Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hudsonian Godwit at Comber Flooded Fields

Can you spot the Hudsonian Godwit?

I stopped by the Comber Flooded Fields [map] tonight after dinner with hopes of seeing some good shorebirds. I was happy to find at least one Hudsonian Godwit.  Other shorebirds included:

1 Juvenile Hudsonian Godwit (White rump noted in flight)
100+ Killdeer
3 Lesser Yellowlegs
3 Juv White rumped Sandpipers
12 Dunlin
5 Pectoral Sandpipers
20 American Golden Plovers
5 Black bellied Plovers

Ebird List:

Side note about my Ontbirds posting tonight - I figured I would be lazy about getting the proper email for ontbirds, and simply "reply-all'ed" to a previous posting. My email program hides the subject line when a person Replys --- Thus, my posting to Ontbirds looked like I was replying to another report. I sent an email to apologize to the previous ontbird post's author. Not too big of a deal I guess but sorry about the confusion.

Good Birding!

Flashback to the Comber 3 years ago:

Oct 14th, 2011 had 20 or so Hudsonian Godwits at this spot [link]

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

ROM Butterflies of Ontario Field Guide Review plus Bonus Video: Vlogging Entimologists!

I recently ordered a copy of the ROM Butterflies of Ontario field guide online and obtained my copy today. I was a little reluctant to get a ROM guide after being a little disappointed with the ROM Birds of Ontario field Guide. The problem with the ROM birding guide was that only one image of each bird was provided, and that was a shortcoming of that book because birds can have many plumages due to age, time of the year and of course, sexual dimorphism.  My initial impression of this book though has been much better. The photography is excellent. The writeups are good and cover lots of information. The range maps are nice - customized to the province of Ontario and even include specific points that the particular butterfly has been found in. Data perhaps garnered from E-butterfly databases and other historic records.

The first section of the book is excellent and includes the following:
  • History of Butterfly study in Ontario
  • Butterfly morphology
  • Factors influencing butterfly distribution in Ontario
  • Conservation and protection of Ontario butterflies
  • Where to Observe Butterflies (including nice profiles of the top 14 butterfly watching sites)
  • Observing butterflies  and documenting records
  • Butterfly Gardening
The image below shows the first of 14 butterfly hotspots spread out throughout the province. It was great to read about Ojibway Prairie as one of the main featured areas for butterfly watching.  The next page features Point Pelee. Two hotspots in Essex County. Exciting!  I plan on making trips out to all these corners of Ontario during upcoming summers.

Each butterfly basically has a two page spread that includes great photography of both the dorsal and ventral view of the butterfly, as well as the larval form (Caterpillar). Occasionally, a host plant images is included as well. Range maps and distribution details are excellent.

I was wondering if some extirpated species were included in this book, and it seems yes, they are. I think field guides and other books relating to natural history should include extinct and extirpated species, just to remind us of what should be here and to remind us that we need to increase conservation efforts.

Well, here is the promised video. Its not really a Vlog (Vlog is short for Video Log or Video Blog), but rather, a recorded webcast... But I just thought it would be cool to say: "Vlogging Entimologists"! Its interesting to watch these two ROM authors just sit around and talk about butterflies in Ontario. Its nice to see the authors behind the books you are reading. Enjoy!

One might be curious to know how this guide compares with the recent and excellent Kaufman butterfly guide? I think they are both great, but the ROM guide simply focuses on the Ontario species whereas the Kaufman guide tackles a much larger area: All of the US and Canada! Its a matter of depth versus breadth. So, since so much breadth is covered in the Kaufman guide, there is not much depth. The ROM guide provides much more depth, but less breadth. Both are excellent.

There was some interesting discussion about this field guide on the Ontario butterflies google group. There were some criticisms about inaccuracies in the book or mistakes... perhaps made by inaccurate data entry or mistaken observations.  The debates were interesting, and at times somewhat heated... But rest assured it remained civil :-) One butterfly enthusiast made a comment that... (I forget the context of his discussion - perhaps regarding the data discrepencies and the volunteer efforts to fix them) but he mentioned that we are all paid in "butterfly bucks"... Too funny.

I plan on reading this book and just leaving it on my coffee table for my kids to flip through. I recommend getting it!

Good Birding & Butterfly watching!

At the time of publishing, this book is 37% off the cover price at Chapters/Indigo. See link below.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Broad winged Hawk Migration at Holiday Beach

A few days ago, (Thursday Sept 18th, 2014) I went to Holiday Beach after work because there was a nice north wind blowing and I had a hunch that it might be a good hawk-watching day. Sure enough, as I was birding and casually walking around at Holiday Beach, I looked up into the sky with my binoculars and saw huge kettles of Broad Winged Hawks (the scene above is barely visible to the naked eye - you need optics and a good zoom lens to appreciate such kettles - especially later in the day when the flight elevation rises). It was a great afternoon - 22, 600 raptors has flown over the hawkwatching tower - a huge day for Broad winged Hawks and a great diversity of raptors as well.

A pair of Snowy Egrets that have been ongoing gave nice views and posed nicely next to Great Egrets in the pond below the tower. Several Common Nighthawks flew overhead as well. Several American Kestrels flew by the tower eating Green Darner Dragonflies.

Nom Nom Nom - Kestrel munching on freshly caught dragonfly

This Peregrine falcon knows he's at the top of the food chain. This bird took a few swoops at other raptors nearby.

More kettles some with 50 to 100, some the 500+ birds went by for the next 2 hours. Amazing to witness. I think every birder should witness this Broad winged Hawk migration ... the problem is timing though. I would suggest keeping an eye out on hawkwatching reports during mid-September, and go within 1-2 days of an increased surge of Broad wings. Another thing to consider is that North / Northwest winds always make for a good day of hawkwatching in Mid-September as well.

More Kettles - I only had my 250mm lens... Not my 400mm

Saturday morning, I went to Point Pelee and it was surprisingly quiet - at least for me. I ended up walking Delaurier/Cactus Trail and noticed a few warblers, my first southbound Ruby crowned Kinglet and a few of the more common warblers.  I took the tram to the tip and met Jeremy Bensette on the way. Josh Vandermeulen, Dave Szmyr, Jeremy Hatt and Blake Mann were doing a lake watch with great results on SE winds. I must admit, I don't have too much patience for lake watching... and I didn't have a scope like the rest of the group but Josh soon called out a nice Parasitic Jaeger that was surprisingly close to the west beach path that we were standing on.

Nice find Josh! My second Parasitic Jaeger and first at Point Pelee
I left Pelee at about noon. I tried to bird the new Juniper Savanah near the parking lot but it was quiet. Lots of Sharped Shinned Hawks flying overhead.  I ended up just looking at some very common butterflies. A single Monarch was present. They had a pretty big flight... earlier in the week.

I've never really confidently identified an Orange Sulphur from a Clouded... Two very common butterflies - But this one seems to be an easy ID - if you have a net or a camera with a fast shutter rate.
Cabbage White on Sky blue Aster?

Good birding!


Did you know that September 6th was World Shorebird Day? Check out this video that Cornell Ornithology posted about Bar tailed Godwit migration research.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Some Migration Highlights & a Failed Pointe Mouillee Trip

I've been busy with work, night school and the kids' swimming lessons ... I should really be in 'hiatus' mode, but I still have tried to find time to get some birding in - even its just close to home in Windsor. I've seen some surprisingly nice flocks of birds during my Ojibway walks - one highlight being a Blue winged Warbler - maybe one of my first of this species outside of Point Pelee and first "southbound" Blue winged that I recall seeing.  Other nice birds at Ojibway included nice looks at a Yellow billed Cuckoo, Tufted Titmouse - A local specialty - as well as some wild flowers - Great Lobelia & Nodding Ladies Tresses (or Great Plains Tresses?). Special thanks to Allen Woodliffe's blog for help on ID'ing the flowers.


I've also tried going to Holiday Beach in Amherstburg to join in the Hawk-festival festivities and just doing some birding around there. In September, the warblers and paserines at Holiday Beach are excellent...just as good or maybe better than what I see when I go to Point Pelee. Last weekend, a little walk along the beach gave looks at tonnes of passerines. I think they banded 150 warblers/thrushes/vireos and flycatchers. I had looks at Great crested Flycatchers, Wilson's Warblers, Magnolia, Black throated Blue, American Redstarts, Black and White, Blackpoll Warblers, not to mention great looks at Raptors flying overhead.

I attempted to go to Pointe Mouillee for some shorebirding last weekend, but after packing my van up with my bike... I realized that they close Pointe Mouillee in the peak of shorebird migration... Life can be so cruel some times. Its closed to anyone but hunters - but I was thinking, could you not go into the location and just not shot birds? Could you go hunting but bring a scope instead of a rifle?

Since I had a Pointe Mouillee trip failure - I figured I would post some shorebirding I did last year at this time, but never got around to posting. I had kayaked the Point Pelee Marsh and found a small muddy island peninsula that I just grounded my kayak onto. A few shorebirds were around, notably a Pectoral, Short billed Dowitcher and a White rumped Sandpiper! I have had bad luck with White rumped Sandpipers. I'm quite certain this is one - an adult too-  I think!

After work today, I was lucky enough to witness a major Broad-winged Hawk Migration today at Holiday Beach.  Thousands of them kettled and streamed by along with a great diversity of other raptors. More on that in my next posting!

Good birding!


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