Sunday, May 28, 2023

May 2023 Highlights


A Solitary Sandpiper was at Black Oak Heritage Park for well over a week. 

Its amazing how fleeting time is. As a birder, I wish for May to come around, but then its hear and it passes.  I birded (and exercised) a lot over the course of April - May - and I had a few highlights. Which I hope to share in this posting. 

I think the single most eventful thing that happened this May was a message I received through WhatsApp which hinted that a friend had a Western Tanager in his back yard!

Black Oak Heritage Park

The thing that I love about Black Oak Heritage Park is that its just so darn close to me. Its literally 5 mins away. I really birded this wonderful place alot this May --- going almost daily.

Western Tanager (Near Puce ON)  - May 6th

I must admit that I can't help but wonder about the chances of a real western rarity showing up in a friends yard. The odds are --- almost unimaginable. But -- My friend does have a gorgeous back yard with a pond and feeder habitat. One funny (or crappy) thing about this sighting was that my camera (for some reason) had its settings screwed up - the aperture was set to F19 or F22. So, the whole that the light was going through was really small, so the shutter stayed open for longer.  Anyway - here are some images that I had from briefly viewing the Tanager that morning:\

May 16th - Rondeau 

Perhaps one of my best birding days this month was a day off that I took and went to Rondeau. I was talking to a woman about how good the day was - when she stated that she had  been there for the last two weeks. It dawned on me that birding while one is working is quite different when compared to someone who can spend the whole peak migration period at a migrant hotspot. 

May 20th - South Cameron Woodlot

I really love birding casually from my back yard.  I had seen a Bald Eagle come into view and was about to land in the hedgrow behind my house. I had seen it about 15-20m above the ground with talons dangling. Then, it swooped up and out of view. I went right to the back of my yard to watch it fly away when I noticed a sparrow fly into the hedgerow. I was amazed to see a Clay coloured Sparrow! Click here to see this Ebird Hotspot!

May 22nd - Greyling and Tobico Marsh Nature Area (Bay City State Park)

May 27th - Pointe Mouillee (Rockford MI), Petersburg SGA, Kitty Todd Nature Preserve, Irwin Prairie, Oak Openings (Toledo Ohio).

This trip, along with many of the trips listed in this posting probably deserve its own posting, but for the mostpart - it was not overly filled with any particular rarities. 

Point Mouillee- Black Tern, White Pelicans... Rumour of Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Petersburg SGA- Wild Lupine Habitat, possible Karner Blue Butterfly (not seen)
Kitty Todd Preserve (Toledo Ohio) - Summer Tanager, Eastern Bluebird
Irwin Sedge Prairie - Red Shouldered Hawk, Swamp Sparrow Singing
Oak Openings - Did not bird much as it seems to be closed to foot traffic

So all in all - its been a fun May. I spent most of it at Black Oak, just near my house, but I did make a few special trips to PPNP, Rondeau, and even Grayling MI. One other closing thought for this posting is that I have made more and more efforts to use E-Bird this year, and also, I enjoyed using "merlin app" to "listen" for birds. It can be good at times - but it is certainly not perfect as it clearly misses lots of things that I would hear, and it often hears things I would have missed, and of course, it gives false positives and positive false reports. So one must be cautious reporting sightings based on merlin.

Good Birding, 


Saturday, April 22, 2023

April Birding 2023 + Poem: Nothing Gold Can Stay


Tis' the Season - Over the last few weeks I have made great efforts to go for walks every day after work. I often go to Black Oak Heritage Park - but I go to Spring Garden, Holiday Beach as well as my own back yard --- and its been fun to see some migrants coming though. 

I'm not sure if I posted this poem from Robert Frost on my blog in the past. I had come across a painting that a student drew, and I caught my interest. I thought the painting was cool, and I had looked up the quote featured on it--- it seems the painting was inspired by a poem by Robert Frost.

I think interpreting the poem can be done by the reader- but it seems the poet is just making a point that spring blossoms are so short lived. Fruit Trees, Eastern Redbuds, and even just common trees have these beautiful flowing blooms that just last maybe a week or two then are gone for another year. The poet also makes reference to that brief moment at dawn where the sunlight is golden. Gold's chemical symbol is Au - for:  Aurum - Latin for *Sparkling Dawn*. But -- blink and you miss it.

Good Birding!


Saturday, March 18, 2023

Birding & Butterfly Watching in Houston Texas - Mid March 2023

Alternative Blog Post Title:  Everything is Bigger in Texas - Excluding Bird Lists    

Snowy Plovers in Galveston TX

Hey Y'all, 

I spent the last five days in Texas with my family. If you see me wearing a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and driving a large, diesel-powered pickup truck with modified suspension, and a giant exhaust pipe, ... just joking --- I'm still a Tree-Hugger from Ontario.  Birding was big on my priority list - but not the only Priority - we also did lots of other things such as rail fanning, hiking, visiting amusement parks and lots of great restaurants. 

In theory - could have had had as many 15-20 life birds. Some birds that I could have seen include:

Yellow Fronted Woodpecker
Golden cheeked warbler 
Least Grebe 
Neotropical Cormorant 
Seaside Sparrow
Lecontes Sparrow 
Snowy Plover
White Tailed Kite
Attwater Prairie Chicken
Black headed Vireo 
Black crested titmouse
Gull billed Tern
Least Tern
Huttons Vireo
Zone tailed Hawk
White tailed Hawk
Olive Sparrow

My trip to Texas involved small sub-trips--- We landed in Houston, went to Austin, San Marcos, San Antionio, then back to Houston (clear lake area - near Nasa Space Center). From Clear Lake, we were between Houston and Galveston. Galveston is a large barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico. 

Spring Lake Area - San Marcos
This was my first birding effort on this trip - and immediately as I got out of my car, I heard a yellow throated vireo singing. Northern Parula, Eastern Phoebe, Pied billed Grebe, Cormorants, White eyed Vireos were all easily seen within 100m walk from my car. Another trailhead in this area should have easily given me yellow-fronted woodpeckers, black crested titmouse and even Golden cheeked Warblers - but I had only heard the call of black crested titmouse. 

"The Caves" in San-Antonio

The birding and butterfly watching was surprisingly good here even thought its really a tourist attraction. There were tonnes of birds. Sadly, I was in the midst of a cave tour and I didn't want to make a scene birdwatching as our guide was talking about the local geology. I might have had Olive Sparrows there -- but I can't be certain. I did see Black crested Titmouse though which was really nice. A few nice butterflies were around as well.  I had found a tree near the parking lot crawling with butterflies (it was similar to button-bush). 

Black crested Titmouse!

Galveston Island State Park, East Beach, Bolivar Flats

I was really hoping to see Snowy Plovers at this location and sure enough, I had found a small group of about 5-10.  Lots of shorebirds were present. American Avocets, various sandpipers, Rudy Turnstones, Skimmers, Gulls, etc. Turns, Eastern Meadowlarks, Savanah Sparrows, Horned Larks, Grackles etc were seen.  I was hoping to see Least Terns - but I might have been a week early. Also, I did not really have time to see the bolivar flats even thought I visited the area. 

Snowy Plover - A long sought lifer.

My son --- would rather be rail-fanning.

White Tailed Kite. Lifer!

Neotropic Cormorant  (LIFER!) - I have missed this many, many times in Windsor/Essex. Not as common as I was expecting!

Clay Family Eastern Glades
This stunning park was a pleasant surprise. Ebird hinted that Least Grebes were present --- and sure enough, a small family? of three were present. 

Butterflies -  I was able to see Southern Dogface, Henry's Elfin - as well as many other species that I had seen previously such as Funeral Duskywing, Dainty Sulpher, Varigated and Gulf Fritillary, common buckey, red admiral, monarch, Giant Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger, Pipevine Swallowtail. I did see a reakirts blue but no other hairstreak like butterflies. (too early) 

Southern Dogface - Lifer!

Henry's Elfin - A butterfly Lifer!

Plants - I didn't make much efforts to see southern species --- but I did make some basic observations of some plants that were obvious to a casual observer. For example, many roadsides are covered in a blue flower --- and it was neat to followup on what that plant was - a local lupine called "Bluebonnet Lupine". Indian Paintbrush ? had a redish colour as well. I noted a yellow-flowering thistle plant, as well as many colourful daisy like species.

Astronomy - I was curious if I would be able to see one particular astronomical phenomena --- Omega Centauri --- it is one of the largest dense star clusters in our solar system. Dense star clusters are thought to be remnants of smaller elliptical galaxies that were absorbed by our milky way galaxy.  Its really best seen from the southern hemisphere, but can be seen low on the southern horizon from Texas. I made huge efforts to see this--- The light pollution is horrible. Every business, strip mall , hotel and car dealership is lit up like daylight at night. You are hard pressed to see a single star within an hours drive of downtown Houston. 

Omega Centauri [link]

So all in all - it was a great trip. I have never been to Texas, and I must say its a pretty interesting place. There is a huge oil-based economy and there seems to be great wealth there. The vast swaths of land are incredible. There is great development, yet, large swatchs of natural areas. There seems to be little effort to recycle glass, plastic, metal --- only garbages --- which is strange to me. 

I was hoping to cross paths with more like 15-20 birds, but --- I found 5 ... A little less than I would have liked.  Some birds might have been easier if I was there two weeks earlier, and others if I was there two weeks later.  Its all good. Someone told me once that you need to save some birds for retirement.  

Good Birding!

Last 15 Life Birds:

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

Black crested Titmouse (TX) 466
Snowy Plover (TX) 467 
Neotropical Cormorant (TX) 468
White tailed Kite (TX) 469
Least Grebe (TX) 470


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