Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Harris' Sparrow Lifer!?!? And some recent birding highlights

 

Harris's Sparrow at Holiday Beach in Amherstburg ON

Almost 1 week ago, a local birder (Kory R) found a Harris' Sparrow at Holiday Beach in Amherstburg. Slowly over the last 3 or 4 days other birders had found it in the same spot it had been originally seen. It was being generous in its migratory stay at Holiday Beach. Today after work, I figured I would try for a second time to see it.

I had stood around on the road in the prescribed area with several other birders. Initially I had obtained a brief and heavily obstructed view.  Paul P, Rick M, Andew and Kara W, even Jeremy B was there. After a long wait - and incredibly birders not pishing or using playback --- the bird flew across the scene from left to right and briefly alighted on a branch. I snapped a few photos with my camera and yes... this is a life bird for me!

While waiting, I had views of some birds that were around. Bald Eagle, Blue Herons, Great Egrets, my FOY Warbling Vireo and I had a stunning look at a Ruby-throated hummingbird. It had alighted in the the air about 4' away from my face at eye level. It twisted mid air and its "gorget" briefly went from black it stunning iridescent ruby red. It was a wonderful birding moment only to later be eclipsed by face melting views of Harris' Sparrow.


This past Sunday, I went to bird at Point Pelee for the first time in quite some time. I had been birding alot locally closer to my house since gasoline is so expensive. 

I had some good birds at the park even though it was "slow".  

I had found at least two White eyed vireos, Red headed Woodpecker, Hooded Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Kentucky Warbler along with about 70 species.













Good birding!

Dwayne


My last ten life birds:

Lifer Summary - Last 10 species:

Western Screech Owl 453 (AZ)

 Scaled Quail 454  (AZ)
 Graces Warbler 455  (AZ)
 Painted Redstart 456  (AZ)
 Yellow Eyed Junco 457  (AZ)
 Blue throated Hummingbird 458 (AZ)
Elegant Trogon 459 (AZ)
King Rail 460
Red Phalarope 461
Scissor tailed Flycatcher 462
Hoary Redpoll  463
Cave Swallow 464
Harris' Sparrow 465


Sunday, April 17, 2022

April Birding + New IBWO Rediscovery Paper

 


Its been a while since my last blog posting. I have been birding alot - I enjoy being outside and getting some exercise - but I have not blogged too much this year. One new thing this year is that I purchased a new camera - and amazingly - I don't think the photos that my new camera produced are as good or better than my previous, 10-year old camera.  My new camera is smaller, lighter, and has a smaller, lighter lens (350mm  vs 400 prime). There is a huge learning curve with this new sony system - so - I'm not as efficient in adjusting the settings like I had been doing with my canon. I might talk further in depth about photography on another posting. 



I've been walking alot at Black Oak Heritage Park in West Windsor.  I've been seeing they typical week by week migrants that generally show up in most decent habitat locals along the great lakes waterways. 

*Eastern Phoebe
*YBSS
*Kinglets
*Winter Wren
*Sparrows (Fox, Towhee, Field, Chipping etc)
*Hermit Thrush

If someone were to go back 11-12 years ago, to my very first posting on this blog, it was my reaction to the Luneau Video about the IBWO sighting in Arkansas. That whole story was so interesting to me. I had faith that yes - IBWO still lives. 

We have not heard much about the IBWO (Ivory Billed Woodpecker) although recently, just 4 days ago actually, the Guardian news website discussed that a new research paper has been released recently - (it is not yet peer-reviewed) - but - I must say that the images provided at the end of that paper look pretty convincing that yes - IBWO still exists in the large forests along the Florida panhandle to Louisiana.  

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/13/ivory-bill-woodpecker-not-extinct-researchers-say

Non-Peer Reviewed Paper: 

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.04.06.487399v1.full.pdf

These are some crude screenshots from the many wonderful exhibits at the end of the paper - but - these seem to be really good trail-cam photos of IBWO - just in the last year or two.  It brings me great joy to think that maybe a few of these beautiful birds still live!!! I would like to go help in the search for this bird in a few years - perhaps in retirement. 



This research will have to be scrutinized by the experts - and I will wait for their assessment - but it seems like a few IBWOs still exist !

Good Birding & Happy Easter
Dwayne



Wednesday, January 12, 2022

2021 Yearly Summary and Highlights


This past year did not have too many new sightings. I did not really even have any new life birds except for a pair of Hoary Redpolls that were at Point Pelee back in January. I didn't even make too much of an effort to chase down some local rarities - such as the Sage Thrasher or the Rufous Hummingbird both of which were an easy 1 hour drive from Windsor. 

I didn't even go to Point Pelee too much this year either. I tried to bird closer to home to save time, gas money as well as reducing my carbon footprint. Black Oak Heritage Park can have some great migrants show up- such as Golden winged Warblers and Red headed Woodpeckers. 




Butterflies, Plants and Astronomy held almost an equal place in my interests to birding this year. My two best butterfly sightings were a Compton's Tortoiseshell at Skunks Misery, as well as my first Green Comma in New Brunswick this summer. 



In the botany department - a few highlights this year include finding:

  • Whorled Milkweed
  • Tall Green Milkweed
  • Willowleaf Aster
  • Bastard Toadflax
  • Eastern Fringed Prairie Orchid

Willowleaf Aster - Windsor ON

Astronomy and astrophotography really captured my interests this year. I did not realize that my 400mm telephoto lens could reveal the rings of Saturn or the moons of Jupiter, as well as the faintest hints of the two outermost planets in our solar system - Neptune and Uranus. A fun activity in astronomy is to seek out the 100 or so "M Objects" - named after Charles Messier's list of celestial items that he was trying to rule out as being comets. This year I was able to find almost all 100 of the objects. Unfortunately, Windsor -Essex County have pretty bad light pollution, and its hard to make out many of these celestial objects, especially with my modest gear.



Finding Comet Leonard on Dec 4th and 7th was nice. I had to wake up at 5am to get a look at this green, dim comet. 

Simply photographing the milky way was a fun accomplishment. In mid-summer, and nice view of the southern horizon, along with a long exposure / high ISO will reveal the bright core of our own milky way galaxy. 


Another highlight for me was simply seeing more birds in my own backyard. Some decent birds seen were: Vesper Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Savanah Sparrow and long-staying Orange Crowned Sparrows - all new yard birds. Two other species which are not particularly rare were Screech Owls (heard while astronomizing) and an obliging male Eastern Towhee. 




I realized this fall that did not have any binoculars - perhaps a pair had been stolen from my  car (again) ... so I ended up ordering a pair (Vortex Diamondback 8x40). I found a pair in my garage (Nikon Monarch 5s) after cleaning it, and I also found a pair of Nikon Monarch 5's for ~$200 online which was a deal I couldn't refuse. I love both brands equally, but I find the Nikons to be much lighter, so I take them out in the field, and leave my Vortex in my living room to look out at the nature in my backyard.




Best sighting for me this year?   Compton's Tortoiseshell at  Skunks Misery.
There are only 6 weeks left of Winter... 

Good Birding,
Dwayne



Saturday, December 4, 2021

Comet Leonard - Dec 4 2021 + other recent astronomy observations


Astronomy has caught my interest - and of course, after seeing Comet Neowise in 2020 [Link] --- I make an effort to witness and photograph most astronomy events.

If one does a youtube search for Comet Leonard - you can learn about where to look for it and when you can see it.  It will be visible between this weekend and Mid-December. 

This morning, I had set my alarm at 4am to check if it would be cloudless - and I was happy to see the star "arctures" from constellates Bootes over the eastern horizon. This comet was not at the brightness factor needed to make it a naked-eye visible comet. So, using my stelllarium android app, and "star-hopping" with my camera - I was finally able to find this fleeting comet.  One of the coolest observations I made upon seeing this in my cameras image preview screen was that it had a greenish tinge to it. 

Asrophotography notes:  I set my camera to 3200 ISO and took several shots at +1-->+3 exposure, then repeated the process at ISO 6400. My Canon 7D is getting old - its 12 years old I think, and the shutter speed at the above settings was 2seconds to 8 seconds. With those longer exposures, you get a trailing effect with the starts from the rotation of the earth. Ideally, it would be nice to mount my camera on a star tracking device, which aligns with the north star, polaris, then rotates slowly to counter-act the rotation of the earth, allowing for long exposures without the trailing star effect. Many professional photos of this comet include star tracking long exposures, and stacked image processing which combines the data obtained from many photographs.  


Ultra-Fast Comet!

"An amazing feature of this celestial visitor is that it’s an ultrafast comet. It’s traveling at 158,084 miles per hour (254,412 km/h or 70.67 km/second) relative to Earth." (earthsky.org)

https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/comet-leonard-might-become-2021s-brightest-2022/


Time cycle for its Orbit

~80,000 years. We will probably not be alive in 80,000 years, so --- this is your only chance to see this one. 


Wide Angle View




This photo is from Dec 7th:


Here are some orbit screenshots and visualizations from this youtube video





I've included a few more photos of Jupiter, Saturn, Venus (crescent ) and Mercury.













Good astronomizing!

Dwayne






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