Thursday, March 31, 2016

Waterfowl Festival at Presqu'ile

March 19th and 20th marked the annual Presqu'ile Provincial Park Waterfowl Festival, the second one that I've had the pleasure of volunteering at.  Unlike last year, this year it was incredibly warm and lacked the vast amount of ice usually at Presqu'ile this time of year. 

Since the entire bay and lake was open water, ducks were not in as concentrated numbers as people were used to seeing the last few years.  Mind you, it didn't mean that they weren't there; they were just not concentrated into tiny patches of open water as usual.

A group of my labmates and I were stationed at Calf Pasture where there was a fairly close group of Lon-tailed Ducks to look at.  Once in a while a Goldeneye or Bufflehead would join the mix, but usually they would fly off just as quickly as they arrived.  It was really nice to be able to give many visitors, young and old, a look at these beautiful ducks before they start to head north again for the summer.  In the far (and I mean far!) distance we could spot some Scaup, Redheads, Canvasback, and a few American Widgeon.  Quite a few times throughout the day boaters would scare all the ducks up creating amazing flying clouds to look at.  It was always fun when this would happen since most people wouldn't believe us when we said there were thousands of ducks out on the lake!

Once the day ended we spend a bit of time birding in the marsh and other nearby areas at Presqu'ile.  I saw my very first Golden-crowned Kinglet of the year and also a Pied-billed Grebe out in the marsh!  Song sparrows all over were also in full singing mode.

Also floating around in the marsh were Mute Swans (what a surprise!) and a few Buffleheads!

April is just a few hours away now and I couldn't be more excited!  Take advantage of all the amazing bird festivals and outings that will be going on in your local areas...there will be plenty to see!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Fishing on Simcoe

The other weekend Mike and I took off to Lake Simcoe to get in a little bit of ice fishing while the season was still "somewhat" on!   With all the warm weather this winter we were a little worried that we wouldn't be able to get out at all.  Really sketchy ice conditions have left us with limited days where it was safe to walk on ice.  By the time we decided to head out, temperatures had been in the negative digits for only a couple of days, this this was enough to thicken the ice and allow for safe (ish) walking!

We ended up walking out from Sibbald's Point Provincial Park.  The original location we had wanted to try had warmed up enough over night that there was a large hole in the ice, stranding some of the huts.  This didn't make us feel too, too safe, however once we arrived at Sibbald's, the ice was perfectly safe for us to walk out on and the ice, once drilled, we saw was about a foot thick.

It was so much fun getting out and getting some fresh air.  Spending a day with my eyes away from the computer was a nice relaxer to the otherwise usually strained vision. There is definitely something about sitting out on the middle of a lake, in the middle of winter that is just so much fun! 

The water was so clear that we were able to see right through to the bottom of the lake. While the fishing was fun, I had almost as good of a time just sitting on the ice and watching the fish swim underneath me, trying to figure out where they were going, and the guessing game of whose hook they would bite. After a full day of fishing, we ended up with about 13 Perch, including a number of them that were jumbo!  

It was such a great day out and I really wish that winter wasn't already coming to a close.  In fact, I wish that we even had a winter! As people who love to ice fish, we were truly spoiled last winter with the amazing deep freeze that we had.  With that said, I am still so excited that the spring is coming, opening the windows once again, and feeling that amazing sunshine.  Oh, and seeing some birds too!  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sneaking around Shrewsbury

This is quite a late blog post, but it's better late than never!

About two weeks ago now, I went on a little road trip to Shrewsbury, Ontario, while I was at home in Chatham for reading week.   I met up with an old high-school friend, Sean Tilden (Photography Website).  I had heard on ebird about a bundle of Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, and diving ducks in the area and figured it would be an awesome break from some work.

We started out by heading to the Shewsbury waterfront/boat launch.  There was a tiny opening in the ice where hundreds of Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, and Redheads were.  We could spot a few Canvasback ducks too, however anything else was lost in our binocular vision.  I definitely need a scope!  Eating something on the ice was also a Bald Eagle, and we also spotted a Northern Harrier flying above.

We then picked up from this area and drove around nearby cornfields to try and spot the Snow Geese that had been reported earlier.  We eventually located a flock of nearly 400-500 Canada Geese and within them we could see a few Snow Geese, but not nearly the hundreds of them that were reported earlier!  With a scope we may have been able to spot the Ross's Geese that had also been reported or the Greater White-fronted Geese that were reported shortly after we were there. 

Just around the corner from the geese we stopped to watch and take some photos of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks.  These are probably two of my favourite winter birds, so camouflaged and yet so colourful against the snow.  I would love one day to be able to band one!

Horned Lark

Snow Bunting
Just as we were getting ready to leave, we noticed a really dark Snow Bunting fly by and land.  of course, it was not a Snow Bunting, but nothing other than a Lapland Longspur!  It was bird lifer #236 for me!  How adorable are they!  For the rest of the drive I suddenly started noticing more and more of them throughout the area.  It is always funny how after you see something for the first time, suddenly you see them everywhere!  If you are out for a drive and see a flock of Snow Buntings, look for ones that seem just a shade or two darker.  If you look closely with binoculars you will be able to see the darker-rusty colouring, less white on the underside, and a yellowish eye stripe (starts at the brow and curves around to the neck).  They look so beautiful on the wintering grounds, I couldn't even imagine how they would look in their breeding plumage!

Lapland Longspur
We then went to try and spot some Short-eared Owls (with no luck!), but we did get to see a Sharp-shinned Hawk who had recently eaten a Junco! It's always a little fun when you find a bunch of feathers and a predator, and you try and figure out what they had just eaten.  It's very CSI like! 

 We then continued on our way to the Erieau Marina where we were greeted by quite a number of ducks, gulls, swans, and coots!!  Coots have always been one of my favourite birds since I've seen them, just the look of them is so goofy and confusing.  Are they ducks...or are they shorebirds?  What is with that bill!?    We were lucky enough to see about 30-40 of these birds slip and sliding around on the ice.

A final "rarity" that we were able to spot was a Great Black-backed Gull! This beauty was flying around the harbour and generally sitting with a group of Herring Gulls.  

Hope everyone is having a great first day of March!