Sunday, November 15, 2015

Seasonal November Birding Observations

Lapland Longspur

Rusty Blackbirds
I've had mediocre birding observations over the last few weeks. I haven't had as much time to bird as I'm taking night school courses at the U of Windsor along with full time work and parenting duties. I've had two or three major highlights though - I had my first Common Redpoll in Essex County yesterday at Point Pelee. Common Redpolls are a great bird for me. I've only seen them on a few rare occasions at Rondeau, never in Essex County.  A female Purple finch, as well as some seasonal raptors were seen at Point Pelee. I also had a Richard C. sighting aka LLB.

I think the photo above is a Franklin's Gull - I could be wrong- (let me down gently if I am).  I photographed it at Wheatley Harbour flying Southwest towards Hike Metal products (Essex Co). I'm quite certain I saw Franklin's Gulls in Calgary Alberta a few summers ago, so this is not a life bird, but its a first for Ontario and now a Chatham-Kent and Essex bird. It was exciting to read about these birds from Allen and Blakes' blogs over the last few days. Hopefully some stick around for more closer observation and study.

Closer to home, I've had some cool nature sightings just from my back porch. I've seen a Fox Sparrow briefly every weekend for the last three or four weeks, but when I grab my camera, its gone! But today, I finally saw this sparrow foraging along my fence line and had my camera close. Along with seeing a Fox Sparrow this morning I had 2-3 Eastern Bluebirds - ***mind blown*** perched on a tree in my back yard! Last weekend, I had an American Kestrel perched in my back yard as well. As I was looking at the bluebirds (couldn't get more than a diagnostic photo) and Fox Sparrow, a male deer walked by- pretty cool! I've also had Coyotes howling and barking after sunset last week, which is kind of scary. Red bellied Woodpeckers have been seen and heard with surprising regularity over the last few weeks as well.

Diagnostic Backyard Bluebird

I've had decent back-yard birds since I moved in this summer and fall migration season. I will need to compile a list of everything. I'm trying to keep an ongoing list with Ebird as well.

Good birding!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Holiday Beach Raptor Counts Oct 2015 vs Oct 1975

If you go to HBMO's website, they have a feature where you can look at monthly counts for any year that they have been counting. If you compare this October's monthly total with say, Oct 1975... How have things changed?

Species Oct-15 Oct-75
Turkey Vulture 48066 319
Osprey 15 3
Bald Eagle 64 0
Northern Harrier 335 44
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3208 1546
Cooper's Hawk 129 20
Northern Goshawk 2 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 223 45
Broad-winged Hawk 152 257
Red-tailed Hawk 632 1575
Rough-legged Hawk 0 10
Golden Eagle 18 5
American Kestrel 422 216
Merlin 21 1
Peregrine Falcon 24 0

It seems that raptor numbers have increased for most species. For example, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons are both pretty easily seen now that DDT was banned. I'm surprised to see that Red -shouldered Hawks have increased. I was under the impression they were decreasing in numbers along with forest habitat. Turkey Vulture counts are just off the charts! This October, 48,000 - but back in Oct 1975 319 were seen! 

To be fair when looking at the data, back in '75 they have 91 hours of observation, and this year, there was 223 hours of observation.

Its interesting to ponder what has tipped the scales for Turkey Vultures? Has the creation of more roads, created more roadkill, and more carrion diet for the species? Has our garbage both at landfills and campgrounds helped this species out in an exorbitant fashion?

I was interested to see what the numbers above would look like in a chart, so I created a quick vertical bar chart in Excel. One chart includes Turkey Vultures (distorting the scale for the other less numerous raptors) and one without Turkey Vultures to get a better look at the lower numbered raptor trends. If turkey vulture counts continue to increase, perhaps a logrithmic scale would be better to use when graphing monthly totals.

It seems that this week, Mars,  Venus & Jupiter can be seen all in close proximity before sunrise. I might try to see it tomorrow... If its not too cloudy!

Good birding,

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Windsor Designates a New Natural Area in Twin Oaks Industrial Complex

Blog readers may remember the Western Kingbird that showed up in Windsor a few years ago. It was found in an area that has a small amount of natural area in central Windsor. It is a mix of railway corridor habitat, power transformers, and drainage basin & tributaries to Little River.

It was city-owned land that never got developed and was zoned for parkland. Now it seems it is officially going to be designated natural parkland. 

My wife works in this area, and a co-worker who is a naturalist swears by the productivity of this small natural area. Just in butterflies alone - it is a great spot. Back when I was visiting the area to see the Kingbird, I swear I saw a Mink --- a great mammal species for central Windsor!

Essex County only has 5% natural coverage due to intense agricultural, industrial and residential development so any designated natural area is a great thing.

See the article below for more details. -DM

The view of the Little River corridor, looking south from Twin Oaks. (Jason Kryk/The Windsor Star)
In the middle of the Twin Oaks Business Park, between E.C Row Expressway and the CP rail tracks, lies a park of a different kind.

An asphalt path perfect for a short bike ride or walking your dog winds through a landscape of Kentucky Coffee trees and red cedars. On a lower elevation flows the Little River, its lush, green banks home to songbirds, butterflies and endangered species like the Eastern fox snake.

The land, like the industrial properties around it, is owned by the city. Now, says a subcommittee of city council, it’s time to give the place a name and add it to the roster of municipal parks.

“It’s a naturalist’s dream,” enthused Tom Henderson, vice-chairman of the Little River Enhancement Group, making a presentation Wednesday to city’s council’s standing committee on the environment, transportation and public safety. Henderson easily sold councillors Hilary Payne, Paul Borrelli, Fred Francis and Chris Holt on the idea of making the area the city’s 210th municipal park.

The committee’s recommendation will now go to the full city council for approval.

Henderson showed photos of what the area looked like in 1992 when the city purchased the Twin Oaks golf course to develop an industrial park. The golf course had dredged the waterway, stripped its banks and built dams, turning Little River into retention ponds used to water greens.

The city and other area groups spent $188,000 in 1997 and 1998 to install the trail and restore the waterway, naturalizing its banks with native shrubs and trees. “It’s now a model for stream restoration pretty much everywhere in Ontario,” Henderson said.

The city cuts the grass and hauls away debris from illegal dumping, but otherwise, leaves the land alone. Henderson said his group will continue to conduct cleanups there to keep the park free of litter and will raise money to install benches. It wants nothing more from the city than to recognize it as a municipal park and give it a name.

Payne said the property is in his ward. It is designated as parkland in the city’s official plan, but it has never been recognized as such. He said he got the city to install barriers at the end of Munich Court to stop illegal dumping. Park designation could thwart vandals who ride all-terrain vehicles and motorbikes through the area, marring the pristine landscape with deep ruts. He said he fully endorses naming the area a city park.“It’s a no-cost item. It’s a no-brainer. It’s a jewel.”


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Blenheim White-rumped Sandpipers & Some Vitamin N

White rumped Sandpiper at Blenheim

White rumped Sandpiper at Blenheim
Huge numbers of  White rumped Sandpipers have been showing up in Ontario during their southbound migration this year. Their main migratory path is through the central provinces and states. Ontario's blogosphere (See Mike Burrell's White Rumped Sandpiper Posting) and Ebird hinted unprecedented numbers --- flocks as 100-300 were seen throughout Ontario over the last month (sightings of 1-10 birds are normally expected). I wanted to witness this specticle over the last two or three weeks, but couldn't make it out to any good shorebird habitat till this weekend. I thought I had missed the boat - but a recent e-bird posting from just this past Wednesday hinted that many were still around, as many as 60 at Blenheim SL. So after work on Friday, I checked out Blenheim and was happy to see that there were still some good shorebirds to be seen. It was very windy and very cold. It almost felt like it was going to snow actually.

White rumped Sandpipers in flight - Their long primaries extend past their tails when at rest.

Birds seen include Willet, Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral, Dunlin, and of course --- White rumped Sandpipers. Several American Pipits were very present as well. Savannah Sparrows were seen as well as hundreds of Rudy Ducks and Northern Shovelers in the deeper ponds.

Blenheim Shorebirds - Labeled!

American Pipit

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White rumped Sandpipers have one of the farthest migrations imaginable - They breed in Canada's Arctic and they fly all the way to the southern reaches of South America during the winter.  Some cool things that these birds might observe in the Arctic Circle is the Aurora Borealis - Northern Lights. They might also witness the "midnight sun" which the arctic circle experiences - Several months of daylight - uninterrupted by a sunset and night time due to the tilt of the earth's axis.  It seems cool to think about how they chase the sun --- they are always in a constant Spring-Summer-Fall-Migrate cycle.  They arrive late in the springtime - as late as June and migrate south a little later as well. Its amazing to think that these birds , weighing only 1.4–2.1 oz (allaboutbirds) make all this effort to avoid winter and to have access to food. Its just part of their nature. Amazing.

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The local Essex County Field Naturalists group forwarded this video about "Vitamin N" (N for nature). Its a 10 minute presentation from an MBA grad student about nature. Its pretty good, and if you are reading this page... I'm sure you would agree whole heartedly with his message. One of the nature scenes that he provides looks to be Nova Scotia's Cabot trail if I'm not mistaken.

Click here for the link to the video:

This article in the Windsor Star was about students planting Dense Blazing star in a small tallgrass prairie behind St Clair College.

Good birding!



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