Sunday, September 30, 2018

Unofficial OFO Pelee Birding , Ojibway Park Birding in Late September + New Yard Bird - Northern Mockingbird!

This weekend was a surprisingly excellent weekend of birding in Essex County. The weather was fantastic and the birding was excellent as well. On Saturday, I went to Point Pelee and it just so happened that it was the OFO (Ontario Field Ornithologists) bird weekend there. At about noon, after I had birded Delaurier and Cactus Field, someone pointed out a pair of white pelicans that were soaring over west beach of point pelee.

West beach footpath was a nice walk as usual. Black Saddlebags and Carolina Saddlebags were abundant. Monarchs constantly fluttered overhead. Singles of Eastern Comma and Question Mark butterflies, as well as a worn Spicebush Swallowtail were noted. A few warblers were seen as well as some Southbound Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers.

Sparrow field had some of the best warbler birding for the day, and some trees in the field had Cape May, Wilsons, Nashville, Blackpoll, Bay Breasted warblers easily seen. Eastern Wood Pewee, and a sleeping Common Nighthawk delighted birders as well. I had seen my first southbound blue headed vireo as well in Sparrow Field. It was actually singing/vocalizing in a deciduous tree on the outer edge of the field. On the shore next to Sparrow field, a group of 5 Sanderlings noted but soon flushed by beach walkers.

Of course, raptors were constantly flying overhead. We had nice looks at Eagles, Red Tailed and Broadwing Hawks, Coopers and Sharp Shinned hawks, Peregrine and Merlin Falcons flew overhead as well. At one point, a Merlin flew clumsily over a group of OFO birders with a fluttering woodpecker in its talons.

See below for a writeup on my walk at Ojibway today...

Turbulent Phospila - a Pinstriped Caterpillar crossing the road at PPNP

Today at Ojibway - I walked at Black Oak Heritage Park in West Windsor. I walked for a while without seeing many birds but eventually hit nice pockets of birds. At one point, I had seen about 20-30 Cedar Waxwings with about 10 or so Purple Finches! I then saw about 10 or so warblers and vireos. Some warblers go unidentified at times as I just cant figure out what they are! I had stunning views of Blue Headed Vireo and Scarlet Tanager ... which was a huge highlight. Red breasted Nuthatches were surprisingly abundant as well.  Later on at the main Ojibway Park forest - where I had met up with my wife and two kids, we ended up seeing two separate groups of warblers as well. There could have been 30-40 birds in total. Some birds seen were bay-poll warblers, American Redstart, Black throated Green, Nashville, Tennessee, and some Ruby crowned Kinglets.

I feel like I've seen many Philadelphia Vireos this year, both north and south bound. 

Good birding!

PS:  I was out on my back porch today looking out at the hedgerow behind my house. Blue Jays, European Starlings and Crows were making a rucous. At one point today, I had my binoculars and noted a NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD on my back fence. I did not have my camera nearby so I attempted to digiscope the sighting with my cellphone and binoculars! I took video with my phone's camera - hoping it would increase my chances of documenting the bird.  I've included a 6 second video of my sighting!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Holiday Beach Hawkfest birding

Every year during the second and third weekends in September - the Holiday Beach Migration Oberservatory (HBMO) has a Hawk Festival. This past Saturday - I was eager to go because there was a major drop in temperature and strong North Winds. Thousands of Broadwing Hawks flew overhead along with clouds of Blue Jays. Lots of warblers were present - and the banding station was able to catch and band many warblers such as American Redstart, Blackpoll, Tennessee, and Magnolia. At one point, Bob Hall-Brooks offered to have me release a freshly banded Magnolia Warbler. He placed the bird in my hand and amazingly - I just chilled out for a few minutes!

Today - I went for a walk at Point Pelee - expecting tonnes of warblers to be present but amazingly - it was a little quiet! I did get a few interesting birds that I miss some years - such as Merlin and Lincoln's Sparrow. Lots of Northern Flicker's were present - and at one point - I think I saw 6 or more in a tree! Even though the birding was a little slow this afternoon - it was quite gorgeous out. The sun, cool breeze and 10 km of walking makes for a great afternoon of nature appreciation!

Good birding!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ojibway's Spiranthes Orchids - Late Bloomers - Literally

I was walking at Ojibway recently with the intention of finding some Spiranthes orchid species.  I'm so new in my botany efforts I had just assumed in the past that I was just observing Nodding Ladies Tressses -  but a recent interaction with I-Naturalist gave me some alarming feedback. One photo that I randomly posted was clearly another Spiranthes Orchid species: A Great Plains Ladies Tresses!

At the Ojibway Tallgrass Prairie last night, I counted 22 different plants within an area of 50 meters of pathway. I must admit that I still don't quite have this species understood - and my eyes are green when it comes to this group (genus/ taxa). 

One other Spiranthes Orchid species that Ojiway hosts is called Shining Ladies Tresses - which could probably be identified by its earlier flowering date - Early June! [link].

There is so much beauty and diversity in nature. So much to learn. I'm amazed that so many people in the world have not seriously dived into nature beyond just the most obvious observations.

Good Botanizing!

PS: I snapped a few photos of American Copper and Common Checkered Skipper over the last week or two. Lots of Common Nighthawks overhead at dusk as well. This might be one of the first times I've seen a Checkered Skipper with its wings showing the Ventral perspective!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Windsor's Catocala Moths of Late August

After doing the late August butterfly event at Ojibway with the Essex County field naturalists - I couldn't help by try to procure a copy of the "moth field guide" by David Beadle [link]. Most naturalists would consider this as a 'mandatory' field guide - especially if you want to appreciate the huge bio-diversity that mothing can offer. As you might already know - two ways to attract moths into view include using a bright light and a white cotton sheet, and the other is to use a sugar solution on tree bark. This sugar solution brushed onto tree bark in forests is what attracts catocala species. This solution usually is made by mixing a ripe banana, brown sugar, beer and perhaps molasses.  Never pour all the beer into the sugaring solution.... because mothing can make a naturalist parched.

The underwing catocala moths are easy to be intrigued by. They are absolutely huge, colourful yet camouflaged, they offer some challenging photography and identification challenges and - its interesting to walk through a forest at night.  Below is a list of the underwing moths I've seen / photographed so far.  Speaking of photography - I took all of these photos using "ambient light". I might be the only moth photographer on earth who does not use a flash. These were taken by using a flashlight and using spot metering on an SLR camera at 3200 ISO.

Sweetheart Underwing
Darling Underwing
Widow Underwing
Sad Underwing (new for Canada [link])
Residua Underwing
Obscure Underwing
Yellow-gray Underwing
Yellow banded Underwing
The Penitent Underwing
Old wife Underwing
Ilia Underwing
Ultronia Underwing* (seen earlier in the summer in past mothing trips)
Locust Underwing  ** (not really a catocala genus moth)

I have to give thanks to local moth expert and retired science teacher Moe Bottus for allowing me to join him on a few walks in late August. I guess you could say he took me under his wing - (pun intended) to learn about the underwing moths. I hope I didn't *bug* him too much. One night we had went we had about 13 species but I did miss some in terms of photographing and thus identifying. One in particular that I think missed was the Once married Underwing. Some of these ID's were assisted by moth experts on Inaturalist.

I would like to get out mothing earlier in the year and see what other species can be found in Essex.  I might do a few more walks during late summer/ early fall to see if I can pick up a few more species. Paul Pratt produced an informative page about catocala moths at this link:

The Penitent - taken with cell phone

This is our list from one night of walking. Notice that Sad Underwing wasn't even on the expected list of Catocala species and was added below. Residua Underwing was seen as well and was omitted from this checklist by accident. 

Good Mothing!


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