Saturday, August 27, 2011

Black billed Cuckoo, just by chance!

I woke up early today and did the typical Tilbury/ Hillman Marsh/ Point Pelee circuit with little to show for it!
Its hard to beleive that last year at about this time, I saw my 200th bird, the Solitary Sandpiper. I've painstakingly added 78 more species since then... will I make it to 300? :^)

Tilbury - As Blake mentioned, the shorebird cell is almost completely dry, just a few square meters of water left, concentrating the few shorebirds to a small area near the dyke road. Nothing new or noteworthy. Long billed Dowitchers, Solitary Sandpipers, Least and Stilt Sandpipers with two species of Plover.  I noted several Horned Larks (with Killdeers) on the gravel roadway as well.

Hillman Marsh - Many Egrets, GB Herons, Green Herons, Belted Kingfishers, were around. No surprises or rarities seen. A Common Yellowthroat and a Marsh Wren were making noise in a Phragmites thicket near the wetland cell.

Point Pelee's Marsh - I kayaked Point Pelee's Marsh and saw all the same birds as last week. Black bellied Plover (no Golden Plover yet!), Short billed Dowitcher, Stilt Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper were seen. West Cranberry Pond had an assortment of gulls, shorebirds as well as hundreds of Cormorants were seen. Two raptors seen in the marsh were a distant Northern Harrier and a Juvi Bald Eagle which flew almost 20m over my head. Pretty cool but not shocking... . I wanted to bird other parts of Pelee, possibly to find a rare flycatcher (yellow bellied or olive sided would be lifers) but as usual, I ran out of time. 

I spotted a spotless spotted sandpiper. The baring on its back is diagnostic for juvi's.
The highlight of the day was driving through the onion fields and noticing my friend Rick from Leamington. We drove by each other and then Rick did a three point turn. We pulled up to each other and talked a little about life and work. As we spoke, I noticed a large, skulking bird with an oddly horizontal posture. Black billed Cuckoo, photographed from my car. Notice the red eye ring and long tail extending below the branch!

Next weekend, I would like to check out Holiday Beach for warblers and possibly a trip to Pointe Mouillee in Michigan for some shorebirds. Last years trip netted 10 lifers... Buff breasted Sandpipers and Marbled Godwits to name a few.

Good birding,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Late Summer Kayaking at PPNP

SB Dowitchers were abundant today. Click image for full size view.
I went for a little kayak trip to Point Pelee's marsh again on Tuesday. Not much different than usual... In fact, it was pretty well the exact same list of birds from a trip that I took last year at about this time. Its amazing how cyclical nature can be.  I saw the Great Horned Owl that had hatched earlier this year near Sanctuary Pond. Closer to the marsh, there were numerous short billed dowitchers and a surprise black bellied plover.

Some species (rough estimates) seen on my 1-hour Point Pelee Marsh kayak trip:
Spotted Sandpiper 5
Semi-Plover: 20
Semi-Sandpiper 25
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Short billed Dowitcher 40
Black bellied Plover 1
Black Terns 300-500
GB Herons 4
BCN Heron 1

Northern Harrier 1
Great Horned Owl 1 (Near Sanctuary)
Double Crested Cormorant 50+ (overhead)

 I guess its obvious at this point, but kayaking gives great looks at shorebirds at this time of year. 

Good birding!

PS: Two years ago at this time I photographed several Rudy Turnstones on East Beach at PPNP. I love this photo, but I it should have been dated: Aug 14th, 2009:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Western Kingbird in Windsor

Yesterday's Ontbirds report from James Holdsworth had reported Western Kingbirds (in Windsor) so this posting attempts to document this great find. James' posting was incredibly detailed and covered plumage, behavior and vocalizations... its worth reading if you haven't read it. James also sent me some photos and gave me permission to repost them. The following four are some that he took:
Props to James for finding these! I would have looked at this bird and assumed it was GC Flycatcher.

This morning, I found them myself. I found them perched on the telephone wires about 50m before the entrance to the power station at the end of Lauzon road. Some selected photos that I took from my car:

Even in great light, it was hard to get a nice 3/4 frontal angle photo of the Western Kingbird. Overall though, it was nice to see a small Kingbird family flying around and calling to each other. Thanks again to James for sharing his photos and this excellent find with Ontbirds.

A google map of where to locate these birds (as described by James Holdsworth) can be found below:,-82.915463&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x883b2a7ba4abbe17:0x42d0117a8dd44df,%2B42%C2%B0+17%27+14.48%22,+-82%C2%B0+54%27+54.18%22&gl=ca&ei=DgpETuj2KseGsgKE0IiODQ&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CBcQ8gEwAA

Good birding,

PS: If a Western Kingbird has baby birds with an Eastern Kingbird... would the fledglings be Midwestern Kingbirds? lol!  :^)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

American Avocet in Leamington

While driving on hwy #3 today, I noticed a large shorebird in a newly excavated area in field about 400m west of Talbot Rd East in Leamington.  I stopped to check it out and wow... American Avocet. I wanted to high-five somebody when I saw this bird, but I was by myself on the shoulder of highway three... lol.

I think this is a female Avocet. Female Avocets have a sharp curve near the last 1/3rd of their bills, as opposed to males that have an upward curve through the whole bill. Any thoughts?
It was a tricky day for photography, every 5 minutes it went from being sunny and bright to cloudy and dark. I found myself constantly switching my white balance from cloudy to sunny, then ISO from 200 <-->800. I've never worked so hard to take a photo of a bird! These Avocet photos are not that great, but at least they are diagnostic.
More on the American Avocet :

I went on to look at Hillman Marsh which had many Egrets and Herons, but not much else of interest. The shorebird cell is completely dry. I can't understand why the shorebird cell is dry with major migration taking place in August and September. Does it cost ERCA money to flood this field?


Earlier on in the day, I visited Tilbury S.L., which had a good assortment of shorebirds... Nothing new though.
Some included...

Long billed Dowitcher
Short billed Dowitcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Plover
Spotted Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Good Birding!

Lifer Summary:
Lesser Black Backed Gull (correction, never counted #276)
Semipalmated Plover (Correction, never counted #277)
American Avocet #278

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wilson's Phalarope whilst kayaking...

A recent kayak trip to PPNP had most of the easily seen peeps... Not much different than last week, Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers, Least and Spotted Sandpipers were easily seen. Several hundred Black Terns were out in the main marsh area. The highlight of the trip was a first summer Wilson's Phalarope, which completely ignored me and my bright red 16.5' kayak as it foraged the small muddy islands in PPNP's marsh (see video). This WP was so close at one point, it was closer than the minimal focus distance on my lens! Very cool!

Good Birding!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Trio of Topics

1-Lady Gaga (the Peregrine Falcon) Euthanized

This is old news now (July 12th, 2011), but did you know Lady Gaga (the Peregrine Falcon) was euthanized? There is a sad story that basically boils down to this: The falcon was discovered limping on the ground so she was brought to a local Windsor Vet. They did surgery on her leg which involved using titanium pins and was collaborated online with vets in California and abroad. At her recovery center near Toronto, an X-Ray had revealed that her wing was severely damaged as well, so they decided it was in her best interest to be euthanized... A falcon's first summer must be spent learning how to kill birds in mid-air. She would have been unable to feed herself having missed that learning window...

Windsor Star Article:

2-Can Birders Have Nice Lawns?

I was weeding my lawn recently (manually, by hand) and a neighbor came up to me suggesting that I use the stuff he gets from 'The States'. I told him that I appreciate the offer but I prefer not to use chemicals on my lawn because I'm a nature lover and I have a two-year old son. (I though about explaining to him how marsh birds are declining like 4%  3.6% per year (Birdwatch Canada) and I still haven't lifered American Bittern, King Rail or Virginia Rail for that matter). My neighbor then went on to complain that the 'earth friendly' weed and feed does not work. I don't think he understood my (polite) conscientious objection to using weed and feed. I'm not convinced that there is no harm done to the environment.

But, weeding a lawn in Windsor on a hot, humid summers' day is not fun either. I couldn't help think as I continued to stubbornly and manually weed my lawn about the commercials that society endures relating to cosmetic lawn chemicals. I thought about the Ortho commercial that features a good looking couple talking about how they're not going to be that homeowner that has weeds blowing all over the neighborhood. If you deconstruct the psychology behind the message, its basically: If you have a weedy lawn, your neighbors will hate you and you better conform to the expectation that you will have a nice lawn. If not, don't expect to be invited to the next neighborhood bbq! lol...

Click here to see a related Ortho Video on pesticides, not herbicides:

I wonder if there are nature lovers and birders that complain about our failing wetlands but have beautiful, lush, chemically induced kentucky bluegrass mono-culture lawns? Congrats to Ontario for banning cosmetic lawn pesticides. That took alot of guts by our politicians and I'm sure the chemical industries were not happy about that law being put into place. But, I still think cosmetic lawn pesticides are still readily available, and has this law simply created a black market for people to go across the river and buy this stuff from Detroit's Home Depots?

3-My photography is featured on Cornell's Website:
I was shocked to find out my Golden Eagle photo from last fall is now being used on! Cornell has a Flickr Group called Birdshare and I have all of my bird photos with this great group. Several other groups and parties have taken interest in my photos. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden contacted me to use several of my photos from my Flickr account in their literature! A museum in Oregon also took interest in some photos as well as a Breeding Bird Atlas project in Vermont. I have not really responded to requests in the past but I figure, why not? Even if I make no money off my photos, they could help someone take notice in the beauty and wonder of nature... that alone is payment enough.

Good birding,

Birdwatch Canada, Summer 2011 Number 56, Bird Studies Canada, (Journal), pg 23, Port Rowan ON


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