Friday, July 30, 2010

Major Birding... nuff said!

I went a little overboard birding today. I covered several locations in Essex and Chatham-Kent. I will leave the birding/location lists below. One highlight was that I officially saw/heard/photographed a Marsh Wren (lifer). I swear I've heard this on many occasions, maybe even seen a brown bird disappear in a flash. But today, I finally got a Marsh Wren, even in its classic split leg pose on two seperate reeds.

St Clair NWA
Double Crested Cormorant
Belted Kingfisher
Least Bittern
Marsh Wren (lifer)
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Common Grackel
Red Winged Blackbird
Black Tern
Great Blue Heron
Barn Swallow
Song Sparrow
House Wren
Eastern Kingbird
American Goldfinch

Blenheim Lagoons
Great Egret
Lesser Yellowlegs

Erieau Marsh Trail
Bonaparts Gull
Least Flycatcher
Marsh Wren
Willow Flycatcher

Wheatley Docks/Muddy Creek
Great Blue Heron
Various Gulls

Hillman Marsh
Great Blue Heron (50+)
Great Egret
Eastern Kingbird
Indigo Bunting
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Cardinal
Caspian Tern
American Goldfinch

Just a final note, I stopped by Wheatley today and picked up a pound of fresh Yellow Perch Fillets. I fried them along with some onion rings and local corn. It was quite delicious. It was ironic though because I was looking at onion/corn/soya fields all afternoon and grumbling about the monoculture that we were left with from 150+ years of farming and urban sprawl with mimimal concern for the local ecology.

Good Birding!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Deja vue... Kayaking Point Pelee's Marsh

I took two of my pre-teen nephews out for a canoe rideto Point Pelee today. On the way there, I figured I would stop by the Leamington Docks to see if we could see the Red Headed Woodpecker. Its been a while since I've seen it. One of my nephews was looking at the tree through binoculars and informed me that he sees a woodpecker! I was really happy that these two young guys shared in the joy of birding.

These two photos are about the best I can do without tresspassing private property, the bird is probably about 50m away, and these are cropped images taken with a 500mm lens on a 1.6x crop factor sensor.
The same field that this tree is in hosts a few Northern Mockingbirds and we got some really close looks at them again. Hence... dejavue.

We then headed to Point Pelee marsh for a two hour canoe ride with a mid-way stop at the East Beach just past the East Cranberry Pond. We saw some small Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Common Terns, Black Terns, and again, Short Billed Dowitchers.
 As we headed back to the windsock marsh landmark, we saw many, many terns flying iradically in large flocks and I had taken a photo to possibly identify them later... are they Black Terns? Anyway, moments later, I noticed that a larger bird was causing all the excitment, yes... A Hungry Peregrine Falcon!...

Overall, a good day! Good birding!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blogspot now has stats!

Its funny, Jeremy (Cerulean Sky) recently posted a complaint that blogspot does not have stats. I have never really demanded that functionality from blogspot, but I thought it would be cool. Well, there is a new feature that allows stats to be analyzed!

To see this feature, you have to view the "Blogger in draft beta dashboard".  One neat thing I've learnt from viewing my stats is that my Kayaking Hotpots in Windsor blog posting has been a major hit. Also new is the options for obtaining images off your computer. Very cool. One problem with the stats is that your own hits are counted. So, if 10 people read this posting, probably 5 of those hits will be my own browsing.

Regarding birding, I've been trying to see Bobolink lately! I actually went to Jack Miner's today but my search was futile. The only interesting bird I saw today (that was not in captivity) was a Northern Flicker. Actually, I photographed a feeding Barnacle Goose today at Jack Miners that was hanging out with Canada Geese. I guess I'll add that as a lifer.

I'm going to try to kayak River Canard at the mouth of the Detroit River going inland. Also, I am going to try to walk the St Clair College forest area early one of these days. Stay tuned!

Good birding!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Great Horned Owl & Short Billed Dowitcher

I had a great day at Point Pelee National Park (PPNP) today! I met up with Rick from Leamington and he expertly showed me the location of two Great Horned Owls (along with Kevin, the Owl whisperer).

Rick and I later did some Butterflying on the west beach area, where we saw Giant Swallowtail, Yellow Sulpher, Painted Lady, Pearl Crescent, Monarch and Common Buckeye (thanks to Blake for the heads up on the Buckeye). We also saw Snout butterflies while talking to a butterfly researcher at the researcher's lodge.

Later in the afternoon, I kayaked the PPNP marsh ... which was pretty quiet, but I did see some roosts of Terns, Black Terns, Short Billed Dowitcher (lifer), Least Sandpiper, Killdeer, G/L Yellowlegs, Sanderling. At one point, a young Black Crowned Night Heron flew from the reeds and landed on a nearby peat island.

Good day overall, but I think I need to invest in a wide brimmed hat! I think I'm aging myself with so much sun exposure lately.

Good Birding & Butterflying,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Birding by ear... A noble task!

I've read about this in the past... basically... to be a good birder, one must be able to hear and indentify bird calls. I've found a great site to help practice bird calls : 

One call I've recently heard at PPNP is a group of 10+ Great Crested Flycatchers! They passed over me at the "octagon" of the Delaurier Trail at PPNP. I just could not seem to get a decent photo of them, they were so up high, and I would only see them as they moved away from me, not when they were perched ... 

I'm pretty familiar with most of the birds in the link above, but I'm still clueless and at the beginning stages of this interesting skill. In particular, it seems like getting to know the calls of the vast number of warblers would be difficult! It's hard to get that field experience when they are so transitory and fleeting.

Possibly one day, when the price of cell phone ownership goes down, I will get the IBird app... until then, I'm going to be referring to the Cornell Birding Website or the Whatbird site.

Good Birding!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kayaking Rondeau & Merlins in St Thomas

 I kayaked Rondeau this morning, starting at the entrance gate parking lot along the marsh edge well past the tower and back. With respect to birding, I'm surprised that I saw so little! I saw the expected birds, RWB, Swallows and Spotted Sandpipers. It was nice weather out, but a little windy. I hardly needed to paddle on the way back. One thing I noticed was a 1-4 meter edge of soap scum along the waters edge along the shore. I can't help but think that although it may not be toxic, birds that look for fish at water's edge can't do that with 4 meters of soap scum. Just saying.

I biked a few KM's of the Marsh trail, walked the Spicebush trail and visited the nature center. ... Nothing too exciting to report! The Marsh trail was covered with butterflies. Particularly Red Admiral, Question Mark, Monarch, Red Spotted Purple, and the odd Giant Swallowtail.

Later, I drove up to Port Stanley to meet a few friends at the beach, but also, I wanted to stop by a man's home who reported Merlin Fledglings in his backyard. So, I emailed this man who posted to ONTBIRDS and he invited me to visit his yard. I used GPS to get from Rondeau to St Thomas. I took Talbot Trail, which I previously did not know about. What did people do before GPS?

Upon arrival, I did not see the Merlins, but then , moments later, I heard the siren-like screach they make. It's amazing how similar they sound and behave to Peregrine Falcons!  I must have took 200+ photos but only a few good ones came out.  Below I post a few:

Good Birding,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Backyard Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

My hummingbird feeder seems to get drained much more quickly lately, so I sat around this evening to see if I could get some decent photos of these beautiful birds.  I think there are at least 4 different hummingbirds that visit my feeder, but there may be more. I know that female Ruby throated Hummingbirds do not have the ruby throats, and some females that I photograph have full tail feathers and one missing a chunk out of its tail feathers. I noticed one male RTH is very round and the ratio of its head size to body size is low... it may be a fledgling.

Sadly, I noticed a dead hummingbird in the tree in front of my hummingbird feeder. It was hanging upside down, still clutching to a tiny leaf stem. I left it there for a day or two to make sure it was not in a state of torpor (a nightly hibernation state). Sure enough, it was there for several days. I placed the leaf with the dead hummingbird in the back of a flower garden an noticed it was gone the next day. Back to the earth it goes...
It was a very big shock for me to find a hummingbird in this dead state but I have read that it is quite common.

Good birding,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Birding Books... & Life list wishlist

Today, I had a box from Amazon dropped off at my house containing two recently ordered books! I bought the Sibley Field Guide for Eastern North American Birds and the Atlas of Ontario Breeding Birds! I think both resources will help me make better diagnostics of the birds I'm seeing.

I have had the ROM Field guide which is good, but not great. They typically have a photograph of a male in breeding plumage. Tom Hince's book "A Birder's Guide to Point Pelee" has been an incredible source of information to me. I would say that the information about the local hotspots really ignited my interest in birding and challenged me to get out there and see these locations. Its several years old now (from the publishing/authoring standpoint) and I find it funny how things have changed, but things are still the same in a way. Blake and Paul have been equally excellent in sharing knowledge, as well as many of the blogs that I'm following.

Some birds that I would like to see but still haven't include:
Eastern Meadowlark (I saw one in Florida but very far away from me)
Marsh Wren ( I think I've seen them at St Clair NWA, but hardly enough to identify)
American Bittern
King/Virginia Rail
Red Eyed Vireo (I've seen this as well but would like to see it and photograph it better... isn't this common?)
Assorted Shorebirds
Assorted Warblers that I've missed
Assorted Gulls (that I have not bothered to identify)
American Woodcock
Black Billed Cuckoo
Caronlina Wren (haven't really seen one since April!)
Northern Shrike
As well as a few Winter Finches

I think I'm being realistic with the above list, its not like I want to see a Crested Caraca! Eventually, I will be in the 200+ birding club. When that happens, I think I'll throw a party with/for my blog readers... all three of you!

I'm really wanting to do some Kayaking, hopefully to Rondeau and/or PPNP very soon.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Ojibway Park Butterflies

I've photographed several butterflies since late June. I'm still a noob (newbie) with butterflies and I would not even classify myself as a butterflyer
... I should buy a guide before I do that! Here are some that I've photographed since late June. I figured if I don't post these beauties to my blog, they will get buried in my computer and forgotten about. The odd thing about photographing butterflies with my birding lens is that I have a minimum focal length of 8 feet, so I can really only take horizontal shots. 

I'm still learning alot about Butterflies so these may be mis-labeled. A recent butterfly count in the Ojibway area had over 50 species identified.

I've always wondered why a Question Mark butterfly was named like that. This photo actually shows the question mark symbol on the bottom of its wings. It looks like someone drew a question mark symbol with a metalic silver marker.

This photo was composed from two photographs... One with the tops of its wings, and the other with the bottoms.

And this one from last fall at Point Pelee a Giant Swallowtail  ...
Giant Swallowtail

Friday, July 9, 2010

Least Bittern at St Clair NWA

Wow, I finally got a chance to see a Least Bittern! It only took 14 months of birding to see this guy! I'm pretty excited, because Cornell's Site (all about declares "Least Bittern is one of the most difficult North American marsh birds to spot". Whats great about today's sighting is that I spotted it within 10 minutes of arriving at St Clair NWA. I spent another hour there, but did not see too much else, as is expected when birding in July. 14 months of birding and I get 5 seconds of viewing time of this guy. Incredible!

I'm being optimistic here, but I think the photo below may be a Yellow Headed Blackbird, possibly a female. This photo hints that it could be a female.  (post script: or... it could be a red-winged blackbird!)

I also think I spotted a Lincoln's sparrow... it might also be a Swamp Sparrow, it would make more sense actually...

I also saw:
Black Terns
Great Blue Herons
Mallard Ducks
Common Yellowthroat
Least Bittern (lifer, #178)
Yellow Headed Blackbird? ( lifer #179)

I was also getting eaten alive by bugs, so I did not stay long. It was really bad out there. Worse than Skunks Misery!

I was about to drop by PPNP, but decided to bird Tremblay Beach and Ruscom Shores. I figured, Lake St Clair has been good to me so far, why not check out the ERCA hotspots along Lake St Clair as I drove home? Both made for great walks, but not nothing too special showed up.

Tremblay Beach: Awesome spot... but will someone please post a sign of its whereabouts?   Tremblay Beach produced a gorgeous Red-spotted Purple Butterfly in the parking lot. I don't get this butterfly. Wild Flowers blooming everywhere... he prefers to lick gravel! With the power of Photoshop, I put two successive photos in one. I also saw a Spotted Sandpiper, Killdeer and Mallard Ducks. Its my first time there. 

Ruscom Shores was a really nice walk as well. I did not see much, at one point, I swear I was hearing a Brown Thrasher make its round of 30 sounds, in pairs. Later, I was pishing and really seemed to anger a Grey Catbird (I think he was pished off). They also cut down the 14' tall Phragmites there. I was hoping I would see something interesting (with respect to Avifauna) , particularly because of yesterdays storm, but no such luck. One cool thing I witnessed was a flycatcher chasing a moth, and the flycatcher was almost hovering in air, darting its neck to get the moth, but I think the moth escaped!

Seeing the Least Bittern today was... a great birding moment for me. I've really wanted to see it, and today, as I stood there and watched a small heron like bird take off from a patch of reeds, and my camera coming in and out of focus on its beautiful plumage... it was delightful! I would say its my third favorite lifer this year, after The Pileated and Red Headed Woodpeckers.

Good Birding!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Birding Hillman Marsh

I'm dying to add American Bitterns and/or Least Bitterns to my life list... But these are really difficult birds to spot. I've been to St Clair NWA once last year, and for a few minutes this year, and I did not really see anything either time. I contacted someone from that posts in the Essex county area and he liked Hillman Marsh as a place to possibly see them.

So last night, I went to Hillman Marsh to see what I could see in the Marsh area. I was hoping to also go to Point Pelee, but there was just not enough time. That's the funny thing about birding and being from Windsor. If you want to go birding in the Leamington area, St Clair, or Rondeau, you have at least 2 hours of driving time (round trip). And its a huge gamble because sometimes, you do not end up seeing much! I recall going to Point Pelee in March and thinking that I typically see more at Ojibway. Whats the point of going outside of peak migration times?

Upon arriving, I met a wildlife photographer, named Brad who pointed out a perched Kingfisher nearby.

I continued past the Hillman Marsh main entrance to the side road just past HMCA, with the famed bridge over a side marsh. I was hoping to surprise an American Bittern there but not this time.
I then went into the HMCA area and parked and walked a little. As I walked, I kept upsetting a Killdeer that made it very apparent that a human was walking around! I did get a chance to get a close up look at a Least Spotted Sandpiper (Juvies). I think these guys did not realize I was there on the muddy beach, because they came within 8' of me!  (Great link for southbound shorebird identification )

I then did a quick walk on the wooden boardwalk on mainly saw Wood Duck Families scrambling to get away. I did see some flycatchers, (I'll say they were least flycatchers). I did not walk much farther than 25m each way on the dyke. From fhat location though, I did see some Common Moorhens and Black Crowned Night Herons, both mature and immature which hints that they might be breeding at HMCA.

A quick summarized list is:
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Black Crowned Night Heron
Belted Kingfisher
Least Sandpiper
Common Moorhen
Wood Duck
Least Flycatcher

I would appreciate any advice on seeing Least/American Bitterns. Is it too late this summer to even bother seeing them?

Good Birding, Butterflying and Herping!


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