Thursday, September 29, 2011

More "Big Year" Trailers V2

The Big Year is coming out in mid-October... I think I'll be going to see it on opening night. I joked with my wife that I would wear binoculars...

or try this one...

I don't know if I've ever considered any of the 2-3 years of birding I've been doing as 'big-years'. But this year, my life list is pretty well my year list. I'm at around 282 birds in my life list and probably 275 for the year.

I'm hoping this weekend will have some good birds with a low pressure system finally moving out and providing trailing northern winds.

Birds I'de like to see in October are:
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Northern Goshawk
  • American Pipit

This is an awesome chart that shows the movement of Raptors in S/E Michigan between September and November. I'm sure Holiday Beach's statistics would provide an almost identical chart. I've posted this last October, but couldn't help reposting it. Its a good reference to see what raptors are 'in season' as fall progresses.

Image source:

One of my favorite raptors from last fall was this Golden Eagle that flew right overhead while walking with the Ojibway birding group. With a wingspan of 87" (220cm)... it was pretty awesome! See for more details on this bird.

This photo is featured in Cornell's site... Cool!

Good birding!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

This last week has been lackluster with respect to birding. Even with several trips to local hotspots, not much was seen. Fall birding is often like this. It is a 'slower burn' than the spring migration and this means some walks that are less birdy than others.

Saturday morning, my wife and son visited Holiday Beach and had a chance to see some birds up close as some recently banded birds were shown to the crowds. Oddly enough, the three birds shown between 11-12am were a RT Hummingbird, Grey cheeked Thrush, and a Yellow bellied Flycatcher... Three birds featured in my last posting. These birds were in hand, last weeks birds were in the bush.

Its funny how different birds look in hand than in a tree. Last weeks GCT looks bigger somehow.

For $10, I adopted this bird and was able to release it back to the wild. Very cool!

Bad photo... Remind me not to wear black shirts when holding birds.(Note: the black shirt made the camera overexpose the light coloured bird (Yellow Bellied Flycatcher))
 Ojibway Park's Tallgrass Prarie has been the best spot for wablers this last week. Some birds seen there were resident Tufted Titmouse and Northern Flickers as well as Black-and-white, Nashville and Redstart warblers along with Red-eyed and Philadelphia Vireos. Ruby crowned Kinglets have been seen at Ojibway and Holiday Beach this week, along with a few empid flycatchers.

I even visited Tilbury last week (mid-week) but was unable to really get good looks at the few shorebirds that were there. I think a scope would be needed to confidently identify the peeps that were out there. White rumped Sandpipers would be tempting to lifer, but I can't confidently make that call with the looks I had of them (see photo below).

Good birding,

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Point Pelee's OFO Convention Birding

I stopped into PPNP this morning for a short birding walk. As usual, I only had a precious two hours to bird the park, so I rolled the dice and decided to walk the Delaurier Path. This path has been really good in the past, especially in the fall because there is lots of edge habitat (forest/field and forest/marsh) as well as several wet sloughs. The area around the sloughs (the elevated boardwalk & octagon platform) are loaded with dogwood berries, wild grapes, sumac and jewelweed.

The Delaurier parking lot provided a brief look at a (house?) Wren, and a few warblers were seen along the path, but really, I hardly saw much as I rounded the Delarier path. I did have good looks at Northern Flicker and many overhead Sharp Shinned Hawks. Perhaps that's why nothing was really out in the open. Even though birds were hardly seen, it was cool to see so many Ruby throated hummingbirds. Along the path, batches of Jewelweed would be guarded by a perched Hummingbird (see above photo). I must have seen about 15 hummingbirds along this path. 

Then, just as I rounded the Delaurier path, I ran into a group of birders from the OFO convention that was talking place this weekend at Point Pelee. I think the group was led by Bruce DiLabio, and his son Ben (the leader calling his son Ben tipped me off). Bruce and the group quickly spotted a Grey Cheeked Thrush which would have been a lifer. Another group member mentioned seeing a flycatcher skulking in the same bush. Ben later mentioned seeing a Yellow bellied Flycatcher as well (another potential lifer)!

Yellow bellied Flycatcher. An unexpected and exciting lifer.
I did not really see any birds at first, and I then followed the group along Ander's Path to see some hard-fought warblers, Magnolia, Black throated Blue, and a Blue headed Vireo, preening in a pine. The group quickly left Ander's Footpath shortly after (they rushed off to NW Beach). As I was about to leave myself, I tried one more time for the Grey Cheeked thrush and luckily, it perched out into the open, along with the yellow bellied flycatcher... Both lifers at #282 & #283.
A Grey cheeked Thrush. Do you see it's gray facial features? Its almost identical to a Hermit Thrush!
While exciting to get two more lifers, I must say it was a cautious excitement because these two particular birds are tough to identify. The flycatchers are so similar I really am not 100% sure of what I'm looking at when I see one. Also, the spot-breasted Thrushes are all very similar as well. But I'm quite confident the identification is correct. The thrush above is obviously not a Swainson's Thush.  Lifers are few and far between as you approach 300!

Good birding,

PS: I checked the onion fields for American Golden Plover (they were reported there yesterday) but no such luck. I think I'm the only birder in Ontario who has not yet seen an Am G. Plover!

Lifer summary:
Grey cheeked Thrush #282
Yellow bellied Flycatcher #283

23,480 Broad winged Hawks today at Holiday Beach

I stopped by Holiday Beach today after work (Friday Sept 16th). I figured it would be a good day as I drove down Howard Ave and noticed roadside flags blowing in a Southeasterly direction indicating North-West winds. Also the weather on Friday was dramatically colder which may encourage some movement as well.

Upon arrival to Holiday Beach, I started off by scanning the forest edge along the beach, but not much was  seen. Later from the hawk tower, 16 species of warblers continually streamed by the trees bordering the area around the tower. Several flycatchers were noticed as they perched on a leaf-less branches. The one below might be a Least Flycatcher. Red eyed Vireos, various Thrushes and Cardinals were present as well.

A Least Flycatcher

Some raptors seen today ... well so many were seen... Merlins, Coopers, Sharp Shinned, Bald Eagles, Osprey, Broad winged Hawks, Common Nighthawks, and Northern Harriers... wow... that was in one hour that I was on the tower! Five Wilson's Snipe passed over the tower at one point and obviously ducks and herons were everpresent.

I had forgotten my binoculars, so I could not really enjoy the numerous kettles of Broad winged Hawks, but at times, some were low enough to see with the naked eye, and I attempted to take some photos. Even at 5:30pm, streams of Broadwings were still going overhead.
This video... well, it's not that good, but is worth watching if you've never seen a good kettle of hawks. When I take video with my camera, I must hold the camera away from my face, as I must look at the preview screen. With the heavy lens and manual focusing, it really makes it too wobbly to make for decent video footage. Still pretty cool though.

Good birding,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Holiday Beach Hawkwatch on Sept 11th 2011

Birding in the Neighborhood
 A quick walk to the end of my street this morning (there is a small 2-acre forest there) netted a Warbling Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo (I think), Swainsons Thrush, Black Capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmouse.  I typically don't see Tufted Titmice too much over the summer as they seem to avoid bird feeders and are more secluded in the woods (IMHO). Also, I have not really seen Tufted Titmouse in Windsor outside of Ojibway Park, so to see them residing in the small forest near my house is pretty exciting. The feather molt on Tufted Titmice seems to really clean up nicely for the winter, so these birds will probably look a little nicer in November. They're probably juvi's as they don't have too much rust colour in their flanks.
Buffy spectacles and olive coloured flanks hint that this is a Swainson's Thrush. He's on his way to Central or South America for the Winter.
Tufted Titmouse... one of my favorite birds, and a Windsor specialty

Holiday Beach Hawkwatch
A mid-afternoon family trip to Holiday Beach had some nice looks at some raptors that are in-season in early September such as Sharp-shinned Hawks, American Kestrel and Osprey. Resident Bald Eagles were there as well.

Even though the forested beach  area was pretty well birdless, some of the trees next to the observation tower were pretty active with passerines. The trees had singles of Warbling and Philly Vireos along with Yellow, Magnolia, Nashville and Cape May Warblers.

I'm quite confident this is a Philadelphia Vireo, a lifer incredibly... at 281. I thought I had seen a Philly last fall, but many keen blog readers quickly pointed out the lack of yellow on the throat and chest (it was really a warbling vireo). One must ID a Philadelphia Vireo carefully as they are very similar in appearance to Warbling Vireos and (to a lesser extent) Red eyed Vireos. Philadelphia's are much more rare than Warbling Vireos as well... indeed, its taken me three years to finally see this bird!

Good birding,

Lifer summary:  Philadelphia Vireo #281

PS: Common Nighthawks flying over the house tonight along with Swallows.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Parasitic & Long tailed Jaeger at Hamilton's Van Wagners Beach

I couldn't help but chase the Parasitic and Long tailed Jaeger's that were at Van Wagner's Beach this Saturday morning. I was going to title this posting: Chasing Jagermeister, the bird, not the shot.  I've never been one to do shots, so I'll just give the basic title above.

Anyway, I arrived at Van Wagners Beach at 8:30am and walked the beach for a few minutes. I quickly spotted a Sanderling and experimented photographing it at different ISO/Aperture combinations. I also got low to the ground to really allow the short, telephoto induced depth of field to really isolate the bird from its background with natural gaussian blur. Some of my last photos of the Sanderling were at ISO200/F11, which ended up hurting me later...

Later on, I joined a group of birders at the Lakeland Center and finally met Josh Vandermeulen & David Bell. I told Josh that when I leave at 11am, the birds will naturally come in. Ironically, 11-12 had the best showings of Jaegers of the morning, so my extra hour there paid off.
My earlier ISO200/ F11 setting ended up giving me 1/300 sec when the Jaeger went overhead...

At noon, I checked out the Windermere Basin which is just a few minutes from VW Beach. It was cool to visit, but I was a little bothered with all the trash in the mudflats. Shopping carts, tires and chemical barrels littered this otherwise beautiful habitat surrounded by an industrial wasteland.

Some birds seen at Windermere Basin were an assortment of ducks, Black bellied Plover, and some small flocks of shorebirds. Many butterflies were around including this Wild indigo Duskywing.

I dropped by Tilbury SL on the way home and was disappointed to find the shorebird area void of any avifauna.

Good birding,

Lifer summary:
Parasitic Jaeger 279
Long tailed Jaeger 280

Bonus Video: Full Frame Sanderling

Monday, September 5, 2011

Holiday Beach on Labour Day Weekend

A little tradition I started two years ago is to basically bird the forested area at Holiday Beach on Labour Day Weekend. I can almost say that the concentration of warblers, vireos and thrushes in this 200m strip of beach is consistently higher than any other place I've birded, including PPNP! (This statement only applies for the first week or two of September.) Today was a little quiet at Holiday Beach overall, even though the WNW winds were somewhat favorable to birds being found along the shore of Lake Erie.

The first three birds I saw today were a perched Kingfisher right on some rocks along the beach, an obligatory Northern Flicker and Blue grey Gnatcatcher. A Carolina Wren was singing loudly near the banding station, but I could not locate it. House Wrens and Black capped Chickadees scolded me as I walked the dunes of holiday beach in search of migrants.
I hit a really nice pocket of warblers along the beach today. It was a really nice 20 minutes of birding!  Outside of that small flock of warblers, it was pretty quiet. A few warblers seen include: Wilson's, Black and White, Blackburnian, Magnolia, Blackpoll, and American Redstarts. I had seen or photographed a few more but could not really ID them confidently.

Besides warblers, there were many Cedar Waxwings and Blue Jays. Raptors seen from the tower included several sharp shinned hawks, bald eagles, swallows, humingbirds and more (the daily report is sent out to Ontbirds Subscribe to or See: I was only on the hawk tower for 20 minutes.
This Eagle flew over the bridge over big creek in Amherstburg.
Its amazing to read the Ontbirds reports and read about people's interactions with migrants along Lake Ontario, Huron and Erie. I've seen and read several reports about Jaegers in Hamilton and Sarnia... (drool). I think I might make the effort to get out there and see these guys (P & LT Jaegers). I'm due for a lifer!

Good birding!


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