Sunday, May 18, 2014

Darlington Provincial Park

After a days work near Darlington I decided to take my field assistants on a little birding trip.  Both of them are pretty new to the whole birding scene and so what better time to learn then during migration!

We stopped for lunch in at Darlington Provincial Park and it was bustling with birds this day!  We started off in the parking lot by the public beach and it was bursting with songs!  One tree in it had almost everything!  Redstarts, Black-throated Blues and Green Warblers (my favourites!), Yellow Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Blackburnian Warbler, Indigo Bunting, and Baltimore Orioles.

A little further along the trail we were also able to see a Scarlet Tanager, Common Yellowthroat, least flycatcher, and a few other species!  My best sight of the day was getting to see my first Palm Warbler!!

I wasn't able to capture too many photos, but these were the three that turned out the best!

Happy Naturing everyone!
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Back-throated Blue Warbler
Baltimore Oriole

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Beavermead Park - Peterborough

Today my boyfriend and I took a little drive to Beavermead Park here in Peterborough.  It is the first time either of us has visited this park, but I've seen some pretty awesome sightings here in the past few days so we figured we would give it a shot!   Although we didn't find all the awesome things seen the day before...we were able to see quite a few spring migrants!

The first bird of excitement we were able to spot was a Warbling Vireo!  I've seen a few of these before, but this was actually the first one I was able to ID on my own!  I love hearing their warbling little song!

There was also a number of Mallards, my first Grey Catbird of the year, and a VERY annoying Robin who was making some strange noises!  I had to stare at it for a good 10 minutes before I could finally admit to myself it was the Robin making the noises.  The next "first of the year bird" we saw and could capture was an American Redstart. The wooded area in the park was flooded with these little guys!  It's almost all that I could hear.

Redstart out for a run!
Another sound flooding the skies was a bundle of Cedar Waxwings!  They were all over the treetops eating the buds.  I never get tired of seeing these little masked bandits.

I was also able to get my first (somewhat decent) photo of a White-breasted Nuthatch!

Looking out into Little Lake we were expecting to see some Mallards...but instead we found three Redheads!  When we added it into Ebird, it was supposedly a rarity for this time of year, so that was really exciting, in addition to not having seen them in this region before!
Redheads out on the lake 
Grackle posing pretty
 Since it was such a beautiful day, we figured that there had to be some snakes or turtles around.  Mike went around flipping a bunch of rocks and logs but there was no reward for that this time around. We did however get to see about 5 Painted Turtles!  These little guys were out on logs and rocks basking in the beautiful sunlight.
Painted Turtle basking out!
I hope that everyone was also able to get out and about this weekend! What a beautiful start to the summer...finally!  Hopefully no one else also got sunburnt!

Happy Naturing!

Getting Loonie in Peterborough

While driving back from a site visit last week, I noticed two large spots out on the Otonabee River but didn't have a chance to actually pull over and really see what it was.  My first thought was a Common Loon, which are one of my favourite memories of cottage country!

I went back the next day after school and thankfully they were still there!  There were two Common Loons just floating around in this little inlet to the river where the water was more calm.  It was so adorable when they started washing themselves and displaying for each other!

There wasn't too much around minus the loons. A few Northern Flickers, Cardinals, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Canada Geese.  I got back into my car and took one last look at the loons, which I couldn't see anymore.  I don't know if any of you had done this before, but I got excited that they had gotten closer to shore which would give me a better photo!  So I shut the car, again, and decided to take a peek.  Had I not, there are so many other birds I would have never seen!   A Caspian Tern was the first that surprisingly few by, my first of the year!   I then saw an Osprey fly by which allowed me for some awesome photos!

A few days after that, I was talking to my mom while in the car (over bluetooth! No worries!) and noticed a bird perched in a tree!  The sun was setting so it was super hard to see any colour, but going by its size I had thought that it was a Kestrel.  I came back home and uploaded the photos. Of course it was just a black blob in a tree, but after lightening it was a Merlin!!

Happy Naturing!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The final days at Long Point Bird Observatory

David teaching Marc how to band.
As the weather warmed up, so did some activity throughout the Cold Cut property and at the LPBO station.  Although there wasn't still a large "variety", the abundance was certainly up!  I was really excited that by time time I was trained enough to be able to start doing net checks and some banding on my own.  Although it wasn't until the last day when I really started getting "good" at using and reading Pyle and understanding what it meant.
Throughout the two weeks we had been getting many male Eastern Towees, like you saw in my last post. But I was especially excited to get this female in one of the nets!  

Similar to the last Flicker we got, this one was a regular Yellow-shafted Flicker.  Since this one has no "mustache" on it, we can tell that it is a female!

Another common visitor to our ground and jay traps was the red-winged blackbird! We were able to get all types of Red-wings from females, to all aged males. I do wish I had gotten photos of the different ages as a remind, it was really neat to see!  Instead, I was able to snap a shot of this Second Year bird.  In older birds, the red on it's wing would be incredibly vibrant, as would there be a more yellow band.  The buffy edges around the wing tips would be a solid black if it was an older bird.  Despite having some "history" with this species (one ripped out hair from my scalp once for nesting material...) they are a really pretty bird!

Another Blackbird we saw lots of were Common Grackles!  I had never really taken much notice to grackles before this moment, they were always just dark birds in the front yard to me.  After this trip...I have a little soft spot for them!  Every night I was able to look up into the sky and watch sometimes hundreds of them migrating past.  It was really difficult for me to learn how to differentiate between Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Rusty Blackbirds while flying...but after a long while I managed to get a slight hand on it!   Seeing them up close was also so spectacular, I had no idea how colourful they really were, this photo can't even do it justice. And their eerie!   

I think the most exciting bird I was able to see and band (minus the awesome white-eye vireo that flew away before we could take a photo!) was a Tree Swallow!  Somehow one managed to dive down low enough to catch itself in our nets.  Those who know me know that I get incredibly excited, one could even say I revert back to a small child on Christmas morning...and well...this was my Christmas morning!  I am studying Bank Swallows for my Master's Degree so areal insectivores have created a dear place in my heart.  This is the first live one I had seen close, and been able to hold (and band!) was...amazing!

Although those were all the exciting birds we had banded and taken photos of, I was pleasantly surprised to also find a Dekay's Brown Snake basking in one of the net lanes.  I almost stepped on the little guy but thankfully my herping instincts kicked in before I did!!  I had seen Dekays before, but they were always SO much smaller than this one I found...what a treat!

On my last night in Long Point I took another walk though the Provincial Park and out onto the Beach.  I had the pleasure of watching Red-breasted Mergansers swimming around the mini iceburgs, huge flocks of Double-created Cormorants flying by, and a couple hundred Bonaparte's Gulls flying and diving around the lake.  I found a log to sit on and watch from; I think it was the most peaceful spots I've been to in a really, really long time.  It might help being the only person on the beach, but it was just so peaceful. I put a few photos below from that little adventure below:

Entering the Park
Cormorants flying across the lake, ice in the background 

Red-breasted Mergansers

Floating past an sandy iceburg

Bonaparte's Gull

Sand Dunes throughout the park

Macro Sand
Everytime I come back to Long Point after having worked out here a little bit, I always had forgotten how much I love this area.  It reminds me also about how much of a treasure this part of Ontario (and even Canada/North America) this is and how lucky we are to be able to be a part of it.   I was so lucky to have been able to get to Long Point these two weeks and learnt so much while there. The banding station is full of fantastic people who are passionate and knowledgable, friendly and hilarious.  I recommend that everyone heads out to Long Point and visit the Old Cut banding station, take a walk throughout the property, check out the provincial park, and visit my personal attachment, Big Creek NWA.   Thanks again LPBO!

Yet another beautiful Long Point sunrise <3

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Long Point Banding Part 2

The next week at Long Point Bird Observatory were also fantastic.  The weather was becoming slightly warmer.  It finally began warming earlier in the morning too during the last two days, meaning we could open the nets sooner!  There wasn't too much variety of birds coming through, although there was at least one new one everyday for me! 

There were a few exciting birds that I was able to take a photo of!  One of them was this Swamp Sparrow.  This was a tick for me, both birding and banding.  These little guys are more reddish then most sparrows and have a reddish cap with grey streaking.  
A second bird that we got a lot of were White-throated Sparrows (WTSP).  This one in particular I wanted to take a photo of as he was so incredibly vibrant!  I originally always thought that male WTSPs looked like this one here and females were much more drab looking.  But, alas, I was wrong!  During my time here I learnt that there was instead, a white-morph (like this one) and a tan-morph, both of which you can really only tell their sex based on their wing length.  There were so many of these feisty little buggers, but I never got tired of hearing their "Sweet home Canada, Canada, Canada".

Another new sparrow for me was the Field Sparrow!  It surprisingly reminded me a lot of the Snow Bunting I watched being banded last fall.  As most sparrows I knew were darker and drabber looking, but these ones, certainly look gorgeous up close!

 The first warbler to hit the banding station this spring was a Pine Warbler!  I have seen a few of these before, but it was always in the fall.  Seeing one in spring for the first time was so amazing!  We banded about 2 or 3 in total and up They are beautiful!  My favourite moment with this bird was one day when a few of us were waiting for another net check to come along.  Marc-Andre, a volunteer from Quebec, noticed the bird really close to the station and as we watched it, it flew to one of the rain barrels and started taking a drink. I had a hilarious acting session through a window to Dayna (LPBO Coordinator) who was inside the building to look out at it, and when she finally did the excitement on her face was classic!  I can't wait for more warblers to start moving on through!

Another day I was doing a net check with Joe, an Australian visitor who is volunteering with the station for the spring and fall migration. We came around a corner and spotted a bundle of Juncos in a net and then both of us stood shocked to see, in the middle of them, a Sharp-shinned Hawk!  Joe started running like mad to get it out of the net and was like so happy to have his first Canadian raptor in his hand!  These little guys always make the funniest faces.

Along with us at the station there are also a variety of researchers, Kristin and Jordi were two of them!  I was lucky enough one morning (at like 5am!) to see them releasing the first bat they caught of the season!  Kristin is studying silver-haired bats (one of my favourite bat species), and let me take a close up of one!  Previously to this I'd only ever seen dead bats (through windfarm surveys I did) so it was nice to finally experience a live one.  Personally, I think silver-haired ones have the sweetest personalities of the bat family!

Along with bats and birds, I saw my very first herp of the season!  It turned out to be a melanistic gartersnake!  There aren't too many populations of these around, but Long Point is definitely a hot spot for them!

And then....It snowed again!!!

With the cold brought in another lack of birds through the area. Tree swallows stopped flying, as did the bats.  I felt bad for them all, coming this way to only be hit by yet another cold snap.  We did, however, still get some birds through our ground and jay traps that were really exciting to me!  The first one is the Eastern Towee.  If you've ever heard people telling you about "what birds say" when they sing, then you know it's incredibly difficult sometimes to get that out of your head.  I found this especially true of the Towee. Even now when I'm home I sometimes find myself walking around singing "Drink your teaaaaa!"

A second exciting bird we caught during the snow-blast was a Northern Flicker.  BUT!  This wasn't just any was an Integrate! I always knew flickers as being called "Northern Flicker", which they are, but you can also get much more specific.  In eastern Canada they are the subspecies Yellow-shafted Flicker (because the shaft of the feather is yellow!) where as in western Canada they are Red-shafted (you guessed it...because their feather shaft is red).  There are also some other differences between the two.  This one we caught (as seen below) has mostly yellow feathers, but a few of the primaries have an orange tint.  This means that somewhere down the gene pool, a yellow and red-shafted mated, creating a hybrid!

 Walking around the property there were many other birds that could be heard such as red-breasted nuthatch, Canada Geese, Kingfishers, Tree Swallows, American Bitterns, Woodcocks, and more!!  Long Point really is such a magical place!

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Now...there are just a few more photos that I will be going through and posting in a Part 3 section.  Then I've gotten all the Long Point outta me....for now.

Old Cut Lighthouse