Friday, February 24, 2017

Backyard Woodcocks! Feb 24, 2017

Just a short posting tonight. I had my dad visiting for dinner tonight and while I was pouring a post-dinner coffee, I hear: PEEENT, PEEENT, PEEENT in my back yard. My screen was open as it was about 17C.

Backyard February Woodcocks? YES!

I stepped out onto my back porch and took this brief 40 second video. You can actually see a pair of woodcocks flying in their spiraling timberdoodle display at about the 30 second mark of this video. Not bad for cell-phone video. Local naturalist Paul Pratt had found a pair at Hillman Marsh last night on Feb 23rd, 2017.

If you are in Windsor, a great place to see woodcocks is at the viewing platform near the titcombe turn around circle across from the Ojibway Park visitor center on Matchette road. They start flying at dusk.

Good birding!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Winter Birding at Algonquin Park (v3)

Pine Marten
This past weekend, I had a unique opportunity to join two other birders (Kit M & Sean J) on a trip to Algonquin Park. This was my second trip to the park --- my first trip was a few years ago during a mid summer trip to Ottawa [link].

Red Crossbill

There are a few locations and seasons that birders in Ontario are obligated to take part in. For example: Early May at Point Pelee and area, June at Carden Alvar and of course, Winter Finch and boreal species at Algonquin during the winter season.

What made this weekend particularly interesting was that the weather was 8-10 degrees celsius. I didn’t wear gloves all weekend, occasionally a hat and at times, my jacket was unzipped because I was too hot!

Another motivation for this trip was to try and get myself past the 399 life list mark! Last year, I had only gotten two life birds: Gyrfalcon & Harlequin Duck. I am happy to report that indeed, I joined the 400 club with 4-5 life list additions!
I'm really "lichen" this branch! :-p

Most Ontario birders are familiar with the famous Winter Finch Forecast. This winter's forecast, published last fall, indicated that it was going to be a below-average conifer cone crop at Algonquin and thus, a below average occurrence of winter finch species. Even with this report - it seemed like there were some interesting things being seen in the park thanks to other recent blog reports and the weekly Algonquin reports by Ron Tozer. I can only imagine how good it would be in years with bumper coniferous seed crops!

I have a quick summary of some of the places we visited within the park, along with some birding highlights.

Mew Lake Campground

The draw here was American Marten or Pine Marten, a mammal species that is related to Minks, Fischers and Wolverines (Mustelids). Local birder Steve Pike informed me of this location as a hotspot to see this species. I had never seen this species before, so when it finally appeared, I was photographing it thinking … Wow, this animal is really cute. It almost looks like a cross between a cute kitten, a minx and a teddy bear!
Gray Jay

Spruce Bog Boardwalk

Spruce Bog Boarwalk is a great location to visit, but a little bit of a tourist trap. It's a beautiful habitat with some interesting trails that are a little more quiet once you venture a ways from the parking lot. A giant suet feeder, along with lots of visitor supplied bird seed attracts birds that are trying to survive the tough Algonquin winters. Some highlights here included: Gray Jays (lifer! #400!!!), Boreal Chickadees, Hairy Woodpeckers, Spruce Grouse (Life bird!), White winged Crossbills, Red breasted Nuthatches, Pine Grosbeak (Life bird!). One path that we walked was through a Spruce forest and it was breathtakingly beautiful. The fresh crisp air, bright blue sky, sunshine, smell of wood burning nearby made for a great feeling of being in nature. Lichen and mosses graced the bark and branches of every tree which added an extra helping of beauty. At one point, there were several blue jays mobbing something nearby and Sean noted that a Pine Marten (not an owl) was the object of their scorn and discontent. Another highlight at Spruce Bog was meeting Lev Frid who is a talented birder and naturalist at Algonquin.

Boreal Chickadee

Pine Grosbeak ...My lens fogged up a little when I saw this. Melted snow had made my lens foggy :-(  

Spruce Grouse

Cell phone zoom range for the grouse ~17mm

Opiongo Road

We walked this area both days, and on the second day, we had noted some new species. At one point, Lev and Amanda has pointed out a Ruffed Grouse along the side of the road (Lifer!). Having just seen a pair of Spruce Grouse, I was amazed to see a second species within the span of an hour. We walked 1-2 KM north up Opiongo road in search of Black backed Woodpecker but came up short. We did get to see more Gray Jays, small flocks of White Winged Crossbills, Chickadees and Red & White breasted nuthatches. Kit noted another Ruffed Grouse feeding high in a Birch tree, eating birch catkins. Kit was in good spirits during this trip as he had 10+ life birds.

Ruffed Grouse

White winged Crossbills

Highway 60 Corridor

Red Crossbills were pretty easily seen along the highway. Small flocks of Pine Siskens and American Goldfinches were seen as well. I noted that at sunrise (around 7:15) and for the remaining hour or two, they were seen perching at the tops of evergreens along the highway. I had the impression that after 12:00 noon, it's a little bit harder to find these birds.

Pine Siskens

Red Crossbills

Visitor Center

The visitor center hosted hundreds of Evening Grosbeaks, as well as many American Goldfinches and a single Common Redpoll! Blue Jays and Ravens were also abundant. One or two American Crows were heard on Sunday.

Evening Grosbeaks

West Highlands Trail
This trail was our last horrah for our park visit. This trail was quieter than we were expecting, but stunningly beautiful as well. Black Capped Chickadees and perhaps a small flock of crossbills were heard. Our target bird for this trail was Black backed Woodpecker but we were unable to find one. 


Huntsville was home base for this trip, and we made an attempt to find the local flock of Bohemian Waxwings but had no luck. Our consolation for our efforts was a small flock of Pine Grosbeaks! Amazingly - even though we had seen Pine Grosbeaks for a second time, all of them were female (yellow) or perhaps juvenile males. 


Driving 7 or so hours in each direction for 1.5 days of birding is a little painful for me. But, one doesn't get too many opportunities to really go out and do something that is as crazy as this. At this point in my life, its almost reckless to take two days off to indulge in a winter boreal birding binge. The stars just seemed to line up for this trip - a few local birders wanting to go, the weather being incredible, obtaining my wife's blessing to go. I'm glad that I went and I was fortunate to bird with Kit, Sean an Lev a little and see some great birds.

Interesting Birding Fact:
  • The Red Crossbill is so dependent upon conifer seeds it even feeds them to its young. Consequently, it can breed any time it finds a sufficiently large cone crop, even in the depths of winter. Source:

Good Birding!


Ebird Checklists: [Coming Soon]

Lifer Summary:

"Type 1 Appalachian" Red Crossbill
400-Gray Jay
401-Pine Grosbeak
402-Spruce Grouse
403-Ruffed Grouse

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Piper Shorebird Animated Movie

I heard about this cute little 6 minute short movie recently from Audubon's website [link], and watched recently on an online streaming service. This is a must see for any birder and especially for those of us that have a special place in our hearts for shorebirds.

One great thing about this video might be that it could raise awareness of shorebirds and perhaps the conservation of shoreline habit for these wonderful species.

With this video only being 6 minutes - I don't know how they are going to distribute this!?!?

Check out the Official trailer:

A 4 minute,  (perhaps pirated and cropped) preview:

Image Source -

Again, I really recommend visiting the Audubon's Website to read a little more about this video. There are some great bonus images there such as the audubon-style piper image above. The link is:

On a more local note, I joined the Essex County Field naturalists at Lakeview Marina where Lake St Clair funnels into the Detroit River. Lots of ducks to look at but nothing particularly rare. Not even a single Long-tailed duck! One nice observation was a pair of Great Blue Herons hanging out on some ice-flows.

Good Birding!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bald Eagle with Interesting Prey

Back in late December, while driving along a road out in Harrow and I stopped to look at a Bald Eagle in the middle of an agricultural field. While reaching into the back seat of my car to grab my camera, the Eagle took flight and I was only able to take some diagnostic photos of the bird as it flew away. Taking a closer look at the images reveal it had caught an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit! 

Needless to say, seeing this was a hair hare raising experience.  :^p    

All joking aside, the main habitat and dietary preference for Bald Eagles is along the water's edge looking for fish but this beautiful eagle seems to have a penchant for surf and turf. 

Good birding,

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Short eared Owl + Hillman Phragmites & #myebirdhistory map

I went for a drive with Kit this afternoon to try and find some of the Short Eared Owls that haunt some of the agricultural areas in Essex County. We had some good looks! In fact, in my 6 years of birding, I've never seen one perched until today. Amazing birds! Other birds seen were Horned Larks, Song Sparrow, Dark eyed Juncos, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, and Red tailed Hawks. We had an Owlin' good time!

Here is a pretty cool video from ERCA (Essex Region Conservation Authority) about how they are planning to control the phragmites at Hillman Marsh. Check out the video below:

There is a blog called Nemisis Bird [link to posting] which recently had a posting about a using some of your exported Ebird Data and then generating a map of all your ebird locations. This activity only takes a few minutes if you have a copy of Excel (or Google Sheets , Open Office etc). It was a little sobering to see how poorly I've ebirded over the last few years. For example, I've birded several places in Florida - perhaps 10 different locations (Everglades, Corkscrew Reserve, Titusville, cape canaveral)  but only one dot at Fort Myers beach appears. Also, nothing in Michigan (Pointe Mouillee, Grayling, traverse city). Even Ontario has no dots at Algonquin, Bruce Peninsula, Van wagners beach, Niagara, Coln Sam Smith, Long Point ???). Even Ohio with my trips to Columbus and Portsmouth along the southern border has no dots. Lastly - my great birding efforts in British Columbia and Alberta --- No dots! Its sobering to see how many places I've birded but seemingly neglected to ebird. I need to step up my game a little. I might try to go back and update some of my historical records based on the results of the maps I've generated tonight.

I challenge anyone reading this posting - in particular Ontario birders to publish their #myebirdhistory maps!

Good Birding!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...