Saturday 24 November 2018

A Long Week's Payoff (Calliope Hummingbird, Goderich)

Readers may be aware of Ontario's first ever record of Calliope Hummingbird that has been coming to a backyard in Goderich. It has apparently been coming to the feeder since October 18 (coincidentally the same day the Great Kiskadee in Rondeau was refound!), but birders really only knew about it when an ONTBIRDS message came through Monday night detailing its identification and instructions on how to see it! Glenn Coady was able to negotiate with the homeowner to allow for birders to come and view the bird from 9am-4pm from November 20 to November 25. Of course, I had school all week, so I had to wait a painful four days for the weekend to come! There were a couple scares throughout the week, especially when the nighttime temperatures dipped down to -20 on Wednesday night. However, it seemed against all odds, the hummer managed to pull through, and much to my relief was seen going to roost Friday night. Was my patience (if you can call it that) going to pay off?

We arrived at the home shortly before 9:00. A flock of Common Redpolls flew over, surprisingly my first ever for southern Ontario. Before long, we were told we could come back to the yard. The hummer had been seen that morning!

After a few minutes of restless waiting, he all of a sudden whizzed out of nowhere and went to the feeders. Everyone there was very happy!

As quickly as he had appeared, he disappeared. He has apparently developed a routine of coming back every 15-20 minutes or so after feeding, and today was no exception. After a bit of patience, he came back two more times during our time there, even perching in a tree for a short moment.

Thanks to the hospitality of the homeowners, well over 500 birders have been able to see the bird in the last four days or so, and I'm sure that number will continue to increase as the weekend progresses (tomorrow being the last day of viewing). [Edit: the final number of observers over the week of viewing totaled over 700 observers!]

On the way home, we stopped in Exeter, where we were pleased to find some of the famous white squirrels (colour morph of the Eastern Grey Squirrel). I have been wanting to see one for a long time, so was very pleased with the sighting!

Hard to believe December is almost here. I wonder what else will be in store for us as the season progresses?!

Saturday 17 November 2018

A Quick Walk

This afternoon I went for a quick hike at Fanshawe Conservation Area. I had a hunch that something of note would be there.

It was actually pretty quiet, much quieter than I expected. One surprise was had when I came across this moth. Despite the cold and snow, it was active and flying around!

Bruce Spanworm Moth

One of the birds I as hoping to come across was Evening Grosbeak. My hard work paid off when I heard one call twice. Despite looking, I was unable to find it. It was likely a flyover.

I couldn't find my other target, Common Redpoll, but no doubt there will be more to come.

There always seems to be birds hanging around this one trail head, as they get fed there.

Downy Woodpecker

Blue Jay

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Black-capped Chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch

There was also a Gray Catbird, which was a but of a surprise as it is getting a bit late. They are a hardy species, so it will be interesting to see if this bird attempts to overwinter.

Friday 16 November 2018

Blast to the Past: A Six Year Old Discovers Migration

Recently I was able to find a SD card from an old Fisher Price toy camera I had when I younger. There were many images to go through, but on set in particular brought back some memories.

Back when I was six, my parents took me to go see the Tundra Swans at the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area. It was my first time seeing such a spectacle of birds, and my first time really seeing bird migration. I have gone back every year since then, making this past year the eighth consecutive year I have gone to see the swans. I would anxiously await the arrival of the swans each year, and I still do. To me, the arrival of Tundra Swans signals spring (we'll just ignore how I now know they overwinter!) It is funny how small things like that can influence how we may turn out later!

My photo skills were sightly lacking, but what do you expect for a cheap piece of plastic (that brought me lots of joy, such a cool thing for a first grader!)

My binoculars have certainly evolved over the years.

Monday 12 November 2018

The East and the West

Last week two rarities were found in the province. One was a Common Eider in Toronto, and the other a Black-throated Grey Warbler in Burlington. Common Eiders, although they breed in far northern Ontario along the Hudson Bay coast, are quite rare in the south. They winter in the Maritimes (the east) but seldom make their way to the Great Lakes. Black-throated Grey Warblers are warblers from western North America (the west). Although they are the most common western warbler vagrant, they are still quite a treat to come across. Lucky for me, those two rarities stuck around until this past Saturday, when I planned to go and try to see them.

The first stop of the day was Humber Bay park in Toronto. We got there early (with my friend Ethan in tow), as the eider was known to head out further into the lake as the day progressed, It did not take us long to see her.

Some other waterfowl present included Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, and White-winged Scoters.

Long-tailed Duck

There was a lingering Yellow-rumped Warbler.

I don't get to see too many mockingbirds down where I live, or any for that matter, so seeing one was a treat (despite my Toronto friends laughing when I told them that)

We went to quickly check out Colonel Sam Park afterwards. Nothing really of note was found, but Red-necked Grebe and another mockingbird were highlights (I don't see many Red-necked Grebes either!)

Northern Mockingbird

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-necked Grebe

I saw a bunch of this plant, Oriental Bittersweet, on this day.

We went down to Burlington in hopes of spotting the Black-throated Grey Warbler. As soon as we arrived we saw a group of 25 people all looking in the same direction. We figured that was a good sign.

Within a couple minutes we saw our target bird.

After enjoying the warbler, we went out to see what other birds we could find. There was a lot of waterfowl on the bay.


Ring-billed Gull

Common Goldeneye



Carolina Wren

All three species of swans could be found.

Trumpeter Swans

Mute Swans

Tundra Swan

With all the bird feeders, there were plenty of fat squirrels.

We decided to try and see if we could get any better photos of the warbler before we left. Everyone else had left by that point, so when we found him again we had him to ourselves pretty much, there were a couple other people just arriving to enjoy it as well. It took some patience, and many failed photos due to the warbler hiding behind leaf (so many perfect shots ruined!), but we left with some photos we were very happy with!

Nothing like the feeling of seeing some good birds!

Thursday 8 November 2018

Grebe in the Grove

Some readers may be aware of the Western Grebe being seen in Bright's Grove, just north of Sarnia.

It was nowhere to be seen when we first arrived this afternoon. It was very windy and wavy, which certainly didn't help with visibility. Just as I was about to give up almost half and hour into my search, I spotted it for about a second way out on the lake.

It took a little while before I re-found it again, this time it was much closer.

Soon it swam even closer, to the end of the pier where I was standing.

It dove frequently.

Can you still see it?

Before today, I had never seen a Western Grebe before, so it was particularly exciting to see it. Not bad for an after school twitch!