Sunday, September 21, 2014

Broad winged Hawk Migration at Holiday Beach

A few days ago, (Thursday Sept 18th, 2014) I went to Holiday Beach after work because there was a nice north wind blowing and I had a hunch that it might be a good hawk-watching day. Sure enough, as I was birding and casually walking around at Holiday Beach, I looked up into the sky with my binoculars and saw huge kettles of Broad Winged Hawks (the scene above is barely visible to the naked eye - you need optics and a good zoom lens to appreciate such kettles - especially later in the day when the flight elevation rises). It was a great afternoon - 22, 600 raptors has flown over the hawkwatching tower - a huge day for Broad winged Hawks and a great diversity of raptors as well.

A pair of Snowy Egrets that have been ongoing gave nice views and posed nicely next to Great Egrets in the pond below the tower. Several Common Nighthawks flew overhead as well. Several American Kestrels flew by the tower eating Green Darner Dragonflies.

Nom Nom Nom - Kestrel munching on freshly caught dragonfly

This Peregrine falcon knows he's at the top of the food chain. This bird took a few swoops at other raptors nearby.

More kettles some with 50 to 100, some the 500+ birds went by for the next 2 hours. Amazing to witness. I think every birder should witness this Broad winged Hawk migration ... the problem is timing though. I would suggest keeping an eye out on hawkwatching reports during mid-September, and go within 1-2 days of an increased surge of Broad wings. Another thing to consider is that North / Northwest winds always make for a good day of hawkwatching in Mid-September as well.

More Kettles - I only had my 250mm lens... Not my 400mm

Saturday morning, I went to Point Pelee and it was surprisingly quiet - at least for me. I ended up walking Delaurier/Cactus Trail and noticed a few warblers, my first southbound Ruby crowned Kinglet and a few of the more common warblers.  I took the tram to the tip and met Jeremy Bensette on the way. Josh Vandermeulen, Dave Szmyr, Jeremy Hatt and Blake Mann were doing a lake watch with great results on SE winds. I must admit, I don't have too much patience for lake watching... and I didn't have a scope like the rest of the group but Josh soon called out a nice Parasitic Jaeger that was surprisingly close to the west beach path that we were standing on.

Nice find Josh! My second Parasitic Jaeger and first at Point Pelee
I left Pelee at about noon. I tried to bird the new Juniper Savanah near the parking lot but it was quiet. Lots of Sharped Shinned Hawks flying overhead.  I ended up just looking at some very common butterflies. A single Monarch was present. They had a pretty big flight... earlier in the week.

I've never really confidently identified an Orange Sulphur from a Clouded... Two very common butterflies - But this one seems to be an easy ID - if you have a net or a camera with a fast shutter rate.
Cabbage White on Sky blue Aster?

Good birding!


Did you know that September 6th was World Shorebird Day? Check out this video that Cornell Ornithology posted about Bar tailed Godwit migration research.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Some Migration Highlights & a Failed Pointe Mouillee Trip

I've been busy with work, night school and the kids' swimming lessons ... I should really be in 'hiatus' mode, but I still have tried to find time to get some birding in - even its just close to home in Windsor. I've seen some surprisingly nice flocks of birds during my Ojibway walks - one highlight being a Blue winged Warbler - maybe one of my first of this species outside of Point Pelee and first "southbound" Blue winged that I recall seeing.  Other nice birds at Ojibway included nice looks at a Yellow billed Cuckoo, Tufted Titmouse - A local specialty - as well as some wild flowers - Great Lobelia & Nodding Ladies Tresses (or Great Plains Tresses?). Special thanks to Allen Woodliffe's blog for help on ID'ing the flowers.


I've also tried going to Holiday Beach in Amherstburg to join in the Hawk-festival festivities and just doing some birding around there. In September, the warblers and paserines at Holiday Beach are excellent...just as good or maybe better than what I see when I go to Point Pelee. Last weekend, a little walk along the beach gave looks at tonnes of passerines. I think they banded 150 warblers/thrushes/vireos and flycatchers. I had looks at Great crested Flycatchers, Wilson's Warblers, Magnolia, Black throated Blue, American Redstarts, Black and White, Blackpoll Warblers, not to mention great looks at Raptors flying overhead.

I attempted to go to Pointe Mouillee for some shorebirding last weekend, but after packing my van up with my bike... I realized that they close Pointe Mouillee in the peak of shorebird migration... Life can be so cruel some times. Its closed to anyone but hunters - but I was thinking, could you not go into the location and just not shot birds? Could you go hunting but bring a scope instead of a rifle?

Since I had a Pointe Mouillee trip failure - I figured I would post some shorebirding I did last year at this time, but never got around to posting. I had kayaked the Point Pelee Marsh and found a small muddy island peninsula that I just grounded my kayak onto. A few shorebirds were around, notably a Pectoral, Short billed Dowitcher and a White rumped Sandpiper! I have had bad luck with White rumped Sandpipers. I'm quite certain this is one - an adult too-  I think!

After work today, I was lucky enough to witness a major Broad-winged Hawk Migration today at Holiday Beach.  Thousands of them kettled and streamed by along with a great diversity of other raptors. More on that in my next posting!

Good birding!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Little Yellow at Point Pelee v2

Even though I was a little sick over the last day or two... I drove out to Point Pelee to try and enjoy a little fall migration. My son Matthew came with me, which means I spent a little more time on the beach (getting my toes wet in the surf) and in the visitor center (while my son colours and interacts with the exhibits).

We walked the northwest beach footpath which is sometimes good for butterfly watching. Some butterflies seen include: Common Buckeyes, Giant Swallowtail, Monarchs, Painted Lady, Viceroy, as well as the ever present whites and sulphurs.

Later, we took the "Train" to the tip and headed straight to sparrow field. There were some flycatchers and warblers to be seen, but I was getting poor views of these avian beasts. Summer Azures, Eastern Tailed Blues were seen in Sparrow field as well as boatloads of whites.

My son and I left Sparrow Field and took a little known footpath to west beach, near the "Serengeti Tree". Lots of birds were along the edge of the water but were uncooperative. Perhaps the Sharp-shinned hawk that was around had them hiding even more than normal.

Word had been circulating that a few Little Yellow butterflies had been seen lately (in Sparrow Field), and I was hoping to see one today. As my son and I approached the tip parking lot along the west beach trail, a small yellow butterfly caught my eye. My son noticed and started chasing this little lepidopteric jem as it cruised along the edge of the road. After waiting a minute or two to land, I snapped a few diagnostic photos. I haven't been butterfly watching too long, but my guess is that there are just a handful of Butterfly watchers in the province that get a chance to see a Little Yellow!

Its always fun to discover a new butterfly, but finding one of the "White and Sulphurs" species is particularly fun because Cabbage Whites, and Clouded and Orange Sulphurs are so abundant.  This year I saw a "Great Southern White"[link] in Florida as well as a "Mustard White" [link] in Michigan. I had a Beckers White [link] and a Pink edged Sulphur in Oregon this summer as well. We can't forget about the Dainty Sulphur [link] that erupted into Ontario in 2012.  This Little Yellow was not a lifer - I saw one last summer [link] at Point Pelee.  Regarding Monarchs - I probably saw 20 or so Monarch Butterflies today.

On the way out of the park, I stopped at White Pine to perhaps do a quick walk at Cactus Field. I happened to run into my friend Rick who was eyeing a Yellow billed Cuckoo. I think its been a while since I've seen one so it was a nice find. Its always great to run into a friend whilst birding!

Happy World Shorebird Day by the way! 

Good birding,

Question - Does anyone know the latin name for Little Yellow? Is it Pyrisitia lisa or Eurema lisa ???

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labour Day Weekend Birding - Pelee Birding & Snowy Egrets at Holiday Beach

This could be a  is a Least Flycatcher  (ignore the image label)

Labour Day weekend is usually such a great weekend for birding. Southbound migration is in full swing and its the last long weekend of Summer.  I decided to go birding at Point Pelee and my first stop in the park was at Delaurier Trail. I found a really nice pocket of flycatchers and warblers just north of the parking lot. This recently managed area has lots of open cedar savannah with lots of brush piles. Blue grey Gnatcatchers, Nashville, Bay-Poll warblers were seen here as well as Eastern Phoebe, Yellow bellied Flycatcher (could have been a Least to be honest) and Eastern Wood Pewee were seen and heard. Overhead, three or four Common Nighthawks were foraging with spectacular arial maneuvers and showing there nicely marked white bars on their long wings. The octagon area of the Delaurier trail was nice as well with a few more warbler species (black and white), Hummingbirds and more Flycatchers.

Later at Cactus Field - I noted that it was birdy as well. Its really grown in since its grand opening this spring. Its hard to find the trail under all the Goldenrod. Lots of Blue Jays, Carolina and House Wrens, Common Grackels, Goldfinch, Cardinals were around. A Least Flycatcher posed nicely for me but my camera was at a +1 exposure, overexposing this beautiful little avian gem.

Hackberry Emperor in the White Pine Parking Lot.


I saw many birders at the park today including Steve Pike, Blake, Alan, Jeremy B & Josh. Josh and Jeremy invited me to go out to Holiday Beach with them so I joined, because I wanted to get better looks at Snowy Egrets than I had gotten in the last week or two.  On the way, I stopped in Kingsville to see a Common Checkered Skipper colony that is behind the McDonalds lot.

Sure enough at Holiday Beach - Trumpeter Swans were a highlight as well as a Solitary Sandpiper, Green Heron, Kingfishers ... but no Snowy Egrets in sight.  Until we were leaving... Josh called the Snowy in flight - as it landed in the pond adjacent to the hawk watching tower.

I only saw one Snowy Egret, but Kory, Josh and Jeremy had seen two as they left the park.

Good Birding!


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