Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mid Week Holiday Beach Birding Walk

I stopped by Holiday Beach after work today for a quick 1 hour walk and tower observing. It was really slow this afternoon even though winds seemed favorable for good raptor migration.  But, almost nothing went by this afternoon. Today's Holiday Beach report was emailed out and it was stated that winds were (in the afternoon) "increasing slightly out of the northwest". It made me wonder if NW winds push Raptors into Point Pelee (which acts as a bird funnel) and then over the Lake Erie Archipelago Islands towards Ohio. It would be a good orithological experiment to take several days and compare counts at Holiday beach verses Point Pelee and see which spots gets more traffic based on NW winds and NE winds. I guess several other factors would come into play... Buteos may be more willing to cross the water than Accipiters. Flight elevation or sun/cloud cover may be other variables. Maybe I'm overthinking it... Maybe it was just a slow day!!!

Anyway, I walked around the pond and checked out some other areas at Holiday Beach that have been birdy in the past and basically I saw the following:

Lots of overhead blackbirds
Eastern Phoebe
Golden Crowned Kinglets
Ruby Crowned Kinglets
Winter Wren *
Carolina Wren *
Many Thrushes, Mainly Robins
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker

 Do you see the Winter Wren in the above photo?

I love Wrens. Seeing a Winter Wren last year at around this time was incredibly exciting. You have to really be looking for a Winter Wren to find one in my experience. You have to know its habitat, and also know when its coming through. Carolina Wrens are brilliant to look at and behold, possibly even more so sonically. The "Tea-kettle Tea-kettle" call or the "Breeeeet  Breeeeet  Breeeet" call are absolutely awesome to experience. It took me a while to associate these calls with this bird. That is the learning curve of birding by ear....

Good Birding!

PS: Speaking about the Lake Erie Archipelago, I hope to finally visit Pelee Island... Hopefully next April or May... Stay tuned.

PSS: The Ontario Field Onithologists website has a great article on Raptor Migration in Ontario here:

PSSS: Could this old photo be a ... Northern Goshawk? I ID'd this last November as a Cooper's Hawk.  Any thoughts? NG's have fluffy undertail coverts, that have dark markings in them. I should check if other photos show this marking.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

WeBird - An app that will tell you what bird you're listening to...

Imagine, you are on vacation and you hear a bird that you are unfamiliar with. You pull out your smartphone, record the call and seconds later, you have the name and photo of the bird call you were hearing. This is not a distant reality according to this article below. Much like electronic playback of bird calls, this new technology will call into question more ethical implications of being able to identify a particular bird. It would be cool to say, walk into the Ojibway Nature center and have a live board publish the most recent birds that have vocalized out back near the feeders. 

The press release of this impressive software can be found here.

The interesting thing about this article is that as I was reading it, I thought about my Computer Science 4th year paper, in which I implemented a dynamic-programing algorithm for string matching fragments of DNA. This application was written in the Java programming language. Back in 2001, I also made my Yahoo email account, dwaynejava. ... Hence the name dwaynejava.

A Youtube video describing the software is shown below. A good birder knows how to bird by ear, but this will help people that are not in their region or novices to learn bird calls.

Good birding!

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Digital Workflow

A few people have asked me since I've started my blog about my digital workflow. Digital Workflow is how each person takes their photos from their camera and then places them onto their computer, and the workflow to post-process those photos and potentially share them via email or on the web on through Flickr or Blogger.

For starters, I have a Canon 7D SLR camera with a Sigma 150-500mm OS lens. I have a nice medium range zoom lens that offers a nice F2.8 aperture through the range of its zoom. With this camera, I have 2 8GB memory cards.

When I get home after birding, I typically apologize to my wife for being late, then place my 8GB Compact Flash card into a USB card-reader. I have a great program called Google Picasa (see screen shot above) that not only edits my photos but also imports and manages my collection of photos. The one thing I really love about Picasa is that it 'runs light'. It opens up quick, does what you want to do, and you're done.

Here is a link to Google Picasa's Official site: This Wonderful Image Editor/manager is free software!!! The video below is 5 minutes and well worth watching if you are even mildly interested in photography.

An incredible feature in this software is non-destructive editing, so if you crop, brighten, darken photos, you can always revert back to your original no matter how much you change the original.

You can "tag" your images so if you need to find pictures of a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, you can simply search for it and if you tagged it earlier, it will be found as you type each letter or the item you are looking for (Lexicographically).

You can "Star" your images so that even if you only have 20 out of 200 that are really keepers, you can hide your unstarred photos so you can see the best of your work, without deleting the many others you may want 'just in case'.

Finally, one final feature that I love is the Export feature.

You chose a single photo that you might want to email to a friend or post on a blog, so you simply click File | Export then set the settings in the export dialog box. The screenshot above shows what that looks like. One cool thing I like to do is label my photos with a 'watermark' stating the bird, the location, and the month/year and a final stamp, ~DM that lets you know that you are truly looking at a Dwaynejava original, a photographic work of art (lol... I'm not that good).

To further describe how export works, think of your large, original files in "My Documents/My Photos". When you export, you make a second (smaller) version of that file. I like to export my files to a folder on my desktop, say "Desktop/Exported Photos". When I export a file, they show up in that desktop folder. So its that smaller, water-marked, cropped, brightened, post-processed photo that I upload to my blog.

I still can't understand how this software is free. Thank you Google for making great, simple image editing software and then giving it to the people!

Good Birding,

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Birding Point Pelee and Hillman Marsh in Late October

Its been almost two weeks since I've been birding. Last weekend, I just couldn't make it out and this last week, I was either working or studying for an exam I had to write this morning. I wrote the exam this morning at 9am and drove directly to Hillman Marsh and Point Pelee. Nothing overly exciting although I did get good looks of all the seasonal migrants that are moving through right now. The highlight was a pair of Orange Crowned Warblers as seen at the end of this posting.

Hillman Marsh*
Wow, just driving into the entranceway, I stopped at the self pay area because of the number of birds around. White crowned, White throated Sparrows, along with a few Lincoln's were around. Pelee had these sparrows as well as  Song and Swamp Sparrows. Hermit (many) and one Swainson Thrush were seen as well as a Grey Catbird. Ruby Crowned Kinglets are very common right now as well (obviously).


 Along the water, a Belted Kingfisher and Eastern Phoebe were hanging out. Sharp Shinned Hawks and American Kestrels streamed above Hillman as well. Flocks of Blackbirds (mainly Red-winged) were going by as well.

Point Pelee***
I also stopped by Point Pelee after Hillman. I headed towards the tip parking lot but on the way, couldn't help but stop at Sleepy Hollow due to the shear number of birds that were skulking in the roadside foliage. Myrtle Yellow Rumps and Ruby Crowned Kinglets along with seasonal sparrow species were around. A Red bellied Woodpecker was hanging out there as well.

The Tip of Point Pelee was not overly active today. I did get a chance to run into my friends Rick & Dan from Leamington though. One cool thing about this tip this morning was a whirl-wind of butterflies. Mainly Monarch but some Question mark, Comma, and Red Admiral. They were reluctant to leave the tip and cross the water towards Ohio. Some hawks were flying overhead but basically, I soon left the tip of Point Pelee to check out Shuster Trail.

As you can see below, Shuster Trail had Winter Wrens, a gorgeous Red-Shouldered Hawk and Bald Eagle were seen. More Kinglets, Sparrows and Hermit Thrushes as well. Many Sparrows were around (some singing) and I noted a Swamp Sparrow as well in the bunch. Some trees near the end of Shuster had Rusty Blackbirds and Robins perched. An Eastern Comma butterfly was alone on the East Beach.

As I left Point Pelee, I stopped near the "meadow" at Sanctuary Pond. I checked out a Heron initially but then heard a Caronlina Wren (Breeeeet, Breeet Breeeeett) and followed the sound. Golden crowned Kinglets greeted me along with a late House Wren and an Awesome look at two Orange Crowned Warblers (male and female). These warblers have been very rare to me. I've only seen a female OCW last fall from a great distance and it was pointed out to me. Today, this sexually dimorphic pair of Orange Crowned Warblers were at close range, giving great views. They have a very distinct colour, almost yellowish-green with very distinct spectacles on the male and crisp, sharp beaks.
 Not a bad afternoon of fall birding. Winter Wren was nice to see. I wanted to see a Yellow bellied Sapsucker but good looks at Orange crowned Warblers was a nice consolation.

Good birding!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thoughts on the Movie: The Big Year

Overall, I really enjoyed seeing this movie. I would recommend it to any of my friends and family, especially those who don't really understand what birding is. Of course, birding isn't competitive for everyone, but this movie delves into that aspect as well. I will put a Spoiler Alert here.  If you have not seen the movie, do not read the remaining paragraphs.

The three main characters are Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin. All three have their own different approach and techniques to birding. They have different economic means and different support and priorities from their family and work networks.

Jack black was a working stiff who is trying to compete against two other men that have all the time in the world to bird. Jack ends up 'getting the girl' which was cool to see and he ends up coming second in the big year competition... but some may argue he should come first, because he started a relationship and maintained a job and even re-kindled a relationship with his father.

Owen Wilson was his charismatic self and came off as a talented and honest birder. He had good stories to tell and had so much going for him but we get to see his passion for birding slowly kills his relationship with his wife. I felt uncomfortable during various scenes where he neglects his wife... and my wife felt that tension as well. Indeed, Owen's character stated at one point: 'I have to keep birding because I need to be first... Nobody remembers the person who comes second'... his wife states, I know 'exactly' what you mean... very chilling, very ironic twist that the wife feels second and feels forgotten about in their marriage.

Steve Martin's character is a wealthy friendly retired type that is likable. He is a good birder that misses the occasional rarity due to work or family commitments. One cool scene that I liked in the movie with him was when he chased a Hummingbird in a BC neighborhood and he fumbles around trying to get past a backyard gate and suddenly, the iridescent Xantus Hummingbird flutters in front of him in slow motion. There are several great moments like this that show that special moment of seeing a rare bird for the first time.

Other such moments include Owen Wilson seeing a Great spotted Woodpecker after getting into an accident (that is similar to how I saw a Lewis's Woodpecker this summer, but instead of an accident, it was my son throwing up in the back seat of our rental car). Another scene that resonated with me was when Jack Black separates from his father in a forest and reunites with him during a special moment of seeing a perched Great grey Owl. His father who was so critical about birding discovered this awesome owl and they just quietly celebrate the moment with a hug and silent high-fives... A very cool moment in the film. A Pink footed Goose finding was exciting as well because it demonstrated the importance of persistence. Several attempts were made to see this bird but it was only seen on the fourth attempt. This is a moment that I have felt on a few occasions. In particular, last November when I found a Northern Shrike at Malden Park. Or finding an American Avocet in Leamington while driving this Summer. Moments of pure euphoria and excitement induced by a chance encounter with rare avifauna.

I can't really say anything bad about this movie. I know one criticism of the movie is that it shows how some birders are not very carbon friendly in their pursuits of avifauna. That is a tough one ... I know that for myself, I have driven great distances to birds (even Comber is 25 minutes northeast on the 401) but generally, we have above-average awareness of environmental issues and drive (hopefully) fuel-efficient cars. (I'll just drop it here).

I guess one take-away from this movie is that one can still be a good birder and balance work, life, family and relationships. For myself, my family comes first. Work and my continued schooling is very important as well. Like Jack Black's character in this movie demonstrates, coming second is ok if having a relationship at the same time can happen as well. And Owen Wilson's character is OK too. He dedicates his life to being first but at the expense of a wife that wants a divorce...My wife and I were really urking by the way he put her second to birding. (It reminded me about myself recently when I left shortly after a recent family dinner out to Comber to do some shorebirding in evening sunset light).

Besides the movie, I saw five birders at the theater that I've met through birding: Sarah from PPNP, Steven from HBMO, Karen from Ojibway, and of course, a nice birding couple from Kingsville that I met in Comber while searching for Hudsonian Godwits.

Good Birding!

PS: Jim McCormac is an excellent naturalist and birder from Ohio and he wrote an excellent writeup on this movie here:

PSS: With all the hype about Purple Galinule in the Niagara Region, I looked up an old photo from a Florida Everglades trip 2 years ago.  Check it out below:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Comber Shorebirding Still Excellent...v3

There are five Species in this photo... You gotta love shorebirding!
Ok, this is my last Comber Shorebirding posting... I promise!!! :-)   I went after work on Thursday this week. It was cloudy but I figured I'd go anyway. I figured shorebirding will give some variety that I am not getting so much of at Holiday Beach's Raptor Festival (aka Hawktoberfest). Anyway, I walked through the muddy field in Comber to see what was out there and well... It's still pretty good! 20 Hudsonian Godwits, and 7 Long billed Dowitchers along with hundreds of Black bellied Plovers and fewer Golden Plovers in the mix.  White rumped Sandpipers, a single Juv Baird's along with Pectoral Sandpipers were around as well.

This photo below is pretty cool. The resting shorebirds flew up at one point and I took a few photos. I left this full size and uncropped. I enjoy just scanning through this image and seeing how many birds I can see. Blogger has been implementing a feature to browse the images in a given posting, but I prefer just seeing the original. If you want to see the original even in that tool, you can click the link that is referenced at the bottom of the page to see the original. 

Sleeping (Juv) White rumped Sandpipers
7 Long billed Dowitchers.  A Black bellied Plover on the left and a Golden on the right.

Juv Baird's Sandpiper.

Its funny how during my 1-hr birding session, I didn't see a single person. I didn't say a single word. I just made my way out into this field, chosing a path that best allowed me not to get muddy and also would be the best approach in an effort not to flush the resting shorebirds. I would walk 10m then stop, look around through binoculars, consider a 'path' to take then walk another 10m, crouch down, stay crouched, take photos, and so on. One cool thing I noticed about shorebirding was that if you just stand there (at 30m or so) and just wait, some birds will leave periodically and some will arrive making the viewing experience surprisingly dynamic. The "Bairds" above (I might be mistaken... it could be a white rumped) was not in this group of birds but just ended up flying in by itself. It orientated itself with the other birds and went on its way with foraging etc. So cool to witness nature like this. So few other people do it... its what makes birding so fun in my opinion.

Next weekend I will go back to Holiday Beach and hopefully see some late October raptors. I'm really hoping to see a Saw-whet Owl this fall.  Even though this posting is a little repetitive from the last, I still like posting some photos online or else they are easily forgotten. Also, one day I am going to go through and put all my birding trips into E-Bird.
Good birding!-Dwaynejava

As requested: Map Directions. Sorry I didn't post this earlier, I assumed readers had the original Ontbirds Posting.,+-82.548441&hl=en&ll=42.287897,-82.549124&spn=0.008191,0.01929&sll=42.285993,-82.548051&sspn=0.008191,0.01929&vpsrc=0&gl=ca&t=h&z=16

About 20 Godwits congregated after being flushed by a Northern Harrier

Monday, October 10, 2011

Better looks at Hudsonian Godwits and Other Shorebirds in Comber

Wow... after talking to Blake Mann and Ellen Smout over the weekend, it was suggested that the best viewing was in later afternoon, as the sun setting in the west would give nice front-lit views of some incredible shorebirds. So at about 5pm today, I politely excused myself from Thanksgiving festivities and headed out to Comber for a quick 30-minute birding session. Glad I did... check out some of the pics below.

A Hudsonian Godwit flies above 20 resting shorebirds in this tightly cropped photo. Incredible.

Juv. White rumped Sandpiper (I think...)
from yesterday... Golden Plovers
Dunlin and White Rumped Sandpipers

Mix of shorebirds on the east end of the tomato field
Thanks to Ellen Smout for sharing this great find. I lifered three birds this weekend!

Good birding!

Bonus! 20 Seconds of video of Hudsonian Godwits preening and sleeping.

Lifer Summary:

American Golden Plover #284
Hudsonian Godwit #285
White rumped Sandpiper #286

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hudsonian Godwits and American Golden Plovers in Comber

Yesterday, a report from ontbirds mentioned Godwits and American golden Plovers in a field in Comber, which is just south of Stoney Point or Pointe-aux-Roches if you prefer the french name. I did street level mapping of the described area, and even the google street level view of this road shows a huge flooded field with shorebirds on the perimeter! The surface area  of this shallow-water-covered field must be over 1km square if not more. Note that in the photo above, there is a small tomaoto field in the forground and a giant area of flooded field behind it. (Side note: Why hasn't ERCA flooded the shorebird cell at Hillman?)

Hudsonian Godwit blends in with the grass in the bottom left quadrant of this image
My first approach to bird this area was walk directly into the farmers' field and scan the edge of the water for any shorebirds with long, upward curved bills. What I found was a mono-culture of 400+ American Golden Plovers with a few Black bellied Plovers mixed in. Killdeer and a few SP Plovers were around in lesser numbers. Singles of Yellowlegs and other seasonal shorebirds were seen in the tomato fields along Comber Line Rd.
It was cool to see the birds take off when a raptor approached the group. It was pointed out to me that Black Bellied Plovers have Black "armpits" and American Golden Plovers just have a uniform light grey under-wing and armpit.

When a Peregrine Falcon would occasionally stir up the group, four birds stood out from the others. They were bigger and stood out quite obviously from the American Golden Plover 'swarms'. In fact my first look at the Godwits were in flight as shown in the photo below. I only saw four Hudsonian Godwits both in flight and when feeding in the flooded tomato fields.

I visited this site from 8-9:30 this morning and again from 2-3 this afternoon with a family Colasanti's visit in between. I thank the many kind scope-bearing birders for pointing out the resting and feeding Godwits that I would have missed without their kind info-sharing. Of the 8 people I met, 3 were readers of Nerdy for Birdy!!!  Very cool!

I'll cut this short here,  but basically, adding two more lifers today was very cool and exciting. I can't believe this amazing mudflat is so close to home and I didn't know about it until yesterday. It's closer to Windsor than Tilbury, and seemingly better than Tilbury SL. Thank you Ellen Smout for posting these excellent birds & shorebird habitat to Ontbirds. I only wish I knew of this earlier!

Good birding,

Lifer Summary:
American Golden Plover #284
Hudsonian Godwit #285

Bonus Quiz Question!!!
Quiz Question: Dowitchers at the top of this photo. Long billed or Short?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Early October Birding at Point Pelee & Holiday Beach

Sure enough, once last week's low pressure system moved off to the east, trailing north winds followed this counter-clockwise spinning weather system. Birding Point Pelee's West beach towards the tip had fall-out numbers ( 'fallout' is the most overused term of birders, but ya... I said it!) of late season warblers. This posting describes Saturday at Point Pelee and Sunday at Holiday Beach.

Hillman Marsh***
Hillman was my first stop, and it was cold, windy and just barely raining. I walked from the parking lot to the shorebird cell, only to see nothing until my walk back to the parking lot. As I walked back to the lot, I think I flushed a small Rail of some sort. It was very dark and I recall seeing redish in its wings or scapulars. Really weird, it was about the size of a red-winged blackbird with an upright posture. I have no idea what it was! I then flushed a Ring necked Pheasant. No photos...

Point Pelee's Delaurier Trail***
It was quiet on this path, but probably because there were raptors everywhere overhead.  Sharp shinned, Coopers, even Bald Eagles were constantly criss-crossing the area.  A Solitary Sandpiper greeted me in the parking lot. The snickering call of Belted Kingfishers was heard all day if you were anywhere near water. Along west beach, along the North Dyke road, and even the wet sloughs of Delarier trail had many Kingfishers (see top photo).  Thrushes and a small pocket of warblers were seen near the Delaurier Home.


The Tip and West Beach Footpaths***
Merlins, Sharp Shinned, Coopers, Bald Eagles were easily seen overhead, and along the scrubby trees along west beach, Grey-Cheeked Thrushes and Swainsons Thrushes were everywhere. White crowned Sparrows along with Yellow-Rumped and Palm Warblers (hundreds seemingly) with lesser numbers of Black throated Green, Magnolia and Common Yellowthroat warblers. This was great birding, I can't recall seeing so many birds at the tip of Point Pelee, even though it was lots of birds with little variety.

Southernmost Sanderling. Two Sanderlings and a Rudy Turnstone ignored visitors at the tip.

Holiday Beach***
Sunday, I stopped by Holiday Beach with my wife and son, and we saw many of the same warblers along the beach, Norther Parula and Red eyed Vireo were nice along with a FOS (first of season) Eastern Phoebe. Kestrels, Sharp Shinned, Coopers, Broad winged, TV's, and Bald Eagles constantly streamed over the tower. We only visited for a short time though.

Shake your Buteo. Broad winged Hawk with its Spade-shaped belly markings.

Probably added too many photos in this posting... Oddly enough, the most common bird (yellow rumped warbler) was not featured in this posting.

Good birding!


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