Tuesday 28 November 2017

Highlights from Haliburton (2015)

In August of 2015, I had the chance to camp around Haliburton, Ontario for a week. I had only the small camera, and I wasn't much of a photographer yet (I got started in mid-October 2015).

This weekend should give me some more content (hopefully!). I will be leading a group for the London CBC4Kids. If you know anyone in grades 3-8 who would be interested in taking part in this event, I strongly recommend that they do! Last year we found uncommon birds such as a Common Loon, Sandhill Cranes,  and a Red-headed Woodpecker! Other expected birds are Black-capped Chickadees (which may come to your hand!), Bald Eagles, ducks, geese, and woodpeckers. For more information, please see Nature London's website.

Water Spider sp. and Dragonfly Sp.

Common Loon

Saturday 25 November 2017

From the Lake to the Flats

Some readers may be aware that Jeremy Bensette has recently broken the Ontario Big Year record that was set in 2012 by Josh Vandermeulen. On Tuesday, he saw his 344th species for the year with a Northern Gannet in Hamilton. A huge congratulations goes out to Jeremy for reaching this milestone in his birding career. I think I will need to ask Jeremy and Josh to mentor me for my Big Year attempt in a few years (more on that once I graduate high school)  :-)

This morning I set out to Hamilton to try to observe the Northern Gannet. Keeping with the tradition of the blog, I will come out and say it...I didn't see it! It was, however, reported 30 minutes after I left! Despite this miss, I did end up having a great time!

I first checked out the Halton side of the lift bridge. Long-tailed Ducks numbered in the hundreds.

There were plenty of White-winged Scoters as well, including the first adult male that I have ever seen! I was quite pleased by the photos!

Red-breasted Mergansers are the most commonly seen merganser on the great lakes during the winter months. During the Rondeau CBC last year, on our route, I estimated over 600.

Common Loons are always a treat to see, and today we had around 4 individuals. This one came up about 10 feet from the pier. Surprisingly, this is the first time I have had the chance to get a decent photo of a Common Loon!

Also present were around two Red-throated Loons, first of year for me. The first bird was quite a ways out, but the second one was spotted about 6 feet from the pier! Unfortunately, I wasn't fast enough, so I only caught the last little bit of it as it dove. It resurfaced a little further out, but by camera refused to focus on it!

Believe it or not, it was a three loon day! Soon after I arrived, I noticed a different looking small loon way off in the distance. It dove after about 3 seconds, and I wasn't confident on the ID, so I decided to not to say anything to the other birders. About 5 minutes later one of the others said that they had a Pacific Loon out in the company of two Common Loons. It was pretty easy to find, and I even managed a few "record" (aka crap) pictures.

I went over the Hamilton side, where things weren't much different. A few more Long-tailed Ducks and a pair of Peregrine Falcons.

After checking out Beachway Park, where I got another look at the Pacific Loon and added some Mute Swans to the day list, we started to make our way towards Waterloo to look for the Mountain Bluebird which has been around for about a week now. This was the bird that Jeremy tied the record with.

When we arrived, the birders on the scene said that the bird had been seen, but wasn't being seen at the moment. After about an hour of searching the best thing I found was a flyover Common Merganser, and I was ready to give up.

Then, suddenly I looked up and saw a starling flying over...or was it? Upon closer inspection I saw it was the Mountain Bluebird and it had just landed in a tree!

I ran back to the road, only falling twice, and soon joined the group looking at the bird...or at least trying to look at the bird because she had disappeared again! She was soon found sitting on a low tree in the middle of the meadow, or whatever you want to call it.

I hopped the fence (not illegally, since there are trails throughout the open area, but I didn't feel like walking back down the road to the opening in the fence) and made my way closer to the bird.

For the next hour or so, I followed her around as she went on with her routine. Sometimes I would lose her, just to realize that she was 30 feet in front of me hidden in a bush!

Near the end of my time with her, the sun had come out and it was turning into a pleasant day. She gave us some great opportunities for viewing and pictures.

The highlight for me was getting the following picture of her on the ground!

All in all, a great day of birding! I think it is pretty cool to have seen a Townsend's Warbler, Mountain Bluebird, and Pacific Loon in the same week within Ontario!

Friday 17 November 2017

Townsend's Take Two

This afternoon, I went back down to Rondeau hoping for a second chance at the long-staying (for a warbler) Townsend's Warbler. It had been seen in the morning, and our ETA was a couple hours earlier than when I went on Tuesday, so going into the twitch I was feeling pretty good.

When we arrived, we were met by silence, so we set up shop at the corner of Second and Centre street, where the bird has been most reliable. Two Snow Geese in the company of Canada Geese flew over just above the tree line...too fast for photos!

After about half an hour, the chickadees and kinglets started making a commotion, so we knew that if the rare warbler was going to show up, it would be with the group of common songbirds.

After about 10 minutes of searching through the flock, I happened to look up and see a small songbird fly into a Juniper Tree. I got my bins on it, and imagine my surprise when I saw it was the Townsend's Warbler! I quickly called over the other birders, and almost all of us got decent looks at the bird, or at least enough to confirm the identification.

Photos, well, to say the least didn't work out. Auto-focus tends to hate me when it comes to rare birds, and this time it was no different.

Within 30 seconds the bird was gone. I relocated it 5 minutes later, but only saw it for about 3 seconds...no good photo ops for me today!

Basically, I devoted my entire week to trying to find this bird, and I saw it for 33 seconds total...

The bird appears to be very healthy, and will no doubt be around longer. Is it too early to start thinking about the Christmas Bird Count?

Other bird life in the area included many finches, including siskin and Purple. A group of Cedar Waxwings was present as well. A first of season Brown Creeper was seen briefly.

Cedar Waxwings

I checked the beach, but I could only find a few Canada Geese and a Bald Eagle. No Ross's today!

I was thinking that maybe the geese went to the bay, so I checked it out just before we left. No geese, but plenty of ducks. The majority were American Wigeon and Redhead, but I also found small  numbers of Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, and Canvasback.

Wigeon and Redhead

Ring-necked Duck

I left very happy that I was able to find the bird, even if I couldn't get any decent photos! A lifer is worth a thousand pictures!

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Failed Twitch (Well, Sort Of)

After school today, my Dad and I went down to Rondeau hoping to see the Townsend's Warbler.

We were delayed by at least 45 minutes due to construction. At least on the detour I got to see a few thousand crows and a Rough-legged Hawk!

When we finally arrived in Bate's Subdivision, I realized that chances of finding the bird was next to none. I was one person, in the fading light, in the middle of a forest...it would be like finding a needle in a haystack!

After walking around a bit, I heard a few convincing chip notes, and whenever I heard a chickadee I got excited, but I never was able to find the rarity for which I came.

I decided to cut my losses, and head out to the beach to try to find the reported Ross's Goose before it got totally dark.

Out on the lake, there were a couple thousand Canada Geese and a couple Common Goldeneye. I also heard and saw a few Tundra Swans.

Canada Geese

After about thirty seconds of scanning the gaggle with my binoculars, I was able to easily pick out the small white goose....success!

Ross's Goose and Canada Geese

After watching it for a few minutes, the flock took off, allowing for photos in flight (which would have been better if it wasn't dark and the geese weren't half a kilometer away).

Ross's Goose and Canada Geese

Although I didn't see my main target, I did at least get to see the Ross's, which was a lifer. Who knows...maybe I can find something this weekend!

Sunday 5 November 2017

Kettle Point Produces

Today I went on the annual Nature London trip to the Kettle Point area. I didn't go last year, but in 2015 it was very successful...and this year it was no different!

We stopped in at the Forest Sewage Lagoons first. This spot often yields numerous ducks that are hard to get on the lake. We had numerous Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Ducks, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Bufflehead, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, and Long-tailed Duck.

One of the highlights was a White-winged Scoter.

Ruddy Ducks and White-winged Scoter (2nd from R)

Many gulls, mostly Ring-billed and Bonaparte's, were present.

We managed to hear a late Common Gallinule in the reeds along the side of the cell.

Kettle Point was next. We immediately were off to a great start with a few dozen ducks, including Surf Scoter, Black Scoter, Bufflehead, Greater Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, and Red-breasted Merganser.

Surf Scoter

There were a few Pied-billed and Horned Grebes as well. At one point, I thought I spotted a Red-necked Grebe way off in the distance, but I couldn't rule out it being a merganser.

At one point, a Great Blue Heron flew in.

Many blackbirds were present, including these Rusties.

There were also a couple Double-crested Cormorants and Mute Swans.

Near the point, at the little park with the gazebo, we managed to find a nice group of Common Mergansers some Bonaparte's Gulls.

There was also a single Long-tailed Duck.

We drove along the beach, which resulted in a few additions to the day list, including the first Turkey Vultures I've seen in a few days. We couldn't find anything within the dozens of Canada Geese, but the Bonaparte's Gulls kept us happy.

Moving toward the Pinery, we finally found a couple Bald Eagles. They didn't care to be photographed, so my only picture is quite bad!

The feeders at the Pinery VC were quite active. Tufted Titmice (Titmouses?) were quite regular, which was nice to see. American Goldfinches, Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-capped Chickadees, and White-breasted Nuthatches were present as well.

The lighting was very bad, and the camera didn't want to cooperate!

Tufted Titmouse

American Goldfinch

We walked Riverside Trail, where we found a number of Cedar Waxwings, robins, nuthatches, and a Tufted Titmouse.

The highlight of the trip was found soon after...a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers!

Although Red-headed Woodpeckers are expected, they are definitely are very uncommon. The pair seen here are my first for Lambton county.

After Riverside, we drove out of the park, but not before checking out the beaches. Nothing much except a large-ish raft of Greater Scaup.

The real excitement was on the opposite side of the road, on the forest side. After a little bit of scanning, we were able to find dozens of Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, and even a pair of Purple Finches!

After this, we decided to call it a day and head back home.

Huge thanks to Paul for driving me around (and sharing your lunch!) Sorry we couldn't find you a Cackling Goose (or Pine Siskins!)