Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bobolink, Meadowlarks and Savanah Sparrows in Essex Co?

Are you kidding me? Wow! Four grassland species in the last two days. I was talking to a birder on Tuesday and he mentioned Bobolink were seen in a local field. I did not believe that these birds were around so when I got onsite, I almost dropped my binoculars when I saw the scene you see above. A blackbird with a white back and beige nape? .... Bobolink.  I've never seen a breeding plumaged male... ever. The sound these guys make is incredible!!!

Eastern Meadowlark was incredible to see as well. I was not expecting to see one. I've never seen an Eastern Meadowlark outside of the state of Florida. I'm blown away they were breeding just minutes from my home in Windsor!

And just as I was about to leave, I noticed a sparrow on a small fence and took a closer look... Savannah Sparrow. Lots of beautiful grassland species to behold. I can't believe it. It took me over two years to see a Bobolink in breeding plumage. I've never heard the call of a Bobolink until today... Just awesome.

Seeing the four grassland species this week (Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Dickcissel and Savannah Sparrow) has been incredible. My friend told me that this field has tall grass because it was raining too much to cut it earlier. *I would hate for machines to go through and cut the grass with all these birds nesting in it! Here is a great article about the burden of conservation in Ontario. Its a great, thought-provoking read...

Good Birding,

*I wrote this comment on Tuesday June 28th. I've added a second part of this posting below wrote on Wed June 29th, with a sad followup:

The posting above was from the 28th of June. Not even 24 hours after my initial visit to this site, I attempted to go back for some better photos only to realize the field had been cut. It was only 1/2 cut so I approached the man driving the tractor (he was taking a break) and mentioned that there were ground-nesting species that were endangered in Ontario. Of course, I was polite and we had a polite and civil converstation, but he stated he had to cut the field, but in the future, he would be willing to work with people to have a better outcome for these birds. He also mentioned if I can mark where the nests are, he would go around them. He then went on his way cutting the field.

Yesterday, I must have seen about 10 Eastern Meadowlarks flying around, hovering low over the grassy field as seen below:
 This hints that Eastern Meadowlarks were nesting, sadly, on the ground in waist-high grass.

Today, I returned to the site to take better photos, but I did not see one Meadowlark in over 1 hour. Some Bobolink were still around, as well as Savannah Sparrow. It was sad though, you would see Bobolink and Savannah Sparrows on the freshly cut hay mounds, and you couldn't help but wonder if that was where their nest was.

This was a birding-related example of how human interests conflict with our ecosystem's interests and the human interests typically win. This might be why this species is endangered  threatened (Crews) in Ontario. Grasslands need to be cut. They nest on the ground and the nests fail when a diesel tractor drives over them. Are there any compromises? Could this field have been cut after breeding season? Could the nests have been marked before the field was cut? I kind of gained a little more respect for vegetarians today (because this hay will be feed for cattle which eventually become steaks).

As I walked back to my car, I looked along the ground for broken egg shells or evidence of nests but did not see any. Hopefully, some breeding success will come of this. The farmer stated that the grass should have been cut weeks ago, but it was too wet.

Good birding,

CREWS BETTE JEAN, "Bobolink protection needs more than farmers", Barrie Examiner, Obtained June: 28th, 2011, Web, Oct 2010,

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dickcissels in Wheatley

Click photo for larger view

A very observant birder (Ken Burrell) made an Ontbirds Posting recently about several Dickcissel (Spiza Americana) in Wheatley and I figured that I would go and try my luck at finding them. I found them quite easily. I had an Ipod on me but found I did not need it, because there were three birds in that area singing: Red winged Blackbird, Dickcissel, and Indigo Buntings!
A drive out in Essex County along Cabots Trail will give views of many Oil Derriks Pumpjacks (aka Thirstybird). I wonder what the stats are on Ontario's oil production?  It really smelt like oil next to these strange machines...

I also coupled my trip out to Wheatley with a quick visit to Hillman Marsh and Point Pelee. Hillman Marsh was surprisingly quiet, although I only spent about 10 minutes there. Belted Kingfisher, a single fly-over Great Blue Heron and some Terns were about all that was noted.

I kayaked the marsh at Point Pelee today and did not see much. Black Terns were abundant though! They don't mind you so much if you are in a kayak (the photo below was shot while kayaking) but... if you walk on the boardwalk, they pretty well dive bomb you. They literally would hover 2ft over my head!

One of my favorite birds, the Red headed Woodpecker returned to the docks in Leamington.  I can't help but wonder if someone should come in and consult with the local landowners about making life more hospitable for this bird. Its  a "Special Concern Provincially, Threatened Nationally" (ROM) . There were all kinds of feeders around which seems to be attracting House Sparrows, Brown headed Cowbirds and the like. It would be cool if someone suggested planting various fruit bearing trees, remove the cheap feeders etc... or is it better to just leave these woodpeckers in the environment they've chosen?

Good birding!

This (Banded?) Hairstreak butterfly was on the roof of my car as I was about to remove my kayak at Point Pelee Marsh Boarwalk. I think my car needs a wash!!!

 ROM, "Red-headed Woodpecker ", Royal Ontario Museum, Web, Obtained June 27th, 2011,

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peregrine Progress v2

Not much new happening lately. I've visited the bridge area in west Windsor for the last few days and have had a chance to see the flightless, downy Peregrine chicks molt into large, beautifully feathered fledglings. The shots above are of "Lady Gaga" (aka X/64).  She was on a two-storey apartment building next to the bridge. I was only about 20m away on a porch next to the building she was perched on, and I was able to use a tree as a blind. This bird was trying to sleep, but kept getting harassed by an angry Robin! What a brave mommy Robin!

 This is Spitfire (R/11). He's not flying as well as Lady Gaga, so its easy to see him perched on a low ledge on the bridge. He's stretching, napping and eating food from his parents... working up the confidence to start flying.

How cool to be in a mid-city environment and see Peregrine Falcons flying overhead with food in their talons, perched on telephone wires, and being harassed in trees by Robins and Blue Jays (see photo below).
Some butterflies seen lately include Dreamy Duskywing, Southern Coudywing, Silver spotted Skipper, which I spotted while going on an Ojibway walk, looking for Northern Bobwhite which was reported earlier this week.

Good birding,

Dreamy Duskywing has metallic purple flecks in its forewing and has greatly extended mouthparts that are diagnostic.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Baltimore Checkerspot and the quest for Shorebird Habitat in Windsor

A recent posting by Josh V. (Ontario Birds and Herps) had featured beautiful Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies, a species that I've never seen in person before, so I figured I would go out and see for myself. Sure enough, just minutes after entering the Provincial Ojibway Reserve (across the road from the visitor center) I spotted the Checkerspot. Oddly enough, I saw it again days later at the exact same spot along the path. It's a very tame butterfly in my short experience with it. You can almost walk right up to it. When it flies, it hardly tries to avoid you, almost running into you. And in both cases, I walked away from it. It's not shy.

I have been trying to get out to the Spring-garden area in West Windsor which is part of the Ojibway Complex. It is well reputed as being a great spot for butterflies as well. The Mourning Cloak butterfly above was seen there as well as many uncooperative Giant Swallowtails. Black Oak Heritage Park has been good for butterflies and birds as well.

When you approach Ojibway, make a point of looking in the pond as you drive in. Saturday, I saw a female Wood Duck with 11 or so baby ducklings.
Belted Kingfisher on the Owl Nestboxes of the Ojibway pond. Always interesting to see. The Wood Ducks and the Kingfisher were taken from inside my car as entered the park.
I also brought my wife and son to see the new Ojibway Nature Center this Saturday (it was really our first walk through the new center). My son is two years old and I hope he can learn so much from the staff, programs and resources at Ojibway. My son already enjoys bird watching! We look at Robins and American Goldfinches in our back yard and he points at them, smiles and says: "bir-bie!". In my front yard, I have a fruit-bearing Mulberry tree which has attracted many birds as of late. This week I have my first Cedar Waxwing as a yard bird. I also have been given great views of House Finches, Goldfinches, and Robins.

Shorebird Habitat in LaSalle?

On Father's Day, I visited relatives in LaSalle, just near the corner of Huron Church Rd and Cousineau (Near Windsor Crossing or St Clair College). There is a school with a stormwater detention pond (map) and soccer fields next to it. It seems like this pond has been a little bit of a  migrant trap or an oasis in an otherwise urbanized / monoculture farmland environment. Today, I spotted a Mallard Duck family, Great Egret, Killdeer (many), and Spotted Sandpipers (many) ! This seems to be pretty nice shorebird habitat, and I think I will keep an eye on it more in the late summer/fall (or pay my little nephew to keep an eye out for me).

Is this the only shorebird habitat in Windsor/LaSalle? I'm not aware of any other spot that has mudflats in Windsor!

Good birding,


I've recently purchased a butterfly field guide from the Ojibway Nature Center, so if I've been painfully botching some of my identifications, I hope to be a little more accurate.  :^)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bluebirds, Buntings, Butterflies and Breeders

Even though I was sick this weekend,  I made an attempt to go for a short walk on Sunday and I don't even know if its worth posting with so many awesome birds around. White-faced Ibis have shown up at Point Mouillee (which is closer to Windsor than Point Pelee is) and Willow Ptarmigan was found in Oshawa. Jean Iron's site has some great photos: Luc Fazio's took video and shared on youtube: Willow Ptarmigan Youtube Video. I guess my photos of juvenile Robins pale in comparison :^).
Even though very common, a recently fledged Robin is still a beautiful Thrush to observe

I walked Black Oak Heritage Park Sunday and saw some great birds and butterflies. My favorite area of this park is a little grassy meadow surrounded on the North and South by Carolinean Forests. Some of my best birding experiences have been in this valley-meadow. The google map below makes an attempt to show the location of this grassy area behind the Dainty Rice company. This area is also crawling with butterflies, in particular, Pipevine Swallowtails.

View Larger Map

Possibly the most interesting bird I saw this weekend was a breeding Chestnut sided Warbler! I had no idea they breed this far south but according to the Ojibway birding checklist, they are marked as breeders.  This photo shows a Chestnut sided Warbler trying to impale a (spider nest?) on a short branch.

Below are the Buntings and Bluebirds sorry for the repetition, but it's summer... I still get excited seeing Eastern Bluebirds. There are no Bluebird Houses that you can hang out around to take photos... I'm thinking the Bluebirds at Ojibway are generally using natural cavaties in the trees...

In this meadow behind Black Oak Heritage Park I saw:
Indigo Buntings
Eastern Bluebirds
Chestnut Sided Warbler (Wow... I was shocked to see this in June!)
Warbling Vireo (Close to the ground perched on a branch)
Red eyed Vireo (heard)
Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Blue Heron (flyover)
Red tailed Hawk
American Goldfinch
House Wren
Song Sparrow
Spicebush Swallowtail (many) -8
Red Spotted Purple -1
American Painted Lady-1
Giant Swallotail-2

3-4 Spicebush Swallowtails on the same flower... cool!

Good Birding,

PS: I learned something about swallowtails today. A Black Swallowtail has two rows of yellow (see below) on the upperside of the wing, and a Spicebush Swallowtail has only one row of yellow (see above). A pipevine swallowtail has no rows of yellow! I need to invest in a small butterfly guide.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Peregrine Falcons at the Bridge V2

 Today's paper had an article about two new baby falcons that have hatched at the bridge in Windsor (Lady Gaga and Spitfire). I couldn't help but stop by tonight while going for a riverside walk with the family.  I'm thinking CPF stands for Canadian Peregrine Foundation?
 Could the photo below be a Peregrine Falcon with a baby Owl? I wish the falcons would eat some of the abundant Starlings around... but who am I to tell these raptors what to eat? Any guesses on what he/she has?
Good birding!
 More photos from Wednesday...
 The sexual dimorphism of raptors usually has the female as the larger of the two. That hints that the one on the right side is the male. This is on the steeple of Assumption Church next to the bridge. The fledgling above is probably 'Lady Gaga' as the sibling seemed to be smaller and weaker in behind her.



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