Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Oakville Bunting

On Monday, I was driving home from Newmarket and decided to stop in Oakville after seeing so many Ontbird posts about a Painted Bunting that was found in a backyard. Painted Bunting are technically supposed to be found in and around New Mexico/Texas area, so the fact that one showed up here in Oakville is very strange. There is some debate as to whether this is actually a vagrant bird (one who is "lost" from perhaps a storm) or whether it may be a released bird that was once captive. While we hope that it's a vagrant (since it will then "count" towards our ebird lists), but either way it is still really exciting to the entire community that it's here and provides a cool experience too.

When I arrived to the subdivision there was about eight other people. The people in the house are super nice and allowed us to sit in their backyard to wait for the bird. We all squished nice and cozy  between the house and a hedgerow and just sat waiting and staring at a bird feeder. Most people who were there had been waiting for about an hour so far, but were predicting that the bird might show up around 4 o'clock (apparently that's been the trend the past few days anyways!).

Just as we predicted at about 4 o'clock we noticed the little guy in the hedgerow of cedar and eventually it flew up to the bird feeder. There was a quick almost perfect view of bird when it was in the hedgerow, however as soon as it flew to the feeder it ended up being on the exact side with no view...of course! Eventually it did move back into the hedges and everyone there had a perfect view, and it was fantastic!

Vagrant or not, I have to say that this is probably one of the most beautiful birds I've ever seen.  It had a beautiful yellowish-orange belly and a forest green on upper back, as you moved closer to the centre of the back the green became almost more lime coloured, then of course a beautiful blue head!

I was so lucky during this visit to get some pretty good shots, although I think I was on the wrong setting as they are pretty pixely! I was also super lucky to have met and chatted with one of the visitors there who was one absolutely fantastic and hilarious. He is an 87-year-old birder, I believe his name was Alan, and if he ever reads this I give a big hello! While we waited he told us some fantastic stories about how he was drafted back in the war in 1944, and how he also knew the president and founder of Trent University (now the campus is actually named after him!).

He said he's been birding since he was a young teenager and how on one of his first Christmas Birdcounts there was actually a Barn Owl seen on the Toronto Islands, but of course he wasn't in the group that day and hasn't seen on (still kicking himself over 50 years later!)! We then chatted a little about Snowy Owls and I taught him how to tell the difference between males and females to which he said "Wow...I am 87 and you just taught me something new!" made me feel SO good!

When we first saw the Painted Bunting he was so excited and just kept saying to me "Oh isn't the most beautiful bird! I'm so happy to come and actually be able to witness it! Tianna isn't this a beautiful bird and WE saw it together!".  This just pointed out one of my most favourite parts of birding (and the natural community in general), the people you meet.  I had never been one to go alone to do things, but now that I have begun birding more and gained some confidence I have met some of the most wonderful people on outings.  Most times even if you don't see the bird, the people you meet and the stories you share while waiting are just as amazing as what you went there to see.  

Little White-breated Nuthatch who was also around!
I want to extend a huge thank you to everybody who lives in that subdivision.  Most people don't let a bunch of people trample all over their yard, but these ones set out fair guidelines so that everyone would get the chance to see the little guy and even brought out coffee once in a while! A big thank you also to all a fantastic birders who went to see you and resected all the wishes of the landowners and for respecting their property.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday and New Year!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fields of White

Well, it's back to Chatham for the Christmas break! 

On one of my first days home my father and I decided to go and check out to see if we could find any Snowy owls.  There have been so many bird alerts coming to my email of them that I just couldn't resist trying to show him one of these awesome birds!  Snowy owls seem to be having an interruption year again where many of them are moving further south for the winter than they usually do. This is pretty darn exciting for those of us who are pretty infatuated with owls (which is..who are we kidding...most of us!).

Dad and I started by driving from Chatham all along Bearline Road, pretty much up until the very end which leads into the Bear Creek Unit, part of the St. Clair National Wildlife Area. On the part of the road that becomes the driveway to the unit, our first Snow Goose was seen with about 400 Canada geese!  The picture, of course, makes it super hard to see, however it is that small white speck!

We then drove up and down a bunch of different concession line that were running east to west.  Quite a number of farms has large numbers of Tundra Swans in them, with in one field counting approximately 600 overall!  I might guess that at this point there was probably close to 1000 that I was able to see throughout our drive. 

I had quite a lot of fun using my camera and trying to capture some of the Tundra Swans who were coming in for a landing. It was really entertaining seeing them coming in. The angle that they were at made them look so goofy and yet still so majestic with their wings fully spread and their legs flopping around behind!

We then drove down to Winterline Road and where it intersects with Mallard line. We managed to finally find our very first Snowy Owl of the excursion. My dad and I actually spotted it at the exact same time, except it ended up being that they were two entirely separate birds! We took out a scope that I had borrowed over the Christmas break, as well as our binoculars and cameras. After about 20 minutes we ended up counting approximately nine of them in the field, a total which is absolutely crazy!  It seemed as if everywhere we looked there was always another one.  About four of them seemed to be adult males (they were all pure white), and a couple others seemed to be either young male or female adult (mostly white but also with prominent black barring).

A few days later the boyfriend came to visit and the two of us set out on a little excursion both to Rondeau Provincial Park and Pain Court to see if any exciting birds were around. We saw the usual hundreds and hundreds of Tundra Swans and Canada Geese; some ducks were out in the bay, but we were unable to fully ID them as they are too far away.  We then went to the visitors centre to see if the feeders had any Tufted Titmice yet this year, but the feeders were actually empty of any bird! Out along the dunes I did see as large number of American Tree Sparrows and through the scope found a Horned Grebe and one lone Goldeneye.  We did check around dog beach for the Dunlin and Purple Sandpiper that was reported, however we couldn't seem to find it.

We then left Rondeau and drove down towards Pain Court again to see if there were any Snowy's around.  Luckily within minutes we spotted a beautiful snowy owl perched on top of the telephone pole and we were lucky enough to get really great photos of him! 

A few days after this my Mom and I were driving to Windsor when we spotted two more Snowy Owls.  We stupidly didn't stop to look at them but it was so exciting none-the-less, especially since they were her very first ones!  Looking forward to seeing many more this winter!

Happy Naturing!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

More Ross's Goose

Two friends and I decided to take another drive up the river and see if the Ross's Goose was still around the Otonabee River to look at.  I was hoping it might be a little closer that my tiny zoom would be able to reach it enough to snap a good shot!

We were really excited when we came around the river to actually see it, amongst 150 or so Canada Geese, on the east side of the river!

Happy Naturing! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Some lost feathers...

There seems to be a few lost birds here in the Peterborough area these days!

The first to show up was a Townsend Solitaire!  Generally these birds are found in British Columbia and a little portion of Alberta, so the fact that one actually ended up here in Peterborough is a little strange!  It was first seeing along the hedgerows of someone's lawn out near Rice Lake.  It has stayed within the same lawn for the last two weeks now and we suspect it would likely stay there for much of the winter.

We first arrived there around 9:30 at the location that it has been regularly seen.  Most of the e-bird reports had been from around this time so we were hoping it was a trend!  When we first arrived to the site, there were three other cars of people standing around.  Only one of them had seen the bird about 40 minutes previously before it flew off over a hedgerow.  We all stood around and waited checking nearby bushes and trees regularly for any movements. Of course there were tons of Blue Jays around tricking us...or "mocking".  

After about 20-30 minutes there was a thrush-looking bird that perched on top of one of the Mountain Ash trees and begun feeding on berries.  That was it!  We all were able to get a great look of him through our binoculars before it flew off into some large trees.  One man put out his scope so that we could all get a great look.  I don't believe any of us actually got a good photo, the distance was far (hence the photo through the scope!) or the lighting (making for many silhouette photos!).

After about 20 minutes, the Townsend flew off again into an unknown area.  We ended up heading down to a little outlook area on Rice Lake.  There were many Herring Gulls, RBGU, Common Mergansers, Goldeneye, and even a Great Black-backed Gull!  Otherwise there wasn't too much to report!

The second bird of excitement around here was a Ross's Goose!  These birds generally are in Manitoba, and another little population on the boarder of Alberta and Saskatchewan.  It seems that quite a few of these guys end up coming through Ontario in the winter time.  It has been seen along the Otonabee River and most recently feeding in the fields.  I took a little break after one of my classes to take a little drive along the river to see if I could spot it.  After an unsuccessful drive to the locks, I spotted a large flock of Canadian Geese on the river after a little while. It took quite a while to finally spot it, but I did eventually!   What a cutie!

The flock was on the other side of the river, so unfortunately I wasn't able to get a photo at all minus one attempt through my binoculars!

It was very exciting to be able to see such two "rare" birds in this neck of the woods.  I am glad that so many others here were able to see them too!

Hopefully there will be a few more exciting finds this winter!

Happy Naturing!