Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of Year Review and Highlights from 2011

Wow, this was an amazing year of birding. Even after 2.5 years of birding, I am still learning so much. In fact, I've heard it said that birding really requires an 'apprenticeship' that could last as long at 10 years! This posting attempts to look back at some of the highlights, month by month for 2011.

I also want to mention that Jan 1, 2012 will be the official two-year anniversary of "Nerdy for Birdy". I started this blog because I wanted to share and document what I see when I went kayaking or birding. I hope that this blog will inspire other people to get out there and witness, appreciate, and study nature more closely. Last year, I talked about the benefits of blogging, and one that I would add to that list is a sense of accumulation. Any particular birding walk on its own is not particularly special, but the accumulation effect that blogging provides is incredible. I have met at least 20 people through birding and blogging as well which is really cool. I've noticed that my blogger-pageviews-counter is approaching 30,000 page views... that blows my mind!

Places visited this year:
Florida (east and west coasts)
BC Victoria to Calgary AB

Places I'd like to visit next year:
Presq'uile Prov Park
Carden Alvar
Bruce Peninsula
East Coast of US
New Brunswick

Birds I'm still missing after 2.5 years of birding:
King Rail
Virginia Rail
Yellow Rail (ok, hear one at least?)
American Bittern
Upland Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper
Worm eating Warbler
Kirtlands Warbler
Kentucky Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Saw whet Owl
Barred Owl
Barn Owl
Black Scoter
Harlequin Duck
Common Redpoll
Common Eider
White winged Crossbill
Red Crossbill
Many Gulls
Many Geese


Long eared Owl, Rough legged Hawk, White winged Scoter (self discovered), Black legged Kittiwake & King Eider
January was ridiculous. It seemed like rarity after rarity showed up on the Detroit River. My friends from Leamington were showing me some owls at Point Pelee. And even when I visited my parent's house, a Red Breasted Nuthatch would surely be seen. All this birding made me really sick. I had a 6-week cold & ear ache... possibly partially due to birding.


Snow Buntings, Horned Larks & Lapland Longspur. Accipiter Hawks terrorizing bird feeder stations. I was as sick as a dog... I only wrote three postings this month!


Locally, Pine Sisken, Long tailed Ducks blew my mind. My lil' Florida trip gave looks at specialties such as Clapper Rail, Bobwhite, Painted Bunting and Florida Scrub Jay were seen.


April was a slow month but a good time to appreciate local specialties. The highlight may have been quiet walks in the Ojibway Grassland Prarie watching Northern Flicker's doing mating dances in trees and jaw dropping views (through optics) of Eastern Bluebirds. Actually, some other highlights from April was the influx of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Eastern Phoebe, and Wilson's Snipe that Richard Carr pointed out to me at Hillman Marsh.


May was a little bit of a let-down but I did have one amazing day.  I found a Cerulean Warbler at Hillman Marsh and shared my find with some nearby birders. One man from NY thanked me and told me he had not seen one in 20 years. That is pretty incredible. Other highlights included Yellow Breasted Chat and well... May in general. I keep missing Whimbrel in late May. I will try to see them this year. Prothonotary Warbler was really easily seen at PPNP this spring, and I greatly enjoyed joining Paul Pratt and the Ojibway Group on their walks.


June was an amazing month that gave me looks at my first breeding-plumaged Bobolinks & Eastern Meadowlarks.  It may have been the most emotional birding experience of the year for me, but I will not get into that story on this page. The photo above (of the Bobolinks) has been used by Government Environment workers in Michigan. Pretty cool! Dickcissel's in Wheatley were an amazing find by Ken Burrell as well.


A trip to BC during July gave me a chance to relax with my family while observing some amazing Canadian Geography and western bird species. Hands down, my favorite lifer was Lewis's Woodpecker discovered accidentally. Non-birding highlights included a good write-up on Hairstreak butterflies and a first look at five-lined skinks at PPNP.


Typically, August is a slow month with some early southbound migrants, but was an unbelievable month for me. I had found an American Avocet while driving in Leamington, as well as got great looks at a Western Kingbird  (Found by James Holdesworth) that had hybrid fledglings in Windsor, just minutes from my home. On top of all that, kayaking in Point Pelee's Marsh gave breathtaking looks at shorebirds which included Wilson's Phalarope and Short billed Dowitchers.The Western Kingbird is the single most viewed page on my blog. Over 1200 views on that page alone!


September featured a great walk at Point Pelee during the OFO convention which helped me find my first Yellow bellied Flycatcher & Grey cheeked Thrush (Bruce  Di Labio & Son pointed these out to the group). Another September highlight was seeing 24,000 Broad-winged hawks fly at stratospheric levels over Holiday Beach. A brief trip to Hamilton gave me distant views of Jaeger Species, VanWagner's Beach as well as meeting David Bell & Josh Vandermeulen. Seeing Hamilton's Windermere Basin was cool, but a disturbing illustration of how industrialization (or post-industrialization) has destroyed our beautiful natural heritage. One can only imaging how beautiful that area would have been before it was... destroyed. Windsor and Essex is probably more guilty of this, except in our case, its industrialization and agriculture.


October was amazing thanks to a birder (Ellen Smout) who reported some amazing shorebird habitat in Comber ON. In a small flooded field in Comber, hundreds of shorebirds were easily seen. Some highlights included:
Hundreds of Black belilied and Golen Plovers
Up to 20 Hudsonian Godwits
White rumped sandpipers
Baird's Sandpipers

This was one of the best opportunities to sit back and study shorebirds. The photo above is one of my favorites because I was standing about 20m from a group of Hudsonian Godwits when a few birds suddenly flew in. Upon inspection, one of them was a Baird's Sandpiper. Getting a chance to see Golden Plovers along with Black Bellied Plovers and noticing their various plumage differences was amazing as well.  Another October highlight was smashing looks at Orange-crowned Warblers at Point Pelee.


November was not particularly special, with the exception of some great views of Raptors. At Holiday Beach, a Northern Goshawk flew about 100m south of the observation tower. A reluctant highlight that I'm not 100% sure of on the ID.


Snowy Owl, Short eared Owl, Great grey Owl... Wow, these three birds in the span of one month blew my mind. All three are so beautiful, so magnificent, so amazing to behold. I feel very lucky to have been able to see all three species this month. My first looks at a Snowy Owl in Wallaceburg (Thanks Blake Mann) literally took my breath away.

December just kept giving awesome looks at birds that I had only dreamed about seeing while looking in my field guides. Sadly though, seeing some overzealous people around the GGOW was sobering. Here is a recent newspaper article about the owl in today's Windsor Star.

Thanks to Harold Stiver for having a great blog, but in particular, leading the way in terms of incorporating beautiful video into his blog. His good work, in addition to the new feature on my Canon 7D helped get me started in adding video and creating a youtube channel.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed reading this blog. I've kept a pace of about 100 blog postings per year for the last two years. I don't know if I will be able to keep up that pace in this upcoming year. I want to thank any bloggers who have graciously linked to my blog allowing me to be part of their knowledge networks. Thanks to those people that leave comments or simply follow my blog. Thanks also to the amazing birders that shared their sightings with me, either electronically or in person. Very few of my year's highlights were self discovered so without that gracious gesture of sharing, I would be looking at House Sparrows in my back yard!

Happy New Year and may 2012 be a happy, healthy and birdy year!


At the expense of possibly overdoing it on GGOW, I figured I would share this cool video from youtube, produced by the BBC:

A close up video, (remember, I'm dealing with 500mm super-telephoto on a cropped 1.6x factor sensor =800mm from 15-20')... I just thought it would be interesting to really zoom in...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An amazing video about Snowy Owls by Cornell's Ornithology Dept.

Amazing 3.5-minute documentary on the Snowy Owl. Amazing photography, videography and information. If you are reading this blog, you will love watching this.

Video: Short eared Owl
A recent video I took of a Short Eared Owl eating a mouse. Sadly, I stopped taking video about 30 seconds before it snapped up the mouse and swallowed the 80% of it remaining! I have uploaded this video and ran an edit to reduce shaky-ness, so hopefully, that anti-shake effect has taken effect by the time you watch this!
**Also, I had my hazard lights on, so I replaced that ticking sound with classical music... Just in case you were wondering!***

Video: Snowy Owl in Kingsville
My first self-discovered Snowy Owl. I drove by this owl at sunrise (7:55am) on Dec 24th, 2011. Location: Kingsville Ontario. 

Video: Great Grey Owl in Kingsville

***Sorry about the hip-hop music... I tried to cover up the original sound which involved camera's clicking and people talking... I think Enigma's "Return to Innocence" which has a nice native-american feel to it would have been more appropriate.

Holiday Beach CBC on Dec 27th, 2011
I joined the Holiday Beach CBC and walked Boblo Island which is located in the Detroit River a few hundred meters west of Amherstburg. It was a pretty good walk with some amazing birders, but sadly, I was not well dressed for the event. In particular, I spent the whole morning with icy-cold, soaked feet! I need to by buy waterproof boots if I want to keep doing this birding hobby!

Some results from our morning walk:
Great horned Owl
Great blue Heron
Belted Kingfisher
Brown Creepers
Northern Flicker

Many other seasonal birds (sparrows and finches etc).

Two blog postings I'm working on:
*Year-End Review
I'm planning on doing a month-by-month re-cap of 2011 and possibly an updated life list.

*Two-Year Blogging Anniversary
I may also create a post in celebration of my two-year blogging anniversary. 

Good Birding,

PS: Interested in past CBC results for a count-circle near you?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Great Grey Owl Still in Kingsville

***Update: To my knowledge, the owl has not been seen in Kingsville since Jan 8, 2012***

Not satisfied with last night's views of the Great Grey Owl, I drove up to Kingsville again this morning and tried my luck at finding the owl again. As I was driving to yesterday's location, I noted a Snowy Owl on top of a telephone post. I pulled over and took some photos. Nobody was around and it dawned on me that I had discovered my first snowy owl! I've seen others, but they were pointed out to me by other birders.

Anyway, I quickly left, in hopes of finding the Great Grey Owl. I drove around for 30 or so minutes and then gave up. I had to go out this morning for breakfast with some friends so as I drove away, I noticed a mob of birders (& mobbing crows!) on Concession Rd 2 and knew something special was happening.

Check out this magnificent owl species below!

Incredible Camouflage!!!

Please treat owls ethically. Do not disturb them or play calls or use baits for them.  View them from a distance and respect their space as well as private property. Check out this excellent article (regarding owl ethics) from entitled: Got Snowies?

Good birding, and Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to all that celebrate!

Almost forgot: My first self discovered Snowy Owl!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Great Grey Owl...

I was talking to Blake earlier this week about the possibility of having a 5 owl species day in Essex County, and he suggested 6 is possible and has been done! (Great Horned, Eastern Screech, Long Eared, Short Eared, Snowy, Saw-Whet)... So could you imagine 7 species???? This is my third lifer this month, and all three have been owls: Snowy (1), Short eared (2) and now Great Grey (3).

Upon arrival to the site, many familiar nature lovers were present (and were leaving) as the sun had just set at 5:15pm. Paul Pratt shared his scoped views of this magnificent boreal species and informed me that this is the first record for  a Great grey Owl in Essex! Kory and Sarah from Leamington also shared some photos that they had taken during the daylight hours of this incredible bird which had me drooling with jealousy.

Even though it was futile, I took photos of the owl in the dark, at 80-100 meters. To get the shot above, I needed to use a tripod, and set a 2-second auto-timer so that I was not even touching the camera during the exposure, shut off IS, ISO1600, Ap 1/6.3, exposure time 1/10sec, and I held my breath... This photo even had the exposure increased by +1. Flash is never used on an owl.

An exciting lifer at #290.

Good birding!

Read more about the Great Grey Owl...

PS: Other birds seen this week include, Rough-legged Hawk, Sandhill Cranes (100 flying overhead), Bald Eagle, Northern Mockingbird, and 40 or so Wild Turkeys!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Short Eared Owl... Just by Chance

 Are you kidding me??? Last weekend's Owl search came up short, so I figured I would try again today after work. An ont-birds posting this week mentioned Short Eared Owls (on Amherst Island) starting to hunt at 3:30 pm, so that gave me some insight on these diurnal birds. I realized last weeks' trip may have been poorly timed with an early afternoon drive.  So, I left work early and drove out to the county to an area described by a birder I met at the Hawk Festival earlier in the fall.
I didn't think I would see this bird, but a hovering Northern Harrier caught my attention near the edge of the road, so I tried taking some photos. I'm glad I did, because they were initially very blurry. I adjusted the aperture and ISO to deal with the poor, cloudy, late-afternoon light. A few moments after photographing the Harrier, I start to drive away and a second raptor starts flying from the left side of the road to the right. I snapped a few photos, not really knowing what I was looking at, and sure enough, this blunt-faced raptor was what I've been looking for!

Other birds seen were HUGE flocks of Brown headed Cowbirds, one or two American Kestrels, and whispy flocks of birds that I tried photographing. They were almost invisible to the eye, but on occasion, they would be visible for a moment and I tried to photograph them. My best guess (see photo below) might be Snow Buntings?

Well, I have an exam tomorrow afternoon, so I have to get back to studying!!!

May your weekend be birdy!


PS: An odd note, this is the fourth Owl species I found/photographed... while sitting in my car!!! Should I start a car list???? :-)

Lifer Summary: #289 Short eared Owl

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Winter Birding in Kingsville and the Detroit River

Last Saturday morning, I did a quick birding drive hoping to see Short Eared Owls, but did not find my target species. This drive was similar to last winters posting: Running a Fools Errands. Out near Arner town line, there is some great open field habitat that always gives good views of hawks and other winter birds. Some birds seen include (tundra?) Swans, Northern Harrier, Rough Legged Hawk, Red tailed Hawk, and Eastern Bluebirds. I don't think I'll ever tire of seeing Eastern Bluebirds!

Backlit Bluebirds
The Detroit River had a nice assortment of duck-like species. Sandpoint Beach  had Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Horned Grebe among others. Further down the river, Bald Eagles could be seen on Peche Island and Ring necked Ducks and Surf Scoters were seen.

I rarely see Horned Grebes!

Got Snowies?

I came across an Ebird Article entitled: "Got Snowies?" so I had to read it. It discussed how the eruption of Snowies is caused from the natural cycles of its main food item (lemmings). It reminded birders to consider the ethical treatment of Owls with the following great paragraph: "An important word of caution about this striking and photogenic species--the birds we see in the states are already stressed, since they moved from locations in the north due to a lack of food. One of the southeast Wisconsin Snowy Owls in Ozaukee County was seen for a few days and then found dead by a farmer. Apparently the bird was extremely emaciated, so it likely starved to death. While very beautiful and often approachable, life for them can at times be very difficult, and keeping a good distance so as not to disturb them is the best approach. Please don't use live mice to lure them in to roadsides for photography. Flushing a large raptor, especially a white one can catch the attention of nearby crows causing unnecessary mobbing. We want these birds to successfully over-winter and then return back to the tundra to breed next spring."(Galick). Read more in this great article here:

This is partly the reason I did not disclose the location of this Owl in my posting. The photos (and video) I took were from 70-100m and heavily cropped with a 500mm telephoto lens. I left the bird as I had found it and did not flush it. That being said, check out this video I took to capture its essence, its 'gestalt', its fluid and strange head movements. I wanted to edit the video a little, but when I export the video project from Premier Elements 7.0, the video is really grainy. I have to figure out why its doing that.

This article shows a few photos of 200 new species discovered, including a new Warbler!

Well I have an exam on Saturday, so from this weekend on, I will try birding a little more. I've just been too busy to bird and too busy to blog!

Good birding,

Galick Sam, "Got Snowies?",, November 30, 2011,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is Global Warming a Myth?

This posting in not about birding, but is still of great interest to me. Below is a video that I've been looking for over the last year or so. You see, many people have come up to me recently and looked me in the eye, and stated, "Global Warming is a Myth". It's a hoax!

When I read the "letters to the editor" in the windsor star (I've attached one at the bottom of this posting), I constantly read that its a hoax by the readers, and when I'm on facebook, I have friends post videos of various media or political figure casting doubt on the subject.

This week, Canada's federal "Minister of the Environment" (or guy that speaks for the oil interests in Canada) told the world that Canada is no longer part of the Kyoto Agreement. This was shocking to many Canadians because there wasn't really any debate about exiting this agreement.

Some arguments I've heard to disclaim global warming include: Its a solar cycle, Volcanoes produce more CO2 than humans, Water vapor is the cause of global warming, Its still being debated in the scientific community, Its a left-wing conspiracy, Al Gore is making millions with this green movement... But, I don't believe any of these theories have discounted the evidence that global warming is real.

Then, today, I found this video... Who knows, maybe global warming is a myth... I want it to be, but I still have not been convinced that its a lie. I might be a fool, but I still think that human actions are affecting our environment and our weather systems. I guess time will tell.

If you have some time, please watch this video. Some particularly interesting parts include:
*Previous Mis-Information Campaigns
*Disproving all the recently 'counter-arguments' to global warming with facts that are indisputable.

Please view this video full-screen by clicking the square in the bottom right corner. 

I know this could be a touchy subject, so if you think GW is a myth, please watch this video with an open mind.

Here is the recent article to the Windsor Star. By the way, I disagree with everything this writer is saying. And I particularly think its foolish that she states at the end: "Pray for God's mercy, folks. You'll need it."... As if God is mad at people that are concerned with the environment.

Global warming is all a lie
By Victoria Billingsley, The Windsor Star November 22, 2011

The fraudulent "global warming" swallowed by gullible governments has already wasted billions of dollars and will soon destroy all business. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's faked models, ignored UV energy, ozone layers and changes, solar winds and water vapour that creates clouds and energy and prevents the freezing of oceans, and avoided the truth.

Thermometers were placed upon concrete roofs, on parking lots and buried in snow. Humans occupy but 1.4 per cent of Earth's surface, of it, 98.6 per cent ignored. "Nature does not play computer games."

The IPCC scientists vilified the anti-warming PhDs, condemned them and barred them from publishing in national magazines and in our media.

Climate is created and con-trolled by our sun and its gravity, by the Earth's position in our galaxy, by the wobbles of the orbiting, by continental drifts, according to Dr. Plimer and dozens of other anti-global warming scientists.

Our Earth revolves round the sun at 160,000 miles an hour, travelling in its orbit 3,840,000 miles in one day. It rotates on its axis at 329 miles an hour. These rapid movements create winds, ocean currents, plate tectonics, affect sea levels and ice sheets. Carbon has nada effect.

Dr. Ian Plimer's, Heaven and Earth, describes Al Gore's fraud as an "Inconvenient Truth - long on scientific miscalculation."

Oceans store surplus carbon and dissolve it, resulting in shell formation, limestone and chemical reactions with rocks, sediments and sea life - mol-lusks, etc. The more CO dis-2 solves in the ocean, the more CO is removed from the atmo-2 sphere.

Tectonics are the "thermo-stat" that prevent runaway greenhouse gases.

If all the fossil fuels on Earth were burned, the atmospheric CO , content would not double.

The evaporation of Earth's water regulates climate. Water vapour is the most abundant gas.

Millions of tons of terrestrial material - dust, amino gases, etc. - annually enter our galaxy and fall to Earth.

Volcanic eruptions add 40,000 tons of sulphur and carbon gases annually to our atmosphere. (From 1920 to 1940 our Arctic was warmer than now.) Our polar bears became expert swimmers during earlier glob-al warming periods.

Hundreds of volcanoes occur annually on the ocean floors.

All plant growth requires carbon: no carbon = no food. "Human stupidity is exceeded only by God's infinite mercy." Man is but a fool if he believes he can control climate. His power is null and void.

Canada must reject global warming. It must also with-draw from the United Nations, which has not accomplished anything worthwhile, yet strives to impose world government on nations - a colossal, catastrophic frightening dictatorial system.

Pray for God's mercy, folks. You'll need it.

The Windsor Star


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Snowy Owl ... How Awesome

Wow, I have spent the last few weeks reading emailed Ont-birds postings about the incredible birds showing up around Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara. Also, I've been a little sick for the two weeks, and birding has been slow around Windsor. I have walked Malden Park alot looking for Northern Shrikes, but I have not yet seen one this year!

It seems that this Winter, there is a Snowy Owl eruption into Southern Ontario.  Further to my amazement, I read about Blake's Snowy Owl sighting Near Wallaceburg, and had to followup on seeing it. I decided to get up early, and head out and try my luck at finding it. As I was scraping frost off my windshield, I was thinking about how slim a chance I have of seeing a wild Owl in some distant field over an hours drive away. But sure enough... it was exactly where it was seen last yesterday!

It was a beautiful morning this morning, and I enjoyed watching the sun rise as I drove down the 401. I also saw hundreds of Tundra Swans flying in V-shaped patterns overhead as I drove near St Clair NWA.

Upon arriving to the target field near Wallaceburg, I parked 200m away from the Owl and figured I would walk into a soya-bean field and give the Owl a nice 100m perimeter. My goal was to view the owl and photograph and videograph it without disturbing it or flushing it.

It was amazing to behold! The sunrise was casting golden-pink light on its white feathers and periodically, it would look at me with its beautiful yellow eyes.  Just as I was appreciating the awesomeness of this bird, a pick-up truck pulls over, just meters from the Owl's Post, and a man starts walking towards me. This farmer didn't realize I was looking at an owl. We talked and I showed him what I was looking at, he even looked at it through my binoculars. He then went on his way and flushed the owl on the way back to his truck. The owl just flew a little then re-perched on the next telephone post!
After spending some time observing the Owl, I figured I would leave it alone and possibly head back home. I called my wife as I was driving back home, and shared in my excitement. She then called me "Bostick"... from the movie "The Big Year". My wife was like, "don't come home too early, I am going to my sisters house, why don't you go to Point Pelee?" ... Uhmmm, OK.

As I drove out of Wallaceburg, I saw so many small rivers and creeks, its really a nice little town. An American Kestrel caught my eye so I figured I would snap a photo... it was much more shy than the Owl. 

Point Pelee was nice to visit on the way home. I basically drove up to the tip parking lot and observed thousands of Scaup and Red breasted Mergansers. I was hoping to find a Black Scoter or even see a loon species but no such luck. On the way out, I ran into my friend from Leamington, Rick who pointed this sleeping Eastern Screech Owl. I shot this while sitting in my car near the Sanctuary Lookout.

I did take some video of the Snowy Owl, but no time this afternoon to process it or upload it to my Youtube account. Stay tuned, I will probably update this posting with a 1-minute long video of the Snowy Owl!

Good Birding!

PS: Learn more about the Snowy Owl at  Allabout birds's Site:

Lifer Summary: Snowy Owl #288


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