Monday, April 28, 2014

Holiday Beach Flora & Fauna

Trout Lillies

White Trout Lillies - Rare!

I went for a family walk at Holiday Beach on Sunday this past weekend. I noted a large swath of Yellow Trout Lillies which was nice, but then as I continued walking, I noticed smaller White Trout Lillies. It was a nice little botanical discovery. I don't think I've seen the white version of the native Trout Lillie Plant so that was pretty exciting!
Yellow Warbler

I also had my first Yellow Warbler on Sunday at Holiday Beach. Its always fun to see that beautiful yellow bird so I must note my first view of it! Speaking of Yellow Warblers, Holiday Beach has excellent habitat for another "yellow warbler" - the Prothonotary Warbler! The sloughs look excellent and lets hope this habitat invites this beautiful bird to this park this spring.

Solitary Sandpiper - By Itself!

Other birds seen were Greater, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sanpiper as well as about 40 other expected species in this habitat. A new beach facility has been built as well. Pretty nice!

Two more Eastern Phoebes were seen as well. I know,,,, its weird but I just haven't really seen them this spring! I think these two bring my total to 6 this April!

Good birding,

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Anecdotal Late April Birding Thoughts

Have you ever seen pink Dutchman's Breeches?
ˌanikˈdōtl/ adjective adjective: anecdotal

(of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research.

Crappy photo of Spring Azure

I once read in Tom Hince's book "A Birders Guide to Point Pelee"  that you will always here birders say "Where have all the birds gone?". He dispels that comment by reminding readers that Point Pelee is a migration trap. Migration traps birding observations (he states) may not be the best place to make overall assumptions about the health of a bird population because factors that allow a bird to show well one year are not necessarily going to be present another year. Some years, the flight of various species may pass right over the park if conditions are right. Even my own meager observations are subject to the five day work-week, and not really optimal weather conditions that are well reported by other bloggers. The random weekend date/ weather mix changes year to year thus giving me a varied/random/intermittent view of migration that I have to take into consideration every year.

My only YBSS this season!

But that being said, I've only seen like 3-4 Eastern Phoebes this April! 1 Yellow Bellied Sapsucker! I haven't seen a single blue headed vireo whereas last year I had seen many by this point! (Actually, last year I felt I had seen abundant blue headed vireos during the earlier part of migration) I can't say I've seen a rusty blackbird this April along the sloughs of Point Pelee's wetter forest trails.  Is anyone else sensing low numbers for these birds? Maybe migration is a little late because temperatures are so low?

Today, I was able to stop by the park for a short 4 hour walk.  A few good birds seen include: Nashville, Palm, Yellow Rumped were well seen as well as my FOS Northern Waterthrush along Woodland Nature Trail. Two young kids asked me what I was looking at and I pointed out this warbler to them. They had a field guide and looked up the bird. It was nice to help them get this life bird.

Northern Waterthrush - Tossing leaf litter!

I thought about driving by the Hillman Shorebird cell as I left Point Pelee to Windsor but decided not to due to fatigue. Bad idea... 12 Marbled Godwits hanging out! Note to self: Don't sleep in during late April and don't skip Hillman at this time of year.:-)

Good birding!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Extinct Passenger Pigeon - A Piece of Our Natural History

During this past week, I was sitting in my dentist's reception area waiting for my routine cleaning, when I figured I would check out a recent publication of Macleans Magazine. I opened it to a page describing a book that documents the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon! I didn't have time to read it so I snapped a photo of it with my phone, hoping to look it up later online (Its pasted below - verbatim from its source website).  Oddly enough, I was in the Pelee Visitor Center this weekend and noted that they have a specimen on display, so I figured I would share both.  I'm just constantly amazed to read and learn a little about our natural history. I find little tidbits of information here and there ... just trying to understand. This passage (below) makes some interesting references to how this bird played a role in the Eastern North American ecosystem. Enjoy!

Macleans Book Review: "A Feathered River Across the Sky"

A Feathered River Across the Sky: the Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction 
By Joel Greenberg 

Most Canadians and Americans know that their continent was once blanketed with now-extinct passenger pigeons; some may even be aware that, unusually, we know the precise date of their final disappearance: Sept. 1, 1914, when Martha, the last of her kind, died in the Cincinnati Zoo. But few of us can be aware of the scale of the loss.When Europeans arrived here, the pigeons made up at least a quarter of the bird life north of Mexico; their passage could obscure the sun for days; a single flock that flew by Toronto in 1860 contained as many as three billion individual birds; the largest nesting site on record extended over 2,200 sq. km; their descent from flight was a riot of destruction for themselves (the first to land were often crushed by the sheer mass of latecomers) and for the site—wide swaths of forest looked to observers as though they had been visited by a guano-fuelled tornado. 

They were beautiful, too. Up to half a metre in length, the more colourful males had slate-blue upper parts and a throat and breast of copper glazed with purple, making them iridescent. Passenger pigeons were a sight to behold, in every sense, and were beheld by most North Americans, since their pathways regularly crossed over the continent’s most densely populated areas. 

And then they were gone. In half a century, the passenger pigeon plunged from a single flock of billions to Martha. Even before the hunting became commercialized (pigeon meat provided cheap food for the poor and even for hogs), the killing was done on a mass and indiscriminate scale: hunters used sticks to push the oil-fat squabs out of their nests or chopped down trees with 20 or more nests; sometimes they set the trees on fire, cooking as well as killing the prey; shotgun blasts could take down five dozen at a time and nets could catch 800 at once. At an 1878 nesting site in Michigan, perhaps 50,000 birds were killed daily for almost five months. Often the market became glutted, and the meat valueless—in one incident during the 1880s, several tons of unsold birds were dumped into the Wisconsin River. 

Nor, as Greenberg’s exhaustive account of endless greed and blind stupidity makes clear, do we yet fully realize what the passenger pigeon meant to the ecology of North America’s eastern woodlands. The cycle of destruction and renewal they brought the forests, the food they provided for animal predators, the fertilizing effect of their droppings, even the way they probably kept a check on the population of their chief competitors for acorns, white-footed mice, who are also the main host for the organism that causes Lyme disease, made the pigeons a keystone species. What’s left of our impoverished forests is probably still adjusting.(Greenberg)

Astronomy this week...

A few nights ago, I read that Mars was going to be visible to the naked eye, very obvious in the sky. I actually attempted to photograph it! Also, a lunar eclipse where the moon passes through the earths shadow took place last week as well, but I believe the view in Windsor was obstructed with clouds. I did document a lunar eclipse (in the earths shadow- a red moon) back in 2008. See photo below!

This image is a collection of several exposures of the moon during the eclipse! The redish moon on the left is due to the refraction of light passing through the earths atmosphere onto the moon as it enters the Earth's shadow!

Regarding birding, I made it out this past Friday and will try to go out on Monday to try my luck. South winds tonight might bring in some new birds. Another cold snap coming on Tuesday!

Happy Easter & good birding!

Joel Greenberg, A Feathered River Across the Sky: the Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction,, Friday, January 10, 2014, web, April 20, 2014,

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Early April Migrants at Pelee

The Ojibway Birding Group met up at Point Pelee this morning so I figured I would attempt to join them for a little birding, comradery and exercise. The weather today was excellent! One almost didn't need to wear a coat!
Wilson's Snipe - Dowitching!

But before arrived at Pelee, I wanted to check out another migrant that was reported, some Golden Plovers on Road E. At 7:30 am I noted three or four Wilson's Snipes along with many Blue winged Teal. On a telephone wire along the road, a (FOS) Tree Swallow was noted!

At the tip parking lot, the Ojibway group was observing many species of ducks, common loons, Surf Scoters, Northern Flickers and more. Breeding plumaged Bonapartes Gulls were nice to see. Song and Savannah Sparrows were seen along the tip along with singles of Eastern Phoebe.

The birding group continued on to Delaurier Trail, but I had another trail that I wanted to visit. I had limited time and decided to branch off from the group to see Rusty Blackbirds and Yellow bellied Sapsuckers. Those two birds are more likely seen at Woodland Nature Trail, since it offers flooded forest habitat as opposed to more open scruby habitat that Delaurier offers. My WNT walk resulted in neither of those target birds! But, I did see a Winter Wren, Yellow rumped Warbler, Lots of Kinglets (40 Golden crowned, 5 Ruby crowned), a few Hermit Thrushes (10 or so). Many Robins, Red shouldered Blackbirds Red winged Blackbird (thanks Alan) and Common Grackels! An Eastern Comma butterfly was noted. I believe I acknowledged Spring Peepers calling along Woodland Nature Trail as well today.

Winter Wren in this photo... Can you see him?

My best bird though was a Louisiana Waterthrush! It was on the gravel path and hopped along the path as I walked back towards the Visitor Center! I noticed it not by its plumage, but by its behavior. It was wagging its tail up and down and eating bugs along the gravel path. This bird is well known for migrating well ahead of its similar looking cousin, the Northern Waterthrush. Usually this bird is seen in the wetter slough areas so this was a nice surprise to see it on a drier part of the trail!

Louisiana Waterthrush - Woodland Nature Trail - April 12, 2014

Stopped by Hillman shorebirds cell after Pelee. I noted several shorebird species from the comfort of the new viewing blind. 6 pectoral,10 golden plovers, 10 killdeer, 2 greater yellowlegs. Shoveler, green and blue teal were abundant.

Greater or Lesser? Hard to tell! I'm thinking greater!

I didn't get to see my target birds of Rusty Blackbirds and YBSS, but I think next weekend, I will have another chance!  

Good birding!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Birder Movie

This past Friday April 4th 2014 was the opening night for the newly released "The Birder" movie that was filmed right here in Windsor Ontario. It was neat to watch this movie and see scenes from around Windsor such as Ojibway Park & Nature Center, Malden Park, and the Old St Annes High School.

The movie was pretty good. It had a pretty simple 'revenge comedy' theme and a happy ending. It had its ornithological inaccuracies that would make some birders cringe. At one point, a Prairie Falcon was seen in an Eastern Deciduous Forest Habitat (ornithological cringe) but just like other birding movies, you have to look past these small inaccuracies and just enjoy the movie.

The movie might have several other Canadian City releases, perhaps Toronto and maybe some Western Canadian Cities. It should be playing in Leamington in May, so if you want to see this but can't be in Windsor this week, follow the links below for alternative viewing locations/times:

If you are from Windsor and you enjoy birding, I recommend that you support these guys. I've posted the showings for the remainder of this week below, as well as a map to the movie theater that is hosting the film.

Lakeshore Cinemas Birder Showings -  WWW.IMAGINECINEMAS.COM 
Fri, Apr 04: 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Sat, Apr 05: 1:20pm 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Sun, Apr 06: 1:20pm 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Mon, Apr 07: 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Tue, Apr 08: 1:20pm 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Wed, Apr 09: 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm
Thu, Apr 10: 4:15pm 7:05pm 9:15pm

View Larger Map

After the movie, the producers (and one or two actors) answered questions about the movie. Movie swag was offered out in the main lobby after the movie, and several birding-themed t-shirts were available, movie posters etc were available for purchase. I picked up this "Pelee Region Provincial Park" T-shirt. I think its a pretty cool T-shirt and I don't mind paying $20 for it to help the producers out. These producers from Windsor followed their heart, wanting to become movie makers so I'm happy to help support their efforts. They went out on a limb to make a movie about birding. Note that there is no such thing as Pelee Region Provincial Park - The movie makers made a modified name for the Point Pelee National Park for legal reasons.

Recent Birding, Leps and Herps
I've only done some local birding this past week or so, and have seen some seasonal birds. Today at the Ojibway Prairie Reserve and Forest, I saw: Fox Sparrows, Lots of Downy Woodpeckers (some were drumming), Eastern Phoebe (FOS), Eastern Bluebirds, Song and Field Sparrows as well. No YBSS yet!

Fox Sparrow

First of season butterflies today were: Eastern Comma, Mourning Cloak (two of each). I was looking back at last year's first of season for these two butterflies [link], and it was April 15th!

Western Chorus Frog [link] have been calling for a week or so, and over the last few days, I've made an attempt to see them and photograph them. I was able to take a few photos the other day and some video today, so I figured I would share. They can be difficult to spot because they submerge under water when people come near. I was able to not spook them this afternoon and got some footage of them singing. I usually would not feature frogs on this blog, but I am getting more interested in herps after reading great blogs like Josh's, Blakes or Allen Woodliffe's blog. I want to see a Spring Peeper now!

Western Chorus Frogs (AKA Striped Chorus Frogs)

I feel lucky to have seen these frogs so easily over this last week. I think they are generally hard to see or photograph, and this is my first time really identifying this species. has a nice writeup on these frogs here: .

Good birding!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Are Carolina Chickadees Going to Move Into Essex County?

Birders all over North America love their chickadees. In Southern Ontario, we generally have the pleasure of year-round company with the black capped chickadee. This cute little bird might bring a smile to a nature lover in the dead of winter with its cheerful disposition and overall cuteness. While other birds migrate south for the winter this one sticks it out with us, and simply asks for some sunflower seeds, a weedy field or a forest to forage in return.

But a recent research paper and corresponding video have shed light on an interesting onithological fact: The boundary between Carolina Chickadees and Black Capped Chickadess is moving north! Watch the following video, and pay close attention to the four-part call of the Carolina Chickadee. This quad-toned call is the main differentiating factor in the identification of the Carolina Chickadee:

So I checked out the range map on Ebird for the Carolina Chickadee and limited the sightings to this year [link].  Check out the screenshot below of how far north (in Ohio) the bird is showing up, and this data is just for this year, a particularly cold winter.

I'm pretty amazed how close this bird is to the Michigan/Ohio border. I might bundle up a drive to Magee Marsh, Toledo's Oak Openings Metropark with a trip to see this quad-toned chickadee.

I was wondering what the rate of northward advancement was, and according to the researcher Scott Taylor at Villanova University, "the rate of hybrid zone movement of the chickadee hybrid zone recorded in Ohio (1.0–1.6 km/year)" (Taylor et al). So in theory, its not a matter of if this bird makes it to Essex County, but rather, When?  But even if you just consider the distance of 60km north (to the north shore of Ohio), it would take about 37 years (60km/1.6km/y) at the current rate of northward movement. It would be even longer if you consider another 60 km to cross the Lake Erie archipelago of  islands spanning the border of Ohio and Ontario.

What defines this line between the Southern Carolina Chickadees and the Northern Black capped Chickadees? The report hints that regions with an average temperature of -7 or warmer are tolerated by Carolina Chickadees, so this is what defines that line across Northern Ohio, not a habitat boundary. Taylor states: "The northern range limit of P. carolinensis is not coincident with a physical boundary or habitat shift, but instead closely aligns with the mean minimum winter temperature - 7 C isotherm"(Taylor). So, don't hold your breath for this chickadee to take up residence in Essex for a while. Vagrants can always happen though... So keep your ears peeled for this southern four-toned chickadee!

Good Birding!


Taylor Scott et al, Climate-Mediated Movement of an Avian Hybrid Zone, Current Biology 24 , 671–676, March 17, 2014 WEB April 2, 2014,

Youtube Video Cornell Research update: New chickadee study shows climate change affecting distribution, LabofOrnithology, 6 Mar 2014, WEB, April 2, 2014,

More reading:

PS: Blog readers may remember that a few years back, (during my west-coast vacation) I had achieved the coveted birding accomplishment: The Chickadee Grandslam!


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