Along with today's botany highlight, I had some nice views of some late butterflies.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Phoebe You Say?

Say's Phoebe in Blenheim?

After work today I had read that this beautiful bird was within an hours drive of Windsor and --hesitantly-- twitched it. This wasn't a life bird for me as I had seen it out west in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley region [link].

 I realized tonight as I wrote this post that I did not really obtain great photos of the bird because I had my "butterfly watching" lens (55-250mm) instead of my 400mm prime lens that I usually use to go birding with - so the few photos that I did take are quite heavily cropped. I really just tried to enjoy the bird through my new binoculars*, and also through Jeremy B's scope. Of course, through the scope, you can really savor the intricate colours of this bird, its cute demeanor and just the overall 'gestalt' of the bird. Jeremy H and I had noted that as it was flying at one point that even the way this bird flapped its wings was interesting to observe. Most of the time that I was watching the bird, it was fly-catching quite aggressively.

Luckily, this bird really seemed to like this area and stayed in the same spot all afternoon long -- even with substantial disruptions. At one point, two farmers towed the tobacco trailers that it was perched on - but it still remained in the same field, perching on the ground or other nearby trailers, tractors and trees. It seems that lots of birders from near and far had a nice chance to see this little avian gem - if only other vagrants would be so obliging!

Good birding!

I picked up a new pair of Binoculars - Nikon Monarch 5's --- 8x42. More on the new optics later.


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