Monday, March 25, 2013


Short but sweet!

I was driving today into Chatham from the Pain Court area and noticed a flock of geese flying over head.  Normally, I really could care less about Canadian Geese. After going to University of Waterloo and being attacked by them on a daily basis on my way to classes, they've become somewhat of a nemesis of mine.  But as I looked I suddenly thought.."Man, I think one of these is albino!"

But wasn't.  It was actually a Snow Goose! I thought at first it may have been the Ross's Goose that I've noticed people posting about in Ridgetown, but it was practically the size of the other geese, ruling that one out.  So cool to notice!

My co-worker today also gave me a little ID quiz of pictures when he went to the states.  He showed me a picture of one bird which was practically a shadow.  Looking at it I described to him what I saw, but had no idea what it actually was as it's not a Canadian species. It ended up being a Black Vulture and he said how impressed he was that I was able to point out all the main identifying features! That to me, is a HUGE compliment!  So, pretty much made my day knowing that everyday I've been getting better and better at my ID skills!

The Three Birding Musketeers

This Saturday was the first time that I had gone out on a real birding adventure with other people.  I've gone out for to bird before, but by "real birding" I guess I mean that we had somewhat mapped out where we were going, what we were hoping to see, and kinda walked off the beaten path at some points!  Originally, we were planning on meeting up with the Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists Club, but we weren't able to catch up with them in time so instead, we created our own adventure!

The three of us included myself, my boyfriend Michael Colley, and one of my favourite gals Emma Bocking (who got all excited when she realized she'd be in a post!)  We started off the day driving to Burlington hoping to reach LaSalle Park.  Being new to the area we of course got all our directions wrong, but that always leads you to the best places!  We first stopped at under the Skyway Bridge at the shipping channels.  There, we saw about 100 absolutely beautiful Long Tailed Ducks.  I was very excited as this was one duck I've been wanting to see this entire spring so far and is a Lifer for me!

Lifer:  A species that you have never seen before and can now add to your life's list of seeing. It's an exciting thing.

Long-tailed Duck
We stayed probably for 30 minutes watching them play in the water, chase each other, display for the females, it was so much fun to watch. Hearing their call sounded like a bunch of friends laughing together.

We then identified some Red Breasted Mergansers, these were very cool to see also!  The males are so distinct looking with their bright heads and fro, the ladies...are a little more drab but her red eyes were so stunning!  Emma then pointed out that there was another species that we couldn't seem to classify into either of those categories.  Sneaking for a closer view and using a specific waterbirds guide book, we were finally able to ID it as being a White-winged Scoter.  Now that right there is a funny looking bird!  It was surprisingly difficult to ID this one only being A) it was a lifer for all of us and B) almost all of them there were females!  We were only able to spot 1 or 2 males in the crowd, which to us was a little odd!
White-winged Scoter

Red-breasted Merganser with a bunch of Long-tailed Ducks
We then tore ourselves away and drove up to the Sioux Lookout Park where we saw a few more Long-tailed Ducks, Buffleheads, Merganser and Mallards.  We then searched through ebirds recent sightings page through our phones and came up with heading over to the Windermere Basin in Hamilton.

We pulled off the side of a highway and parked and somewhat assumed that the gate we were hopping over was indeed the place we were supposed to be!  All of us were laughing at a saying in the one Youtube video "Shit birders say"..."So..technically we're not supposed to be here".  Once inside the area we wandered around trying to find out where the water actually was people were seeing all these ducks.  Finally we managed to find the water, but man did that place stink!! I was really convinced that it used to be (or at least was near) a sewage lagoon.  We ended up finding them all (as well as a path that would have led us there!).  Here we saw American Coots, Buffleheads, Mallard, and some Lesser Scaup (Another Lifer!).  Later while driving away we saw some Shovelers too which were really awesome to see.  

We ended up continuing to a few more spots and mainly saw the same species (minus one Cooper's Hawk in someone's backyard!).  It was SUCH a beautiful day out and I was so happy to have gotten to spend it in the outdoors with some awesome people.  Hopefully it'll happen again soon!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wings of Spring

Last Sunday was the perfect day for some birding, especially at Rondeau Provincial park!  The 'Wings of Spring Festival' was in full blast at Rondeau and the birds couldn't have planned it better.  You could just hear the Tundra Swans chatting with each other in the bay from the park.

Me and the Great Horned Owl
The day started off with a show put on by the Ontario Falconry Centre.  They brought an amazing variety of Birds of Prey with them including: Great Horned Owls, Screech Owls, American Kestrels, Bald Eagle, Harris Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Red Tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, and a few others.  Kids watching it were just amazed. It was so cute seeing the little ones holding the tiny birds and seeing them fall in love with them (or that's what i'd like to think anyways).  Afterwards I was able to hold a little red Morphed Screech Owl (poor little girl was missing an eye..she was a rehabilitated bird) and then the Great Horned Owl.  Was it ever beautiful!!  I think the worker was  scared  I was going to try and bring him home...
Little Downy Woodpecker 

 I had the pleasure of being accompanied with my Dad to this awesome festival making it a really nice Father-Daughter day, which we get seldom of since I had been gone to school.  It was his first time being in Rondeau Park, which was a surprise for me to hear as I've spent so much time in this park it's a place that I consider to be one of my favourite places. It was a really nice chance to be able to share some of the memories and knowledge that I have of the area, the people, the plants, and of course, the birds.

Before heading out to the bay we decided to take a hike through one of the wooded paths.  I cracked the joke of "you know, not many woodland species have migrated back yet, I bet all we will see is a woodpecker".  And alas.  We saw a Downy Woodpecker!

Next up was the Bay.  I have never seen so many birds in one spot in all my life.  There were THOUSANDS!  The pictures below don't even begin to show how many there were.  The Tundras sounded like you were in an arena during a hockey game.  They were flying in and out of different groups and when looking through binoculars you could still see hundreds more flying in the distance.  It's indescribable but my favourite time of year may have just changed to early spring/late winter.  There were also quite a few species of ducks mainly Mallard, Canvasback, Redhead, and American Widgeon.    I think both my dad and I were just mesmorized by the vast numbers.  A few people came and left to look at the bay, but we just sat there for about 30 minutes taking all the sites in.  It was, one of the best days I've had birding yet, just standing there and taking in all the sounds and beauty.  I hope everyone gets to experience seeing something like this at least once in their lifetime.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Why call them flocks when they look like clouds!

That was my EXACT thought today while I was at work.  Staring out the window and driving looked like literally the clouds were black..and moving fast.  I guess they also looked like mosquitoes, but no one except northerners would really, truly understand what that one looks like!   Anyways, today was a pretty spectacular day. I saw approximately 11 different types of waterfowl (including swans and geese in that term, though I shouldn't), 7 of which I had never seen before!  Or at least known I've seen.

The day started off with me seeing what I thought were large buffleheads, but were actually hooded mergansers once I looked it up!  Buffleheads were close by.  Those little guys are one of my favourites, and are absolutely hilarious when they are making a show! I also saw my first Wood Duck, Shoveler  American Widgeon, American Coot, Gadwall, and Black Duck!  Green-winged teal and Mallards are also added in there.  They were really hard to take photos of being so far away, but I managed to take a good one of the Widgeon through a spotting scope I was looking at, what a beautiful bird.

Female and Male Bufflehead through spotting scope

I also had the pleasure of watching a Sandhill Crane fly over.  BOY do those birds make such a unique sound!  He landed in the marsh over, but I really hope that I see and hear another one at some point this spring.

Just as I was getting ready to leave I spotted a few ducks flying into the nearby pond.  Quickly I grabbed my camera, dropped to the ground and crawled out to the edge of the bank and managed to take this (below) shot before it realized that I wasn't a duck and flew.  It was another Hooded Merganser!  This one began showing off to me (as you can see it's head is all poofed up from it's display.
Hooded Merganser displaying
It was such an amazing day seeing so many different types of Waterbirds!  I can't wait to see more come in and the sky once again filled with little black dots!

Drive-by Birding

I had a wonderful visit from my boyfriend this past weekend!  We always try and do something outdoorsy when we see eachother.  Tends to usually fall within the range of either geocaching or birding, but I love it.  Nerds tend to find eachother.

On Saturday we drove out to Tundra Road near the Lake, but unlike the name (and area) suggests, there wasn't a single swan that day! So we carried on to Michell's Bay.  Thankfully on the way there we saw a huge flock of Tundra Swans fly over us.  I was SO happy because Michael had never seen them before.  While at the Bay we saw pretty massive flocks of ducks, everywhere!   They were all Redheads, but hey, we'd never seen them before and especially not before in those numbers.  Everywhere we looked there were ducks landing or taking off, it was really quite the sight!

Bunch of butts! (Mute swans and some Redheads)

 Nexy day, we went with my parents to Port Huron to do some shopping (Ganger Mountain for the two of us!), and we did a little bit of drive-by birding on the way there.  Most of the birds we could barely make out from the bumps in the road, but we finally stopped out by the Sombra Ferry to see a beautiful array!  Every time I've heard hunters talk about making sur decoy's are of the same species, well this just proves that theory wrong!  I managed to get a pretty good shot of all the different species.  We had Redheads, Canvasbacks, Buffleheads and Ringnecked Ducks!  It was SO awesome to be able to see the Redheads and Canvasbacks together and see the differences between them, as they look so much alike.  I got my parents out to look at them too, which was awesome.  My mom, like me, loved the little buffleheads!  Can't wait to see more as the spring arrives!
Buffleheads, RedHeads, Ringnecked and Canvasback Ducks

Monday, March 4, 2013

Skidding down a gravel road...

Quiet literally skidded actually!  I was heading home from work today to glace at the channel to see a "wooden stick frozen in the ice".  Something in me just said...hold on a second back up. SO, like most birders (or even herpers i've been with do), I came to a screeching halt and backed up as fast as I could without going into the channel myself!  Whipped out the binos to see this cute little owl just sitting on the ice!!!

Now for anyone who's been around me lately, or even a facebook friend knows..I love owls.  And the second thing I love most, are pictures. Which of course didn't happen because both my camera and phone were sitting dead in my bag.  So, I tried my best to paint a mental picture of the little dude before he flew off.  He ended up being pestered by crows above me and soon disappeared from my view.

Once I got home I began texting my old friend Denby about it, since we had actually been talking about owls this whole afternoon.  I swear I must have been emitting some sort of owl signal or something!  I listed everything off I could remember:

-Very white underside I noticed while it flew
-Kinda floppy/messy flight pattern
- BIG and bright yellow eyes
-Chest mottled with a brown colour.
-Wings and back also brown.

In the end, we determined that it was a short-eared owl!  Now how exciting is that!  Another lifer for me.  I am hoping that it will still be there perhaps tomorrow and I can actually get a picture!