Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gray Kingbird at Hillman Marsh + Phalarope Photo Fame?!?

I have dipped on several of the last few rarities that have been seen at Pelee and I've almost become accustomed to just not seeing rare birds.  But as work ended this afternoon, I checked my email and noted that the Gray Kingbird from Monday had returned back to the spot it had been seen at on Monday. With my luck, I had decided to ride my bike into work today, so I had to quickly "bike home" before I could even begin twiching this mega southern rarity.

It dawned on my as I was driving to Leamington tonight that ---- I didn't have my camera or my binoculars. I was a little bummed out but I realized that I still had my scope and my cell phone, so I figured I was going to try to digiscope--- and just (gasp) enjoy viewing the bird without (gasp) capturing it with photography.

This great bird was found recently by Jeremy Bensette.  I've dipped on seeing this Southeastern Specialty while visiting Florida on my last 4-5 trips but somehow ... this fantastic bird ended up in Leamington this week and is just hanging out along Mersea Rd 2. At times, it would perch on a metal sign post just across the road from where several birders were keeping a safe distance. I wish I had my camera --- I love capturing birds with photography.

This bird is my 395th life bird... and not that a birder's species count is all that important, but what is really nice is that ... regardless of your count whether its 50 or 5000 --- its something that unites all of us birders. We love nature and we have a passion for seeing as much diversity as we can see. Just to watch this bird flycatch from perch to perch, to watch it eat bugs and just do what it does was a great privilege. A few drivers stopped and asked me what the big fuss was about and that was basically what I told them... most of the drivers thought that was pretty cool.

This beautiful bird shares some common features with the Loggerhead Shrike - Hooked bill and Mask over the eyes
Rick Mayos was one of the birders enjoying the Gray Kingbird when I had arrived and he agreed to share some of his photos of the Kingbird that were much better than I could get with my cell phone. Thanks Rick!
Gray Kingbird with Eastern Kingbird © Rick Mayos

Gray Kingbird @ Hillman Marsh © Rick Mayos
Rick and I met up at the Hillman Marsh shorebird cell after viewing the Kingbird and to my surprise, a nice Whimbrel was present along with two American Avocets and a host of other shorebirds (no photos - even my phone was dead by this point). Rick informed me that was using one of my Phalarope photos and sure enough, I noticed tonight that they are actually using two of my Phalarope photos --- pretty awesome!!! 

Phalarope Photo Fun and Fame?
Check out the Phalaropes at :

Good Birding!

The local paper's political cartoon had a pleasant nature reference that I could not help but sharing.

Img Src:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chuck Wills Widow, Mississippi Kite and some #PeleeProblems

Chuck wills Widow
Common Nighthawk
Twas' a good year for the Eastern  Nightjar / Goatsuckers at Pelee
Nightjars are awesome. I was lucky this year to have a chance to see all three Eastern Nightjars at Point Pelee and its great to have a birding network (friends & ontbirds) that will share in these fantastic sightings. The nice thing about nightjars is that they sleep all day and they don't seem to be bothered by people's presence. As I was leaving work last Friday, I had read that a Chuck Wills Widow was resting along Post Woods trail and I figured I would try to go see it. I called my wife as I was driving to Pelee and told her: "I probably won't make it home for dinner tonight sweety, I'm twitching a goatsucker". 

A Mississippi Kite was spotted along Fox Run road so I joined a few birders in trying to find it. At one point (no pun intended) S-Pike pointed out this perched raptor to a few birders who were nearby. I had a hard time getting my camera to focus on this bird which was probably over 75m away from where we were on the road, but as it flew, I think I obtained a somewhat diagnostic photo below.

Its been an interesting migration season this year. It seems that I've seen alot of rarities but I've missed a bunch of birds that should be common. For example:
  • I've seen 2 separate Summer Tanagers --- but no Scarlet Tanagers (#PeleeProblems)
  • I've seen 2 separate Prairie Warblers --- but no Wilsons Warblers (#Pelee Problems)
  • I've seen all three eastern nightjar/goatsucker species but didn't see the two rarer Vireo Species (#Pelee Problems)
  • I saw a Golden winged warbler --- but no blue winged! (#PeleeProblems)
This is what makes birding so interesting. Every year, the few chances that I get to witness the spring migration fall on different days, with different weather patterns so the mix of birds is always different. 

On several occasions this month, I tried to bird Ojibway Park, Malden Park or Black Oak Herritage park in Windsor. I had some pretty good birds --- not quite the diversity of birds that you might get at Point Pelee but still a good mix at times.  I recently mis-reported a Sedge Wren to our local WEPBIRDS group but I had been informed later - by Blake & by the E-bird Co-ordinator that I had confused a Sedge Wren call for a Tennessee Warbler call! The funny thing is, I swear the call I recorded was coming a low-lying ditch. Can you hear it?

I would like to go to Rondeau this weekend, and perhaps Clear Creek Forest! Maybe even Skunks Misery at the end of the month.

Good Birding!

Lifer summary:
390-Red throated loon (Kingsville Marina)
391-Worm eating warbler (shawnee state forest)
392-Kentucky warbler (shawnee state forest)
393-Carolina chickadee (shawnee state forest)
394- Mississippi Kite (hillman marsh)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pacific Loon, Kentucky Warbler and a Field of Golden Plovers

American Golden Plovers in Breeding Plumage - How Cool Are They?
Migrating Golden Plovers
I birded Point Pelee this Saturday May 9th, and started off in the Onion Fields of all places. I wanted to follow up on a recent report of 300 American Golden Plovers! I think there may have been 50-70 Golden Plovers when I was looking at them but still, very nice to see these avian gems in their breeding plumage.

Upon entering the park, my friend Rick suggested that I stop at Dunes, where a Kentucky Warbler had just been recently ontbirded. That ended up being some of the best birding of the day as a very shy Kentucky Warbler was seen, a Canada Warbler, Chestnut Sided, and a Grey cheecked Thrush were all seen at this spot.

Later on in the day, I ended up seeing a few more great species - my first of season Red headed Woodpecker and Bay breasted Warbler.

I had to leave Pelee at about 4PM to get back to Windsor for a dinner outing, but of course, as I was leaving the park I checked my email just in case a mega rarity had been reported... Pacific Loon at NW Beach!!!!

Pacific Loon at Point Pelee

Wow - an awesome bird! I saw one a few years ago through Jean Iron's scope but this was my first chance at getting a decent look at it and perhaps even a diagnostic photo.

Good birding!

PS: Has anyone else noticed the influx of Red Admirals this week? They are everywhere and its almost reminiscent of Spring 2012. Could this mean that this year is going to be another good year for butterfly watching?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Wed May 6th 2015 - Pelee Fallout?

This past Wednesday, I decided after work to drive out to Point Pelee after reading the daily report that is sent out through Ontbirds. The report always sound "optimistic" but I could tell by the wording that it was a great day to be out birding.

I birded the park for a humble 3.5 hours - between 3:30-7:00. I parked at White Pine and headed towards Cactus Trail, Chinquapin Trail and the Tildens Footpath and back, ... and I had almost 70 species! To be honest, I'm counting some of the shorebirds seen just outside the park, but still, this is one of my most populous PPNP checklists. Some people who were there all day mentioned that some people had over 100 species! One report that I read (once I got home) was that there were hundreds of American Golden Plovers near Hillman Marsh... I would have loved to have seen that!

At Cactus Field, I ran into a friend who mentioned that an Eastern Whip Poor Will was seen along Tildens Footpath! He then proceeded to point out a Northern Parula which was just meters away from where we were standing. 

One amazing bird that I saw near the Whip was a Golden winged Warbler that JB pointed out to me. The bird was skulky but it moved along the Tildens footpath and at one point, the Golden Winged Warbler was right next to the Whip! I tried to take a photo just to document the two birds in the same frame ... A Cape May Warbler was foraging in a tree just meters above the Golden winged!

This is my first Golden winged Warbler at Pelee! Looks like a female

Lots of Thrush species around - Robins, Veery and Wood Thrush filled the air with song. To end off the night I went back to my car at White Pine to have some birders point out another Cape May, Blue headed Vireo and a Prairie Warbler at very close range, and in beautiful golden sunlight. 

One of my favorite birds - a Prairie Warbler at White Pine. 

The Tiger Warbler - I have gone many spring migrations without seeing this beauty...

My first Northbound Orange-crowned Warbler
I stopped by Delaurier on the way out as I heard there was another Kentucky Warbler spotted. I was unable to spot this elusive warbler but a woman pointed out this Orange crowned Warbler!

A great evening of birding for sure. Great birds and great people!
Good birding,

PS: Summer Tanager and Eared Grebe from last weekend!

Malden Park - West Windsor's Little Migrant Trap

I've tried to bird almost every day since late May April, but my birding is typically limited to after work on weekdays. Of course, I would love to get out to Pelee, but for me, Pelee is at least a 4 hour commitment. Malden Park (which is part of the Ojibway Complex in Windsor) is just minutes from where I live so for me, this one of my best local options.

Malden park has a little parking lot and two little ponds that are adjacent to a small forest. Malden Park has a big "hill" that used to be a garbage dump! It can be surprising productive though - Breeding Green Herons, breeding Kingfishers, breeding Great Horned Owls. Not bad for a little park in Windsor! A couple of years ago, a birder found a Yellow Crowned Night Heron along the edge of one of its ponds. Malden Park is one of the best places to find a Northern Shrike in November as well!
In early May, the trees along the edge of the ponds are always crawling with warblers - lots of them - but I must admit, generally low diversity. In early may, (last week) I had tonnes of Yellow Rumped, Yellow, and Palm Warblers. I always seem to find Warbling Vireos here almost before I see them at Pelee! I also had a Carolina Wren blasting me with its song last week, nice to hear after the coldest Winter that Essex County has on record!

Tonight after work, I'm quite certain that I saw a Summer Tanager! My looks at this bird were fleeting, but my first look at it through binoculars was that it was a solid red bird, it quickly moved away to a higher elevation and this is about the best diagnostic shot that I could get of the bird. It seemed to quickly move on from the forest edge where I was and the photo below is about the best documenting shot of it that I could get. This might be my first self discovered summer tanager!

Summer Tanager
A pretty awesome bird at my local birding patch!

Good birding!


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