Wednesday 29 April 2020

Some More Birds and Toads

This morning I went back out to the nieghbourhood to see what was up.

At my first stop, my impression at first was that there were far fewer birds than yesterday. But after nearly an hour of looking, things started to look up, with several new migrants popping up, including Black-and-white Warblers, Pine Warbler, Eastern Towhees, many more White-throated Sparrows, a couple Hermit Thrushes, a Wood Thrush, and lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Nice to see some movement!

At my next stop, I was quite pleased to find more warblers, including all the aforementioned species and a Black-throated Green Warbler. A couple Blue-headed Vireos popped up, and so did an early Warbling Vireo. The trend of Hermit Thrushes and White-throated Sparrows continued. I was also quite pleased to find an Eastern Screech-owl, my second for the neighbourhood.

It started to rain quite heavily while I was out. I put up with it for about an hour, but eventually I decided to head home.

This evening I went back out for a short walk around some of my favourite haunts. I was pleased to finally see my first Field Sparrow of the year, as well as a White-crowned Sparrow. I managed to turn up the Virginia Rail, which I missed in the morning. There were lots of Amerocan Toads mating, and their calls were deafening!

Just before it got dark, I went to try and see the American Bittern which has been hanging around. It was there upon my arrival.

Looks like a lot of rain moving through the northeast tonight, so may put a damper on migration. Nevertheless, I seem to have a lot of time on my hands these days, so I'll be back out there! Things are heating up!

Tuesday 28 April 2020

A Relatively Decent Day

With the first south winds in awhile, it was thought that today might see some good birds, or at least a little push of new migrants. With this in mind, I awoke early and went out to one of my favourite local spots (only a five minute walk away!) Only took a couple photos today, so mostly just commentary!

Right off the bat, I heard a Wood Thrush singing. It is about right on time for the species, however the bulk won't be in until next week likely. Last year I had one on April 22nd! It immediately became clear that there had in fact been a push of birds come in overnight, as there were plenty of White-throated Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes and Ruby-crowned Kinglets which hadn't been there the day before. I also had a good number of Swamp Sparrows and even an Eastern Towhee, only my third or fourth for the neighbourhood (I had one later in the day as well!). I had two warbler species, Yellow-rumped and my first Yellow of the year. I have yet to see a Pine!

I wanted to be back home soon after 7:00, since I wanted to count Common Loons, and see what the flight would be like. Shortly after seven, I began my walk back home. As I turned onto my street, I spotted some gulls flying by. I raised my binoculars and much to my surprise, there were two Great Black-backed Gulls! New for my neighbourhood, but I wanted them for my yard! I sprinted home just in time to see them from my property! Right after, a Brown Thrasher flew over, another new yard bird, and my 100th one at that!

The loon flight wasn't great, but I still managed to come up with 26, as well as 50 Double-crested Cormorants. A flyby Yellow-rumped Warbler is my first warbler of the year for my yard.

After a quick bite to eat, I went back out. I checked out another woodlot nearby, hoping for a Blue-headed Vireo. Upon my arrival, I quickly heard my first House Wren of the year. I usually have already had one by now! Tons more kinglets, White-throats, and Hermit Thrushes. I also came across two Blue-headed Vireos.

On my way to my next spot, I stopped in at a little wetland, and was pleased to hear a Virginia Rail. I had one there a of couple years ago. I looked briefly for the American Bittern, but came up empty. Heard my first Spotted Sandpiper of the year though.

One last stop was the same woodlot I had hit earlier in the day. Not much was new, but I did manage to hear one of the Virginia Rails which have been around for about a week and a half. I missed that first thing in the morning.

Hard to say what tomorrow will bring (hopefully a new patch bird), but I'll be out and about (near home) to see what's up! Hard to believe its already almost May!

Monday 27 April 2020

Homebound Northbound

Migrants have been slow to trickle through, but when they are moving, we don't have to go far to see them!

I have much enjoyed spending time around home looking for birds. On clear mornings, I like to sit in my backyard and count birds as they fly over. The highlight is always Common Loons. In the past week I have counted a total of over 180 loons migrating over my house, 124 in one day!

All the loons have been northbound, except one, which was in basic (non-breeding) plumage. That one was heading south. A bit odd if I do say so myself!

Loon going the wrong way
With the loons, there are occasionally small flocks of Double-crested Cormorants that go by.

I've even mananged to get a couple yard birds out of it! The most surprising was probably Eastern Meadowlark (I live in a subdivsion), which was also a new neighbourhood bird.  I also had a couple American Wigeons this evening.

Broad-winged Hawks are moving through in small numbers. I have had a few over my yard.

As well as in one of the local woodlots.

After the morning watches are over, I try to go on a walk around the neighbourhood. A few days ago an American Bittern was found at a wetland near me. This is the second bittern I have seen there, the first being one I found in 2018. American Bitterns are surprisingly rare in the county! I saw it again today.

The Virginia Rail I found last weekend now has a friend. The habitat isn't great, but is sufficent, so one has to wonder just how long they'll stick around. Other wetland birds are moving in, such as this Green Heron.

Odds and ends include my first of year Northern Rough-winged, Barn and Bank Swallows, as well as my first Fox Sparrow of the year. Funny enough I has just been thinking about Fox Sparrows when this one popped up!

Word is on the street that tomorrow is looking good for birds...we shall see.

Sunday 19 April 2020

Some Local Stuff

For obvious reasons, I haven't gone too far. But I have gotten out a couple times just around the neighborhood. There is still a noticeable lack of migrants, but hopefully things will pick up!

Last Sunday, it was quite nice, so I went out for a brief walk. I was pleased to find Virginia Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), a native spring wildflower, new for my neighborhood plant list (425 species and growing!).

I was also very happy to stumble across a fox den, with five kits.

With a shrew (Sorex sp)
A couple days later, I went out and found some more plants.

Goblet Moss (Physcomitrium pyriforme)

Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

Family Bryceae (tentatively thinking Ptyschostomum)

Bonfire Moss (Funaria hygrometrica)

Yesterday, I went out hoping for some new birds. It was pretty quiet, but I did come across a few things. One highlight was a Lesser Scaup, a new bird for my neighborhood list (#171).

I came across a banded Canada Goose. I managed to get the band number and reported it.

There was a goose on a nest as well. The beavers have once again done a good job at damming up the place. There used to be a grassy field where this bird was nesting!

My efforts of a Virginia Rail finally paid off (I tried in five different spots today!). This is my second record for the neighborhood, and the first visual. I wasn't toting around my big lens today, so he came in quite close!

Stay safe out there, hopefully there are local areas for you to explore!

Saturday 11 April 2020

Early April Plant Life

This afternoon I got out for just over an hour in one of London's natural areas. I can't venture too far for obvious reasons, so it's nice to have areas like these close to home.

Many early spring wildflowers still have yet to emerge, but I found a few things of interest.

My main reason for going out was to check out a population of False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum). This species is ranked S2, with between 5 and 20 occurrences in the province. I visited this population last spring and was pleased to find many individuals. This time around, the plants were yet to flower, but I found hundreds of plants, way more than last year, and I turned up plants in places I didn't note them previously. Should be nice when they flower!

Here is is in flower, from last year.

Another species of interest was Cut-leaved Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata). This is a common spring wildflower. While I didn't see any in flower, by the looks of it, that should be happening soon!

Canadian Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) is just starting to peek up from beneath the leaf litter.

Wild Leek (Allium trichoccum), also known as "Ramps", was fairly prevalent in this natural area. The variety I saw was Wide Leek (A. t. var. trichoccum). It can be told from the much rarer Narrow-leaved Leek (A. t. var. burdickii) based on its reddish basal sheaths, leaf width (>2cm), and petiole length.

 There is an uncommon "albino" form of Wide Leek, with uncoloured basal sheaths (which is like Narrow-leaved Leek), so identification of this variety must be made with the combination of the other characteristics. This "albino" form is seen below.

Another nice early season plant is Early Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum giganteum). Like the name suggests, it emerges in the early part of the growing season. It can be differentiated from Blue Cohosh (C. thalictroides) by its purple flower (the latter has a yellow-green flower). Additionally, Early Blue Cohosh flowers before its leaves open, whereas Blue Cohosh flowers after its leaves open. Early Blue Cohosh typically flowers a couple weeks in advance of Blue Cohosh.

A favourite of many naturalists is Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), named for the reddish sap that can be seen when the root (rhizome) is broken. 

Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is somewhat locally abundant in the area. It's just the buds now, but soon they will brighten up the forest with their brilliant yellow flowers. 

I would be remiss if I didn't throw in a couple mosses.

Rosulabryum capillare

Schistidium apocarpum

Yellow Yarn Moss (Anomodon rostratus)

Delicate Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum)

Silvery Bryum (Bryum argenteum)

Dwarf Anomodon Moss (Anomodon minor)

Bird-wise, I saw my first of year Yellow-rumped Warblers and Hermit Thrush. Lots of Golden-crowned Kinglets today.

It is a very strange world we live in currently. Hopefully you can get out safely and still enjoy some of what has to be offered around home!

Wednesday 1 April 2020

April Fowl's Day 2020

On Monday James Holdsworth found a stunning male Common Teal, the Eurasian (nominate) subspecies of Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca crecca) in Lambton Shores, near Port Franks. While many authorities consider our usual American Green-winged Teal (A. c. carolinensis) and Common Teal to be two different species, here in North America, they are currently considered one. Perhaps one day they will split it!

I missed seeing the Common Teal that showed up at Hillman Marsh a couple years ago, so since this bird wasn't too far, and it was a nice day for a drive, I decided to go for it. Distancing myself from others wouldn't be an issue, since it was in a field on the side of the road!

Upon arriving, I could see the fields were flooded a lot more than what they were last week when I checked out the area (after seeing Middlesex's first nesting record of Common Raven close by). Lots of American Wigeon and Wood Ducks, along with many Bonaparte's Gulls were present. I saw my first Tree Swallows and Blue-winged Teal of the year, and heard my first Eastern Meadowlark. I only saw a few Green-winged Teal, all Americans, so I hopped back in the car and went a bit further up the road. On the other side of the creek, was a larger group of ducks, the majority of them Green-winged Teal.

I scoped out the flock, and on my third pass, I picked out the target bird. I was soon joined by "MB" who also got to see the bird.

Photos are pretty bad, but they show the characteristic bold white horizontal stripe on the side, and the lack of the vertical white bar (American Green-wingeds lack this bold horizontal stripe, and possess a vertical bar). In person, the bird also appeared a bit paler.

A successful little outing, and it was nice to see some more migrant birds coming through.