Saturday 31 December 2016

2016: My First Full Year as a Naturalist

2016 was a big year for me. Sure, I didn't see as many species as I would have wanted to, but it was still awesome. My 2016 birding year list sits at 235, 83 of which were new species bring my life list up to 242, and I still have a chance to add a Northern Shrike! I also started this blog, which led to the discovery of leps, odes, herps, and botany. The past 12 months have been life changing.

In order to reflect on the year, and dream about the year ahead, properly, I've decided to post daily for the next week on topics regarding the past year and my goals moving forward. The topics I've chosen are:

January 1st: New Year's Day Birding (I'll do a "Big Day" of sorts)
January 2nd: 2016 Full Year list for Birds
January 3rd: 2016 Full Year lists for Leps, Odes, Herps, and Mammals
January 4th: 2016 Rarity Highlights
January 5th: 2016 Best Nature Moments
January 6th: The Best Photos of 2016
January 7th: My Nature Goals for 2017
January 8th: Re-visiting My "Wish List"

Now, to give you something to look at, here are some monthly highlights!


I started off with a bang by finding a life bird just 10.5 hours into the new year...Brown Creeper! I also went on a Nature London trip to the St. Clair river and got a picture of a Snowy Owl published in the London Free Press.


The best bird of the month was a Greater White-fronted Goose that visited London for a couple weeks. I also managed to get some decent photos of kinglets, nuthatches, and a Redhead this month as well.


Obviously the Gyrfalcon that hung around for over a month in Lambton was a highlight, but a Eurasian Wigeon just a week later was also very cool. The best bird of the month for me was a Harlequin Duck that made London his home for nearly two months.


A Great Horned Owl nest entertained me for the bulk of the month. Also a highlight was finding an almost record early Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in London (record early was Feb. 28, I found it on April 4). My trip to Point Pelee in late April didn't yield a Louisiana Waterthrush, but I did find some nice lifer Pine Warblers.


May was unsurprisingly one of the busiest months of the year. I saw 146 species this month, up from the 88 I saw  this month in 2015. Highlights include getting my 600mm lens for my camera, doing a Big Day in the Pelee Birding Circle on May 7th (Once again I didn't complete the 100 species challenge!), and a trip to the Bruce with Nature London, on which I saw 18 lifers.


June was the month I started this blog. It was also the month I heard my first Acadian Flycatcher and saw my first Hooded Warbler. Dickcissels were also added to my life list when at least three males set up territory south of Strathroy.


Was a big month, especially towards the end. My trip to Carden Alvar was timed so that the area's bird activity wasn't at it's peak, but I still saw numerous specialities including Loggerhead Shrikes and Sedge Wrens, I also managed to visit Darlington Provincial Park to check out the Piping Plovers. Some nice odes were seen as well. About a week after I added a Eurasian-collared Dove to my life list.


I saw many new birds this month including Black-crowned Night-heron, Sanderling, Marbled Godwit, and Baird's Sandpiper. I added a number of insects to my life list, a highlight being Common Checkered Skipper.


A Highlight this month was going to Algonquin Park. I managed to see three out of the four Algonquin specialities and a total of six Moose. Hand-feeding Chickadees was also pretty cool.


I missed a few good birds this month, but I also saw a few. The trip I took to Point Pelee in early October was nice, and a few good raptors were noted. Large numbers of Blue Jays continued to move through as well. Later in the month, I finally added the three Scoters to my life list and also caught up with a Cattle Egret.


Sort of a slow month, but I did get down to Rondeau where I saw a Harlequin Duck, Greater White-fronted Geese, and a Sandpiper. I also "re-found" the Cattle Egret after it being gone for a week at Blenheim.


This past month has been quite eventful, and I've seen 88 bird species so far, and there is still 14 hours left! I started December off by finding a Red-headed Woodpecker on the London CBC4Kids, which went on to be found on the London CBC. I also participated in the Rondeau CBC, where Blake Mann and I recorded 57 species in our circle, a Red-throated Loon and American Pipits being highlights. My "Big Day" just a few days ago was also a success, and I saw species such as King Eider, Black Vulture, and Little Gull.

I can't wait to see what 2017 has in store!

Thursday 29 December 2016

Big December Day

Yesterday in an effort to brighten up the last few days of December, I did a "Big Day" in Hamilton and along the Niagara river. I set a goal of 50 species, and I ended with 52. We started with looking at the Burlington Bay area, where 19 Greater Black-backed Gulls were found.

Next was the canal under the lift bridge that crosses the Halton/Hamilton county line. Hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks inhabited the area.

From Front to Back: Adult Male, First-winter Male, Adult Female

A few scoters and mergansers were with them.

White-winged Scoter

Then came the real prize...a female King Eider.

Windermere Basin yielded some puddle ducks such as American Wigeon and Northern Shovelers. This was also the only place where I found a few Ruddy Ducks among the Buffleheads.

We searched for Black Vultures at Queenston Heights next. Nothing at first but this Red-tail.

But then I noticed some dark blobs on the church...a kilometer and a half away!

I took pictures, but the blobs appeared to be Turkey Vultures, which also winter in the area. But I figured that where there are Turkeys there could be Blacks hidden among them. I ran back to the car to get my scope, and set up. It took 10, maybe 15 minutes before I saw three smaller-than-TV black birds flying at least another 500 meters behind the church. They then sharply dropped beneath the tree line but in the split second before disappearing, I saw the silvery wing tips of the Black two kilometers! We soon re-found at least one on the church.

The Queenston sand docks revealed this funny Long-tailed Duck. She swam quite far down river in this position.

At the whirlpool I found a Thayer's Gull, but no Black-headed! Four Canvasbacks as well.

I got my first real taste of gull-watching (gulling?) above the falls. Thousands of gulls were perched and flying around.

This barge known as "The Old Scow" broke loose from the tug boat up stream while dredging the sand banks almost a century ago on August 6, 1918.  There were two men on board when it got marooned on the rocks just up stream from the Horseshoe falls.  It took the US Army to help with the rescue, and 17 hours later the two men once again stood on solid ground.

We met a group of birders who were just leaving. They told us that there were a few Little Gulls flying around. Little Gulls are quite rare in the ABA area (code 3), but can be reliably found in Ontario. You just need to know where to look.

If Little Gulls didn't have a dark underwing, it would be nearly impossible to pick them out.  I had to be quick to get this shot.  He was hard to keep track of.

It was an awesome day, and I'm four species closer to 250. Eight more to go!

Sunday 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I'm off for the next couple weeks, so I'll get a little bit of birding in. Can I reach 240 species before 2017?

That Smith's Longspur is calling my name.

Monday 19 December 2016

Rondeau Christmas Bird Count (CBC) 2016

Yesterday (December 18), my dad and I left London at 5:00 am for the 1 hour 45 minute journey to Rondeau Provincial. Why? For the 2016 Rondeau/Blenheim Christmas Bird Count. I assisted Blake Mann (aka the 'Burg Birder) on his route south of the VC.

Our General Area

We arrived too late to get any owls, but we got on the South Point Trail by twenty to eight.

Quinten (Me) and Blake on the SPT
Photo by Dad

Quickly we picked up Juncos, Tree Sparrow, American Pipits, Downy Woodpeckers, a Lapland Longspur, and a Bald Eagle. Hermit Thrush and the typical winter woodland birds soon followed.

Downy Woodpecker

One of Five Hermit Thrushes 

The lake was quite busy and we quickly found Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Mergansers, Scoters (of the Surf and White-winged variety), gulls, Common Loon and a highlight of the day...Red-throated Loon that I found off the South Point Trail. The loon is an awesome count bird and it was a lifer.

RT Loon

A Rough-legged Hawk flew in off the lake.

A large flock of Tundra Swans flew by early on as well.

This seems to be a good year for Tufted Titmice throughout the area. Blake and I had 5 or 6 in our area alone. First ones I've seen all year.

No White-winged Dove :-(

American Pipits seemed to be everywhere. I saw one flying up to get insects from the siding of cottages.

One bird seemed to be very lost and confused. He came within a few meters of Blake and I on Lakeshore Rd. The bird was there a couple hours later as well.

We added a few species at the VC feeders.

Blue Jay

Red-winged Blackbird


Tree Sparrow

The Eastern Towhee continues.

Nothing of note along Harrison Trail other than Winter Wren and a few Robins.

Bald Eagles were seen all day.

Lunch at the VC was highlighted by Fox Sparrows, the Towhee, and Chipmunks.

After lunch we went to the Campground to see what we could find. Blake seems to have a knack for finding Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. He found two, and my dad found a Red-tailed Hawk. I found a starling :-)

We said good bye to Blake and went our separate ways. He continued to bird in the park (and found woodcocks and bluebirds), and I went west to Blenheim Sewage Lagoons and Erieau.

Not too much is still at the lagoons. Lifer Short-eared Owl was definitely the best bird.

Crows are everywhere, but that's normal since we're in Chatham-Kent.

Muskrats were swimming around in the only cell open...the back bubbler.

Although eBird flags them as rare, Pipits were still around in small numbers.

Erieau was next.

Greater Scaup

There was a surprising numbers of Black Ducks and Mallards.

Still a couple Ruddy Ducks hanging in.

Pied-billed and Horned Grebes were swimming in the channel.

I was told this was a sunken lake freighter. What do you think?

I found it Allen :-)

Rail Trail was last. Only birds of note there were Marsh Wren and a flock of 65 Sandhill Cranes.

It was a great day to be out, and between Blake and I we saw around 57 species on our route. The whole CBC tallied 111 species, down from some years, but still good considering the recent cold snap which caused many of the birds to leave or perish. You can check out Blake's post on the CBC for more information.

Rondeau's eBird Checklistcan be viewed here.

I've got to get down to Rondeau more often....