Monday 28 September 2020

Algonquin Scenes

This past Saturday, my family and I went to Algonquin Park. They wanted to see some fall colours, and I figured I could see some plants along the way!

After a 4:30am departure from London, we arrived in the park shortly after 10am. The leaves didn't disappoint.

Wanting to avoid the crowds, I suggested we try the Old Railbed, up Arowhon Road. It proved to be relatively quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of the main highway!

Arowhon Road

I hadn't been to the railbed since 2017, so it was nice to be back. Since vascular plants are starting to die down for the year (though there are still plenty to look at!), I have started to look at moss again. Here are the obligatory moss pictures :) 

Ribbed Bog Moss (Aulacomniu palustre)

Knight's Plume Moss (Ptilium crista-castrensis)

Dicranum sp. (tbd)

Red-stemmed Feather Moss (Pleurozium schreberi)

Juniper Haircap Moss (Polytrichum juniperinum)

Bristly Haircap Moss (Polytrichum piliferum)

I liked how this photo of Houghton's Sedge (Carex houghtoniana) turned out.

I didn't really have any special birds. Lots of chickadees and nuthatches, as well as a few warblers (Palm and Myrtle). A single flyover Rusty Blackbird and a young Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were probably the highlights.

We only made it as far as Wolf Howl Pond. Very picturesque. There was a pair of Wood Ducks and a few Ring-necked Ducks present on the pond. I should not I saw a Compton Tortoiseshell, the first I have seen in Algonquin. Good year for them, I have recently even seen some in London!

Next up was lunch. As expected, the lunch areas were crazy, but luckily we were able to find a nice quiet spot in the outdoor theatre parking lot.

Prickly-tree Clubmoss (Dendrolycopodium dendroideum)

Fringed Brome (Bromus ciliatus)

After a stop at the VC (picked up a book on ferns and an Algonquin bryophyte checklist), we went to the logging museum. It is a neat little place.

Bebb's Willow (Salix bebbiana)

Narrow-leaved Gentian (Gentiana linearis)

We went to Spruce Bog next. Not much to report on there, but it always a nice place to stop.

Last stop was the Old Airfield. I had the place to myself! 

Leathery Grapefern (Sceptridium multifidum) was a new one for me.

A good end to a great day! The crowds can be a little ridiculous at times, especially with the current situation, but we managed to avoid them for the most part. Algonquin remains one of my favourite places to explore.


Saturday 19 September 2020

Brown Booby Birding

 On September 8th, Nathan Hood (remember him from the Cochrane trip in March?) spotted a Brown Booby at Van Wagner's Beach in Hamilton. This represented the first record for Hamilton and the Hamilton Study Area (HSA), so it was kind of a big deal. It is presumably the same bird first spotted by Brendan Boyd in Port Darlington on August 24th, which was later seen flying by the spit in Toronto. This is the second record of this species in Ontario, the first being in Niagara in 2013.

My first chance to go see this bird was on September 13th. As such, I went down and sat at the beach watching the wave tower, hoping that the booby would fly in. No dice. This was the first time the booby hadn't been spotted all day since its arrival in Hamilton! It was, of course, spotted the next day, and on the 15th.

A few days later on the 16th, I went back, this time staying until dark. Again, no luck. This was the only the second time it hadn't been spotted all day, just my luck. It was again seen the next day, and the day after that. I did see a jaeger (either Parasitic or Long-tailed), but that was about the most interesting thing.

Finally, today, I went out again, hoping it would be the last time. Thankfully, it was there upon my arrival! A bit distant for photos, but the looks through the spotting scope wasn't all that bad. The booby is the fourth bird to the right of the leftmost pole on the top railing.

Since it was an east wind, there were a few other things of note. A juvenile Sabine's Gull flew by soon after I arrived, and a bit later a group of three Red-necked Phalaropes and a Parasitic Jaeger also made an appearance. This first year Lesser Black-backed Gull hung around for a bit as well.

Quite a lot of effort, but it thankfully wasn't for nothing in the end!

Saturday 12 September 2020

Backyard Broad-wingeds

 Today was a pretty good day to be around home.

I started off the day on a short shorebird tour. The first stop was a random storm water pond near the airport. Here I quickly found the reported Sanderling, a new one for me in Middlesex County.

Next up was the sod farms. Not much has been seen here as of late, other than a couple of Black-bellied Plovers, which I saw today.

When I got home I intended to sit out and watch for hawks, however I quickly noted that the winds were from the southeast. I figured this wasn't ideal so I went back inside. Then the notifications of numbers of Broad-winged Hawks began to come through. I figured I may as well take a peek. I went out around 10:30 and after a few minutes I saw one. Not very exciting. I went inside to make some breakfast, and when I came back out I was greeted by a whole kettle of over 20 circling overhead, as well as a Cooper's Hawk and a Northern Harrier. Something was happening.

For the next 15 or so minutes, the hawks were almost constant, and I ended up with well over 300, which included several large kettles, one tallying about 130.

I spent the next five or so hours sitting outside and watching the sky, and managed to tally a total of 657 Broad-winged Hawks, as well as some Cooper's, Sharp-shinned, harriers, a couple Red-tailed, and of course Turkey Vultures. Things really got slow near the end, but I was happy with my result.

The London Airshow is this weekend, and as usual, I occasionally see planes over my house. I snapped a couple photos (they didn't really turn out, but they're better than nothing). Not pictured is the CF-18s. Apparently the airshow had some F-22 Raptors as well, which are quite cool. I thought I may have seen one, but I didn't get a great look.

A-10 Thunderbolt

F-16 Viper

KC-10 Extender

Totally overexposed C-17 Globemaster (I think)