Tuesday 29 December 2020

Another Golden Day, Bar(red) None

Yesterday I said that the Golden Eagles down in Newbury would probably be my last new Middlesex year bird...I lied.

This morning I set out to the north part of the county, with Ruffed Grouse on my mind. Ruffed Grouse is a regular breeder in Middlesex, but I have actually never laid eyes on one in the county! Ruffed Grouse occur in a very low density throughout the Ausable River Valley, so that seemed like my best bet.

I first drove the block around part of Camp Sylvan, in hopes maybe one was feeding on the roadside. No dice. Funny enough though, I did cross paths with two Golden Eagles! It always seems to go that way, once you see one, you see a bunch...

I had plans to check out Joany's Woods, but they had the entrance I wanted barricaded off, and there was a truck parked there, so I opted to not interfere. Instead, I went up to the Parkhill Conservation Area, another place with known grouse activity. In fact, I am almost positive I had one here back in June, but I never got a visual on whatever it was that flushed from the side of the road. 

I first checked the reservoir for geese. There were several hundred Canadas, and with the eleven Cackling Geese. I cannot recall ever seeing Cackling Geese in the winter before, but it has been an exceptional fall for them.


I checked the north perimeter of the conservation area with no luck, then went to the main entrance, and walked the road where I flushed the mystery bird earlier in the year. Despite crisscrossing for 2.5 kilometers for close to an hour and a half, I couldn't turn up anything notable, other than a lingering Hermit Thrush. Oh well, in the spring...

I next decided to go to Fanshawe Conservation Area and do my usual walk from the north end to the dam. It was quite enjoyable, as there were tons of ducks and geese to look at along the way. I ended up with over 1000 Canada Geese, 8 Cackling Geese, almost 1300 Mallards, 60 American Black Ducks, 15 Common Goldeneye, 2 American Wigeon, and 5 Northern Pintail. I was hoping to find a white-fronted goose, but no luck. Interestingly, 200 Common Mergansers had been reported yesterday, and I didn't see a single one today!

I made a pitstop on the way home at the Uplands North Wetland to pick up Swamp Sparrow for my day list (hey, why not?), which is when I got texts from Pete Read and Reuven Martin saying that the Barred Owl, which had been seen briefly twice since its original sighting on the 18th, had been relocated at Westminister Ponds! Needless to say, I was off.

I arrived a short while later, and in the company of several other (COVID aware) observers, saw the owl. A new Middlesex bird for almost all of us there.

#224! Good end to a good day, despite missing grouse.

It seems unlikely at this point that I will see something else in the next two days, especially looking at the weather forecast, but never say never...

Monday 28 December 2020

A Golden Day

I have been trying to see a Golden Eagle in Middlesex County for the past few months now. I struck out on getting them in migration (somewhat understandable, as we aren't really located in a good area for raptor migration), and then I missed them every time Bill and I had gone down to Newbury, where they are known to winter. You'd think four times would be more than enough! Anyways, today I decided to take another shot at it, and went down again. Perhaps fifth time would be a charm.

I started out on Argyll Drive, but couldn't turn up really anything of note except Snow Buntings. As I was driving down Watterworth Drive, I spied a couple eagles in the distance. I hit the gas, and turned down Oilfield Drive. My actions were rewarded by two adult Golden Eagles, which were soon joined by a subadult! It was my 223rd year bird for Middlesex, and probably my last. Not that bad, all things considered. 

Satisfied, it was time to head back home. On the way, we spotted two more adult Golden Eagles just south of Glencoe. Perhaps different birds. 

A quick check of the Snowy Owl area revealed one owl, my first this month!

Good to end the year with a bang. 

Saturday 26 December 2020

Yard Moths: 2020 Recap

This past late Spring and Summer was quite good for finding moths in my yard. The first time I set up my sheet was on April 5th, and the last time was on August 25th. I probably should have kept going throughout September, but due to a variety of reasons (early morning birding, school etc.), I ended up not doing so. From the end of May onwards, I was pretty good about setting up almost every single night if the conditions allowed. Not being in in-person school during the month of June really helped! In total, I ended up seeing 432 species of moths in my yard in 2020, and increased my all time list from about 350 species to 546 species. I usually saw at least one new yard moth every time I went out, and on some of my better nights, I would hit the double digits! The diversity on most nights was quite spectacular too. In late June and early July, I would often come very close or break 100 species for the night. It was certainly a really fun season! 

In total, I had 36 families of moths visit my yard during the few months of mothing I did. Quite respectable I would say, especially for your run of the mill suburban backyard with very few mature trees and mostly ornamental plants surrounding it. I will list each family represented, along with a species total, and will throw in a few pretty pictures along the way :-)

Swift Moths - 1 species

Common Swift (Korscheltellus lupulina)

Pygmy Moths - 2 species

White Eye-cap Moths - 1 species

Pseudopostega cretea

Yucca moths -1 species

Fungus and Clothes moths - 5 species

Pavlovski's Monopis (Monopis longella)


Crowned Bucculatrix (Bucculatrix coronatella)

Leafblotch Miner Moths - 11 species

Ermine Moths - 2 species

Sickle-winged Moths - 1 species

Diamondback Moths - 1 species

Sedge Moths - 1 species

Shiny Head-standing Moths - 5 species

ATTEVIDAE - 1 species


OECOPHORIDAE - 2 species

Orange-headed Epicallima (Epicallima argenticictella)

Flat Moths - 4 species

Cosmet Moths - 3 species

Twirler Moths - 17 species

Dichomeris furia

Grass Moths - 2 species

Casebearer Moths - 2 species


MOMPHIDAE - 3 species

Red-streaked Mompha (Mompha eloisella)

Plume Moths - 5 species

Buck's Plume Moth (Geina buscki)

Bell and Leafroller Moths - 80 species

Cochylis bucera

Dichrorampha leopardana

Slug Moths - 3 species

Skiff Moth (Prolimacodes badia)

Pyralid Snout Moths - 28 species

Snout and Grass Moths - 40 species

Basswood Leafroller (Pantographa limata)

Lutestring and Hooktip Moths - 3 species

Glorious Habrosyne (Habrosyne gloriosa)

Tent Caterpillar and Lappet Moths - 3 species

Sphinx Moths - 4 species

Pandorus Sphinx (Eumorpha pandorus)

URANIIDAE - 1 species

Brown Scoopwing (Calledapteryx dryopterata)

Geometer Moths - 59 species

Sharp-lined Yellow (Sicya macularia)

Prominents - 10 species

Black-rimmed Prominent (Pheosia rimosa)

Tiger, Tussock, and Underwing Moths - 47 species

Judith's Underwing (Catocala judith)

Tuft Moths - 3 species

Owlet Moths - 73 species

Hologram Moth (Diachrysia balluca)

If you would look to see all of my observations of my 2020 yard moths that I uploaded to iNaturalist, you can see them here. I also compiled from backyard moth photos in this post back in July (a few of which are featured here).

It is amazing what you can see if you put in the effort. When I first started mothing in 2018, I never imagined I would be able to see over 400 species of moths in my yard in only a few short months! 

It certainly was a very interesting year. I am already looking forward to being able to set up my sheet for the first time of the season!

Sunday 20 December 2020

Christmas Bird Counts

As per usual for this time of year, I did a couple Christmas Bird Counts. I do two counts, the London one, which I have been doing for four years, and the Rondeau/Blenheim count, which I have been doing for five. Obviously this year is quite different than previous ones! 

Yesterday was the London count. I did my usual route along the Thames River in the south part of the city. I was unable to turn up anything good however! Just the usual suspects. I ended up with 36 species on my walk, which ties 2018 for the most species I have seen on this route. It is up from 32 species from last year! The weather was sort of mild, which meant not many ducks on the river, but at least it was cold enough to somewhat concentrate the smaller birds.

eBird checklist here.

I ended up with two new species for my overall route list, Merlin and Common Redpoll. Interestingly, Carolina Wrens were fairly numerous. I couldn't find a single one last year! I think it has been a good year for the species.

Carolina Wren (from this spring)

Afterwards, I went to the landfill as it was not too far away. I only found one concentration of gulls, and only four species among them (Herring, Ring-billed, Glaucous, and Great Black-backed). Thankfully, Reuven Martin, who had been doing that area for the count, managed to also turn up Lesser Black-backed and Iceland in a different field, so at least we got those for the cumulative total! 

I did a quick check of a couple spots around the neighborhood later, but couldn't turn up anything of note.

Today was the Rondeau/Blenheim CBC, so I was down there by shortly after 7am. I started at the VC beach, where I was shortly thereafter joined by Reuven. We did a short lakewatch, highlighted by White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, and a couple Red-throated Loons. I have had at least one Red-throated Loon every time I have done this count, so I am glad my streak was not broken! 

We then began the long 16 kilometer walk up Lakeshore Drive, with plans of returned back down Harrison trail. It wasn't super birdy, but we managed to turn up an Eastern Towhee, a couple Hermit Thrushes, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. Nothing really out of the ordinary. Lots of woodpecker action, as we had twelve Downies, eight Hairies, eight Red-bellieds, and three Pileateds. 

Downy Woodpecker from a past CBC

eBird checklist here.

With no compilation to go to, there wasn't much reason to stick around, so after scoping the bay, which held many distant ducks, we headed out. Reuven went back to London, but I wanted to quickly pop over to Erieau. It ended up being pretty quiet over there, and the only thing of note was about 165 American Coots.

That's a wrap for another year!

Saturday 28 November 2020

A Good Week of Birding

 This past week has been quite good for birding here in Middlesex County. Although the pretty much non-stop action of late October and early November has slowed down, still plenty to be seen.

The week started off with a bang. Late Sunday evening, I saw a Summer Tanager posted to iNaturalist from London. I was able to get in contact with the homeowner, and arrange for myself and Bill Lindley to go see it the next day. So on Monday morning, Bill and I staked out the feeder. It had been seen five minutes before we got there, but was a no show for the next three hours we stood there. We decided to go home to warm up, then come back a couple hours later. Not 20 minutes after being home, I got a call from the homeowner that said the bird was back! About 25 minutes later, we were on it!

 Certainly makes up for missing all the ones in the spring!

Later that night, a White-winged Dove was reported in Lambton, about 500 meters from the Middlesex county line. Bill and I made plans to head out and try to see if we could find it within the county the next day.

On Tuesday afternoon, we went out, but were ultimately unsuccessful in finding the dove. Since we were nearby, we opted to head down to Newbury. Although there were no Golden Eagles to be seen, we did end up having some great birding along Argyll Drive, highlighted by a couple White-crowned Sparrows, a Northern Shrike, and nearly 300 Common Redpolls.

Wednesday was a washout (literally), and Thursday wasn't much better. I just did some local birding. One thing that has been pretty good is the duck diversity in the neighbourhood. This week I have had the usual Mallards, as well as American Black Ducks (and a hybrid), American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Hooded Merganser, and Green-winged Teal. 

On Friday, Bill and I were out again, looking for Hoary Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks. 

We drove through the Strathroy area, and ended up finding a couple Snowy Owls, the first of the season. This is the first time I have seen this species in November.

Our first stop was Argyll Drive in Newbury. It was not quite as birdy as it was on Tuesday, but we did see a pair of Common Ravens, quite the oddity.

Next up, we tried going up Oilfield Drive. It was pretty quiet at first, but we pulled over at one point after seeing a couple sparrows flitting around the bushes. As we were stopped a single redpoll flew over, not really unexpected anymore. I pointed my binoculars out to the field and saw a few more flitting around the corn stubble, still not unexpected. Then, a few hundred lifted up! We scrambled to get our scopes, and set them up, scanning for a whiter redpoll. After a few "oh that's a white one", but nothing definitive, we noticed three redpolls sitting on the hydro wire, and wouldn't you know it, one of them was a Hoary! We got brief, but satisfactory, scope views. Splendid! I still need one for my neighbourhood (flushed a good candidate from underfoot today, but I lost it!), but at least I can stop worrying about it for Middlesex! Just need a Pine Grosbeak (and Bohemian Waxwing) now!

We traversed a few more concessions, but nothing more to report. We stopped into the landfill for a bit to look for gulls, but it was mostly just Herrings and Ring-billeds. We did manage to find a couple Great Black-backs and a single Lesser Black-backed though.

It was a very fun week! Onward to December, hopefully we can end the year with a bang!

Tuesday 17 November 2020

A Varie(gated) Good Day

On Sunday evening, Janet Junker-Lafond posted a picture of a bird she had found in Brooklin (near Whitby) on a Facebook group, asking for its identity. It just so happened to be a Variegated Flycatcher! This South American flycatcher is very rare, with less than ten records in North America (I have heard varying numbers, saying that this bird is anywhere from the sixth to the eighth, so lets meet in the middle at seven). Amazingly, one of those previous records is actually from Ontario, when one was found on the Toronto Islands in 1993! This species is regarded as one of the rarest to ever be recorded in the province.

Janet first found the bird on the 13th, but the birding community was not aware of it until the 15th, so come the morning of the 16th, many birders were on the prowl, hopeful it was still around! It was soon refound, and enjoyed by well over a hundred people. I, unfortunately, was stuck in London, but made plans to go early the next day.

So, after a 3am wake up time this morning, my dad and I were on route for the flycatcher. It was fairly smooth sailing there, and we arrived shortly after 6am. After waiting around for a bit, we hit the trail just as the sky was beginning to lighten up. A Dark-eyed Junco called nearby, the first bird of the day.

Several others showed up, and after nearly an hour of waiting, the bird made an appearance. Definitely gave a sigh of relief after catching a glimpse of it! I couldn't get my camera out fast enough though, and it ducked down.

It began to snow quite heavily shortly thereafter, severely limiting visibility. After another hour of waiting, it once again popped up, and I managed to get what are probably the worst pictures of this individual bird.

Imagine that, a photo of a Variegated Flycatcher not turning out because it was snowing! Check out Josh's post for some much nicer photos which show the identifying features much, much (much) better.

I stuck around for another 20 or so minutes, but it was remaining elusive, so I decided to leave. Seems it came out for much better looks and photos a bit after I left! It should be noted, that people were very respectful of social distancing rules, and many were wearing masks.

It was an interesting couple of hours. Not often one gets redpolls, a Red Crossbill, a Snow Bunting, an American Tree Sparrow, and a Variegated Flycatcher all in one place!

We still had a bit of time before having to head back to London, so we went to Thickson's Point in hopes of glimpsing Purple Sandpipers. It took a bit, but we finally found a couple feeding down on the rocks. Lighting was a bit harsh, but I managed a decent photo. I didn't want to get too close, as I knew others would be interested in trying to see them as well.

These were actually a lifer for me, so extra exciting! 

I had thoughts of Red Phalarope, and lo and behold a few hours after I left, one showed up. It remains the last annual shorebird species I need in Ontario...next year.

What a great morning!

Sunday 8 November 2020

Fanshawe Finches n' Stuff

I had been aiming to put out a post detailing the mothing in my yard this past summer, but given the great sightings I have had since my last birding post, seems that will have to hold off! 

Fanshawe Conservation Area is a spectacular birding location only about 10 minutes from where I live. I am looking forward to the breeding bird atlas, starting next year, as my London area square encompassed the conservation area. Should be good!

On Halloween, I started at "The Lookout", as I normally do. I find it can be a great spot to see a variety of waterfowl and other flyover birds. After about 40 minutes, I was quite delighted to see a Red-necked Grebe fly by and land in the north end of the lake! This was my first observation of one in Middlesex, and a species I had been hoping to see every time I had gone out to the reservoir. 

Also on the 31st, I had nine Evening Grosbeaks and another Red Crossbill. Certainly a nice finch year! eBird checklist (Oct 31)

The next few times I went out to Fanshawe (November 3, 4, and 7) weren't too eventful, other than adding Common Redpoll and White-winged Crossbill to my winter finch list for the location. I am not up to eight finch species there this fall, with hopefully still some Pine Grosbeaks and Hoary Redpolls on the way. I also continued to see Red Crossbills, with the largest group being 11 on the 4th. I still have not seen both crossbill species in one day though!

eBird checklist (Nov 3)

eBird checklist (Nov 4)

eBird checklist (Nov 7)

Today was certainly an exciting day as well. Not two minutes after getting out of the car, I found a Northern Mockingbird. Mockingbirds sightings are rare, but increasing slightly, in Middlesex. It was a new year bird for me. I thought for sure I had missed it!

I was a little disappointed that the rowing teams (Fanshawe is where they train) had beat me to the north end of the lake where all the waterfowl were. They flushed basically everything in sight! As such, I wasn't really expecting to see too much on the lake. Finches and other birds kept me entertained, and I had 25 Common Redpolls, as well as a Red Crossbill (type 10). At one point, I noticed a lone duck. I raised my binoculars and, could it be? I got my scope on it, and it sure was! A Black Scoter! A new Middlesex bird for me. I called Bill Lindley, who needed it for his big year, and he came and saw it shortly before it disappeared.

It hadn't been looking great for the county getting all three scoter species this year, even with all the effort put in. I believe that this is the 253rd species recorded in the county this year, incredible! The last record for Black Scoter in the county I can find is 2012, so it has been awhile!

eBird checklist (Nov 8)

Hopefully, we are just getting started! I am expecting some good things on the next cold front (but will it be bean goose good? Who knows)

(Another plug for Ezra's site, it's ready now!)

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Blue Sedge (Carex flacca) and Railways

Back in May, Will Van Hemessen mentioned to me that he has observed Blue Sedge (Carex flacca), a non-native sedge, in two locations in Ontario: Kelly Stanton ESA in London, and Fletcher Creek Ecological Preserve in Puslinch, near Cambridge.

Blue Sedge (Carex flacca) from Kelly Stanton, May 2020

Blue Sedge from Fletcher Creek, July 2019

Will noted that, interestingly, the same railway, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) passes right beside the both of them. CP lines are indicated on the map in red.  Adventive (non-native and not yet well established) plants are well known to show up along railways, carried there by the trains.

Looking at sightings on iNaturalist, you would see that there are also sightings of this sedge in the vicinity of Puslinch, as well as in the Peterborough area, near Douro. While the railways do not directly run beside where these observations were made, they are close enough to raise an eyebrow. The species has also been recorded at the Forks of the Credit in Caledon, which has a railway running through it (The Orangeville-Brampton Railway, connected to the CPR) Also on iNat, there is an observation in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and sure enough, the same railway passes by there!

Note: Observations from Vermont and Connecticut are misidentifications

I had seen a couple observations of Blue Sedge in Vermont as well, and got a little excited because the CPR passes through that area too, but upon closer inspection, the sightings turned out to be what looked like Twisted Sedge (Carex torta) (one to keep an eye out for in Ontario by the way!)

Also on iNat you can see there are a few observations in the Grey/Bruce area. According to the Canadian Railway Atlas, where I got the maps, there are currently no railways in that region of Ontario. However, I have been informed that historically, the CPR ran into that region. Apparently, the observations shown on the map are quite close to former CP lines!

There are a few observations of the species on Nova Scotia as well. While again currently the CPR doesn't seem to run out there, apparently it historically did. Based off satellite maps, I can tell that these sightings, while not directly adjacent to railways, they have a similar proximity to some of the sightings in Ontario.

According to the Flora of North America, there are also records of the species in Michigan and New York. I can also find resources that say it occurs in Ohio. The CPR likely doesn't have anything to do with those records (other than maybe the first Michigan collection of Blue Sedge in Wayne County in 1896, near Detroit). There aren't any legit iNat observations for the USA of Blue Sedge, so its hard to see exactly where these records are, but based off county maps, there are definitely railways running through each of the areas, so it is very possible they are close in proximity.

Interestingly, the Canadian National Railway (CNR), which is indicated by blue on the maps, also may have an influence on Blue Sedge distribution. The CNR happens to run right beside Kelly Stanton ESA, where there is Blue Sedge, and had also historically run up into Grey-Bruce. I know that Blue Sedge has also been found in the floodplains of the Nith River near Paris, and low and behold, the CNR runs right through that area! There is also an observation of Blue Sedge in Halifax just across the river from a CNR line.

So is there a correlation between the CPR, and CNR, and Blue Sedge, at least in Ontario and the surrounding area? Maybe. It might be interesting to visit areas along these rail lines, and see if Blue Sedge can be turned up! It is a fairly distinctive sedge, especially when mature, so it should stick out!

Monday 26 October 2020

Hawks and Finches, Oh My!

As many birders in the northeast, and beyond, there is an irruption of some winter finches going on right now. It started back at the end of August, when we began to get daily Purple Finches, soon followed by Pine Siskins. More recently, Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, and both crossbills have been on the move. I anxiously awaited a change in the weather that would bring them to the London area, and Saturday looked like the day things would begin to show up!

But before going into that, throwback to last Tuesday. The winds (NW) weren't bad, so I figured I would give a backyard hawkwatch a shot. I was hoping to nail down a Red-shouldered Hawk. Finally, after about two and a half hours, and only five minutes before I was going to go inside, I spotted this young bird going over. Nice to not have to worry about it anymore! A solid 158th bird for my neighbourhood year list! I haven't really had the opportunity to do much in the way of hawkwatching in ideal locations during the right time of year, so this just so happens to only be the second time I have ever seen this species! My other sighting was of a couple adults migrating over my yard last March.

I did a short hawkwatch yesterday too. I only had a very short flight (over the course of 15 minutes) of five Red-tailed Hawks. The highlight was when a group of small shorebirds flew over, either Pectoral Sandpipers or Dunlin. They never vocalized, and I couldn't get on them in time in order to get an identification. Very frustrating! Either species would be new for my neighbourhood, #178.

Back to this past Saturday. I arrived at Fanshawe Conservation Area early, and set up at the lookout. My first duck of the day happened to be a Red-breasted Merganser. This isn't an unexpected species, but is certainly uncommon in the county. I have only seen them on a handful of other occasions. Other than the merg, the lake was quiet. There were many migrant crows as well, and I tallied over 1500. After a couple hours, I heard an Evening Grosbeak go over! My predictions were right (though I later found out 15 had been seen the day prior!). Several other individuals were also seen that day in the county. I called Bill Lindley, and he told me he had also just seen some up near Parkhill. We figure we had observed ours at about the same time!

Evening Grosbeaks (Algonquin Park, 2017)

I continued to walk down the length of the reservoir, much not much to report. I had a couple of late birds, like a Black-throated Green Warbler (my first in October), and a couple Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. I ended up with 68 species, a good count for late October. eBird checklist here.

I spent yesterday morning running around hoping to come across an Evening Grosbeak in the neighbourhood, but it was not to be. Bill called me to say he had found 12 Common Redpolls at the conservation area, so they are coming!

I went back out this morning to Fanshawe CA, with thoughts of rare ducks (scoters) and finches on my mind. I struck out with the ducks (though I did see a Horned Grebe). Things were too quiet for my liking, so I packed up my watch early and began to walk. I didn't get too far before I heard something I hadn't heard in awhile. Red Crossbills! A flock of seven flew over in short order. A call to Bill was in order, and he later arrived and had four, along with two Evening Grosbeaks!

Red Crossbill (Algonquin Park, 2018)

It seemed a lot of birds had cleared out. Not much else of interest, other than Pine Siskins. eBird checklist here

Bill and I ended up birding around in the afternoon, going to Strathroy and Parkhill. We were hoping for scoters, but unfortunately we had no luck. We did have our first Tundra Swans of the fall at the sewage lagoons, as well as a Cackling Goose among hundreds of Canada Geese. A good day!

The next few weeks should prove interesting!

Wednesday 14 October 2020

Thanksgiving Birding

I have managed to get out pretty much daily for the last few days. It seems the continuing trend is that I don't take many photos, but I think I have enough to pump out a blog post!

On Friday I went down to south London, in hopes of coming seeing the reported American Golden-plover, a species that has managed to evade me in Middlesex county. I struck out, but did see a variety of other shorebirds.

Stilt Sandpiper

Killdeer and Black-bellied Plover


There was also a number of Cackling Geese present, with all the Canadas. A Snow Goose had been seen up until the day prior as well.


The next day I started off birding the Uplands North Wetland, one of my favourite, and often most productive local spots. So far this year, birders have tallied 130 species there, myself having seen almost 120. I didn't add anything new to the list, but I did have some decent success, including five species of ducks. Despite having seen 15 species of ducks here, I rarely see more than two or three on any given outing!

Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal

Great Blue Heron

I had scarcely gotten home and sat down when I got a call from Bill Lindley that he had seen a Hudsonian Godwit at Fanshawe Conservation Area! I was off again! Unfortunately upon my arrival, he had lost it, and despite spending almost five hours looking, it never reappeared. He had also found three Long-billed Dowitchers, which I saw. After he left, I found a Stilt Sandpiper, its getting late, and a good bird for Middlesex regardless.

The next day I was back at Fanshawe for a few hours hoping the godwit would appear again, but no luck. The dowitchers were still there however.

The next morning I was back at Fanshawe first thing, with plans of doing a stationary count at the lookout over the lake. I  didn't see much in the way of active migration, but I did have a couple of nice birds including Cackling Geese and Peregrine Falcons. The best birds were a pair of Trumpeter Swans, which didn't stick around unfortunately, but I called Bill who was able to get on them. Unbeknownst to me, he had been doing a stationary count from a different vantage point, and he looked up after my call and saw them go over! 

The next morning I was there at Fanshawe again, with the same plan. Other than some Eastern Bluebirds, another Cackling Goose, and my first Hermit Thrushes of the fall, there wasn't really anything to write home about. Hopefully as the fall progresses we will be able to see some cool stuff on the reservoir. 

Late that day I went back to south London, and this time was successful in seeing the golden-plover. 

Digiscoped plover

It just so happened to be my 199th species I have seen this year in Middlesex, with relatively very little effort (I had no intentions of year listing!). It had been an exceptional year for birding in the county. Bill smashed his own big year record of 225, and he is currently sitting at 233!

Lovely time of year! 

Sunday 4 October 2020

Recent Odds and Ends

School has kept me pretty busy over the last few weeks, but I have still managed to get out here and there. 

Last weekend, a Long-billed Dowitcher showed up just south of the city. I hadn't bothered to get the one that showed up last year, so I went. I got brief looks, but it was a new one for me in Middlesex nonetheless. I also saw Amethyst Aster (S.× amethystinum), my first time seeing it. It is a hybrid between White Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) and New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).

Amethyst Aster (Symphyotrichum × amethystinum

A few days ago I went to Kilally Meadows in the north part of London. I was mostly looking at plants, but I did flush a Black-billed Cuckoo at one point. I think this is the latest I have ever seen one.
Black-billed Cuckoo

Here are a couple of the plants I saw.

Silky Wild Rye (Elymus villosus)

River Wild Rye (Elymus riparius)

Arrow-leaved Aster (Symphyotrichum urophyllum)

Smooth Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve)

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

American Hog-peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata)

Canada Clearweed (Pilea pumila)

Fast forward to yesterday, I visited one of the most productive places in my neighbourhood for birds. I spend a good two and a half hours there, as there were plenty of birds to sort through. I had several first of season birds including Winter Wren (neighbourhood year bird #150), American Pipit (neighbourhood year bird #151), Blue-headed Vireo, and White-crowned Sparrow. eBird list.

Dotted Knotweed (Persicaria punctata)
American Kestrel

Today, Reuven Martin had some great luck (he has been on fire this fall around here), and found a Nelson's Sparrow and a couple of Hudsonian Godwits in Komoka Provincial Park. I called up Bill Lindley to let him know, and shortly thereafter the two of us were on route. Both of us had had Hudwit on the brain for the last few days, and I always have thoughts of Nelson's Sparrow at this time of year, so we were keen to see these birds!

The godwits had just been a fly by for Reuven, but we checked some nearby ponds to no avail. We arrived in the rain at Komoka, and soon began our search. We were joined by others soon as well in the form of Gord Payne, Pete Read, Mike Cowlard, and Nancy Douglas. We scoured the area, but came up empty, flushing a Sora and a couple snipe in the process. We also had a Long-billed Dowitcher, always a great record for the county. The others left, leaving Bill, Gord, and myself. Bill and I were going to start walking the perimeter of the pond when Gord called us back, saying he had seen a bird skulking around the edge of the water. Soon, the Nelson's Sparrow popped up for some brief looks! It was a new Middlesex bird for all three of us.

Nelson's Sparrow (Longridge Point, August 2018)

Afterwards, Bill and I went to the Strathroy Sewage Lagoons. No godwits there either, but we did have another Long-billed Dowitcher and some Stilt Sandpipers. 

This evening before it got dark I went to check the local wetland. Nothing unusual, but I did score two more neighbourhood year birds, Northern Pintail and American Black Duck. 

It is one of my most favourite times of year! Looking forward to see what else will pop up.