Monday, 22 May 2017

Some Shorebird Pictures

I took hundreds of pictures of Shorebirds yesterday, and unfortunately I won't be able to include all of the ones I like in my final post. So instead of not publishing some of my favourites, I'm posting this so I can still showcase my work.

Photos taken at Wheatley Harbour.

Ruddy Turnstone

Fun Fact!
The Ruddy Turnstone is this years' ABA (American Birding Association) Bird of the Year!


Ruddy Turnstone


Ruddy Turnstone


Ruddy Turnstone






Sunday, 21 May 2017

Journey to 150! (Update #1)

1:00 am

Nah...we all know this thing won't get updated at all today.

In all seriousness though...
  1. We'll be leaving soon
  2. Don't post anything about a Willow Ptarmigan until tomorrow (unless it's in Pelee)
  3. In fact, how about you just stay clear of Tommy Thompson Park?
Good birding!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Off To Pelee for 150!

The time has come to head back down to Point Pelee. After I completed the 100 species challenge last week (part two will be out soon), I'm hoping to go for the 150 species challenge. I need to find 43 additional species for this to happen, and I think that I can do it, given the conditions...

That's right...SOUTH WINDS! Unfortunately, it's going to be rainy all day, but that might just result in a number of birds being forced to come down and (hopefully) stay close to the ground where we can ID them with out requiring chiropractic attention after the day is done.

However, because of the rain, I'm sort of taking a gamble on whether or not the birds will be everywhere we look. If the rain cooperates, then the birds should be able to reach the mainland, and Point Pelee will be bustling in the morning. It is equally as likely that the rain will get in the way and all the birds will fallout at Pelee Island, and throughout the day the birders on the mainland will be depressed because they keep getting texts, eBird alerts, and ONTBIRDS posts about the number of birds, including (but not limited to) a covey of Willow Ptarmigans, a parliament of Burrowing Owls, at least a dozen Swainson's Warblers, a whole flock of Yellow-breasted Chats (with a few Kentucky, Connecticut, Hermit, Grace's, Townsend's, and MacGillvary's Warblers mixed in), and at least five Black-tailed Gnatcatchers. There will also probably be the "usual suspects" as well.

(Not) a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Hopefully tomorrow checks out! To 150 we go!!!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Point Pelee Big Day! (Part 1)

On Saturday May 13th, I embarked on one of my most daring birding endeavours that I've ever done so far in my birding career...a big day in the Point Pelee Birding Area. My mission was to complete the 100 species challenge in less than a day. I had not completed the challenge in years past, so I was determined to make this the year that I succeeded. My hard work paid off, and by 10:30 pm, I had reached a total of 107 species. Mission complete!

It all started at 1:15 am on Saturday, when the bleeping of my alarm woke me up. We spent the next hour packing and getting everything in place before taking off around 2:30. For the next two and a half hours we drove (almost) non-stop to Point Pelee. Although it is the smallest national park in Canada, it probably is one of the most biodiverse ones!

Upon arrival, we quickly added American Robin, Chipping Sparrow (surprisingly the only one of the day), Common Yellowthroat, and Red-winged Blackbird. I also heard a flyover Ovenbird, which turned out to be the 150th species on my Weekend Big Year. At the VC, White-crowned Sparrow, American Woodcock, Common Grackles, Tree Swallow and Yellow Warblers were picked up. Around this point we had just over a dozen species...and it was only 5:20 am!

I didn't go to the tip first thing, which as it turned out wasn't a bad decision, as the tip was pretty quiet that morning, except for a couple good birds. Instead, I opted for Tilden's. It was a good decision, as I found some decent birds there. Although I missed the Least Bittern (which would have been a lifer), I did find a Peregrine Falcon, which was my only one for the day.

And hey, the sunrise wasn't too bad from the east beach.

I also turned up a Lincoln's Sparrow within a group of White-crowned Sparrows.

Warblers on Tilden's first thing included Yellow, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped, Bay-breasted, Northern Parula, Nashville, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Cape May, Palm, American Redstart, and Blackburnian. Not a bad start to the day!


Common Yellowthroat



Quite a few other birds could be found as well on Tilden's.

Baltimore Oriole

Wood Thrush

After Tilden's, it was off to Woodland Nature Trail. My main target there was Prothonotary Warbler, which would not only be a good bird for the park, but also a lifer.

Bird life was abundant along the trail.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Least Flycatcher

Gray Catbird

Yellow Warblers

As I neared bridge A, I started to see why the Prothonotary liked this part of the trail. The sloughs (pronounced "slew") were filled with more water than usual, creating the perfect habitat for Prothonotary Warblers.

I was a bit discouraged that there was nothing where it was supposed to be, so I kept going up the trail to see if the bird would appear. I was beginning to lose hope, but then I spotted a male singing in a tree! Nemesis bird no more!

The female and another male eventually showed up, so the chances of breeding are high. However, the one nest box the Prothonotarys seemed to like and were using had been apparently taken over by a Tree Swallow pair.

The female wasn't happy, and was repeatedly diving at and scolding the swallows.

After waiting awhile, one male finally came close enough for some decent photos. I'm quite happy with them, and within the span of no more than 2 minutes I used up a sixth of my memory card snapping photos of this exciting lifer.

After tearing myself away from the Prothonotary Warblers, I continued down the trail.

Nashville Warbler

American Robins

White-crowned Sparrow

At bridge F, the Tree Swallows had taken over another Prothonotary box which I was told was trying to be used by it's intended occupant. Of all the boxes, the swallows had to choose those ones!

I heard another singing male, which brought the count up to 4...3 males and 1 female. 

After the WNT, I decided to head down Shuster. There were many birders there when I got there looking for a Golden-winged Warbler, but it seemed that no one was able to find it!

I caught up with some birders whom I met at the unsuccessful Little Blue Heron twitch, and I hung out with them for the next couple hours. It was with this group that I was told some depressing news...there was a freaking WILLOW PTARMIGAN in TORONTO of all places!!!! I was also told it was in full winter plumage and giving POINT BLANK views. I'm sure that day was the first time in history that birders wished they were in Toronto instead of Point Pelee in the middle of May.

Just to show how crazy this is, here is the range map of the bird. The red dot is roughly the bird's location. Quite far off course!

It turned out that it was the Tommy Thompson Bird Festival, so there was a conspiracy theory going around that the park planted the ptarmigan to give Point Pelee a run for it's money.

We heard that the Golden-winged and a Hooded Warbler had been found on the seasonal trail, so that is where we went. However, they were nowhere to be seen.

Continuing down the trail, I added a few more birds to the list, including FOY Red-eyed Vireo and Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Gray Catbird

Red-headed Woodpecker

Blackburnian Warbler

Soon we ran into a birder who informed us that the Hooded and Golden-winged had not been seen on the seasonal trail we had just walked, but the one that was another 100 meters up the trail, so that is where we ended up.

But....we were told that the Hooded and Golden-winged had been lost! At least we got to see a Hairy Woodpecker, which was a park first for members of the group, and my third or fourth for Point Pelee. Hairys, along with Pileateds, are surprisingly rare in the park.

We heard reports of Orange-crowned and Tennessee Warblers along the boardwalk, so we went to check it out. In almost no time flat we got on the birds. Orange-crowned Warblers are one of the harder warblers to come across in spring.

Orange-crowned Warbler

While we were soaking up the warblers mentioned above, we heard that the Hooded and Golden-winged were being viewed on the trail of which we had just walked less then 5 minutes ago. The birder informed us that as we spoke, they were being seen. We wasted no time getting to the location, where there were probably already 30 people.

After some difficultly, we located both warblers...FOY Hooded and lifer Golden-winged.

Hooded Warbler

I also found a first of trip Raccoon :-)

Well, this concludes part one of this epic birding saga. Part two will cover all the birdy (and scaly) happenings after consuming my egg salad sandwich.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Pelee Big Day! (Video)

For some reason, I don't have the energy to write a full blown post on yesterday's Big Day (being awake for 24 hours can do that to a person.) I'm sorry about that, but I'll get to it very soon. In the mean time, here's a little video I made to re-cap the day.

Happy Mother's Day!
(Especially to my Mom for putting up with me the Entire Day) 

Pelee Big Day Update #2

1:00 am

I'm home now. Watch for a post later. This update thing didn't work out at planned.

Here's an exclusive SNEAK PEEK to what my post will have in store!


How to Ruin a Birder's Day at Point Pelee in THREE Easy Steps!
  1. Tell them about the Willow Ptarmigan in Toronto showing itself at point blank range
  2. Tell them about a possible Black Swift that had been rumoured to be seen down at the tip just as they are getting on the tram
  3. Tell them that the Hooded and Golden-winged Warblers have once again moved spots 

Saturday, 13 May 2017