Thursday, January 11, 2018

2017 Review - Part 2 of 2 ~ Birds & Herps

As per tradition, I figured I would do a year end summary for 2017. I have found that in this last year, my life has gotten busy with my various commitments but I am still very much an avid and passionate birder. I still really enjoy going for long walks outside and just quietly observing nature! This summary shows some of the highlights of my birding efforts this year. I'm pretty impressed that I was able to add 9 new species to my life list, as several of the last few years have only sometimes resulted in 2 or so life list additions.

2017 was an interesting year for Ontario Birding. The number of level 6 rarities that showed up this year was unbelievable. Birds like Tufted Ducks, Northern Gannets, Black throated grey Warblers, Townsends Warblers, Wood Stork, Yellow crowned Night Herons, Fork tailed Flycatchers and Magnificent Frigatebird were just easily picked up by even casual birders and photographers. Congrats goes out to Jeremy Bensette who just finished a record-setting big year.  I had one small contribution to his quest this year by checking out a report of some Black necked Stilts that showed up in East Windsor for him. I am a little envious and awestruck by Jeremy's efforts. I think he put over 90,000 km's the odometer to pick up all these amazing rarities.

I've "lifered" Sedge Wrens at Carden Alvar in early June in the past, but that lifer was mainly from auditory observations and brief, distant views of the bird. But this May, I was finally rewarded with a very brief look at one in Sparrow Field of Point Pelee, where it spent a few days skulking in a brush pile! 

And finally - some of my birding highlights for the year. Some of my newest species added to my life list [link] were added during my winter trip to Algonquin Park and my summer trip to New Brunswick. Some were:

400-Gray Jay (Algonquin Park)
401-Pine Grosbeak (Algonquin Park)
402-Spruce Grouse (Algonquin Park)
403-Ruffed Grouse (Algonquin Park)
404- Northern Gannet (Val Comeau Beach- NB)
405 - Black Guillemot (Pokeshaw Rock New Brunswick)
406- Common Eider (Val Comeau Beach-NB)
407- Razorbill (Pokeshaw Rock New Brunswick)
408 - Nelson's Sparrow (Hillman Marsh)

This Yellow Crowned Night Heron showed up in Amherstburg this late summer and stunned its viewers with crippling close looks and its seamingly endless appitetite. I was plucking out crayfish every ten minutes!

Late October gave me an opportunity to add a new tick (no pun intended) to my list. This photo below is an awful, but diagnostic photo of an orange-faced Nelson's Sparrow. This was a bird I've wanted to see for years! Thanks to Kit for finding them at Hillman.

In December of 2017 someone at the Point Pelee discovered a Bohemian Waxwing!. I tried to find the long-staying Bohemian Waxwing (which would have been a lifer!) but dipped. Of course, I went to chase it the following Saturday afternoon. This is proof that I have no business trying to be competitive in my birding efforts!
Pine Marten at Algonquin is a new mammal species that was nice to see.

Finally - in the herp & reptile category - I had a few cool sightings this year. I rescued an Eastern Fox Snake from being run over at Point Pelee. I stopped several cars as I shooed this snake off the road at Pelee.

I was able to see a Spring Peeper at Lake Superior Provincial Park this summer. The X accross its back is diagnostic.

One final herp observation was a Butler's Garter Snake within the South Cameron Woodlot complex. Its reddish sides were diagnostic. Thanks to Josh on the help with the ID.

So - this is my recap from the year. School, work and family commitments held me back from birding and nature loving as much as I wanted but I was happy to make these modest nature observations with the little time I did have.

Some of my goals this year would be to see a Scissor tailed Flycatcher - even if I have to travel a little farther south this summer. I would also love to increase my knowledge and understanding of local plants.

Thanks for reading Nerdy for Birdy as I pass my 8th year blogging anniversary. Its been fun to blog and share some of my sightings - and to be part of a great community. All the best in 2018!

Good birding, herping, leping and botanizing!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017 Review - Part 1 of 2 ~ Butterflies and Blooms

Its that time of year again. I want to wish everyone a (belated) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! (Happy Solstice as well!) Looking back at this year, it presents some dichotomies in that I was busier than normal and birded much less than I usually do, but at the same time, I took two ambitious trips and still had some amazing highlights. During the last year, I took 7 university courses --- plus worked full time --- ridiculous I know. I'm happy to say that  This week will mark my 8th year of birding and blogging.

Some of my botanical highlights this year include finding several Eastern Fringed Prairie Orchids this year within the Ojibway Park Complex.  I have walked many KM's in search of these plants and this year, I seem to have found a second and third site on my own - self found. These locations are not readily divulged because of their rareness. They are critically endangered - S1 if I'm not mistaken.


I went to New Brunswick this summer to help my dad drive home to Windsor and I had another amazing highlight - I stumbled across a Ragged fringed Orchid at my grandpa's old house near Tracadie NB. 

Of course, if one drives through the Bruce Peninsula, during certain seasons, and passes through the right habitats, many orchids can be found. I was lucky enough to pass through Manitoulin Island  and Tobermory in July which allowed me to see some later season orchids such as Lesser Purple Fringed Orchid, Bog Orchid, and Spotted Coralroot to name a few. 

Even just around Windsor and Essex, some good blooms can be found that are rare in the province.  I was lucky enough to join Russ Jones on a botany walk in mid summer  with the Essex County Field Naturalists - which gave me looks at some mega rarities. Tall Green Milkweed, Whoreled Milkweed, Flowering Dogood, Three awnded Grass, Blood red Milkwort, Winged Loosestrife were shown. It dawned on me that Ojibway Park in Windsor Ontario could be the milkweed capital of Canada. I have seen the following species here:

Common Milkweed
Sulivant's Milkweed
Swamp Milkweed
Purple Milkweed
Butterfly Milkweed
Whorled Milkeweed
Tall green Milkweed

I had several new butterfly species this year. I think I have added about 8 or so species this year! Here is a listing and a few photos of some highlights.

109-Eastern Pine Elphin (Pinery)
110-Hoary Elphin (Pinery)
111-Dusted Skipper (Pinery)
112-Northern Oak Hairstreak (Wallaceburg)
113-Common Roadside Skipper (Tobermory)
114-Atlantis Fritillary (Manitoulin Island)
First Photo-Aphrodite Fritillary (Manitoulin Island)
115-Harris's Checkerspot (Manitoulin Island)

My  butterfly life list is "fluttering" around 115 species... Not bad for an amateur naturalist!
Stay tuned for part 2 - birding in 2017.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Backtrack Birding: May 22nd - Wonderful Wheatley Wimbrels


Life's been a little busy over the last few months. I had gone out to Wheatley back on May 22nd, and was lucky enough to see some gorgeous shorebirds nice and close. I was hoping to see a Red Knot and perhaps a White-rumped Sandpiper - but this group of about 60 Whimbrels had to suffice for this particular trip. If I recall correctly, I had a Jeremy Bensette sighting as well.

Semi-Palmated Sandpiper - Getting blasted by sand.

I did a hawk-watching trip to Holiday Beach this weekend but I missed the "Good Day" which was Friday. I think Friday had 12 Golden Eagles, 3 Northern Goshawks, as well as some of the late fall raptors such as Red-shouldered and Rough-legged hawks. I did get a chance to see some Red-shouldered though. Also, I saw a baby snapping turtle on the road at holiday beach. See video below.

Good birding!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Backtrack Birding: Golden winged Warbler at Pelee --- May 13th Birding

*Editor's Note - This was a draft posting that I wrote back in Mid May. This posting represents just the fourth time that I've seen a Golden-winged Warbler.*

Well, its Mother's Day today as I write this. (Happy Mother's Day to any mothers that happen to be reading this). I really value the work that mothers do ... but seriously... who decided to put mothers day on the second weekend in May? Obviously, that person was not a birder!

I was sitting around all Sunday afternoon in Windsor looking at Ontbird reports about the "fallout" that was happening along the Lake Erie Shoreline. Kirtlands Warbler? Easy at Pelee but ... I was at home in Windsor.

I did make it out on Saturday May 13th with some decent results. Again, I car-pooled with Kit as we wanted to reduce our gas costs and environmental cost, not to mention general camaraderie. Luckily, Kit informed me that Mike Austin was going to join us.

In the early morning, one of our first birds was a Blackpoll Warbler which I finally have come to "understand and know" its song. Its distinct enough that it is easily learned after hearing it a few times. Northern Waterthursh was heard as well and I picked it out on the northern end of the tildens trail slough. I made an effort to get many people nearby on these birds.

This year, lots of singing Wood Thrushes were heard, but of course, few were seen. (*Side note: I hear the song of woodthrush every late afternoon ... South Cameron Woodlot is large enough to attract these beautiful songsters*) This particular wood thrush was spotted on the Tildens Trail footpath... Sadly, PPNP's management built many YURTS in alarmingly close proximity to the interior forest / flooded wetland forest habitat that is so endangered in Southwestern Ontario. One must ask... What were they thinking? Was an environmental assessment done? Bird survey? I will leave further comment for another blog posting.

Later near the Serengeti tree, Mike picked out this Lincoln's Sparrow  --- I wanted to make it a LeContes.... (Photoshop?) ... but hey, I'll take it. I think I've missed this species entirely last year so I was really happy to catch up with one again.

Finally, a Golden-winged and Hooded Warbler capped off the afternoon.

Lots of Red-eyed Vireos were finally present. Nice to see these beautiful birds again. ...

Kit and I stopped by the shorebird cell of Hillman Marsh afterwards. No mega rarity shorebirds were present, but we had nice looks at Black bellied Plovers, a Dowitcher, Caspian and Forester's Terns, Dunlin and of course, Killdeer Plovers. I recognized Quinten from Birds, Bugs and Botany Blog and congratulated him on his birding and blogging efforts.

PS: I was happy to see some decent migrants in my back yard this May. I did see a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and this week, I noted Orioles on my Humingbird feeder. I quickly remembered that my wife gave me an Oriole Feeder at Christmas and quickly set that up for my visitors. I am happy to say that a pair have been sticking around all week and at one point, I saw the female with nesting material in her mouth. She might be weaving a basket-style nest. This would be a new breeding species along the edge of South Cameron woodlot... I've only been here for less than two years and I'm still tallying new birds!

Good Birding!


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