Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Least Bittern at Holiday Beach

I was talking to a birding friend at Ojibway Park recently and he mentioned Least Bitterns at Holiday Beach. So this morning, I headed out, set up my scope on some of the distant islands of cat-tails and sure enough ... Least Bittern! I've gone out for the last two or three mornings at 8:00 am and found them after some thorough scanning of some ideal habitat. A scope and lots of patience is needed to see these incredible species.
According to "Least Bittern is one of the most difficult marsh birds to spot".
Least Bittern is yet another species at risk in Ontario. According to the Royal Ontario Museum: "The main threat to Least Bitterns is draining of wetlands for conversion to farmland and urban development. Bitterns generally require large, quiet marshes and as marshes decrease in size and human recreation increases, the population declines in an area." (ROM).

Recap on threats to Least Bitterns:
  • Destruction of Wetlands.
  • Human interuption on the few remaining wetlands (sea-doos, recreation).
  • Pollution ("Roundup", "Weed and Feed", Fertilizers from Farms and Golf Courses).

These deer flushed a Black crowned night Heron seconds before this shot.
At one point, I noticed hundreds of ducks suddenly start to fly from Big Creek. I looked up and saw this Juv Bald Eagle. Surpisingly, it turned towards me and buzzed the observation tower!

Black crowned Night Herons are pretty common at Holiday Beach
Common Gallinule or Common Moorehen? Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Wood Ducks around as well.

Some butterflies seen included Pipevine Swallowtail, Northern Cresent, and Delaware Skipper among others. I haven't seen any Hairstreaks yet.
Pipevine Swallowtail. Amazing mix of Orange, Blue and Black.

Northern Crescent and Pearl Crescent are often confused. I'm going by flight date. Also note the thicker black border on the outer edge of the upper hind-wing.

Deleware Skipper... Life Skipper.

This is some bonus video from my previous week's posting. It has some video of the Upland Sandpiper, and a Bobolink that was near my car. To my surprise, a female Bobolink perched on the fence as well! You can hear the call of the Bobolink very loudly in this video clip, and if you listen carefully at 0:08 seconds, you can hear Savanah Sparrow, and at 0:35 seconds, you can hear a distant 'cat call' of an Upland Sandpiper.

Good Birding,

ROM, "Least Bittern Species at Risk", Royal Ontario Museum, Oct 2008, WEB, June 25, 2012 , "Least Bittern" , Cornell Lab of Ornithology, nd, WEB, June 26, 2012,

Northern Crescent ID:
Pearl Crescent ID:
Delaware Skipper ID:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Upland Sandpiper and a Drive through Glencoe and Newbury Ontario

Awesome bird. Taken while sitting in my car. Life bird 302!
Having the day off today, I treated myself to a trip to Glencoe and Newbury Ontario, which are about 1.5 hours north of Windsor. They are both between Chatham and London. Some areas near Glencoe have been recently highlighted as having some nice habitat for grassland birds and Newbury as you might know is where "Skunks Misery" is, which is Southern Ontario's largest stand of Carolinian forest.

I was not expecting to see this. It wasn't singing its tell-tale song.
Trip Summary: 
The Glencoe area has a nice grassy meadow area near the intersection of Calvert & Kerwood which had Bobolinks, Eastern Kingbirds, Savannah Sparrows and a surprise: Dickcissel!

Moving south on Calvert, I turned left onto McArthur Rd which had amazing pasture habitat to the East. I stopped my car (luckily) to photograph some Savannah Sparrows, when a Bobolink just happened to perch on a fence near the road, then, I hear the wolf-whistle call of an Upland Sandpiper! Two birds (along with a brown headed cowbird) flew in and perched really close to my car. Wow! I did not really think I would be lucky enough to find Upland Sandpipers, especially after not seeing it in Carden Alvar. A gorgeous female Bobolink perched on the fence as well, so this area was really productive for me. I'm glad I stopped here!
Amazing bird, with a cool song. Its been recently described as the "robotic R2-D2" sound by another blogger.

A nice look at female Bobolink. Not as conspicuous as the male.

Yet another Upland Sandpiper along McArthur Rd. I saw a total of 3. Very exciting to see this.

Skunks Misery in Newbury Ontario
Newbury was only about 15 minutes south of Glencoe, and was on the way home, so I figured I would stop. The Skunk's Misery OFO trip leader emailed me some basic tips for birding the area. Basically, Drive the "rectangle" along Concession Rd, Dogwood Rd, Centreville Rd  and Sassafras Rd, and walk any pathways that are visible along this perimeter (see image at the bottom of this posting). One path I walked near Concession and Dogwood had a really wet swampy area that was ideal habitat for Acadian Flycatchers, and I did see a flycatcher momentarily, but was unable to identify it. Crows, WB Nuthatch and Robins were seen. Red eyed Vireos sang incessantly from the forest canopy.
Hairy Woodpeckers used to be called Canadian Woodpeckers. Can we switch it back?
Another pathway I walked (along Centerville rd) had calling Eastern Peewees, Ovenbirds, Orioles, Black billed Cuckoo, a yellow warbler and Hairy Woodpeckers.

Incredibly, as I drove out of the park, I heard a very loud, raspy singing call from a tree along the road. I was sure it was a flycatcher call, but to my absolute amazement, some movement and twitching in a road side branch gave flashes of blue, a cerulean blue... Cerulean Warbler! I even saw two other birds skulking around and I almost feel that a female CW was around, but I was unable to get a good look with my binoculars or camera.
Endangered species... Cerulean Warbler
Cerulean Warblers are the fastest declining neotropical warbler. This warbler requires large tracts of mature forest to breed in, and suitable breeding grounds are dwindling. According to (Wikipedia), not only have its summer breeding grounds been destroyed, but now, its wintering grounds are as well. Cerulean Warblers winter in an area that just so happens to be the perfect place to grow coffee. They can live in Shade-Grown Coffee habitat, but, more money, more coffee can be generated in full-sun coffee plantations, so shade-grown coffee (and their forests) are being destroyed at an amazing pace. On top of all this, this threatened species is a common victim of Brown Headed Cowbird Parasitism (ROM). Kristen Martin's Natura Tours blog has a cool write-up and images of how Michigan's DNR is assisting Kirtlands Warblers by trying to reduce Cowbird Parasitism with Cowbird traps. Check out her page here.

After Glencoe & Newbury, I was actually going to try to visit St Clair NWA in hopes of seeing Least Bitterns, but I was starting to get a severe headache at this point. I was suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration. I guess wearing pants and a full sleeve shirt,  with only three small bottles of water in 90+ degree weather is not a good idea.

Good Birding!

Life List Summary: Upland Sandpiper #302

Wikipedia, "Cerulean Warbler", 31 May 2012 , WEB, June 20, 2012,

ROM, "Cerulean Warbler-Species at Risk",  Royal Ontario Museum, July 2011, WEB, June 20, 2012


This Google Map Screenshot shows A,B,C which are visuals for a recent ontbirds posting regarding pasture habitat attracting Upland Sanpipers. 
Calvert Rd and Thames Dr are near point A. McArthur Rd between Walker's line was really productive.

Screenshot of Skunks Misery. Drive the rectangle along Concession Rd, Dogwood Rd, Centreville Rd  and Sassafras Rd.
These new trailhead signs show the county owned forest and the trails. This one was on Concession Rd but another one can be found accross the road from the Newbury Hospital.

Park benches in "Skunks Misery"

Monday, June 18, 2012

Willow Flycatcher and the Challenge of Empidonax Flycatchers

Amazingly, Willow Flycatchers were not on my life list.
I've seen many of the empidonax flycatchers over the last few years, but have reluctantly added them to my life list, because to be honest, I felt that adding them would be insincere. I'm not alone in this confusion. I was happy to know that even bird banders at the Holiday Beach banding station in the fall admitted to not knowing which of Alder/Willow a flycatcher in hand was. In fairness, it did not vocalize and the wing length ratios did not help either. The bander marked it down as a "Trails" flycatcher. Even the whole North American birding community was unable to realize the distinction between the species before the 1970s! So this week, as I was walking the Ojibway Tallgrass Prairie, I was happy to hear a very loud, clear, distinct, raspy and scratching "Fitz-bew!" and was able to take the above photo of it. I even took video, so that I could really go back and compare the sound in my video to the sounds of the Willow Flycatcher page on

Its been said that the flycatchers are a very prehistoric bird. Their simple foraging strategy has served them well. Perch, wait for bugs to fly by and catch them, then return to your perch in a predictable looping flight pattern. This behavior along with their simple call is built into their DNA. Cornell University's site states: "Flycatcher songs are innate, not learned like those of most songbirds. Young Willow Flycatchers reared in captivity with Alder Flycatcher tutors sang typical Willow Flycatcher songs" ( That is a very cool thought!

I think Flycatchers (and Gulls) might offer some of the most challenging identification problems to birders, so I would image that they are the last area that birders venture into. If you have the time, treat yourself to a quick scan of the following two or three links. This will really help you appreciate how greatly differentiated the flycatcher family is!

Here is an incredible list of South American Flycatchers:

And a much shorter list of North Amercan Flycatchers:

Here are some Flycatchers I've seen and photographed over the last two or three years:
Least Flycatcher Holiday Beach (Fall 2010)
Yellow bellied Flycatcher - Point Pelee (Fall 2011)
Eastern Wood Peewee - Common in Eastern Deciduous Forests
Eastern Kingbird - Common and obvious to identify
Great Crested Flycatcher - Local breeder, but not often seen.
Western Kingbird in Windsor -Summer 2011
Western Wood Pewee (BC -Summer 2011)

Eastern Phoebe - An early Spring migrant
Vermilion Flycatcher, often seen in Belize, Mexico and SW US
Say's Phoebe - A western beauty

Some Flycatcher Notes:



Eastern Wood Peewee

Pee- yaweeeee (whistled)

Common Summer breeder in Essex Co.

Willow Flycatcher

Fitz-bew (buzzy
and rhaspy)

Summer breeder in Essex Co.

Alder Flycatcher

Free Bee Yeer (buzzy
and rhaspy)

More common north of Essex Co (Carden Alvar Breeder)

Acadian Flycatcher


Breeds in large tracts of forest (Rondeau,
Skunks Misery)

Least Flycatcher


Seen in migration

Yellow Bellied Flycatcher


Seen in migration

Great crested Flycatcher


Essex breeder at Ojibway and Point Pelee. Not easily found in my experience.

Olive sided Flycatcher


Have not seen one yet. Migrates late in May in a small window of time
(usually while I’m working).

*Some call descriptions referenced from (Kaufman)


Wheatley Dickcissels & Other Pelee Area Birds

This Saturday, I woke up early and birded Wheatley, Hillman Marsh, Point Pelee and Leamington (each very briefly) and was able to get good looks at Dickcissels, Bobolinks, Savannah Sparrows, among others.
Wheatley gave nice looks at Dickcissels & Savannah sparrows. While scanning though, I was unable to find more than singles of the aforementioned birds. Robins and Red winged Blackbirds were abundant.

Savannah Sparrow
Hillman Marsh Grassland Birds
Bobolinks, Dickcissels, Indigo Buntings, Yellow Warblers and Willow Flycatchers were seen at Hillman Marsh.

Willow Flycatcher... singing next to Hillman Marsh Parking Lot

Point Pelee & Leamington
Point Pelee's Delaurier Trail at Point Pelee had Eastern Bluebirds, Orchard Orioles, Rose breasted Grosbeck, Cedar Waxwings, Black billed Cuckoo among other more common birds. Leamington docks had Red headed Woodpeckers (two pairs?) and a Northern Mockingbird!

I would love to see a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher one day. Perhaps a quick trip to Texas is in order... Probably not going to happen any time soon.

Good Birding,

Kaufman, Ken. Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Print., Willow Flycatcher, Cornell University, ND, WEB, June 17th 2012,

Life list summary: Willow Flycatcher 301

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bluebirds & Butterflies

This week, I've made an attempt to take a quick walk at Ojibway or visit the bridge to view the four fledglings after work. Its been pretty good. The this falcon above is called General Brock (note the red band). All four fledglings are doing well and flying around!

Ojibay Park (the tallgrass prairie in particular) has been great. I find that if you walk slow, really slow, you can see some amazing things. I was grumbling lately about not seeing Eastern Bluebirds, but during my last walk, I was pleasantly surprised to see a pair. It was very subtle, but I saw a female quickly fly into a group of Oak trees. Perch for a moment and disappear into the middle of a tree. At first I was disappointed that I was unable to get a nice shot of them, but I realized I was seeing something very special. Ten or so minutes later, I saw a male fly into the same group of trees, perch for a moment, then fly to the same dead tree stump, hidden from view by oak leaves. The male as you can see has a mouthful of bugs, possibly for its babies. The Bluebird flew to a perch, seemed to look around for a minute, then quickly feed its fledglings.  I can't help but wonder about this behavior. I was thinking that there are so many predators, so many dangers in the wild that these Bluebird parents are cautious not to make it obvious where their nest is. They don't really hang out, possibly so not to give the location of their nest to predators. Blue Jays as beautiful as they are, can be very mean to nesting birds and eat their eggs. Brown Headed Cowbirds would love to lay an egg in the bluebird nest and let the bluebirds neglect their own offspring while feeding this parasitic cowbird fledgling. Snakes and even Chipmunks have been known to attack bird nests and steal/eat eggs!

At Ojibway, there are breeding bluebirds, but no bluebird boxes. They nest in natural cavities in snags and dead branches. These are created usually by woodpeckers.
Just recently, there was an Ontbirds Posting about Chipmunk Nest Predation. The birder noted a Black Capped Chickadee Nest near his cottage that had Male and Female parents with nesting material to a cavity in a snag near his cottage. He noted that a chipmunk climbed up the snag, with much protest from the parent BCCs, went into the nest and left with an egg. He later went back and assumingly took the two or so remaining eggs, possibly stored in its cheeks as it escaped. The nest sadly failed and the female was not seen after this ordeal.

Us birders, nature lovers and photographers must be mindful of these struggles for survival that the birds we love to look at must go through. During breeding season in particular, we should be very cautious about playing bird calls because there are so many other things the parents of a nest should be doing besides perching on a branch for a great photo. I had no idea that cute chipmunks do such things, but as I stated before, we have very little understanding of all the dangers and struggles for survival these birds in the wild must endure.

Red bellied Woodpecker inspecting a cavity-ridden snag. Heavily cropped photo.

Some Ojibway Butterflies

Silvery Checkerspot on the left, Baltimore Checkerspot on the right.

A nice look at a Silvery Cherspot. I would have discounted it as a Pearl Crescent without Blakes recent mention of this butterfly. The Silvery Checkerspot is much larger than the Pearl Crescent. According to CBIF, "The submarginal row of black spots on the hindwings always has white centres to some of the spots, unlike similar species that have solid black spots."(CBIF)

Female Little Glassywing. The males have rectangular windows, females have square.

I would like to go to see the Dickcissels that Blake and Josh have been reporting recently. I had amazing views of them last year near Wheatley. I'm also on the lookout for Olive Hairstreaks, Checkered Skippers and Five-lined Skinks.

Good Birding!

CBIF, "Silvery Checkerspot", Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility , 2010-05-31, WEB, June 12, 2012,

Friday, June 8, 2012

Windsor's Peregrine Falcon Fledglings & Venus Eclipse

Fredie & Voltaire
Not much happening bird-wise this week. I've had a few brief walks at Ojibway, but the 6 Peregrine Falcons at the bridge are the big story. According to Patrick from the Canadian Peregrine Foundation, here are some names/stats for the four new Peregrine Fledglings (summer 2012):


Colour Band

Band ID

Viper (female)

Blue Band


Twitter (female)

Yellow Band


General Brock (male)

Red Band


Eddy (?)

Green Band



What a difference a day makes

This next four or so photos are taken over the span of a week (May 28 to June 6th). Soon they will be learning how to fly, hunt and perform aerial displays at the foot of the ambassador bridge. Six Falcons? Very Cool!

May 28th

May 31st

June 5th  - Twitter (yellow) & General Brock (red)
June 7th - Viper (blue)
It was pretty cool to see 6 Peregrine Falcons today while standing next to the bridge in Windsor. Twitter & General Brock have started flying and are perched about while their parents try to feed all four fledglings.

Twitter dropped part of a dead bird, so parent has to go pick it up.
I feel strange calling one of the meanest, fastest most fearsome birds on earth "twitter". LOL. I read somewhere recently that Falcons are closer (genetically) to Parrots than to Hawks.  Strange no?

A quick walk at the Ojbiway Prairie had nice looks at Baltimore Checkerspots & Orchard Orioles among others. The Baltimore Checkerspot was in the exact same spot I saw it last year! Other birds seen at Ojibway this week are Eastern Towhee, Northern Flicker, Field Sparrows, Indigo Buntings, plus you most common and basic birds. I'm saddened not to see any Eastern Bluebirds. Usually I hear and see them easily at this time of year.

This summer, I will try to pay more attention to Skippers and Hairstreaks. I have a butterfly guide now!

The tiny Least Skipper. Least only in name.

Here is a cool video about Peregrine Falcons and how they kill their prey:

I'd love to go out to Hamilton to see the breeding Prairie Warblers, but I just do not have the time.  I might save seeing a Prairie Warbler for retirement...

Good birding!

Raymond Barlow shot this incredible photo of a Peregrine Falcon. You owe it to yourself to check it out:

 Or Jerry Peltier's once in a lifetime photo of a Peregrine Falcon destroying a blue-jay in mid air.

Bonus: Venus Eclipse!
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Hinode spacecraft captured this stunning view of the transit of Venus.


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