Monday 21 November 2016

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

Over the past couple days it has gotten quite cooler, and on Saturday night it started to snow. By yesterday morning, the ground was covered in a carpet of white.

Photo from last year

I'm amazed that just three days ago it was a record high setting temperature and I was observing Cattle Egrets and Monarchs. I'm sure the Cattle Egret is regretting it's choice to come back to the lagoons.

Yesterday there was a Nature London outing at Weldon Park in Arva, so that's where I went for an hour and a half. The leader wasn't expecting many bird species to be around due to the wind, but we managed to spot an impressive 20 species, such as Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, Mallard, and House Finch. Other birds included the following:

Downy Woodpecker

White-breasted Nuthatch

Red-bellied Woodpecker

See the Red Belly?

Hairy Woodpecker

Cedar Waxwing

Canada Geese

American Goldfinch

This tree has been used by a White-tailed Deer to rub the velvet off it's antlers.

Trees were covered with snow, creating a very pretty woodland sight.

I wonder how much longer the snow will stick around?

(Update November 22) On a side note, the "Semipalmated Sandpiper" I saw in Blenheim on Friday turned out to be in fact a first winter Western Sandpiper.  This sighting is exciting as this bird is quite rare in Ontario, and only a few, if any, show up each year. I didn't take any photos, but you can view some nice shots here and here (note: on this page you can find photos of the WESA, however they are listed as a Semi. These photos will likely soon go over to the WESA page).

Friday 18 November 2016

Rondeau Rarites and Some Other Birds

Today I took advantage of my Friday off  and went down to the Rondeau are to see what was around. The temperature reached over 20 degrees Celsius, which broke the record high temperature for November 18th, which was 17.8 degrees Celsius which was set back over 70 years ago in 1941!

I arrived at Rondeau with my birding partner (aka my father) around 8 this morning, and we were treated to the sight of hundreds of ducks out in the bay. It was peaceful until shotguns started going off further south.

I heard the Eurasian Wigeon that has been hanging around, but I didn't find it. Quite a few of the American variety were around.

There were a of couple Tundra Swans flying around.

Gulls consisted of Ring-billed, Herring, Bonaparte's, and Great Black-backed.

We went to the dog beach first, but all we found was a group of Red-breasted Mergansers and six Snow Buntings.

We walked down the South Point trail a couple kilometers where we saw Downy Woodpeckers, Snow Buntings, a Common Loon, and a group of scoters.

I find the relationship between gulls and grebes/loons interesting. The grebe or loon will bring up food, and the gull will swoop in to grab the morsel from the bird! There was a Bonaparte's Gull following two Horned Grebes today.

There are a few odes still flying around, such as this White-faced (?) Meadowhawk.

After Rondeau, we headed to Blenheim Sewage Lagoons. There were a lot of gulls when I first walked in.

I was walking along the main berm, thinking about how it would be neat to find the Cattle Egret that had been gone for a week, when I looked up and saw a small white heron standing in the middle of the road 150 meters in front of me!

I managed to get quite a bit closer before it spooked.

I wonder if I can say that I "found" it? :-)

Another birder, who is in the top three on eBird for Chatham-Kent, came about 10 minutes later, and he was treated to it having fly directly over him! He also helped me find the continuing Semipalmated Sandpiper (Update: later identified as a Western Sandpiper).

I found that the Bonaparte's Gulls really enjoy the back "bubbler" cell.

The birder pointed us in the direction of the 5 Greater White-fronted Geese he found yesterday, so that is where we went next. When we arrived, it was a little hard to find them a first, but we eventually located them at the back of the pond with a group of Canada Geese.

We drove down Erieau Road, and made a stop at McGeachy Pond CA, where we discovered that we have totally underestimated the Cerulean Warbler population in Ontario, and actually tens of thousands migrate overhead each fall.

A very late Monarch was flying around. It should be in Mexico by now!

There wasn't much on the pier, however I managed to find the adult male Harlequin Duck first spotted on the sixteenth. It was much more brightly coloured than the one in London earlier this year.

A few gulls and cormorants were in the area as well.

The last stop of the day was the Erieau Rail/Marsh Trail.

I heard a late Blue-gray Gnatcatcher here, no doubt the same one that has been hanging around for the past few weeks. A number of Buffleheads could be seen from here as well.

It was a amazing day, and I met a few new birders along the way. I hope to be back soon!

Wednesday 16 November 2016

It's That Time of the Year Again...

The holidays are just around the corner, and that means family, food and, of course, birds. In a few weeks, thousands of birders and nature enthusiasts will be taking part in one of the oldest birding traditions in the world....the Christmas Bird Count (or CBC for short). The event was founded in 1900, and the idea was that instead of shooting the birds for sport on December 25th like many people did, they would observe and count them instead. 117 years later we are still doing it. Imagine...117 years. In that time frame the RMS Titanic sunk, WWI and WWII raged in Europe, Point Pelee opened it's gates, the Great Depression destroyed countries all over the world in the thirties, Canada has had 17 different Prime Ministers, and our friends down south have had 20 presidents. For over a century people have carried on the tradition, and it is up to us and future generations to continue.

Anyway, there are dozens of counts around southern Ontario. Here's a few from my area:

Bright Blue: London (my home count)  Date: December 17, 2016
Gray: Stratford  Date: TBA
White: West Elgin   Date: TBA
Maroon: Strathroy  Date: Possibly not running this season
Teal: St. Thomas  Date: TBA
Purple: Kettle Point  Date: December 17, 2016
Pink: Skunk's Misery (Newbury)  Date: TBA, however last year it was in early January.
Blue: Wallaceburg  Date: December 27 or 28, 2016
Lime Green: St. Clair NWA  Date: TBA
Red: Blenheim incl. Rondeau  Date: December 18, 2016

Essex County and area also hosts a few counts:

Yellow: Point Pelee  Date: TBA
Gold: Cedar Creek  Date: December 17, 2016
Black: Holiday Beach  Date: December 27, 2016
Green: North Shore  Date: TBA
Dark Blue: Lake Erie Islands  Date: TBA

You may have noticed quite a few dates are 'To Be Announced'. Since it is only early November, many coordinators may not have uploaded the dates to the site I used. You can click here to see when the 'TBA' counts are or to find a Canadian CBC circle in your area.

Another bird count around Christmas is the Christmas Bird Count for Kids (CBC4Kids). This event was founded in 2007, so it isn't quite as old as the regular CBC. There are three CBC4Kids in SW Ontario:

Bright Blue: London  Date: December 3, 2016
Red: Elgin  Date: TBA
Grey: Port Rowan  Date: December 3, 2016

I'll be volunteering as a group leader this year at the 3rd annual London CBC4Kids count (more info can be found here ), and if you are interested in leading a group as well, you can inquire with the count organizer. Find a CBC4Kids near you by clicking here.

By joining a CBC, you are helping researchers know where birds are and if they are increasing or declining in that area. While most counters will take to the road to find birds, you can help by just counting birds at your feeder and reporting your finds to your local coordinator. I hope to see you out there!

London is the 'Cardinal Capital of Canada'