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!