Sunday, 14 January 2018

Seeds and Sparrows

This afternoon I went back to Fanshawe Conservation Area with my aunt. We didn't go back on any of the trails, so no interesting mammal sightings today, but we still saw some awesome stuff!

We started out feeding the Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches. Yesterday we forgot to bring some seeds, but today we remembered! About 20 chickadees came in right away!

We wandered around a bit before heading back to the parking lot to get picked up by my grandfather. While waiting, I noticed a flurry of activity near a trailhead. I went over to check it out, and was pleased to see numerous tree sparrows, juncos and cardinals.

While photographing some of the Dark-eyed Juncos, I noticed a larger, sparrow-like bird. It was a Fox Sparrow, which is an uncommon winter visitor in Middlesex!

I also found a couple White-throated Sparrows, which are my first for the year.

It was a great finish to an otherwise quiet outing. Time for school again!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Cones and a Coyote

This afternoon I went to Fanshawe Conservation Area with my aunt. I was hoping to come across some birds in the conifer stands, with a particular interest in finches.

Black-capped Chickadees welcomed us immediately. They are obviously used to being fed!

We noted plenty of birds, including Northern Cardinals, Brown Creepers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Dark-eyed Juncos, nuthatches, and woodpeckers.

The trees were loaded with cones, which you would think would have brought in finches...

Wrong! The only finches noted today were a couple American Goldfinches.

On our travels we came across a Coyote, surprisingly the first one I have ever been able to get a visual on!

Things started slowing down as the day progressed, so we turned our attention to the scenery. It was easy to forget we were still in London!

Great little outing....I'm sure we will be out again tomorrow!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Deep Freeze Ducks and Stuff

This afternoon my aunt and I went for a walk along the Thames river from Greenway Park to the Springbank Park dam. Our main focus was the wintering waterfowl, but we were also hoping to find a few birds to add to our year lists.

Upon arrival, we quickly found an American Robin (first of 2018 for my aunt!), Common Goldeneye, Common Mergansers, Mallards, American Black Duck, Ring-billed Gull, and Herring Gull. I think today was the first time that I have seen more Herring Gulls than Ring-billed on the Thames!

American Robin

Herring Gull

The Pied-billed Grebe from New Year's Day was still present.

The Long-tailed Duck could still be found as well.

Another rare duck has showed up on the Thames, this one in the form of a Red-breasted  Merganser. Red-breasted Mergansers are hard to find in Middlesex regardless of the season, and this one was yet another Middlesex lifer!

Red-breasted (front) and Common Merganser

At one point a Belted Kingfisher came in briefly. I didn't think we'd come across one!

Surprisingly, smaller birds were far and few between. At one point in Greenway, we came across a little group of Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a Brown Creeper. In typical creeper fashion, it didn't want it's picture taken!

Brown Creeper

As usual, there were quite a few Canada Geese present. At one point, I noticed a large goose with a much deeper voice than the others. I photographed it, and then I realized it was a Branta canadensis maxima, aka the "Giant" Canada Goose. I was happy with the sighting, as this subspecies is relatively difficult to find.

Bald Eagles seem to always be present along the Thames in the winter, and today was no exception. We saw at least 8 or 9 over the course of the walk. A couple provided some good photo opportunities.

Closer to the dam, waterfowl numbers started to build. Canada Geese and Mallards were most numerous, but Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneyes could also be found in larger numbers. Hooded Mergansers, black ducks, and Buffleheads were seen in lesser numbers.

Common Merganser (Left) and Common Goldeneye (Right)

Hooded Merganser

This Merlin was a first for 2018. I wasn't expecting to see one today!

Down by the dam there were many ducks, mostly Mallards.

As usual, there were many domestic types, including this one which has been around for years.

A pair of Redheads were mingling with the Mallards.

A couple Red-tailed Hawks patrolled the river, and occasionally perching in the evergreens.

It was at that point I found the most unexpected bird of the day...a female American Wigeon!

Wigeon are rare winter visitors to Middlesex, so I was excited to see this one!

I thought it was a very good outing, and a great way to end off the winter break. Tomorrow it is back to school!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Snowy to Skunk's

I went out this afternoon to see what sorts of birds I could add to the good old year list. We started out looking for Snowy Owls. It wasn't long until I spotted one at the top of a tree.

At one point this crow started mobbing it. The owl wasn't bothered, so the crow didn't stick around long.

We spent some time driving country roads on the way to Skunk's Misery. We found a nice sized group of Horned Larks on one of them. Been awhile since I have seen a flock that large!

We were almost to Skunk's when I spotted a couple large raptors cruising just above the tree line. After looking at them closer with binoculars, I had a feeling that they were Golden Eagles, which are known to overwinter in the area. I got my answer when I managed to photograph one of the birds.

It was in fact a Golden Eagle! Quite an exciting find indeed!

It was almost sunset when we arrived in Skunk's Misery. We spent about an hour trying to find some owls, but we were unable to detect anything.

It was a pretty productive few hours of birding! I'm sure I'll be out again soon!

Monday, 1 January 2018

Birds of the New Year

This morning was Nature London's annual New Year's Day walk in Greenway Park along the Thames River in London.

We found multiple species of the expected ducks, such as Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, American Black Duck, and Mallard. Canada Geese were also numerous.

Common Merganser

Surprisingly, we also were able to find a couple rarer species of ducks. Although not completely unexpected, Northern Pintails are scare and hard to find along the Thames. There was a nice drake to be found with some Mallards.

Long-tailed Ducks are typically not found on the Thames river, so it was a complete surprise when the group found a female today. It was actually a Middlesex lifer for me!

It's not a duck, but it is still are water bird! The group got great looks at a Pied-billed Grebe, a rare bird for Middlesex in the winter. Two years ago we had a Pied-billed Grebe on the walk as well!

Bald Eagles are always a highlight of a winter walk along the Thames, and there was not shortage of them today! I saw at least four.

Well, it was a pretty good start to what I know will turn out to be a great year! One down, 364 days to go!

On a side note, here is a video of some of the birds in the backyard today!

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017: A Year in Review

Well, another year has come and gone. It seems like just yesterday I was writing a similar post about 2016! This past year has been quite amazing in Ontario for birds, and although I didn't get to witness all of it first hand, I still had an amazing year! There was never a dull moment in 2017!

Much like last year, I will spread out the full review and goals for the new year over a series of posts, of which I will decide the topic of when it comes to writing it!

For now, I will do a quick re-cap of the year with monthly highlights.  There was no shortage of them!


The year started with a bang by heading down to Long Point on January first to see a Smith's Longspur that had been hanging around. I also got to see over 500 Sandhill Cranes, which is quite the sight! It was also fun to hand feed some chickadees and nuthatches, as well as visit Sarnia later in the month.

Smith's Longspur (Long Point)

Sandhill Cranes (Long Point)

Black-capped Chickadee (London)

Assorted ducks (Sarnia)

Species Total for January: 66


The highlight this month was no doubt my trip to Algonquin Park. I encountered such things as White-winged Crossbills, Red Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Boreal Chickadee, a Common Redpoll, a Pine Grosbeak, and my lifer Gray Jay! 

Evening Grosbeak (Algonquin)

Boreal Chickadee (Algonquin)

Gray Jay (Algonquin)

Pine Grosbeak (Algonquin)

Red Crossbill (Algonquin)

Species Total for February: 47


I saw quite a lot this month! It started with Tundra Swans, Cackling Geese, and a Snow Goose in Aylmer, then I went to Virginia for March Break, where I picked up nine lifers! I returned to Ontario, where I found my 250th Ontario birds, a Northern Shrike!

Cackling Goose (Aylmer)

Laughing Gull (Virginia Beach)

Brown Pelican (Virginia Beach)

Snow Goose (Aylmer)

Species Total for March: 89


April was awesome. I did quite a lot of birding around my home here in London, and found some cool species! Later in the month, my dad and I went down to Rondeau, where we got to see plenty of cool species, including a Yellow-breasted Chat. Later in the day, we went down to Essex, where we saw some Willets and a Black-necked Stilt. 

Northern Flicker (London)

Great Horned Owl (London)

Blue-winged Warbler (Rondeau)

Willets (Hillman Marsh)

Stilt Sandpiper (Hillman Marsh)

Black-necked Stilt (Tilbury)

Species Total for April: 115


May was pretty darn awesome. I visited Pelee twice, spotting over 100 species on both days (107 and 108). Probably the biggest highlight of the month was seeing my biggest nemesis bird at the time, the Prothonotary Warbler! Later in the month, I went up to the Bruce, where I got to hear American Bitterns for the first time, photograph Sedge Wrens, visit a Piping Plover nest, and see my very first Black Bears!

Prothonotary Warbler (Point Pelee)

Ruddy Turnstone (Wheatley)

Dunlin (Wheatley)

Black Tern (Point Pelee)

Barn Swallow (Point Pelee)

Sedge Wren (Bruce)

Piping Plover (Sauble Beach)

Black Bear (Bruce)

Species Total for May: 170


Despite what others say, for some reason I find June to be a relatively "quiet" month in south western Ontario. Well, at least that is what I used to think! This month, I got to catch up with Dickcissels in my home county, which was definitely a highlight. I also got to explore the Rondeau area for a day, and I managed to see some pretty cool species, including Prothonotary Warbler, and breeding Eastern Meadowlark. I also got to see an arrangement of cool butterflies and dragonflies.

Racket-tailed Emerald (Ipperwash)

Unicorn Clubtail (Arva)

Dickcissel (London)

Prothonotary Warbler (Rondeau)

Common Grackle (Erieau)

Species Total for June: 103


What a month! I kicked it off with the Skunk's Misery butterfly count, where we found things such as Grey Comma, Compton Tortoiseshell, Great Spangled Fritillary, and Delaware Skipper. Then, I went on a 3000 km trip to Thunder Bay, where we wanted to look for the reported Violet-green Swallow. We didn't find the swallow, but we saw some other AMAZING things such as American White Pelican, Northern Goshawk, Ruffed Grouse, and other boreal breeders. Soon after we got back, I went to the OFO Young Birders camp in Algonquin, which was in memory of Alan Wormington. We saw things here such as Moose, Black Bears, an Eastern (Algonquin) Wolf, a River Otter, Gray Jays, a Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpeckers, along with an assortment of other warblers, thrushes, vireos, and much more!

Compton Tortoiseshell (Skunk's Misery)

Ruffed Grouse (Thunder Bay district)

Clay-coloured Sparrow (Thunder Bay)

American White Pelican (Thunder Bay)

Common Goldeneye (Thunder Bay)

Beaver (Algonquin)

River Otter (Algonquin)

Gray Jay (Algonquin)

Moose (Algonquin)

Olive-sided Flycatcher (Algonquin)

Species Total for July: 142


With August came shorebirds. I was lucky enough to spot quite a few species, along with a few surprises! The big story this month was a WOOD STORK in Point Pelee. If I am not mistaken, this was the 12th record of this species in all of Ontario, and the 1st record for Point Pelee. When I got the news of the bird, I made plans to be in Pelee the next day. Fortunately, I got to see it! This bird is no doubt the bird of the year for me! Later that same day I got to see 14 phalaropes of two species, Wilson's and Red-necked. Fast forward a couple weeks, I got to see two more Red-necked Phalaropes in my home county, as well as an Eared Grebe. Near the end of August, I managed to see a Yellow-headed Blackbird in Perth county, and did a day trip down to Long Point.

Solitary Sandpiper (Mitchell)

Wood Stork (Point Pelee)

Red-necked Phalarope (Essex)

Wilson's Phalarope (Blenheim)

Short-billed Dowitcher (Blenheim)

Eared Grebe (Strathroy)

Common Gallinule (Long Point)

Yellow-headed Blackbird (Mitchell)

American Bittern (Mitchell)

Species Total for August: 134


September was the end of summer vacation for me. Although I didn't know it at the time, it was the beginning of an epic fall! I did quite a lot of patch birding, finding close to 100 species just riding my bike around! It is amazing what you can find if you look! I also did the "Charity Big Day" with my friend Owen, where we recorded 103 species. Later in the month, I went to the Ontario Nature Youth Summit in Orillia, and then the same weekend caught up with a FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER in Toronto. In the last weekend of the month, I went to Algonquin Park, and we saw some finches, a late Eastern Phoebe, a Gray Jay, and a friendly Common Raven.

Green Heron (London)

Caspian Tern (London)

Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Toronto)

Algonquin Park

Leopard Frog (Orillia)

Species Total for September: 135


October started the way September ended, in Algonquin Park. Not much was seen except a couple of late Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. On my birthday, I was pleased to be able to go see a lingering American Avocet in Blenheim, definitely a highlight. I also went to Hamilton with some friends where we got to see a Brant. I also had a Golden Eagle fly over my backyard late in the month!

American Avocet (Blenheim)

Dunlin (Erieau)

Brant (Hamilton)

Species Total for October: 114


November was one heck of a month! Although I didn't get the chance to chase many of the rarities that had shown up, I still managed to track down a few! Early in the month, I found a late Common Gallinule in the Forest sewage lagoons. I also got to see a trio of Red-headed Woodpeckers in the Pinery. Later in the month, while attempting to chase the Townsend's Warbler, I got to see the Ross's Goose in Bate's Subdivision north of Rondeau. Later the same week, I went back in saw the Townsend's Warbler, which is a very rare bird to Ontario. The following weekend, I went to Burlington, hoping for the Northern Gannet. I didn't find it, but I did see a Pacific Loon and numerous Long-tailed Ducks, scoters, and other loons. Afterwards, I went and saw a Mountain Bluebird in Waterloo.

Red-headed Woodpecker (Pinery PP)

Ross's Goose (Rondeau)

White-winged Scoter (Burlington)

Mountain Bluebird (Waterloo)

Species Total for November: 87


December has been pretty good for birds! This month I participated in two Christmas Bird Counts, the London one and the Rondeau/Blenheim one. The Rondeau one was particularly exciting because the long-staying Townsend's Warbler was seen, making it a first record for any CBC in Ontario! Blake and I also recorded at least two Red-throated Loons, making this the second year we have seen them! I mostly have been birding around home as of late, but in the last few days I have made an attempt at some last minute "year birds". I have successfully seen Greater White-fronted Goose, Iceland Gull, and Northern Mockingbird, bringing my Ontario year list to 263 and my ABA year list to 272. It is a total to be proud of!

Hooded Mergansers (London)

Townsend's Warbler (Rondeau)

Glaucous Gull (Sombra)

Snowy Owl (Toronto)

Northern Mockingbird (Toronto)

Species Total for December: 79

Thanks for making it a great year everyone! See you in 2018!!!