Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking back at 2014 ... and Ahead to 2015

This year has been yet another great year of birding and nature discovery. Most of the highlights were characterized by out of town trips to Fort Myers Florida, Sisters Oregon, Carden Alvar  Ontario and Traverse City Michigan. My life list grew from 337-->390 (~53 lifers)! This also marks my fifth year of Blogging as Well. Its my 5 year Bloggaversary!

Following tradition I will recap my highlights on a month by month basis below:

January & Feburary
At one point, 50 Bald Eagles were seen at Peche Island in East Windsor.  On any given day, Eagles  have arial battles for fish and sometimes the action can be pretty close to shore. Another highlight was a Long tailed duck that I found just west of the Ambassador Bridge. Its amazing to think that these are rarities along the Detroit River, but thousands of them are seen along the Sarnia River - just a few hundred KM's north of Windsor (on the north side of Lake St Clair). Lots of White winged Scoters as well - The numbers were unprecedented - it was a brutally cold and tough winter.


A family trip to Fort Myers FL ended up with six new lifers!  Western Sandpiper, Prairie Warbler,Long billed Curlew,Brown headed Nuthatch, Snail Kite,Wilson's Plover. Some butterfly lifers included: Great Southern White, Mangrove Buckeye, Ceraunus Blue
Queen Butterfly.


Migration is always taking place, but mid to late April can be an excellent time to find rarities in the form of Southern Overshoots. One exciting find in early April was this Louisiana Waterthrush. 

At Holiday Beach, I found a nice patch of both White and Yellow Trout Lillies. A nice and unexpected find. I'm really starting to realize that Botany is COOL! 


It only took me four years to finally find a Clay Coloured Sparrow and sure enough, this May gave me a chance to find this beautiful, distinct Sparrow. I found it with a small flock of Field Sparrows, maybe 2 or 3 along Northwest Beach. I didn't know what I was looking at when I found it, so I texted this photo to my friend Rick, who confirmed the ID of this bird. Very cool! I found this Clay coloured Sparrow while looking for (and not finding) the Smith's Longspur that was being seen near Hillman Marsh. I guess I will have to save the Smith's Longspur for retirement!

Another excellent Sparrow that I found was a Henslow's Sparrow! I found this just two days after the sparrow above. Very exciting!

This year, I also tried to drive less to Point Pelee. On some weekdays, I tried to bird more locally in Windsor. Malden Park is very close to my house and had surprisingly good results!

I also had a chance to visit Magee Marsh in Ohio which was pretty amazing. I had taken a day off work (my one "personal day" per year that I get) and I had planned it on a predicted "fallout day". I photographed and saw 23 warbler species in about 4 hours of birding. It was pretty awesome. 

One "strange" thing about this past May was that big warbler movements took place in the later part of the month. I had previously though that "migration was over" after May 15th but some of the best migration days took place in the last third of the month. 

Prairie Warbler along NW Beach at Point Pelee

Philadelphia Vireo - Can you find it?

Finding a Prarie Warbler along Northwest Beach might have been the birding highlight of the year for me, even though I had lifered this species in Florida in March. 


June had some good birding. Some highlights were several Yellow headed Blackbirds at Mitchel's Bay and a Bicknell's Thrush at the tip of Point Pelee. Regarding the Thrush, a sample of its excrement was collected and sent off for analysis, but I'm not sure if any conclusive results were obtained. I don't know if the bird was identified by its song by the original finders. 

A short trip to Carden Alvar added a few more lifers to the old' life list. It was cool to find a Grasshopper Sparrow on my own --- simply by recognizing its call as I drove along Wiley Road. I finally got a chance to see a Golden winged Warbler on this trip... an amazing birding moment. 

Carden Alvar is also known as a great butterfly watching spot. I was excited to find many Silvery Blue butterflies as well as an unexpected Tawny Crescent. I was not looking for the Tawny Crescent, but after looking at the photo below, I noticed its alot darker than a northern or pearly crescent. An exciting, unexpected lepedopteric discovery!

Tawny Crescent - I photographed this while sitting in my car, driving along Wiley Road.  

The Dean Hale Woodpecker festival in Sister's Oregon is clearly my most ambitious birding trip I've taken thus far. While its not as biodiverse as Central American destinations, I had a great time making some great Western discoveries. I picked up all 11 woodpecker species, 4 Warbler species... I two new Owl species... I could go on... You get it --- its awesome going to the west coast. I picked up almost 40 life birds - bringing my life list from 350-389 birds! Seeing both Pygmy nuthatches and then Brown headed in Florida was nice. I've seen all of North America's nuthatch species. 

Finding this Caliope Hummingbird - the smallest bird in North America was one of my favorite birding moments of the year. It was self discovered. I will not soon forget seeing this bird's striped magenta gorget as the sun set over the western mountains.

July had more of a focus on Butterfly Watching. One major accomplishment was finding a record breaking four Striped Hairstreaks at Point Pelee. 

A trip to "Pure Michigan" resulted in some good nature sightings. A Karner Blue butterfly, (long extirpated from Ontario) was found enroute, along with a Kirtlands Warbler near Grayling Michigan. Two other great birds seen and heard in the area were Pine Warblers and Vesper Sparrows-- very rare birds in my experience.

Karner Blue - An amazing nature find --- only the size of a dime!


I'm starting to wonder if I'm a better lepidoterist than birder?!?!? Little Yellow at Pelee. 


Hudsonian Godwit was a nice find at Comber. At one point, I was birding this amazing shorebird habitat in comber, when a man in camo and with a shotgun came to greet me. He was hunting at this site... One could only wonder what fantastic shorebirds could be found if someone wasn't firing shotguns at ducks, snipe and whatever else he feels like shooting. I'm not against hunting, if the hunter is going to eat their prey --- but it just makes you wonder what could show up in Comber if shotgun blasts didn't flush the shorebirds every other night.


A little Gull at Kingsville Harbour was fun to see. When I was looking at this Little Gull, I noted a Loon in the Harbour. I was not sure of the species but I assumed that (statistically speaking) it was most likely a Common Loon. This long staying loon was recently identified as a Red throated Loon--- something I had joked around about with Blake back in November! This experience has reminded me not to be a lazy birder. I need to make better field mark observations and trust my gut.


I would of liked to have ended the year off with a Varied Thrush. I think I saw one but will hold off on lifering it till next time. Volmer Arena in LaSalle has a nice pond which attracts lots of Geese. Snow Geese were seen in Late October here and in late December, White-fronted Geese were found by local birder Karen H.

Final thoughts and goals for 2015

Countdown to 400... what ten birds would I need to reach the 400 club?

Worm eating Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, any grouse, Scissor tailed Flycatcher, Pine Grosbeak, Least Tern, Varied Bunting, Verdin, Nelsons Sparrow, Sabines Gull, Pomarine Jeager, Carolina Chickadee, Northern Hawk Owl , Mississipi Kite, Harlequin Duck, Brant, Common Eider, Bohemian Waxwing... Ugggghh it ain't going to be easy...

Travel Goals:
High Park Butterfly Watching? Wainfleet Bog? Manitoulin Island? Southwest US? Gulf States? Southern Ohio?

Botany Goals: Yes, I said it... Botany Goals! I want to see and identify more plants in this upcoming year. Two in particular that I would like to see are: Eastern fringed Prairie Orchid and Fringed Gentian.

Butterfly Watching Goals: 
Milberts Tortoiseshell, Mulberry Winged Skipper, Leonard's Skipper, Eastern Pine Elphin, Bog Copper, Red banded Hairstreak, White M Hairsteak, Northern Oak Hairstreak, Aphrodite Fritillary.

More E-birding:
I recently  discovered (serendipitously) that I'm in the top 100 ebirders in Essex County! But I simply have not taken my data entry as seriously as I could have and with a little more effort, I think I could be in the top 20! You only need 225+ species to be in the top 100 Ontario Ebirders. I would love to be on that list, and I'm quite confident I've seen that many species on an annual basis in the last few years.

5 Years of Weekly Blog Posts
Its been 5 years of birding... wow! I want to thank all my readers for checking out this blog and also thank any other bloggers out there who link to me... thanks! My blogging output has moved from weekly to maybe 1-2 per month but I'm still birding just as much as always. Happy New Year!!!

Good Birding!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Loonie Loon and the Hunt for Varied Thrush

A recent Cedar Creek CBC had in interesting result - A long staying loon at Kingsville Harbour was identified as a Red-throated Loon. I had seen a loon (this loon) back on Nov 29th, --- the date of my last blog posting --- when I was observing the Little Gull in Kingsville Harbour. Funny thing was that later on that afternoon, I joked with Blake that I thought it was a Red throated Loon! So, its a hindsight lifer! Its my 390th bird.

I spent several days last week at Two Creeks Conservation Area looking for a Varied Thrush. I'm 90% sure I spotted it at one point on the 3rd of 4 consecutive days of searching for it. At one point, I was walking along the south end of McIntosh Trail, when a tawny bird flushed from the ground from the east side of the trail to the west, then instantly disappeared into a grove of Red Cedar trees. After trying my best to follow where it went, I looked in the same area to see a nice Hermit Thrush just sitting in the same thicket the other bird had just flushed from. Again, I'm 90% sure it was the Varied Thrush, but I'm going to hold off on "lifering" it. Oddly enough, I heard Varied Thrush back in Banff Alberta two years ago... but try as I might, I could not lay eyes on this bird. I guess its just not my time to see this beautiful Thrush.

I did really enjoy walking Two Creeks Conservation Area though. You may recall, this is the website that is using one of my photos without permission. (I still don't know how I should feel about that... Upset or Flattered?) Anyway I had a great time walking around this natural area. There are 12 bridges so its fun in a way to traverse them all. My son actually loves walking on elevated pathways and bridges so I brought him along one day. This park gave good looks at some decent birds such as: Hairy Woodpeckers, Winter Wren, Common Grackel, Yellow rumped Warbler, Brown Creeper and White breasted Nuthatches.

During my walk at Two Creeks, I couldn't help but notice a diverse assortment of trees. As I learn more about birding, butterfly watching and just nature in general, I can help but notice and appreciate Botany and incorporate it into the discussion. I think any serious birdwatcher should know and appreciate the habitats in which they are birding --- and thus, the botany and in this case, the Arboriculture of the area in which you are birding. Some trees included Shagbark Hickory, Chinquapin Oaks, White Pines, Red Cedars among others.

Feel free to share any thoughts on the plumage of the Loonie Loon  --- Is it a Red throated Loon? It seems that the little v-shaped or x-shaped marks on its back might be the strongest field mark in its identification. The bill shape may hint at being slightly upturned as well, but I must admit to having young eyes when it comes to loons. I rarely see them!

Good birding, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


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