Thursday, April 29, 2010

White Faced Ibis at Big Creek... and a few warbling friends...


Wow, I left work today and headed out to Amherstburg... Big Creek Marsh and Holiday Beach to do some mid-week birding. Much to my delight, the Ontbirds notices of a White Faced Ibis from three days ago were still relevant! Sure enough, I saw parked cars, tripods, scopes and geeked out birders!

The real birders stood at a great distance, letting the bird wade in peace, while some locals walked as close as they possibly could to shot photos... Where is the birding etiquette?

 (Besides the Ibis, there were hundreds of Great Blue Heron in the background.)

It was a nice day out, but as soon as I arrived to Big Creek, the grey, cloudy skies rolled in with dingy, photography-killing light. Then it even started to rain!  The White Faced Ibis is a lifer for me... and the link below has a range map that really lets an ontario birder know just how 'accidental' this species is!!!

Next I stopped by Holiday Beach, and much to my happiness, the gate was open. I slowly drove down the the entrance road and stopped my car at one point when I heard lots of warbling.

Yellow Warbler!!! I have the feeling there were many around because I could hear them all along the drive into the park. Also, I basically took this from inside my car!

Holiday Beach was absolutely gorgeous. All the sloughs were flooded... I can just imagine that it will be humming with birds over the course of the next few weeks.

Next, I walked around near the observation tower, but did not see anything exciting. A few tree swallows, a cardinal, your obligatory grackels, robins and starlings.

Yesterday (Wednesdsay), I stopped by Point Pelee from 3-5pm and did not see much. I did see my first local warbler in spring molt.
The Yellow-Rumped Warbler was found at Blue Heron picnic area.
Hermit Thrushes are easy to spot in Woodland Trail this week. I ran into on loud Eastern Towhee, and MANY White Throated Sparrows.

Finally, I birded Ojibway quickly on Tuesday this week and did not see much. I did happen to run into a Tufted Titmouse, House finch and American Goldfinch.

Happy Birding!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ruby Crowned & Hermit Thrushes at Point Pelee (edited)

(Northern Flicker at Entrance Gate... on the way out of the park)

I birded two trails at Point Pelee this morning. I started with Tildens Trail and immediately noticed many White Throated Sparrows and many Carolina Wrens. I also saw a few Ruby Crowned Kinglets... and for the first time, witnessed the 'Ruby" of Ruby Crowned Kinglets. I'm guessing that two male kinglets where chasing each other from tree to tree almost like a dog fight. This is such a difficult bird to photograph. It just will not sit still!

After Tildens Trail, I walked the Woodland Nature Trail. I did not see many birds today on this trail, but its the first time this year I walked the whole loop and the first time I saw the flooded sloughs. Of course, I met a few birders in passing and they informed me that I had just missed a Louisiana Waterthrush. Nonetheless, the highlight of my walk happened near the begining of the trail, where I watched a Thrush eating a worm about 10m in front of me.

Then, about 20 meters later, I saw another Thrush, (it was a little more redish and rust-coloured) that landed on a cedar fence post near a bed of Trillium flowers. At the time, I thought it was the same Thrush***. But now that I see both photos side by side on my computer, it seems pretty obvious they are different birds. I even thought about attributing the difference to their possible sexual dimorphism that is so common in avifauna. Long story short, my best identification of these two birds is that the first one is a Veery, (smaller eyes, brownish crest, less spots on belly, rounder belly) and the second is a Hermit Thrush (Slimmer profile, more spots on belly, larger eyes). Even the notril hole in the beaks are quite different (one is like a pin hole and the other is more slot shaped).  Any thoughts on the ID for these Thrushes would be appreciated!

*** [Correction: I've been informed that my first hunch was correct... these are the same species... Both Hermit Thrushes. The first photo is not a Veery. Thanks Blake. ]

Later in the visitor center, a man informed me that there were many Yellow-Rumped Warblers near the tip (in mating molt), but I just did not have the energy to go see them. I still wanted to paddle the Marsh for about an hour or so.  I tried to drop my new Kayak into the Marsh, but it was just too windy. I paddled 50m into the marsh then quickly turned around. I really would have liked to see an American Bittern, but that just was not going to happen on this particular windy afternoon. On the way out of the park, I stopped at the entrance as I heard the hysterical cry of a Northern Flicker (producing the first image in this posting). The call of the Northern Flicker is very similar to that of the Pileated Woodpecker... this might be the reason so many peole list this bird in the sighting book.

I wish I would have seen a Red Headed Woodpecker but I don't think I'm going to see it at Point Pelee. Maybe at Rondeau on May 2nd (with the group)...

Happy Birding!

PS: My last few postings were not my best written performances. With family, work and night school exams, I just didn't have much time to edit. This particular posting orignally was a crude first draft. I gave it a once over this morning because in my fatigue last night, I did not really refine it as well as I should have.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring Flowers at Kopegaron Woods

Work ended early for me today, so I took the wife and baby out for a ride to Leamington to check out Kopegaron Woods. It was awesome. Some flora I photographed included:

Red Trillium
Spring Beauties
Jack in the Pulpit
Trout Lilly

After Kopegaron Woods, I talked my wife into going for a walk on Tildens Trail at Point Pelee. It was 4pm and cold at this point. We did not really see much. We saw a Kildeer in the Homestead parking lot, Chirping Sparrow, White Throated Sparrow, Ruby Crowned Kinglet ... and I think an Owl after it jumped off its perched and glided down lower to the ground.

Hopefully, the weather will hold up a little over the weekend. The forecast predicts rain on Saturday and more rain on Sunday. We need it, but its too bad its on the weekend.

Good birding!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eastern Bluebird @ Ojibway Prarie Reserve

After work today, I was tempted to drive from Windsor to Wheatley Provincial Park to look at some Trillium flowers... but I thought to myself... 2.5 hours (round-trip) in a car to (maybe) see some Trilliums? I might stop by after my next Pelee visit. Instead I figured I would try to bird the recently 'burned' Ojibway Prarie Reserve. Which is just minutes from where I live. I've tried to bird a little closer to home in the last week, so I've really focused on the Ojibway area. (Black Oaks, Spring-Garden, Ojibway Prarie, and Ojibway itself.

Well, for the third time in my life, I saw a pair of Eastern Bluebirds. Its funny, I thought to myself... there are thousands of Robins, Hundreds of Grackles, Brown Headed Cowbirds, countless Starlings... but I only get the pleasure to see this super-shy bird just once or twice in my one year of birding. Doesn't that suck? You see thousands of these other birds, then... one rare gem. It dawned on me though that maybe its that rareness that makes them special. Maybe if there were thousands of EB's and you saw a Robin, you would be blown away by seeing the Robin.

Oddly enough, I saw this bird Jan 7, 2010 in basically the same spot of the park! The other time I saw EB's was in Florida, in Everglades National Park oddly enough.

I think I saw some Clay-Colored Sparrows, but my birding resource, does not list that bird?!?!? So I'm not too sure.

I heard some American Woodcock. I saw for the 4th consecutive nature walk an Eastern Towhee... I've seen these so much, I've stopped taking photos!!! Incredible. One year of birding, no Towhee, the last 1.5 weeks, 4 Towhees in 4 forests. As I add more birds to my life list, I slowly get to know their calls, their habitat, and you can just see them better.

Click photo for larger view

Ojibway has some really nice habitat. There is part of the Prarie reserve that is forested with huge sloughs and flooded areas. I'm thinking this will be an active spot to bird on work-day afternoons in May.

Happy Birding!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sweet Bird Carolina

I reluctantly went birding to Point Pelee and Hillman Marsh today. It was cold and cloudy and basically not nice. The only reason I did go though was to pick up a Kayak from Pelee Wings. I started birding at Hillman Marsh... or should I say... Hillman Mudflats. Where is all the water this Spring?

I'm still really bad at identifying shore birds. But in short, Hillman had:
Bonapart gulls,
Great Blue Heron
Blue Winged Teal
Lesser Yellowlegs

I quickly continued on through side roads I have never driven on before.... Have you ever heard the song "Where the streets have no name"? I think U2 was talking about Mersea township!!! Anyway, I got to get a good look at what Tom Hince refers to as the Onion Fields in his Birding Point Pelee book.

The North Dyke road had Killdeer and Horned Larks in small numbers and great distances.

At this point, I only had about 1 hour to bird Point Pelee.... What path should I take???

I decided on the nature woodland trail, as I have not been on that trail yet this year! I also wanted to take a quick peek at the bird sightings book in the visitor center.

Not a bad turnout!
I quickly noticed a male Downy Woodpecker, then a female Yellow Belllied Sapsucker. Its strange. This YBSS looked like someone had spilt coffee on her! I'm still looking for a Red Headed Woodpecker!. Moving along the path briskly, I decided to take the Redbud Nature Trail as I had never walked this path before... where are the redbuds???

I did end up seeing several Kinglets (Golden and Ruby Crowned)... but wow are they hard to photograph. The redbud trail is basically a cloud of fine tree branches. ... Impossible to zoom with. The photo below is the best I could do, but this was me focusing manually. The exposure is off, as the bright background will fool the camera into underexposing the main (tiny) subject.

I reached the end of Redbud trail somewhat happy. I had at least seen some kinglets... not a bad day. But then as I walked along the nature trail, parallel to the road for the shuttle,,, I heard "tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle"... then after trying to locate the sound.... wham... I see a rust-coloured ball of feathers on a mossy, decaying branch. Incredible! But I was not able to photograph it at that point. I patiently followed it as is meandered along the path and got a few more photos of it...

Did I mention that the Carolina Wren is a lifer??? Wow... I was really happy to see this guy. My birding ended there as I soon approached the visitor center.

I finally picked up my kayak as well... I'll leave that for another post...

Happy Birding

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Black Oak Heritage Park ... after work!

I stopped by Black Oak Heritage Park today in West Windsor. I was hoping to run into a Red-Headed Woodpecker (Considering they love Oaks) but ended up seeing a few other decent birds. I also ran into a few cool butterflies! I have been to Black Oak Heritage Park twice this spring and both times, it was crawling with the Mourning Cloak butterfly!

Black Oak Heritage Park has recently had 34 acres experience a prescribed burn. This exposes the rich topsoil to more sunlight and it is already rebounding wonderfully. 

On my way into the park, I heard lots of woodpeckers drumming

 I also watched a pair of Easter Comma butterflies wrestle in the leaves and stones on the path I was walking. And on my way out of the park, to my surprise.... Eastern Towhee! I've never seen this bird in my life until two weeks ago, and now I see it again... on my own. It was really cool to behold. I would describe the call of the Eastern Towhee as ' You-Are- Cheap Cheap Cheap....'. I got some incredible looks at this bird!

Happy Birding!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Short trip to Point Pelee

Saturday morning, I took a quick trip to Point Pelee. I am presently in the market for a Kayak, so I had been planning to pick one up at Pelee Wings and possibly go out into the Marsh with it. But, I just did not have enough time to do all these things, so I differed the purchase of my Kayak for a later time.

Interestingly, as I drove over Sturgeon Creek on the bridge, in the corner of my eye I noticed the tell-tale white-navy-blue flash pattern of a Belted Kingfisher in flight, so I put on my hazard lights and pulled over on the bridge. It was really 'birdy' there!

Sturgeon Creek Bridge birds:
Purple Martin (lifer)
Barn Swallow
Tree Swallow
Double Crested Cormorant
Belted Kingfisher
Great Egret (flying in the distance)

Upon arrival at Point Pelee, I quickly noticed a single pair of ducks in Sanctuary Pond (only one pair?) They were wood ducks.

Several west side beach areas were pretty quiet. I would have liked to have seen a Mourning Cloak butterfly, but none were to be found.

I walked Delaurier Trail and Tildens Trail. Both were pretty quiet. Sturgeon creek was almost a little more interesting. I also walked about 50 meters up the board-walk (or 'bored'-walk) and noticed a single American Coot in the Marsh. That would have been a lifer had I not gone to Florida in March.

On Tilden's trail, its funny,,, I did not really see too many birds (RWB's not included) but I noticed it was nicely flooded on each side of the trail. I also heard on occasion very unique bird songs that I was unable to identify. Looking out from the East beach, I noticed many windmills lining the horizon! I can't believe they put Windmills on a major north american migration route! I guess time will tell how this will effect birds in migration. Will the wind turbine owners disclose any statistics on their effect on birds?

Point Pelee Birds:

Eastern Phoebe
Great Blue Heron (flying overhead)
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker
American Coot (in the Marsh)
Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher? (Just a faint glimpse @ Tildens Trail)
Red Tailed Hawk
Various Gulls and Scaup in the distance
Huge numbers of Red Winged Blackbirds, Grackles and Robins

Overall a quiet day at Point Pelee. I was really only there for about 2 hours, almost not worth the drive out from Windsor. But... this is what birders do. If nothing else, its good exercise and practice for my photography skills.

Happy Birding!

(Click image to see larger view)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Great Morning at Point Pelee (three lifers!)

Wow, what a great morning at Point Pelee! I showed up at about 8AM (on Easter Monday). The first thing I noticed was three giant turkeys crossing the road about 50m after the entrance. I stopped by the sanctuary pond lookout but only saw a few Canada Geese and Wood Ducks in the far distance. I stopped at a few west side beaches but did not see much. Finally, I arrived in the old homestead parkinglot and much to my surprise,  I saw several Northern Flickers just taking their time rummaging thought the grassy edges of the parking lots!

Then, I noticed a photographer off to the west end of the parking lot so I joined him. He was eyeing an Eastern Towhee and sure enough... Lifer! (click any of the photos to see a larger version of the image)

Major birds I saw today were Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Red Breasted Merganser (lifer), Eastern Pheobe, Eastern Towhee (lifer), I even photographed what I think might be a little gull (lifer)..... Overall, a great day! Perfect temperature, great sunlight.

I need not mention the bazzillion Grackels, Starlings and Robins.

Wow, is this a Little Gull in this photo above? (actually... probably a Bonaparte's Gull)

Happy Birding, April and May seem like they are going to be wonderful months for birding!


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