Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Blackbird Bonanza!

This morning started like any other school day. I got up, went and ate breakfast, then walked to my bus stop. On the walk, I couldn't help but notice just how mild it was. I made a mental note to go look for blackbirds after school, because I just knew that today would be the day they started their advance into my neighborhood.

I waited at the bus stop for five minutes, completely alone. I waited a bit longer before getting a text from my mom saying that the buses had a two hour fog delay. I guess I would get to go look for blackbirds sooner than I thought!

Not 10 minutes into my search I heard it. Off in the distance I could hear one of my favourite sounds of early spring...the distinctive "Conk-a-REE!" of a Red-winged Blackbird! I tried locating the bird, however I had to abandon the search because it started to rain quite heavily. I figured I could go back after school and try to get a visual and maybe some photos.

As soon as I got home, I was told that buses hadn't been delayed...they were cancelled! I have no idea why, as it was completely clear out where I was, but I wasn't complaining...now I could spend the whole day looking for blackbirds!

The rain didn't give up until about twenty after ten, but as soon as it stopped I was out the door (without a camera...whoops!). Almost immediately four Red-winged Blackbirds flew over, followed by two more. I found a seventh male loudly singing at the top of a tree. Awesome!

I returned about an hour later with a camera, and although I was only able to find two Red-wingeds, I was happy to watch them singing and interacting with each other.

Long story short, I spent the next few hours riding my bike around, finding Red-winged Blackbirds everywhere I went.

Late in the afternoon, as I was heading home I happened across a group of six flyover Red-winged Blackbirds. Cool, I thought, and decided to stop and see if anymore flew over. Shortly after, I saw about 12 fly over. I realized that they had come from the direction of a marsh which serves as a congregation spot of sorts for blackbirds in spring and fall, so I went to check it out.

I came across a single male Red-winged on a wire.

As I was watching him I noticed a flock of Common Grackles had just taken off from a nearby tree! I looked over and realized that there were more of them! All in all, I counted a total of 41 Common Grackles and 43 Red-winged Blackbirds, exceptional numbers given the date and location.

Common Grackles and European Starings

Although I was thoroughly soaked, it was a great day of birding! I'm sure the Killdeer aren't far behind!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Sparrows Galore!

Yesterday I went to Fanshawe Conservation Area with my aunt. There were plently of birds feeding on seeds left by a trail head, including the overwintering Fox Sparrow I first found a few weeks back. Also present feeding on the seeds were Dark-eyed Juncos, American Tree Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, and a Downy Woodpecker.

White-throated Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Black-capped Chickadee

Dark-eyed Junco

Downy Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Juncos

Friday, 2 February 2018

Some Springbank Photos

Yesterday I went on a short walk in Springbank Park. I managed to catch up with a few ducks that have been frequenting the river this winter, along with a very photogenic Northern Cardinal. I also encountered my first Cackling Goose of the year.

Cackling Goose

Black-capped Chickadee

Northern Cardinal


American Wigeon

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Tuesday Tuft and Other Stuff

Yesterday my Dad and I went to the Burlington/Hamilton area in search of waterfowl, namely the rare waterfowl that had been seen in the area recently.

I noticed a couple interesting birds on the way to Hamilton, including a Common Raven (uncommon this far south) and my first Turkey Vulture of the year! The vulture caught me off guard, but it is no doubt one of the ones that overwinter in the Hamilton area.

We first visited Spencer Smith Park, where a Ross's Goose had been found the day before. Within 30 seconds, I had found this tiny white goose snoozing with some Mallards.

Eventually the goose got up, walked around a little bit, then went back to sleep.

Next stop was the lift bridge and canal on the Hamilton/Halton county border. I found the resident Peregrine Falcons right away.

There were also a number of ducks such as scaup, Long-tailed Ducks, White-winged Scoters, and Common Goldeneyes present in the canal.

White-winged Scoter

I walked to where the canal opens up into the bay and decided to do a little bit of scoping to see what was out there. Within five minutes of looking, a scaup caught my eye. When the scaup turned broadside I realized that it was no scaup...it was a TUFTED DUCK.

Needless to say, I sort of lost my mind because I wasn't expecting to see the Tufted, as it it hadn't been reported since Saturday. I called my friend Owen right away to get the word out. After I got Owen and my other friend Ethan (who has a blog by the way) to post the sighting, I went back to my scope and tried to find it again....turns out ducks can swim.

After all that excitement I realized something...I didn't photograph the bird. Dang it!

Next, I went over to the Halton side of the canal in search of the female Harlequin Duck that has been hanging around. I found a few other things such as more scoters and a Mute Swan along the way.

Mute Swan

It wasn't long before I found the Harlequin Duck beside the pier. I hadn't seen a Harlequin since 2016, so this was a treat!

I stopped in quickly to Windermere basin just to scope out the ducks there. There were plenty of Mallards, along with lesser numbers of Bufflehead, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Bufflehead, Gadwall, and Ruddy Duck.

flyover Gadwall

Northern Shoveler

Plenty of Double-crested Cormorants were also around.

Green Road was the last stop, and I was in search of King Eiders. I found a female shortly after being there, later ending up with two females and two first winter males. All the ducks were very far away, so this is my best pic (highly cropped).

All three species of scoters were also present, including my first ever adult male Black Scoter.

Surf Scoter

It's not often I see all my target species, and then some! A very good day, and I can't wait until I get back out!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Some Sarnia Stuff

Today was the annual Nature London outing to the Sarnia and St. Clair region. I would say today's outing has been of my better days birding in the area!

We started off the day with a nice male Snowy Owl just outside of London.

It was fairly quiet on the drive to Sarnia, however we picked up Snow Bunting (my first of 2018...finally!), Brown-headed Cowbird, Horned Lark,  and Northern Harrier. Closer to Sarnia we checked out a creek along the road, which revealed Mallards, Common Mergansers, Northern Pintail, American Black Ducks, and a Gadwall.

Next stop, Wawanosh Wetlands! Just before leaving the car, I glanced at my camera. I decided against bringing it because I reasoned we wouldn't come across anything worth photographing. About five minutes later I regretted that decision...

We were happily looking at Canada Geese and Herring Gulls when I heard a high-pitched honk. I looked up, and saw a large flock of geese flying 50 feet overhead. It took me a moment to realize that I was looking at GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE!

The group was treated to great views of the geese, although they were gone almost as fast as they had arrived. I texted Blake Mann about the sighting, and he was able to later track down the flock just north of Wawanosh. He also managed some photos!

Next stop was Canatara Park, where we promptly saw Tufted Titmouse, Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Black-capped Chickadee. There were also some goats.

I was playing around with some filters, and I thought this turned out good.

Onto to the beach! We found Greater Scaup, Redhead, Canvasbacks, Long-tailed Ducks, Bufflehead, and a White-winged Scoter.

Greater Scaup

White-winged Scoter

Common Goldeneye

Further down we got on a distant eagle, which turned out to be a Golden Eagle!

Golden Eagle

We headed to the marina, where we managed to see tons of gulls, including Great-black Backed, Glaucous, Iceland, Herring, and Ring-billed.

Plenty of ducks were out on the bay as well, including Common Mergansers, Redhead, Canvasback, scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Common Goldeneye, American Black Duck, and Bufflehead.

American Black Duck

This male Wood Duck has been hanging around for a while. I heard it long before I saw it!

We drove down the St. Clair towards Sombra, stopping along the way whenever we saw something interesting. Redheads numbered in the thousands, and Canvasbacks and Long-tailed Ducks could also be found in the hundreds. We found a few other ducks in smaller numbers such as Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, and Common Goldeneye.


Common Merganser


Mute Swan

Long-tailed Duck and Common Goldeneye

On the way back home, we saw a few raptors such as Red-tailed Hawks and Rough-legged Hawks. We also happened across five Snowy Owls within 10 minutes!

I'm off for exams this week...I'm sure I'll be out again soon!