Sunday, May 10, 2015

Official Week 1 of field work

Official Week 1 of field season is over!  By official I mean it's the first week for my assistants (two of them) and first week we took our occupancy videos.

Gravel pits and the Lakeshore are starting to be flooded with Bank Swallows once again!  Our lake site had them in the 100s and gravel pits were certainly climbing to be almost 100 at some sites!  I was surprised to see how many colonies had completely eroded since last year, making these little guys once again start digging from scratch.  They are working hard once again, and I am so excited to see how much work they will do in the coming week.

They're baaaaaack!
There were lots of other migrants coming through that we were able to see on our sites!  Many of them were first for the year for me, and often lifers for my assistants!

Out on the Lake, we were first treated to an Eastern Towhee singing away in a bush. There were quite a few other birds flying around such as Savannah Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Tree Swallows, and Song Sparrows.

Walking along the shore we spotted this fun little Grebe, a Horned Grebe!  I haven't seen one of these guys for a few years now, so it was quite the exciting bird to spot.

As we were leaving the Lake we spotted this maroon coloured bird, and all of us were quite stumped!  At first my assistants and I assumed Bay-breasted Warbler, because it was the only coloured bird we could think of. After a lot of field guide searching, we finally realized that it might be an Oriole of some sort!  Finally after searching through guides and my iBird App...we came across the Orchard Oriole, which is fairly uncommon to the area!   It was a lifer for all three of us and definitely set a good mood on the day! 

Gravel pits also provided their fair share of exciting birds and wildlife!  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera for one of the days...but on the last day I finally found a lifer sparrow, the White-crowned Sparrow!  Now I am sure that I had likely seen or heard them before, however I hadn't been at a level where I knew what it was. It was pretty exciting to have seen so many different species of sparrows this spring! So many times they are called "little brown blobs" and at one time I never really noticed them, but lately I'm beginning to really like Sparrows!

Another exciting little find was this adorable Spring Peeper!

There has been a massive influx of Yellow Warblers in the Peterborough area as well.  Every morning walk to campus and back I hear them singing away along the locks.  Finally on Friday I was able to get a photo of one and it didn't turn out half as bad as I expected!

Official Week 2 is starting in a mere 6 hours, so hopefully there are even more new species for all of us to see!

Happy naturing!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

April start to field season

This year, I begun my field work a few weeks early to get out some insect traps before the Bank Swallows arrived.  The first two weeks there wasn't much bird or bug activity, however this last week was loaded with midges!  The photo below is just one of the insect traps that I put out by Lake Ontario..and WOW....was it ever full of midges! There hadn't been many Bank Swallows on the lake at this point...I counted maybe 50 at most, so I am hoping that next week there will be many more around to take advantage of this hatch!


Bank Swallows just arrived into gravel pits this past week and I've seen them starting to scout out old burrows and starting to dig new ones.  Hopefully by next week they will be back in almost full force for me and my assistants to start recording!

There have been a variety of other birds out on the lake and in the pits however that have kept me entertained!  One of these has been the Savannah Sparrow....they are almost everywhere! At one site alone there was likely around 10 of them and I have even heard them at multiple gravel pits!  This was the first year I was actually able to get a nice shot of one!  

At another one of my sites on the lake, I saw my first Kestrel of the year.  It was entertaining to watch about four Northern Flickers flying all around the Kestrel, almost like they were all teasing it!  Suddenly a whole flock of Starlings also flew into the tree, while the Kestrel remained pretty oblivious to the snacks in the same tree as it!


One of the more exciting birds I saw came into the gravel pits just last week!  I have to say that it's one of my favourite sparrows just because of the amazing song that it was...the Vesper's Sparrow!  It was singing away up on a tree top, getting more and more vocal.  I took out my iPhone bird call app to double check that I did indeed ID it correctly by song (you sometimes forget after 6 months of them being gone!).  As soon as I played the call the little guy just got insanely feisty.  He started bouncing around a lot more, ruffling all his feathers, calling, and just being overall much more territorial.  Obviously, I got the ID correct!  So I turned off the sound asap, took a few shots of it, and went about my day!  The next day a few more showed up at some other really means summer is here eh!

At one particular pit, there is a pair of Killdeer who have nested the last few years amongst the gravel.  They blend so well into the environment that I often completely forget they are even there until they start with their "KILL" screams. Last year, they laid 4 eggs but my best guess is that they were predated, as we never saw any young. So my fingers are crossed that they become successful parents this year!

My assistants start tomorrow, which is so exciting and yet so terrifying to be a boss again!  I am really excited to take them out into the field.  I am hoping to try and write every weekend or so...and hopefully that hopes come true! anyone who has worked long hours in the field knows...weekends are meant to only sleep and eat!

Happy Naturing!