Monday 31 October 2016

Two Lakes in Two Days

When a birder thinks of late October, they think of ducks. Ducks were my primary target this weekend, and I was hoping to add all three scoter species to my life list (I did!).  Also on my mind was Golden Eagles (nope), Red-shouldered Hawks (nope) and a rarity that you'll have to read on to find out what it was.

The trip started Friday, and the first location my dad (he wanted to come too) and I visited was Hawk Cliff in Elgin.

the cliff

I was hoping some GOEA would fly through, but none appeared. The weather system on the shores of Lake Ontario has cut off many of the raptors coming in from Quebec. Despite no migratory birds of prey, there was quite the variety of smaller birds including Purple Finch (trip lifer #1), Yellow-rumped Warbler, Fox Sparrow, kinglets, Cedar Waxwings, White-breasted Nuthatches, sparrows, and Downy Woodpeckers.

Purple Finch

YR Warbler

WB Nuthatch

White-crowned Sparrow

We drove about an hour to our next stop, Morpeth Cliffs. There were a number of ducks here including Greater Scaup, Redhead, White-winged Scoter (trip lifer #2), and Red-breasted Merganser.

WW Scoter

Next up was Blenheim Sewage Lagoons. We stopped in at the post office to get a permit and the code for the gate (you can't get in without them). This was my first time visiting the lagoons, and I know that I'll be back!

All the cells were covered with hundreds of Ruddy Ducks and over a thousand Bonaparte's Gulls.

A few other ducks could be found as well.

Northern Shoveler

Shorebirds are still present, and there were about 80 dunlin, along with yellowlegs, Killdeer, and a Wilson's Snipe, which I flushed while walking along the berm.


You haven't really lived until you've been swarmed by Bonies!

You may have heard about the recent "invasion" of Cattle Egrets in southern Ontario. I was lucky enough to catch up with one of the four that have been spotted at the lagoons in the last week.

It was quite flighty, and the only way I could get any good photos was by hiding in a ditch or behind a pile of junk...I'm pretty sure I got my tetanus shot. A Rusty Blackbird (trip lifer #4) flew over head at this point as well.

At one point the egret got between me and my dad.

Awesome (trip lifer #3)!

Erieau was next, and I managed to pick out five species of gulls on the pier.

This Herring Gull kind of scares me.

Horned Grebes are now in their winter plumage. It's quite the opposite of their breeding plumage!

Can you spot the Great Blue Heron? (hint: it's beside the Red-breasted Merganser)

The next day, we started in Sarnia.

There really wasn't all too much to look at other than a large raft of Redhead/Scaup and a Black Scoter (trip lifer #5) off Canatara Park.

Since there wasn't anything else to look at, it was off to Kettle Point!

Immediately I managed to find a small group of about 8 scoters with White-winged, Black, and Surf (trip lifer #6).

Pied-billed and Horned Grebes were abundant. I found a Common Loon as well.

There was some hunting going on, so there wasn't too many ducks.

Forest Sewage Lagoons was the last stop. A number of Mallards, Green-winged Teal, and Black Ducks were flying around.

GW Teal

Common Milkweed is pretty much done for the season.

South-western Ontario residents may have noticed the large flocks of migrating crows lately.

Happy Halloween!

Sparrows were abundant, and I saw several FOS American Tree Sparrows.

I also added a new shorebird species to the trip list, Black-bellied Plover, a Dunlin was with them.

A few Sulphurs were flying around, including this Clouded Sulphur.

It was quite the couple of days, and I'm sure that I'll be out again soon!


On a side note, my life list is now at 233, only 17 off from my goal of 250 by the end of 2016.

Birds that I still have a chance to see:

1. Red-throated Loon
2. Black Vulture
3. Red-shouldered Hawk
4. Golden Eagle
5. White-rumped Sandpiper
6. Little Gull
7. Thayer's Gull
8. Long-eared Owl
9. Short-eared Owl
10. Northern Saw-whet Owl
11. American Pipit
12. Common Redpoll
13. Lapland Longspur
14. Yellow-headed Blackbird
15. Bohemian Waxwing

plus maybe a few rarities will show up!

Monday 24 October 2016

Soon, I Promise

My last post was over two weeks ago, and I apologize for not blogging more often. Weekends are really my only time to get out, and the last few have been very busy. However, there should be a post next week detailing a trip that I will make this weekend to the north shore of Lake Erie and the south-eastern shore of Lake Huron.

Until then, Good Birding, Leping, Odeing, and Botanizing! 

Sunday 9 October 2016

Point Pelee on Saturday

Yesterday I took a trip to the Pelee area to see what was around. With hurricane Matthew heading up the Atlantic shore, I figured that some things may show up in the area (I was right...I frigatebird was spotted near the Pinery. I might go if it is found again).

As expected, there were a number of Blue Jays moving through. I estimated at least 100 were seen along the north dike, and around 240 at the Sanctuary Pond. I also noted 8 Northern Rough-winged Swallows there was well.

A couple immature Bald Eagles hung out around the VC.

There was an impressive number of Turkey Vultures moving around as well. They prefer NE winds to help them migrate, but the winds were NW, so birders got to enjoy the sight of over 200 vultures swirling around in a massive kettle.

The tip was fairly quiet, but I still managed to see more species than what I saw on my big day back in May (I saw 29 on May 7th and 34 on October 8th). Raptor Migration is still in full swing with a number of Red-tailed Hawks, Sharpies, Coopers, Northern Harriers moving around. A high flying Peregrine (?) Falcon is my first one of the year.

A 'Gashawk' flew by as well :)

I was a tad surprised by the number of warblers I saw at the tip. I was expecting one or two species, but I ended up with five. Obviously Yellow-rumped was the most numerous (7), but I ended up with Palm (4), a stunning male Black-throated Blue (1), Magnolia (1), and Blackburnian (1).



Black-throated Blue

Dark-eyed Juncos are starting to arrive, and I saw about two dozen around the tip. White-throated Sparrows are starting to show up too.

There were dozens of Monarchs at the tip. I even saw a few flying far out on the lake while looking through the scope at some gulls.

Dragonflies were numerous, and I saw both Red and Black Saddlebags, Meadowhawks, and Common Green Darners.

Black Saddlebags

I saw four species of gulls, most of them out over the lake. I wasn't able to find a Little Gull hidden among the Bonies.

juvie Herring

There was a group of three Common Loons being attacked by the gulls far out in the lake. It was interesting watching the birds dive under the water as the gulls flew at them. I think that the loons were bringing up some food that the gulls wanted, so they took it from them. I also saw two species of grebe...Horned and the uncommon Red-necked.

yes, there is a loon out there

New England Aster was the most common wildflower. Cabbage Whites and Sulphurs love them.

After lunch, it was off to DeLaurier. A number of Sparrows and a couple Palm Warblers frequented the grassy areas. A Prairie Falcon was seen earlier, but I had no luck finding it.

They closed off the observation tower on the trail, but at least I heard my first and only Gray Catbird of the trip. Blue jays were moving through in large numbers.

So were Golden-crowned Kinglets.

The Marsh Boardwalk was next.

Green Frog

There wasn't much around to photograph, but I added a few new species for the day list such as Wood Duck, Belted Kingfisher, and Swamp Sparrow.

More Palm Warblers were around as well.

I wanted to try to see the Snowy Egret at Big Creek, so I said good bye to the park and that's where I went. It wasn't there, but I saw 21 Great Egrets, my third species of grebe for the day, and a (domestic) Muscovy Duck!

The middle one had me fooled!

Pied-billed Grebe

Hillman Marsh was the last stop. I didn't get there until quarter after seven, so it was becoming dark, but I could still make out a few birds. The shorebird cell is quite nice at dusk.

Canada Geese and ducks such as Mallards and Scaup were coming in for the night.

Shorebirds included Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, and a peep of some sort. It was dark by this point, so I made the shorebird ID by ear.

No owls yet, but in another month a couple species will come to roost.

It was a great day, I ended up with 55 species, and I can't wait to go back!