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 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!)