Sunday, July 9, 2017

Day Trip around Powassan


A day trip to North Bay the other weekend gave me the chance to do some more interior grassland birding! Our main stop was in and around Powassan where we took detours along some of the side roads to see what species we could find!  
Common Yellowthroat
We first stopped along a hedgerow, and were thrilled to see some breeding birds, none of them new for the year, but they are always a delight to see.  These included Chipping Sparrows, Common Yellowthroat, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Grey Catbird and Brown Thrasher! We were also able to hear an Indigo Bunting somewhere in the distance.

Chipping Sparrow


Common Yellowthroat
Chestnut-sided Warbler






We carried on a little ways, away from the hedge row and more towards grassland/pasture, and found a number of other species!  In the distance we could still hear the Indigo Bunting and a family of Eastern Meadowlarks, Turkey Vultures, and a Flicker calling from the yard of a nearby house. I always feel like I am going to be able to see more in grasslands, but birds are so nicely tucked away that most of my birding has always been by ear. I was lucky to have Bobolinks perching on a nearby fence and also some very curious Savannah Sparrows!


Bobolink

Bobolink

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

On our way home we ended up stopping for a number of turtles crossing the road, a common sight in the Georgian Bay area and especially common on roads that have no reptile fencing. If you see a turtle on the road, and it is safe to stop, please consider stopping and moving it across the road. It is important to move it in the direction that it is heading when you found it.   If you come across fencing that has been broken and needs repair, take GPS coordinates and call the township to report it. 

If Snapping Turtles make you a bit nervous, or if one is too large for you to carry, I suggest using a car mat.  You can pretty easily convince a Snapping Turtle onto it and then slide it across the road!
Painted Turtle

Snapping Turtle





















It seems like warm weather is finally here to stay this summer! Happy Naturing!

American Goldfinches

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Killbear Bioblitz

May ended up being a very intense month. I finished my thesis and defended (officially an M.Sc!), continued working full-time with the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. I know I've said this many times before, but hopefully blogs will be a bit more consistent now!

The last few weeks I've been helping to prepare a Bioblitz, part of Bioblitz Canada 150, at Killbear Provincial Park. 
Morning of the Bioblitz at Killbear
Now, what is a Bioblitz?  

A bioblitz is an event that brings together naturalists and taxonomic scientists to inventory as many species (mammals, plants, herpetofauna, fungi, insects, etc) that they can over a 24 hour period, within a set area.

The #Bioblitz150 event was created in partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Federation and these events are happening across Canada.  To learn more and to find other events visit: http://www.bioblitzcanada.ca/events_calendar.aspx

 


So with this in mind we set out into Killbear Provincial Park and made this a community-wide event.  On June 10th, we hosted a variety of guided hikes that included plants, insects, birds, herpetofauna, fish, benthic invertebrates, and also led two night events that included owls and moths!  


My day started off at 6:30am where I woke up to start leading my first bird hike of the day (I did 4 in total).  Over the course of the day we ended up with 40 species, which is pretty good for this area!  These included American Redstarts (many!), Common Yellowthroat, Great Creasted Flycatchers, House Wrens, etc.  Many of the breeding birds that we had more or less expected to see.

Common Yellowthroat


Great Crested Flycatcher

Nesting Great Blue Herons

American Redstart
Our best find during our hikes was out in the old Maple Sugar Bush!  We were so excited to come across two Sandhill Cranes! We were also excited to have found (or at least heard) the Red-headed Woodpecker that has come into the campgrounds at Killbear the last few years.




Even thought the weather wasn't too "reptile friendly", groups on the reptile hike were able to see a small number of snakes including a Massasauga Rattlesnake that found its way onto Day Use Beach!  This snake was captured by park staff, processed (which includes pit tag reading, measuring weight and length) and then released!  You can see in the photo below that the rattle has multiple colours on it and each of these colours represent the different years that this particular snake has been seen and processed.  Research like this helps the park to understand population levels, snake home ranges, etc!

Park NHE Specialist, Kenton Otterbein, catching a Massasuaga Rattlesnake
Massasauga Rattlesnake
While I wasn't able to get out on a plant hike, lead by the amazing Dr. Gerard Courtin, I did get to spot some of my favourite plants throughout the habitats during bird hikes.  Some of these included: 

Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)


Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)
Squawroot (Conopholis americana)
Starflower (Trientalis borealis)

These were only some of the plants I had the chance to take a snap of on this busy day! We then took a pause for a few hours during our Bioblitz event to wait for the sun to set.  If you've ever been to Georgian Bay, you know that the sunsets here are worth not only waiting for but taking the time to sit back and relax.


Once the sky was dark, participants wandered over to the amphitheatre and we got ready for some owls and moths!   I started off our owl prowl by giving a quick introduction into the different types of owls in the area, the calls that they make, and what features make an owl such an amazing predator.  As we were calling them in for this educational experience, I also wanted to make sure I emphasized the use of calls and some proper etiquette when it comes to using them.  We started playing Barred Owl territory calls, to no avail. I then showed the crowed what a pair call sounds like, hoping that this might intrigue a pair to fly in....also to no avail!  After apologizing to the crowd we invited anyone to come up and try out their own owl call using their voice.  We had one person interested in trying his out, and what happens immediately after?  A pair of owls fly in and begin calling back! Both owls flew directly over the crows (where of course we witnessed their silent flight) and the gasps and "WOAHS" filled the air. It was SUCH a neat experience and I really hope that those attending talk about it for years to come.  

The owls kept calling as Mike Kent took the stage to do some mothing.  We set up a white sheet with some black lights and managed to attract a large number of moths to the area!  It was so much fun seeing the variety and trying to ID them.  I took a few photos but unfortunately haven't had a chance to identify them just yet (and of course I didn't write down what they were the day of!).  So hopefully as I go through my photos and ID some of the species, I'll be able to update the captions on them here!  As always, if you have an idea of what species they may be, please feel free to comment!









Saturday, May 6, 2017

It's Gonna Be May

Before we got too far into May, I wanted to make sure that I got at least one blog in for April! With a thesis handed in and marking over, I've been trying to take at least a little bit of time to myself to get out and do some of the things I love (like birding and photography) and for once without feeling guilty about it!

Our backyard has been incredibly busy the last little while.  Pine Siskins and Purple Finches have come back in numbers, American Goldfinches have molted becoming brighter, and a few other species have slowly started to trickle back!  Last week, we saw our first of the year (FOY) Fox Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, and White-crowned Sparrow!

Fox Sparrow
Molting American Finch.  Dull colours out, bright yellow and black in!
While in my driveway one day, I spotted a Pileated Woodpecker bounding through the backyard.  I sat in my car watching it for a few moments before noticing it actually enter a cavity. So you know what that means....I COULD have young woodpeckers to report on at some point this summer!!  The cavity is a perfect view from my driveway, so it'll be easy to keep tabs on with my binoculars.  If there are any young, I'll be able to use my scope to get a photo later in the summer.  Also visiting still....are Evening Grosbeaks! 
Male Evening Grosbeak
Female Evening Grosbeak
Pileated Woodpecker
Driving around the last week I was able to get up close and person to an adorable Ruffed Grouse! I sat down on some grass to snap a few photos of her and to my surprise, she continued to walk closer and closer to me!  It was an amazing experience to be able to see her up close, listen to soft little clucks she made, and eventually she wandered off continuing to forage.



All around the Parry Sound county I've begun seeing Hooded Mergansers, many of them even taking up nests. Other waterfowl that have been common lately have been Wood Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, 
Hooded Merganser female (left) and male (right)
Wood Duck females (outer two) and males (inner two)

There are two pastures close to our house in Carling and they almost always have something exciting on them. During April, one of these pastures had a flock of 25 Snow Geese (pretty rare to actually find in Parry Sound!) and also my first Red-shouldered Hawk! The second pasture is closer to Killbear Provincial Park.  During April I would often see Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese, but two visits found some awesome birds!  During one visit, I saw my FOY (first-of-year) Eastern Meadowlark and Northern Harrier, while another visit I found my first Great Egret for the year and county!  

Eastern Meadowlark in tree

Great Egret

During the last weekend of April, we finally had a day that was sunny, warm, AND not raining (it's been a very soggy spring!). My partner and I took off to hike a few of the local trails and see what migrants have been trickling in.  Our first trail was absolutely beautiful. We got our FOY Brown Creeper, Swamp Sparrow, and every shrub was fluttering with Butter Butts (or Yellow-rumped Warblers).

Yellow-rumped Warbler showing its "butter butt"

Whatcha lookin' at?

We then drove towards a local heronry to see if any herons had claimed nests for this upcoming breeding season. To my surprise we only saw three herons!  The sight, however, was absolutely beautiful.  I've always seen heronries from the roadside, so it was amazing to see one that was a hike in.

Great-Blue Heron on a nest from last year
The heronry also provided me with my first painted turtle of the year and some beautiful spring flowers, including a Red Trillium.



Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)
Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana)
Our final stop was a beautiful wetland.  With all the rain we have been getting water levels were incredibly high, in fact, much of the path was underwater.  
View of the pond

View of the pond from outlook
Birds here were relatively the same as our other sites that day, minus a high number of Ruby-crowned Kinglets singing around us!  These little guys are always so difficult to photograph as they are always bouncing from one branch to the next. I was so excited to have finally captured a photo of one and it, so say the least, is a little awkward! 


April has been an incredibly busy month and May will only be busier as I prepare for my defence. Here's hoping that I get out at least a few time birding....that is if it ever stops raining!

Mike waving hi while near Simms Lake
Classic wispy pines of Georgian Bay