Sunday, January 10, 2016

Snowy Owl Caps off Another Great Year of Birding - 2015 in Review

Looking back at 2015...
And ahead to 2016

For the last 5 years, I've written a year end reflection on the previous year of birding and nature viewing. So this year, I've continued with tradition. This year was a lot more restrained compared to say 2014 when I took several ambitious trips (Florida, Michigan, Oregon, Carden Alvar).  My family moved into a new home this year, so I felt that having a major trip in March or over the summer was not economically responsible. So instead, we stayed closer to home this year, with a trip to Ottawa to visit family and a day trips to St Thomas and the Pinery Provincial Park in Grand Bend.

I don't really have too many birding highlights this year (although there were some) but I must say that I attempted to broaden my appreciation of the natural world by starting to seek out and list plants formally -  which has been fun!  Patrick & Allen have awesome blogs that have encouraged me to seek out some great plants. Some highlights include:

Colic Root
Culver's Root
Tall Ironweed
Tall Boneset
Prairie Dock
Indian Pipe
Fringed Gentian
Closed Gentian
Big Bluestem
Little Bluestem
Prairie Cordgrass
Indian Grass
Sullivants Milkweed
Prairie & Michigan Lily
Nodding Ladies Tresses
Eastern Fringed Prairie Orchid
... and many more

One plant I really wanted to see was Purple Twayblade Orchid.  I might have started to look for it way past its flowering stage (late July) so next summer, I will start looking for it in June when hopefully it is flowering. There are a handful of other flowers that I would like to see but this one stands out as one I should find with a little effort and luck.

Lepidopteric Highlights from 2015:

Grey Hairstreak (Point Pelee - rare is some years)
Leonards Skipper (Grand Bend ON)
Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Strathroy, Ottawa)
Zebra Swallowtail (Portsmouth OH)

I still have not seen a Mulberry Winged or Dion Skipper convincingly so I will be looking for these next summer.

Instead of doing a month by month breakdown of birding... I will just list out and comment on several seasonal highlights:

April visit to Shawnee State Forest in Southern Ohio- Three life list birds were added on this trip - Carolina Chickadee, Worm eating Warbler and Kentucky Warbler. Shawnee State Park is a beautiful park located about 4 hours south of Windsor/Detroit. It is located on the southern border of Ohio, bordering the state of Kentucky! I wanted to get butterflies on this trip, but the cold rainy weather put a damper on butterfly action. Still, I picked up a Zebra Swallowtail and a Horaces Duskywing.

May Migration at Pelee- I had a couple of great days in May at Point Pelee. May 6th was an excellent day that I won't soon forget. At one point, I was looking at a Golden Winged Warbler, an Eastern Whip poor will and a Cape May Warbler, all within a few feet of each other.  All three goatsucker species were pretty easily seen this year. I had a fleeting look at Mississippi Kite and nice looks at Pacific Loon which was pretty amazing. Gray Kingbird was pretty awesome to see along the eastern edge of Hillman Marsh. Finding a Summer Tanager at Malden Park in Windsor was exciting as well. I am convinced that I also saw an Acadian Flycatcher that same afternoon but well.. you know...

Summer Birding- I think the birding highlight of the summer would by my accidental discovery of a Hooded Warbler at Ojibway Park in the later part of June. A Scarlet Tanager that was nearby was also a pretty cool bird to see. Another summer highlight was just sitting in my back yard and witnessing the birds that appeared consistently through the summer as well as the birds that stopped by during their southbound migration. I had Common Checkered Skippers and Common Sootywing in my back yard which was pretty cool to see.

Visiting the Canard Valley - I visited Canard Valley Conservation Area for the first time. It is a little hidden jem that I had neglected to discover until this summer. A dimorphic pair of Dukes Skippers were a highlight.

Ottawa Area- A trip to Ottawa this summer had limited nature viewing opportunities, but a drive through Larose Forest in Limoges Ontario was pretty nice. Milbert's Tortoiseshell and Meadow Fritillary were nice to see. Butterflies were mysteriously difficult to find this summer in Ottawa.

Fall & Winter Birding - Highlights here are two gull species that were excellent to see. Sabine's Gull & a first winter plumaged Franklin's Gull was a great find at Wheatly Harbour. I found a Common Redpoll at Pelee which is really really rare in my opinion. A Snow Goose as well as White Fronted Geese were seen in Lasalle by my friend Karen but I was unable to twitch these birds. She also spotted a Gyrfalcon at Vollmer Ponds. Needless to say, two rare flycatcher species that were seen in Chatham-Kent were: Says Phobe and Vermilion Flycatcher.

Birding from my own backyard was really fun. I built a deck on the back of my house and on a daily basis, I typically see decent birds. I saw Blue headed Vireo, Wilsons Warbler, Nashville,  American Redstart, Palm , Eastern Bluebird & Fox Sparrow migrating through among others! (I need to compile a list!)

Late November to December was not very birdy for me, but some highlights were Golden Eagles, Rough legged and Red shouldered Hawks at Holiday Beach. A pair of Great horned Owls during the Point Pelee CBC and and an end of year Snowy Owl seen in Harrow capped off a great year of birding!

A pair of Great Horned Owls at Point Pelee

Snowy Owl in Harrow

I wanted to end off this posting with some thoughts on Ojibway Park --- but again, I can't find the words. Sadly, without an intervention from the Ministry of the Environment or the unlikely chance that a local philanthropist steps in --- the 'dozers will be brought in any time now and Ontario's best tallgrass prairie ecosystem will be further fragmented and impacted by a Coco Paving's planned Wal-Mart Plaza. Windsor's municipal politicians don't even realize how special Ojibway Park is.

Have a great 2016...



  1. Enjoyed your summary. Thanks for the reference to Patrick and Allen's blogs. I think I'll enjoy them (as well as yours and a few other Ontario birding/botany blogs.

  2. A nice summary, Dwayne. It is amazing when one puts together all the highlights of the year.....there are so many wonderful things to see in the extreme southwest and we are truly blessed with such diversity of rarities as well as the more common things.

    Have a great 2016 with all sorts of new and exciting finds in your backyard and beyond!

  3. You had some wonderful sightings in 2015. Hopefully you can get out even more in 2016. See you on the trail!

  4. Sounds like you had such a great 2015 Dwayne! I hope that 2016 brings even more special plants, butterflies, plants, and everything! You have me intrigued to start a butterfly list now for 2016!

    Best wishes for this new year, hopefully run into you too!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...