Saturday, April 30, 2011

Point Pelee - Post Woods Trail... Post-work Posting

After work on Friday, I went down to Point Pelee for a Post-work walk on the "Post woods" trail. Its incredible to say this but I've never walked the post-woods trail! I haven't really walked the west beach trail much either. If I birded the tip of Point Pelee, I would often just take the tram back to the visitor center and typically walk Tildens Woods and Woodland Nature Trail.
 I had face-melting views of this Yellow-Rumped Warbler on Tildens'

My first walk covered Tilden's Woods and I saw Rusty Blackbirds as well as Northern Waterthrushes foraging the sloughs. White throated Sparrows patriotically sang "oh sweet Canada" as the occasional paserine flew overhead. One Winter Wren bounced around the path but my camera was unable to get any focus on it. I walked from Tildens Trail to the beach, and all the way up the beach to Sparrow Field. That must have been about 1-2 Km? Along the beach though, I saw front-lit Horned Grebes at 10-20m off the shore, along with all kinds of Gulls, Cormorants, Ducks and Scoters. I photographed some close Terns and later ID'd them as Forster's Terns (lifer #236). I have not really taken much time to really ID terns... I have assumed they were Common or Caspian. I saw deer venture out the forest and drink water from the beach shoreline. Chipping and Field Sparrows hopped along the sand catching little bugs. Seeing the newly cleared Sparrow Field was pretty cool. True to its name, I saw 4 sparrow species (chipping, field, white crowned and white throated).

I then walked the "Post Woods" trail North towards the visitor center. Black throated Green, Black-and-White warblers, along with a tree-top Blue headed Vireo were seen.  A Brown Thrasher was spooked as I walked northward. Blue-Grey Gnatcathers and Cedar Waxwings were seen. None in great quantity, but it seemed like everything around made itself known. As post-woods trail became the Woodland Nature Trail I saw one Blue Headed Vireo and several Palm Warblers foraging the treetops as the sun was setting to the west.

 Forsters' Tern above, Surf Scoters below

Did you ever see a Field Sparrow in Sparrow Field?

Hillman Marsh had thousands of Dunlin, typical Gulls and Ducks. Noteworthy birds were about 4 Willets and 3 Black Bellied Plovers. A Thrush near the parking lot had huge buffy eyerings. I can't help but think its a Swainsons. Its probably a Hermit Thrush! 

Saturday, I spent the day with family and friends in Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan. We went on the "Thomas the Train" train ride. Good times! Tomorrow, (Sunday) I will try to be at PPNP to watch the sun rise!

Good Birding!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

More Point Pelee Birding

Happy Easter & Earth Day!

I just thought I would give a really great link to a Youtube video that Jenna (100 birds in a year blog) posted and I can't help but re-post it:

It's only 6 minutes long but very well worth the time. It was produced by the Cornell University Ornithology department on  the one-year anniversary of the BP Gulf Oil spill. Right click link (open in new tab)

Ruddy Ducks
Well, today (Saturday) was a pretty great day out. The weather forecast for this long holiday weekend was initially really glum, but Saturday just really opened up for us at the last minute! I'm a little sun-burnt from today's walk! Today I did my typical Hillman Marsh/ Point Pelee trip with an added stop off at Kopegaron Woods.
This is the very first photo and blog lifer for a Horned Grebe. I was approaching the Shorebird Cell at Hillman Marsh and noticed many Rudy Ducks fly away as I approached the edge of the cell. I was thinking... "I wish they would install some blinds so birder could enjoy some birds without the use of a scope... Every time I walk up to this field, everything within 100m flushes. Perhaps a local greenhouse can take some scrap polyethylene sheeting and some posts and create a cheap, makeshift blind". Just as I finished with that thought, I notice a single lone duck (Grebe) just 20-30m from me. Awesome! (I ended up seeing another Grebe 20m off shore at the West Beach... very cool!).

Hillman Marsh:
Horned Grebe
American Coots,
Great Blue Herons
Blue Winged Teal
Ruddy Ducks
Spotted Sandpiper
Northern Shoveler
Northern Harrier
I spotted this "lump" driving through the onion fields. It is a lifer... #235

Looking for loons in all the wrong places....

This Common Loon was spotted in a ditch near the Lakeside Dr road where the Hillman Marsh sign is. Its funny how I spotted it. I noticed about 8 Great Egrets on a ditch to the right, and two Great Blue Herons in the drainage ditch to the left about 15ft away from me. One GBH was about to "spear" his dinner, so I was setting up my camera to take video, (from my car) when in my peripheral vision, I see a strange, Black object. It was so surreal, it must have taken 10 seconds for me to realize what I was looking at. The first time I saw a Common Loon, it was from about 50m off the west beach of Point Pelee and it was pointed out to me by someone else. It was also in non-breeding plumage. Seeing this today blew my mind!!!

View Larger Map
Onion Fields:
Great Egret
Common Loon
Great Blue Herons
Ring necked Pheasant (Lifer #235)
Surf Scoter -... I had confused these with Black Scoter

Point Pelee:
Surf Scoter 
Great horned Owl
Northern Watherthrush
Yellow bellied Sapsucker
Blue grey Gnatcatcher
Rusty Blackbird (or Possible Brewer's?)
Horned Grebe
Lesser Scaup
Hermit Thrush
Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Golden Crowned Kinglet
Red Breasted Merganser
Brown Creeper
Northern Flicker
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Sharp Shinned Hawk
Double Crested Cormorant
Various Terns & Gulls
Tree Swallow
Field Sparrows
One great thing about today's PPNP visit was meeting up with Rick, my good birding friend from Leamington. It was also nice to see John, one of the park employees, who informed me about the short-lived flowering of the Bloodroot plant found on Woodland Nature Trail. John informed me that this plant only flowers for about 3 days then the flower petals fall off.

~~~Frustrating Birding Observation~~~
Have you ever spotted a bird skulking in a thicket, and spent great amounts of time and effort to pish it into view and then realize that its a Darked Eyed Junco? I've come to almost dislike this bird at this point in the year. Its like ... migrate north already!!!
~~~End of rant~~~
This thrush has strong spotting, all the way down its belly. I don't quite think its a Wood Thrush (too early?), but seems too heavily spotted for a Hermit Thrush. Does not seem to be a Swainsons... Does it default to being just a Hermit thrush?

~~~Final thought for the day~~~
I think many people this year at Point Pelee are going to take the 100 species challenge. This naturally will involve birders keeping lists... But is there a list of local birds that should be assumed? For example, did see Red winged Blackbirds today but did not mention them above. Hence, I propose the base assumed list for your 100 count:

  1. American Robin
  2. House Finch
  3. American Crow
  4. Blue Jay
  5. Northern Cardinal
  6. European Starling
  7. House Sparrow
  8. Dark Eyed Junco
  9. Field Sparrow
  10. Song Sparrow
  11. American Goldfinch
  12. Ring billed Gull
  13. Red winged Blackbird
  14. Brown headed Cowbird
  15. Common Grackle
  16. Black Capped Chickadee
  17. Red Tailed Hawk (hwy 3)
  18. Turkey Vulture
  19. Downy Woodpecker
  20. Tufted Titmouse (If you start at ojibway)
  21. Red Bellied Woodpecker (If you start at ojibway)
  22. Mallard
  23. Killdeer
  24. Morning Dove
  25. Rock Pigeon
There... now you only need to find another 75 bird species!

Good Birding!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Birding Black Oak Herritage Park in West Windsor

This park is quite incredible. I walked it on Thursday as it was one of the few sunny afternoons we've had in a while. With respect to birding, first half of my walk though was pretty quiet with the exception of a few Goldfinches, Drumming Downy Woodpeckers, and a Golden Crowned Kinglet. The beauty of this forest is really just incredible. Wet sloughs everywhere, creeping vines, old dead trees, rolling hills with several different habitats from open grassland to dense forest to slightly more open savanah. Even without seeing any birds, this forest is incredible. I was amazed at the beautiful green carpet of moss and small flowering plants covering the black, uncompacted soil. Just awesome. Click here for a little more about the park.

The birding ended up picking up in the later part of my walk. It started with seeing a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, then hearing a Carolina Wren, which I later found! A male/female pair of Yellow Rumped Warblers were seen, then a fallout of Bluebirds.  The walk ended up with a cool list of birds that are listed below. Just the typical expected birds.

I think Caronlina Wren might be one of my top 5 favorite birds. I rarely see them though. Even at Point Pelee this year, I have heard them on occasion, but from a great distance. I heard two Carolina Wrens at Black Oak Heritage Park today

Bluebird Fallout? I saw about 4 pairs of Bluebirds in the grassy area behind the Dainty Rice Building. I also flushed many Chipping Sparrows as I walked back to the parking lot.

I've never tagged a Chipping Sparrow on this blog until today. They are pretty little Sparrows. I was watching them recently from "Moms House" from a close range of about 8' through a bay window.

This must be the 30th YBSS that I've seen this spring. I've just been lucky seeing them. To bad they don't really stick around through the summer!
My field trip list: (I need to post this info to!!!)
Golden Crowned Kinglet 1
American Goldfinch 6
Robins 6
Blue Jay 1
Hermit Thrushes 10
Northern Flicker 1
White Breasted Nuthatch 1
Eastern Bluebirds 8
Chipping Sparrows 10
Downy Woodpeckers 5
Yellow bellied Sapsucker 1
Carolina Wren 2
Yellow Rumped Warbler 2
Eastern Phoebe 1

A great walk on a beautiful night. I must say, I rarely walk this park, but it has given me many lifers! I recall seeing my first Blue-grey Gnatcatcher here. If fact, I found a nest for this cool little bird in this park last summer.   It is interesting to see how the new DRIC project will effect the Ojibway Complex. The Bridge may cut off the river access to the Ojibway Complex. This Citizens Environmental Alliance article proposes that the access to the river, be kept and strengthened for future. The propose a pretty cool idea... "The Real Green Link" --> .


More Birding Books...

This week,  I actually looked up a book I'd been interested in reading at windsorpubliclibary's website. I dropped in after work  and skimmed through the contents of "Birding at Point Pelee" by H. O'Neil and "Sibley's Birding Basics" by DA Sibley in one evening!

Both books have been really interesting. I was a little shocked at how "difficult" the "Birding Basics" book was. I guess my eyes gloss over when I read about primaries, secondaries and tertiaries, as well as H-P Plumage Cycles. But, with each exposure to such concepts, they become a little more engrained. This book goes into Identification techniques, Taxonomy, Behavior, Feathers, Mot, Aging, and Ethics ... gosh ... so much to know.

Birding at Point Pelee has been an interesting read/scan but I guess I was looking for more information or information from a slightly different context. The story I want to know about Point Pelee is more about what happened with the Onion fields. At Point Pelee, there are some signs on the Delaurier Trail path near the sloughs/octagon that delve into this story (complete with actual newspaper clippings). I was hoping this book delved into that story more but it doesn't seem to. Its still a good book overall. Its funny how many common names continue to resurface in the birding world.

Good birding,

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend of birder's discontent...

Today's weather blows/blew (literally and figuratively). 3-5 degrees celcius and 40Km/h winds with gusts of 50-60km. It wasn't fun to be outside. But I went out anyway!!!

Hillman Marsh had many Bonapartes Gulls, Terns and Northern Shoveler, Bufflehead and Green winged Teal. Double Crested Cormorants were everywhere! Some shorebirds were out there but I saw them more in flight and was unable to identify them.


Louisiana Waterthrush (lifer #235) on Point Pelee's Woodland Nature Trail. Terrible photo. I know. I had about three fleeting seconds to see this bird and 2.75 of those seconds were with me fumbling with my camera. Thanks to Blake for finding it on Friday.

Blue Winged Teal were in the North Dyke ditch. (behind Phragmites)

 I also saw a Northern Flicker clinging to a telephone pole in the onion fields as well. I think it was tired of trying to fly in 60 KM/H winds.

This was about all I saw in the Redbud Footpath today.
Ojibway Park (from earlier in the week)
I took this photo of the moon while searching for american woodcock this week. It may be the only good photo in this particular posting!
I made a few more (final) attempts to see an American Woodcock this week but left each evening disappointed. I figured I might photograph the moon as its pretty easy to photograph. It is well lit and not moving and simple to maintain focus on.

The Ojibway Prairie has the same birds as I've been blogging about all week, but during my last walk, I saw two separate Garter Snakes. One had a red stripe on it, but I did not get a photo of it.

I followed up on a recent Ojibway Park posting about an Eagles Nests at the foot of Laurier Drive and found it. The two photos below give some context of the nest from mainland.

Ring Billed Gulls are a "blog" lifer (I've never posted or tagged this species). There are several species I have not photographed or tagged because of their common-ness.  American Crows for example are a bird that I see all the time, but have not bothered to photograph or tag.

Well, next weekend promises to be better. It can't possibly be worse than this weekend.  I will even go to Kopegaron woods and see the spring flowers from this ecological gem of a forest. It's one of the few areas in SW Ontario that did not get logged. Another location I plan on visiting will be Colasanti's... I keep forgetting to pick up some of their cinnamon doughnuts.

Good Birding,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ojibway Prarie Reserve Bluebirds

Ruby Crowned Kinglet in a Pussywillow Tree

The last two days have been so beautiful out weather-wise, I couldn't help but get out there and take some photos. I have a new camera body and I'm still trying to learn its ways before May arrives. There will come a day where I will go birding without my camera but I guess for now, lots of pictures will be taken! :-) I think the reason I take photos was because when I started birding almost 2 years ago, I did not know one bird from another, so I would take photos then post-identify. I didn't even have binoculars or a field guide till about 1 year into the hobby. It started off with just a Camera and Blake Mann's blog as well as Paul Pratt's blog and nature tours really spawned my interest in nature. I thought about this question: "when did I start birding?" recently and the answer is the day I saw a Green Heron at Ojibway on May 2nd, 2009.

Birder or Photographer?
One or two people have told me that I'm a photographer, not a birder! One woman at Pointe Mouillee told me that without even knowing me! I found it odd that she said that because she had a white-bodied Canon "L" lens, and I was rockin' a Sigma! I think I'm a birder that loves to photograph nature. A photo-naturalist? But, I concede, I'm not an ornithologist. I would like to take the Ornithology course at the University of Windsor with Dr Mennill but I don't know if people working 9-5s can have the luxury of taking such courses.

 Tufted Titmouse just singing his heart out. This is one of my favorite birds. Rare in most of Canada but common at Ojibway. Many Carolinian species are slowly having there northern bounds creep further north.
 I really hit a nice pocket of birds in the Ojibway forest on Tuesday. I saw Kinglets, Yellow Rumps, Thrushes, Tufted Titmouse in the span of 20 minutes.

 My first Mourning Cloak butterfly. I did not feel like venturing far off the path. They are easily seen at Black Oak Heritage Park at this time of year. I've also seen many Eastern Comma butterflies this week as well. These two species are the first to appear in early spring, so its easy to ID them. It's funny, I've learn so much about butterflies as well from the many excellent blogs in the area. In mid summer when the breeding birds of May have left for the Boreal Forests, the butterflies get more attention. This spring and summer, I will also make more of an effort to identify trees and plants.

Today I saw three separate pairs of Bluebirds in the park. I typically find them by first hearing them.Listen for a depressing sounding mur-mur like warble.

See the above photo in full size!

I don't think I'll ever tire of seeing these wonderful birds. Today, I just leaned against a giant Oak tree for 10 or so minutes watching the above pair sallying and flycatching in a beautiful meadow. I put the camera away and just quietly watched from a safe distance of 30-40m. Very cool!

In the Tallgrass Praire park of Ojibway, I saw/heard some really strange mating behaviors from three treetop Northern Flickers. The photo below shows the Flickers with their tails spread out and they were barking up a storm.(This photo reminds me of John James Audubon's drawings of them). I tried to take video of them, but of course, they were quiet by the time I started recording.

This was a beautiful Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker but it was foraging Aspen Catkins and difficult to photograph.

 Yellow-rumped Warblers were seen several times on both Tuesday and Wednesday this week. I had my first Ruby Crowned Kinglet as well (see first photo in this posting).

 Lastly, I finally saw an Eastern Towhee, although he was being shy in a thicket and refused to entertain my vocalizations. I also found a Winter Wren near the Milk Ponds of the Tallgrass area. Almost not worth posting. Almost! The Winter Wren holds a special place in my birding memoirs. I would almost say it is a better bird to see than say, a Painted Bunting. Sure the Painted Bunting is colorful and mind-blowing. But the Winter Wren is understated and tiny. It's local. Canadian. Hard to find unless you understand its habitat.
Winter Wren...
Good birding!

Bonus Video: (sorry, its shaky... its at 500mm x1.6 magnification, handheld)


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