Sunday, September 23, 2018

Holiday Beach Hawkfest birding

Every year during the second and third weekends in September - the Holiday Beach Migration Oberservator (HBMO) has a Hawk Festival. This past Saturday - I was eager to go because there was a major drop in temperature and strong North Winds. Thousands of Broadwing Hawks flew overhead along with clouds of Blue Jays. Lots of warblers were present - and the banding station was able to catch and band many warblers such as American Redstart, Blackpoll, Tennessee, and Magnolia. At one point, Bob Hall-Brooks offered to have me release a freshly banded Magnolia Warbler. He placed the bird in my hand and amazingly - I just chilled out for a few minutes!

Today - I went for a walk at Point Pelee - expecting tonnes of warblers to be present but amazingly - it was a little quiet! I did get a few interesting birds that I miss some years - such as Merlin and Lincoln's Sparrow. Lots of Northern Flicker's were present - and at one point - I think I saw 6 or more in a tree! Even though the birding was a little slow this afternoon - it was quite gorgeous out. The sun, cool breeze and 10 km of walking makes for a great afternoon of nature appreciation!

Good birding!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ojibway's Spiranthes Orchids - Late Bloomers - Literally

I was walking at Ojibway recently with the intention of finding some Spiranthes orchid species.  I'm so new in my botany efforts I had just assumed in the past that I was just observing Nodding Ladies Tressses -  but a recent interaction with I-Naturalist gave me some alarming feedback. One photo that I randomly posted was clearly another Spiranthes Orchid species: A Great Plains Ladies Tresses!

At the Ojibway Tallgrass Prairie last night, I counted 22 different plants within an area of 50 meters of pathway. I must admit that I still don't quite have this species understood - and my eyes are green when it comes to this group (genus/ taxa). 

One other Spiranthes Orchid species that Ojiway hosts is called Shining Ladies Tresses - which could probably be identified by its earlier flowering date - Early June! [link].

There is so much beauty and diversity in nature. So much to learn. I'm amazed that so many people in the world have not seriously dived into nature beyond just the most obvious observations.

Good Botanizing!

PS: I snapped a few photos of American Copper and Common Checkered Skipper over the last week or two. Lots of Common Nighthawks overhead at dusk as well. This might be one of the first times I've seen a Checkered Skipper with its wings showing the Ventral perspective!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Windsor's Catocala Moths of Late August

After doing the late August butterfly event at Ojibway with the Essex County field naturalists - I couldn't help by try to procure a copy of the "moth field guide" by David Beadle [link]. Most naturalists would consider this as a 'mandatory' field guide - especially if you want to appreciate the huge bio-diversity that mothing can offer. As you might already know - two ways to attract moths into view include using a bright light and a white cotton sheet, and the other is to use a sugar solution on tree bark. This sugar solution brushed onto tree bark in forests is what attracts catocala species. This solution usually is made by mixing a ripe banana, brown sugar, beer and perhaps molasses.  Never pour all the beer into the sugaring solution.... because mothing can make a naturalist parched.

The underwing catocala moths are easy to be intrigued by. They are absolutely huge, colourful yet camouflaged, they offer some challenging photography and identification challenges and - its interesting to walk through a forest at night.  Below is a list of the underwing moths I've seen / photographed so far.  Speaking of photography - I took all of these photos using "ambient light". I might be the only moth photographer on earth who does not use a flash. These were taken by using a flashlight and using spot metering on an SLR camera at 3200 ISO.

Sweetheart Underwing
Darling Underwing
Widow Underwing
Sad Underwing (new for Canada [link])
Residua Underwing
Obscure Underwing
Yellow-gray Underwing
Yellow banded Underwing
The Penitent Underwing
Old wife Underwing
Ilia Underwing
Ultronia Underwing* (seen earlier in the summer in past mothing trips)
Locust Underwing  ** (not really a catocala genus moth)

I have to give thanks to local moth expert and retired science teacher Moe Bottus for allowing me to join him on a few walks in late August. I guess you could say he took me under his wing - (pun intended) to learn about the underwing moths. I hope I didn't *bug* him too much. One night we had went we had about 13 species but I did miss some in terms of photographing and thus identifying. One in particular that I think missed was the Once married Underwing. Some of these ID's were assisted by moth experts on Inaturalist.

I would like to get out mothing earlier in the year and see what other species can be found in Essex.  I might do a few more walks during late summer/ early fall to see if I can pick up a few more species. Paul Pratt produced an informative page about catocala moths at this link:

The Penitent - taken with cell phone

This is our list from one night of walking. Notice that Sad Underwing wasn't even on the expected list of Catocala species and was added below. Residua Underwing was seen as well and was omitted from this checklist by accident. 

Good Mothing!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Great Kiskadee at Rondeau + Migrating Monarchs and Warblers at Point Pelee

This morning, I checked my email upon waking up and was happy to see that Steve C. posted a note to Ontbirds that the Kiskadee was being seen at Rondeau. Being only an hour away - I figured I would try to go see this spectacular bird. The story behind this bird is a little interesting. A woman who goes by the name "rainbowdragon" on Inaturalist photographed the bird and posted it to Inaturalist. Ken Burrell picked up on the sighting and someone soon checked the Exif Data on the photo which contained the GPS co-ordinates of the bird. Some of the excellent local Chatham Kent birders went on Friday evening to find it! Wow!

This range map of the Great Kiskadee hints that it is more of a central and south american bird which usually only goes up into southern Texas. Its really really really far from its normal range. I can't help but wonder about the provenance of this bird. Is it an escapee? Or did it really fly this far north???
Range Map for Great Kiskadee - SRC:

There were many familiar faces around to see this bird. I was happy to catch up with Rick from Leamington. We also caught up with Blake Mann and Allen Woodliffe - who are excellent naturalists and excellent bloggers. Blake and Allen are both huge influences in my efforts to appreciate the natural history of our area. I found Blakes blog as I started to get an interest in birding, and Allen of course has shared a wealth of information on botany which got me a little more interested in botany. I think Rick was instrumental in re-finding the Kiskadee at around 10 am after it had not been seen for an hour. This bird is a life bird for me! This is the first life bird for 2018 and my 409th species for North America.

Lots of birds were to be seen at Rondeau
Some that were seen include:
Great Kiskadee
Great crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Least Flycatcher
Cape May Warbler
American Redstart
Magnolia Warbler
Palm Warbler
Purple Finches
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
American Goldfinch
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Belted Kingfisher
Carolina Wren
Cedar Waxwing
Greater Yellowlegs
Morning Dove
Rose breasted Grosebeak
Blue Jay
Ring billed Gull

At Point Pelee- there was a strong east wind and I had heard that there were large numbers of roosting Monarch Butterflies.  I rode my bike up the west beach footpath and I'm happy to report that there were a few good pockets of migrating warblers! I also could not help noticing that there was 20 or more Red Breasted Nuthatches! Between a generous number of RB Nuthatches and lots of Purple Finches - it hints that it might be a good year for Winter Finches. We will need to wait for the report ....
Some warblers & passerines seen include:
Palm Warbler
American Redstart Warbler
Black and White Warbler
Pine Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black throated Green Warbler
Black throated Blue Warbler
Bay breasted Warbler
Philadelphia Vireo,
Red eyed Vireo,
Yellow bellied Flycatcher
Eastern Wood Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
& Carolina Wren!

A fantastic day of Natural History observation!

Good birding,

Lifer Summary -
400- Gray Jay
401- Spruce Grouse
402- Ruffed Grouse
403- Pine Grosebeak
404- Northern Gannet
405- Common Eider
406- Razorbill
407- Black Gullimot
408- Nelson's Sparrow

New for 2018!
409 - Great Kiskadee


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