Sunday, December 30, 2012

Informally Birding the Holiday Beach CBC

(Note:This is an old posting from Dec 27th that I never got around to publishing until today)

Holiday Beach (in Amherstburg) had its CBC on Dec 27, 2012. I had participated in last's year's CBC but this year, I couldn't commit to the full morning. I still wanted to get out there though in the early afternoon, even just to walk the area on my own and enjoy the nice weather. As I approached Holiday Beach, I noticed a several fields with Snow Buntings and Horned Larks, and got a quick glimpse of at least two Lapland Longspurs (see photo above).

Here are some of the birds I saw while informally birding HBMO-CBC*:

Amherstburg side roads leading to HBMO
75 Snow Buntings
50 Horned Larks
2 Lapland Longspurs

Holiday Beach Memorial Forest
1 Northern Harrier
2 Red tailed Hawks
10 Black capped Chickadees
4 Red breasted Nuthatches
3 Tundra Swans (flyover)

HBMO Main Forest Pathway
6 White throated Sparrows
2 Downy Woodpeckers
1 Red bellied Woodpecker
3 Red breasted Nuthatches
1 Hermit Thrush
3 Northern Cardinals
3 American Goldfinches
1 Carolina Wren

On the way home, I took a detour through Harrow and found the following:

4 American Kestrels
2 Northern Shrikes
1 Short eared Owl
1 Rough legged Hawk
4 Red tailed Hawks
120 Snow Buntings
30 Morning Doves

Northern Shrike !

And another Northern Shrike !
I was really excited about seeing a Northern Shrike again today, and then, another shortly after! I totally missed seeing one in 2011... They are so rare in my opinion but this is my third this month! Hermit Thrush and Fox Sparrow** were pretty nice to see, not mega-rarities, but still good birds to see in the last week of December.

I plan on doing a 2012 year in review as my first posting in 2013.  I will also try to join the Detroit River (Ojibway Park) CBC on Jan 1 2013.  Happy New Year!

Good birding!

*PS:I am going to officially start using Ebird in 2013.

**PSS: On boxing day, we had a really nice snowstorm, so I figured I would head over to Ojibway Park to see if I could get some nice photos in the snow. The usual feeder birds were present, (House Finch, Tufted Titmouse, Cardinals etc) but to my astonishment, a Fox Sparrow perched into a tree next to the feeders where I was standing!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Lakeshore CBC and Season's Greetings

This past Saturday, I joined two excellent birders, Kory Renaud and Jeremey Bensette to assist in counting birds for the Lakeshore CBC.  Our group did the South end of the circle (yellow bottom in the picture above). One area of the circle we were happy to bird was the Maidstone Conservation Area. It turns out, the twenty hectare site was a little bit of a dud, but was still interesting to walk. We saw common seasonal species such as Chickadees, Red bellied woodpecker, Morning Doves and Downy Woodpeckers. The site boasts an old Indian Signal Tree (see below).

Indian Signal Tree
Some highlights of our counting was an adult Bald Eagle, and two or three run-ins with major flocks of Snow Buntings. One or two of the fields we stopped by had 120+ Horned Larks. At our post-CBC luncheon, we learned that one of our star birders, Tom Hince found some major rarities near Peche Island, including a Black legged Kittiwake and a Northern Waterthrush. Our final species count for the CBC was 69.

Amazing photo of Snow Buntings and a few Horned Larks
I was hoping to find a Lapland Longspur in this flock, but no dice. Last January, I found a flock of Snow Buntings, Horned Larks and Lapland Longspur while viewing the Mountain Bluebird in Shetland Ontario. Here was a flashback video from that morning:

Last night, I drove out to an area which is reputed for Short Eared Owls, and saw them. Of course, they start to fly at dusk so photographing them is difficult and might require better staging techniques than I am privy to. I noticed a dog-like creature which may have been a Coyote walking through this field as I was observing the Owls. Some photos below have horrible white-balance settings taken as dusk:

Short Eared Owl... Amazing winter specialty. 
I hope to put together a good summary for 2012. I also want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy, Healthy and Birdy New Year to everyone! December 21st of course was the Winter Solstice which marks the shortest amount of daylight in the year. So Happy Winter Solstice as well!

Good birding!

Bonus Photo: Eastern Bluebirds... Just for Karen :-)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Birds of Prey - Stamps?

A woman from Michigan recently purchased one of my photos and I could not help but notice on the envelope she sent me... A Northern Goshawk Stamp!!! [larger view]

USPS Raptor Stamps Press Release:

Or order a set for $6.45

I've also noticed that the Canadian Mint is producing a series of bird-related coins. Each of these are about $30. They sell these at the Post Office and a recent trip to a small post-office in a Shopper's Drug Mart had a Rose-breasted Grosbeak coin. Oddly enough, they are $0.25 cent face value, but larger than quarters, ... silver-dollar sized.

Evening Grosbeak -
Rose breasted Grosbeak  - 
Goldfinch -

Here are some Random Hawk Photos from the last month:
Red Tailed Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Rough legged Hawk (dark morph)

Good birding,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Northern Shrike at Ojibway & Ridgetown Geese Diversity V2

Ross's Geese
Happy 12/12/12! Due to an exam I wrote this morning, I took a personal day from work and was lucky enough to enjoy a gorgeous, sunny day today. I figured I would try my luck at Ridgetown Lagoons and wow... three lifers today! Upon arrival to the lagoon, I saw a friendly birder with a scope and he pointed out some of the highlights. Ross's Goose and Great White-fronted Goose made for two lifers in the span of 10 or so minutes. Ken Burrell arrived on the scene a few minutes later and pointed out a few Cackling Geese amongst the Canada Geese (Lifer 311, 312 & 313).

Greater White-fronted was a really nice surprise!
Ridgetown Lagoons is where I saw Snow Geese back in March of this year.

Do you see the Cackling Goose in comparison to Canada Geese?
I think the middle goose is a Cackling Goose. Thanks to Ken Burrell for pointing them out to me. 

On the way home, I drove by Ojibway Park and found this Northern Shrike sitting on a telephone wire! This was reported earlier this week, so hopefully it stays around. The last time I saw one was Nov 2010! Read more about this awesome bird here:

Northern Shrike - Lanius excubitor ... Literally means Butcher Watchman!

Cackling Geese were only 'recognized' in 2004 ... Prior to that, they were thought of as a sub-species of Canada Geese. Genetic differences were big enough to warrant a new species! Pretty cool!

Oddly enough, at the time I posted this posting, David Sibley's blog had an entry on indentifying Cackling Geese. Check it out here: .

Alternative titles for this blog posting could have been:

"What's Good for the Goose is Good For My Life List"
"I'm Grinnin' Like a Snow Goose - Three Lifers at Ridgetown"
"Duck... Duck... Ross's Goose, White Fronted Goose, Cackling Goose"

The birding gods smiled upon me today.

Goose Birding,

Lifer Summary:
311 - Ross's Goose,
312 - Great White-fronted Goose
313 - Cackling Geese

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Common Redpolls at Rondeau!

My first look at Common Redpolls!

Well, for the last three weeks, I've really made an effort to seek out Common Redpolls on my brief weekend birding outings... but I've had no luck!  Even the hawkwatcher reports would hint that flocks were easily seen during the afternoons, but when I visited the tower... Nothing! So today (Saturday), I woke up early and headed to Rondeau and while heading into the park, I noticed a large Birch tree with bird activity in it. I pulled over to the side of the road and amazingly... Redpolls!

A funny thing happened though, it was generally dark and cloudy and the sun came out as I was lifering these amazing birds, I found myself fumbling for gloves, and trying to get my camera to stop giving me an error message. A dog-walker then came by to ask me what I was looking at, and I told him they were Common Redpolls. He then proceeded to tell me about how he gets Cardinals and Deer in his back yard but I was like, OK, great meeting you... Have you ever been deep into a birding moment, then only to have it interupted by someone going on and on about Cardinals in their back yard?? Anyway, I realize everyone is at a different place in their birding so I politely finished the conversation, and went back to photographing these Arctic beauties, the clouds rolled back in. Actually a few Bald Eagles went overhead while this guy was talking to me!

Just a side note. Everyone knows Rondeau (along with Point Pelee and Long Point) are major migration stops along Lake Erie, but its been noted by various birders that the road leading into Rondeau from the mainland is a bit of migration funnel in itself! The *asterisks on the google map screenshot shows how narrow that part of the park is. It might only be as wide a 2 city blocks between the Bay and the Lake. This is where I found these flocks of Redpolls. There you have it, a migration funnel within a migration trap!

Before visiting the park, I attempted to visit Erieau and Blehneim SL. I didn't see much of note, but enjoyed the geography of this amazing area. At the end of this pier, a nice flock of Bonapartes Gulls were playing in the fierce westerly wind that was blowing. It was nice to get a nice close look of some Greater black-backed Gulls.

Greater black backed Gulls... Have pink legs!
Would have been nice to have a Little Gull at Erieau (Nov 2012)
From Rondeau, I figured I would take the long way home, and took Talbot Trail, a highway that travels from Leamington to Niagara Falls, but follows along the North Shore of Lake Erie. Very scenic, but I was just amazed at how many windmills they have installed and are in the process of installing. This image below is typical of the drive between Rondeau and Point Pelee. Hundreds of windmills. Just in this photo below, there are 12 windmills. I don't know what to think of windmills, I don't know much about them! Here is an interesting quote about how much power one windmill produces: "A single wind turbine (660 kW) in an average year will produce 2,000 MWh of electricity, enough power for over 250 PEI homes. Using wind to produce electricity rather than burning coal will leave 900,000 kilograms of coal in the ground and reduce 2,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, the same positive impact as taking 417 cars off the road or planting 10,000 trees. Newer and larger wind turbines will result in an even greater positive impact. Source: Canadian Wind Energy Association" (Wind Energy in PEI).  New windmills are well over 1.3MW so one windmill now would probably power close to 500 homes! This article here states that farmland prices in Ontario have increased 46% in the last 4 years... Incredible!

The blue line in this image is a nice drive between Rondeau and Point Pelee

Twelve or more windmills in this almost random photo along the lake erie shoreline

I didn't mean to end this posting on the politics of Windmills and  Ontario's Energy mix... Its exciting to finally get a soul-satisfying look at this amazing Arctic Finch. Look at its tiny eyes and beak, adaptations for surviving in the Arctic cold. They also have a physiological adaptation that allows them to store seeds in their throat as an energy store to survive the cold. They also sometimes burrow into the snow to survive cold winter nights. Even on extremely cold nights, they can burrow under snow and be nice and warm at an insulated -4 (C).

I have some exams coming up between now and Dec 10th, so I probably will take a small hiatus for about two weeks. Wish me luck!

Read more about Common Redpolls here:

Good birding,

Hooded Mergansers at Sanctuary Pond (taken from my car)
Lifer Summary: Common Redpoll #310

Wind Energy Development in Prince Edward Island February 2010, WEB, Nov 2012,

Friday, November 16, 2012

White winged Crossbills & Wilson's Snipe at HBMO

I stopped by the Holiday Beach this afternoon to do a little hawk watching and enjoy the great weather. Not much was flying, perhaps 10 raptors were seen in the distance over the course of two hours. Flocks of American Goldfinch and Horned Larks streamed by. Three Wilson's Snipe were in the little pond next to the tower which is always nice to see.

Feeling that nothing was happening, I tried my luck at the Holiday Beach Memorial Forest across the road from Holiday Beach, and noticed many Red breasted Nuthatches, as well as Black capped Chickadees... Then, I hear a ruckus above from a flock of birds... Nice! White winged Crossbills, only a week or two after lifering them at Rondeau!

A wise birder once told me that as soon as you lifer a bird, you will see it easily after that... and its so true! I've had a few great lifers in the last two months: Virginia Rail, American Pipit, Saw-whet Owl and now White winged Crossbills!

It was cool to see these birds today and hear them and watch them feed on Spruce cones. At one point, the papery spruce cone seed-hulls were raining down from the treetops as I observed the crossbills feeding. They were falling like a ticker-tape in a ticker tape parade.

I wanted to get this posting up quickly, so I'm cutting it short here!

Good birding!


PS: These are the Spruce cone seeds that they are eating!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Quiet Week in Windsor

Not much happening over the last two weeks for me bird-wise. I've been busy studying for my night class and just totally amazed at what has been showing up in Hamilton/Toronto as well as Lake Erie's North Shore.  By the way, congrats to Josh Vandermeulen on his big year in Ontario. He not only beat the old record of 335 species but has blown past it! Jeremy Hatt and Kory Renaud are having brilliant years as well.

Anyway, my personal highlight (since my last posting) was a female Evening Grosbeak at Ojibway on Nov 6th. At the time, I did not think much about the bird, having seen a nice flock at Rondeau a few days prior. Its funny though, I have not really heard much about them lately on Ontbirds. Was it just a thin wave of birds that came through for this irruption or are people not really posting their sightings anymore? Actually, a quick look at E-bird hints that they are seen a little more in Jan/Feb... mid to late winter.

Tufted Titmouse - Easily seen in the Winter Months at Ojibway

Obligatory Eagle Photo at Holiday Beach
I took the family out to Holiday Beach on Sunday. Very quiet over the last few days. Two mature Bald Eagles were perched in the open which was nice to see. I also saw my first-of-season (fos) Rough legged Hawk near Amherstburg. I was hoping to see a Cave Swallow as they were seen the previous and current day that I was visiting the park. But no dice. Also, shortly after I left, a Gyrfalcon buzzed the tower! I can't win!!

Heavily cropped photo taken in crappy, cloudy cold weather ...not bad though!
A new birding friend pointed this Great horned Owl to me after work today. Its actually one of my first adult Great Horned Owl photos that is not near its nest.  Jeremy Bensette and I will be looking for Northern Shrikes for the next two weeks at Malden Park or elsewhere in Essex. 

Good birding!


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