Saturday, April 12, 2014

Early April Migrants at Pelee

The Ojibway Birding Group met up at Point Pelee this morning so I figured I would attempt to join them for a little birding, comradery and exercise. The weather today was excellent! One almost didn't need to wear a coat!
Wilson's Snipe - Dowitching!

But before arrived at Pelee, I wanted to check out another migrant that was reported, some Golden Plovers on Road E. At 7:30 am I noted three or four Wilson's Snipes along with many Blue winged Teal. On a telephone wire along the road, a (FOS) Tree Swallow was noted!

At the tip parking lot, the Ojibway group was observing many species of ducks, common loons, Surf Scoters, Northern Flickers and more. Breeding plumaged Bonapartes Gulls were nice to see. Song and Savannah Sparrows were seen along the tip along with singles of Eastern Phoebe.

The birding group continued on to Delaurier Trail, but I had another trail that I wanted to visit. I had limited time and decided to branch off from the group to see Rusty Blackbirds and Yellow bellied Sapsuckers. Those two birds are more likely seen at Woodland Nature Trail, since it offers flooded forest habitat as opposed to more open scruby habitat that Delaurier offers. My WNT walk resulted in neither of those target birds! But, I did see a Winter Wren, Yellow rumped Warbler, Lots of Kinglets (40 Golden crowned, 5 Ruby crowned), a few Hermit Thrushes (10 or so). Many Robins, Red shouldered Blackbirds Red winged Blackbird (thanks Alan) and Common Grackels! An Eastern Comma butterfly was noted. I believe I acknowledged Spring Peepers calling along Woodland Nature Trail as well today.

Winter Wren in this photo... Can you see him?

My best bird though was a Louisiana Waterthrush! It was on the gravel path and hopped along the path as I walked back towards the Visitor Center! I noticed it not by its plumage, but by its behavior. It was wagging its tail up and down and eating bugs along the gravel path. This bird is well known for migrating well ahead of its similar looking cousin, the Northern Waterthrush. Usually this bird is seen in the wetter slough areas so this was a nice surprise to see it on a drier part of the trail!

Louisiana Waterthrush - Woodland Nature Trail - April 12, 2014

Stopped by Hillman shorebirds cell after Pelee. I noted several shorebird species from the comfort of the new viewing blind. 6 pectoral,10 golden plovers, 10 killdeer, 2 greater yellowlegs. Shoveler, green and blue teal were abundant.

Greater or Lesser? Hard to tell! I'm thinking greater!

I didn't get to see my target birds of Rusty Blackbirds and YBSS, but I think next weekend, I will have another chance!  

Good birding!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Birder Movie

This past Friday April 4th 2014 was the opening night for the newly released "The Birder" movie that was filmed right here in Windsor Ontario. It was neat to watch this movie and see scenes from around Windsor such as Ojibway Park & Nature Center, Malden Park, and the Old St Annes High School.

The movie was pretty good. It had a pretty simple 'revenge comedy' theme and a happy ending. It had its ornithological inaccuracies that would make some birders cringe. At one point, a Prairie Falcon was seen in an Eastern Deciduous Forest Habitat (ornithological cringe) but just like other birding movies, you have to look past these small inaccuracies and just enjoy the movie.

The movie might have several other Canadian City releases, perhaps Toronto and maybe some Western Canadian Cities. It should be playing in Leamington in May, so if you want to see this but can't be in Windsor this week, follow the links below for alternative viewing locations/times:

If you are from Windsor and you enjoy birding, I recommend that you support these guys. I've posted the showings for the remainder of this week below, as well as a map to the movie theater that is hosting the film.

Lakeshore Cinemas Birder Showings -  WWW.IMAGINECINEMAS.COM 
Fri, Apr 04: 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Sat, Apr 05: 1:20pm 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Sun, Apr 06: 1:20pm 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Mon, Apr 07: 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Tue, Apr 08: 1:20pm 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Wed, Apr 09: 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Thu, Apr 10: 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm

View Larger Map

After the movie, the producers (and one or two actors) answered questions about the movie. Movie swag was offered out in the main lobby after the movie, and several birding-themed t-shirts were available, movie posters etc were available for purchase. I picked up this "Pelee Region Provincial Park" T-shirt. I think its a pretty cool T-shirt and I don't mind paying $20 for it to help the producers out. These producers from Windsor followed their heart, wanting to become movie makers so I'm happy to help support their efforts. They went out on a limb to make a movie about birding. Note that there is no such thing as Pelee Region Provincial Park - The movie makers made a modified name for the Point Pelee National Park for legal reasons.

Recent Birding, Leps and Herps
I've only done some local birding this past week or so, and have seen some seasonal birds. Today at the Ojibway Prairie Reserve and Forest, I saw: Fox Sparrows, Lots of Downy Woodpeckers (some were drumming), Eastern Phoebe (FOS), Eastern Bluebirds, Song and Field Sparrows as well. No YBSS yet!

Fox Sparrow

First of season butterflies today were: Eastern Comma, Mourning Cloak (two of each). I was looking back at last year's first of season for these two butterflies [link], and it was April 15th!

Western Chorus Frog [link] have been calling for a week or so, and over the last few days, I've made an attempt to see them and photograph them. I was able to take a few photos the other day and some video today, so I figured I would share. They can be difficult to spot because they submerge under water when people come near. I was able to not spook them this afternoon and got some footage of them singing. I usually would not feature frogs on this blog, but I am getting more interested in herps after reading great blogs like Josh's, Blakes or Allen Woodliffe's blog. I want to see a Spring Peeper now!

Western Chorus Frogs (AKA Striped Chorus Frogs)

I feel lucky to have seen these frogs so easily over this last week. I think they are generally hard to see or photograph, and this is my first time really identifying this species. has a nice writeup on these frogs here: .

Good birding!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Are Carolina Chickadees Going to Move Into Essex County?

Birders all over North America love their chickadees. In Southern Ontario, we generally have the pleasure of year-round company with the black capped chickadee. This cute little bird might bring a smile to a nature lover in the dead of winter with its cheerful disposition and overall cuteness. While other birds migrate south for the winter this one sticks it out with us, and simply asks for some sunflower seeds, a weedy field or a forest to forage in return.

But a recent research paper and corresponding video have shed light on an interesting onithological fact: The boundary between Carolina Chickadees and Black Capped Chickadess is moving north! Watch the following video, and pay close attention to the four-part call of the Carolina Chickadee. This quad-toned call is the main differentiating factor in the identification of the Carolina Chickadee:

So I checked out the range map on Ebird for the Carolina Chickadee and limited the sightings to this year [link].  Check out the screenshot below of how far north (in Ohio) the bird is showing up, and this data is just for this year, a particularly cold winter.

I'm pretty amazed how close this bird is to the Michigan/Ohio border. I might bundle up a drive to Magee Marsh, Toledo's Oak Openings Metropark with a trip to see this quad-toned chickadee.

I was wondering what the rate of northward advancement was, and according to the researcher Scott Taylor at Villanova University, "the rate of hybrid zone movement of the chickadee hybrid zone recorded in Ohio (1.0–1.6 km/year)" (Taylor et al). So in theory, its not a matter of if this bird makes it to Essex County, but rather, When?  But even if you just consider the distance of 60km north (to the north shore of Ohio), it would take about 37 years (60km/1.6km/y) at the current rate of northward movement. It would be even longer if you consider another 60 km to cross the Lake Erie archipelago of  islands spanning the border of Ohio and Ontario.

What defines this line between the Southern Carolina Chickadees and the Northern Black capped Chickadees? The report hints that regions with an average temperature of -7 or warmer are tolerated by Carolina Chickadees, so this is what defines that line across Northern Ohio, not a habitat boundary. Taylor states: "The northern range limit of P. carolinensis is not coincident with a physical boundary or habitat shift, but instead closely aligns with the mean minimum winter temperature - 7 C isotherm"(Taylor). So, don't hold your breath for this chickadee to take up residence in Essex for a while. Vagrants can always happen though... So keep your ears peeled for this southern four-toned chickadee!

Good Birding!


Taylor Scott et al, Climate-Mediated Movement of an Avian Hybrid Zone, Current Biology 24 , 671–676, March 17, 2014 WEB April 2, 2014,

Youtube Video Cornell Research update: New chickadee study shows climate change affecting distribution, LabofOrnithology, 6 Mar 2014, WEB, April 2, 2014,

More reading:

PS: Blog readers may remember that a few years back, (during my west-coast vacation) I had achieved the coveted birding accomplishment: The Chickadee Grandslam!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Would You Plant Milkweed for Monarchs?

Monarch on Milkweed
Who in Southern Ontario hasn't marveled at the beauty of Monarch Butterfly? They were so common over the years, I would hardly bother to photograph them. But, this last summer was dramatically different... Monarchs were absent (or dramatically reduced to occasional singles). The butterfly community took notice. Even Point Pelee didn't do its Annual Monarch Count this year because, there were none to count?!?! (I think even when counts are low, they should still do a count... Wouldn't that be the scientific thing to do?) 

I hope we as a people can work to keep these gorgeous butterflies alive by ... if nothing else, raising awareness & perhaps requesting political action. I have already contacted the Essex County Field Naturalists about considering contacting our local municipalities and ask what their herbicide spraying activities are or better yet, could milkweed be planted along roadsides, hydro and rail corridors etc?

I might even get seeds myself and possibly attempt to sprout some seeds indoors to get them ready to transplant outside. Might be a fun activity to get my son Matthew involved with. 

According to the David Suzuki link listed below, the number of wintering Monarch Butterflies in Mexico has been dropping at alarming rates. The Suzuki source states some threats and remedies below:

Threats include:
  • Loss of native plants like milkweed 
  • Severe weather events 
  • Continued logging in Mexican forests 
Remedies include:
  • Increasing milkweed and native, pollinator-friendly species throughout the U.S. and Canada 
  • Reducing herbicide and pesticide use 
  • Stronger protection of monarch wintering grounds (Suzuki)

The Government of Ontario has declared Milkweed to be a noxious weed. They state: "Common milkweed can be a very difficult weed to control in many field crops thereby causing significant reductions in crop yield and quality. This can have a considerable negative impact to a grower's net economic return. In the last 10 years, new herbicide technologies have greatly improved the control of common milkweed in field crops. However control of common milkweed around field borders is essential as it minimizes seed spread into fields and therefore reduces the reliance on herbicides for "in field" control." (

But sadly, when milkweed is destroyed with amazing new "herbicide technologies" , species that depend on it as its host plant are also eradicated.

If we as a human species, in our relentless quest for growth, development, vanity and improved agricultural yield... if we let this little insect drop away from our summer and fall outdoor experience, ... deny ourselves and our kids from seeing this delightful mix of black, white and oranges... we are truly poorer as a people.

Good butterfly watching!

More Reading:


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