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!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Evening Grosbeak & Winter Finches at Rondeau

Boardwalk near vistor center

A recent blog posting from a Rondeau Area birder had Evening Grosbeaks and White-winged Crossbills coming to his feeders, so I thought I would go see them for myself. I've seen Evening Grosbeaks (at a great distance) in the Okanagan Valley BC but never in Ontario. White winged Crossbills would be a life bird though.
Upon arrival to Rondeau Park, I walked up to the beach and noticed three Horned Grebes close to the shore. Common Mergansers were very close to shore as well, but further south along the beach. Next was the visitor center feeders, but I soon realized that there was no bird seed there so, I decided to head over to south point trail where I ran into Blake and Steve.
Hermit Thrushes on South Point Trail
Next stop was Ric & Anne's Feeders. We saw many Pine Siskens, Red and White breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches but no Grosbeaks or Crossbills.

Siskins and Purple Finch

Blake and Steve decided to walk the campground and I followed, as I had never walked that part of the park. Lots of birds around, including: Eastern Bluebirds, Red bellied Woodpeckers, chickadees, both Kinglets and even a Nashville Warbler was seen foraging through dried-out goldenrod plants. Steve soon pointed out a flock of Crossbills that went right over our heads. I snapped a few photos in hopes of verifying them and sure enough...Lifer! White winged Crossbills #309.

White winged Crossbills in flight
Having limited time, I figured I would try out Ric's feeders one more time before I left Rondeau. Sure enough, as I was about to give up on waiting, Evening Grosbeaks showed up!

Red breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmouse and Red bellied Woodpeckers were hanging out!

As I was about to leave Rondeau Park, Blake stopped by Ric's Cottage to see the Grosbeaks and infomed me that he found another Saw-whet Owl!  Seeing this amazing owl was a great way to end off a great morning of birding!

Good Birding,

Rufous Owls and Sparrows at Ojibway

Just a quick post today .... I had some cool pics I wanted to post from over the last week or so. Highlights were several Fox Sparrows at Ojibway Park, and a Rufous Eastern Screech Owl. Also, Kelly M texted me this week about Pine Siskins at her feeders which is a pretty nice winter finch!

It was cool to see the Fox Sparrows scratch the ground looking for bugs and possibly remaining seeds. They would do this funny 'shuffle' keeping their feet beside each other and scratching back and forth. I also saw a Tufted Titmouse, which is generally easily seen in the fall and winter months near the feeders. Tufted Titmouse is one of my *sparkbirds*!
Only 10% of Eastern Screech Owls are Rufous

Thanks to Kelly for the invite to see her feeders. Siskins are like goldfinch wearing camo.

 I had a great morning at Rondeau. I got to see Blake, Steve and Ric... A few great birds are in store.

 Good birding!


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