Saturday, May 28, 2016

Day in the Pelee Area

It's been a little while since I've been able to catch-up on my postings, but here I am trying, yet again!

While visiting home in Chatham, I was given the opportunity to spend a day banding and birding in the Point Pelee Area from two birding/banding friends Emma Buck and Jeremy Bensette. I'm a little embarrassed to say that even though I grew up in Chatham-Kent...I have only ever been to Point Pelee National Park once during a Grade 4 field trip.  But, with this chance to head down there, I took it and boy am I so glad that I did!

I begun the morning early at Hillman Marsh with Emma for some banding.  We set up nets and eagerly waited for the first net run. Flying over us all morning were flocks of Black-bellied Plovers (my first of the year...or FOY). It their first really busy day at the station, so I was incredibly happy that I was able to come out, help, and band some awesome birds in the process.  During our net runs we caught high numbers of Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Yellow Warblers.

Common Yellowthroat

Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

I was really excited too to see a handful of other bright warblers such as the: Black-and-White, Nashville, Palm (my first in the hand!)

Black-and-White Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Palm Warbler

Northern Waterthrush
We then had three REALLY special guests show up into the nets...a Canada Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler and a Rusty Blackbird!  These two warbler species are always a "favourite" I would say amongst the birders I know and are definitely a treat to be able to see them in the hand.  A group of people had stopped by to watch at this point and the "oooohs and ahhhs" from the crowed were certainly there!
Canada Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Rusty Blackbird
Some of the last birds at the station were a group of Warbling Vireos that we had caught together in a net, which obviously makes for a great group photo!

Once the nets were closed at Hillman, we drove off to the Wheatley station.  Before we arrived there, we decided to stop quickly at the harbour because there had been recent sightings of Willet, a type of shorebird, on the beach.  We were incredibly lucky as we spotted them almost immediately after getting out of our car!  They were life species #239 for me.

From here, we went to the Wheatley Station where I was so lucky to participate in quite a bit more banding!  I banded my first Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, Blue Jay, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and White-crowned Sparrow! 

Second Year male Orchard Oriole
Can see the different coloured wing feathers
Second-Year male, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
It was certainly a little terrifying taking a Rose-breasted Grosbeak out of a bag, I mean, look at that bill.  Anything made for crushing seeds can cause some serious pain to skin. Luckily I managed to only get bitten once, and boy did it leave a mark!

We left the station a little early so that we could meet up with Jeremy Bensette at Point Pelee NP.  We took the "bus" to the tip and began the evening birding from there. Birds, were immediate. We heard stories from people that entire day talking about how "warblers were dripping from the trees", and while we missed this extent there were still birds everywhere we looked.  It say the least...amazing.  During this first part of the evening I was able to see my very first male Bay-breasted Warbler, and lifer Cape May (bird #240!).

Male Bay-breasted Warbler

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler
During this trip I decided that I wouldn't even bother taking any in-flight photos. Mainly because, quite frankly, I suck at them.  Every time I attempt a shot it always comes out as a colourful blur and I still don't know camera settings well enough that I can change them in that instant.  However, one thing I learnt during this trip is that, if I don't prepare and try to get perching shots...apparently I get ok in-flight photos instead!

Blackburnian Warbler
Cape May Warbler taking off

We saw many other birds during out walk including Magnolia, Yellow, Palm, Black-throated Blue and Green Warblers, thrushes too such as Veery and Swainsons, and also happened to spot Tree Swallows who were potentially beginning to built a nest in a tree cavity (or were already taking care of young!).  

Magnolia Warbler

Another Maggie
Curious Palm Warbler


Tree Swallow

We then packed up and headed a little closer towards the Marsh Boardwalk area as the sun was about to set, hoping to pick up just a few more birds.  One that was particularly on my list to see this year was a Red-headed Woodpecker.  I do remember seeing one once in Grade 4 here, however since then I've only ever seen one in Illinois!  Much to my delight, we noticed a crowd of people taking photos of a bird....which was a Red-headed Woodpecker!  

Afterwards we walked a little more towards the lake where I then saw my lifer (#241) Lincoln's Sparrow.  With a really crappy record shot to boot!

It was such a beautiful day out and a much needed break!  Thank you so much to Emma and Jeremy for bringing me out both banding and birding!  And big thanks too to the Wheatley banding crew for letting me come over to your house and have a wee bit of fun!

Happy Birding everyone!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Birding with Dad at Rondeau

One thing I love so much about birding is that it is an activity that you can easily share with other people. Its also an easy hobby to get interested in and slightly addicted to! Over the last year, I've tried to introduce my parents to birding a little more, whether it is through pictures I bring home or through pointing out things while out with them.  My mom often will spot birds in the yard and has been really good at noticing things that "aren't like the others"!  In fact, the other week she managed to spot a Blue-headed Vireo in our backyard tree.  My dad, who's becoming a bit of a lister, set his binoculars on it and gave me the description, but his "grey head with a yellow body and white eye ring" just lead me in circles around a Nashville Warbler until I was actually home to see it. My parents got me a lifer!

Blue-headed Vireo in our backyard
 Last week I took my Dad out birding at Rondeau Provincial Park.  I have been home in Chatham for a little over a week, and wanted to take him out for a night of some birdy fun, especially since it is migration and he hasn't seen many of the fan-favourite colourful warblers!

We walked into the park, so while we were not able to make it too far before sunset, we did make it to the marsh trail and back to the gate.  We saw a total of 51 species just within this area!

Trees were full of warblers that evening, especially Yellow Warblers.  We were able to spot Nashville, Parula, Yellow-rumped, Redstart, Black-and-white and Blackburnian all within a short distance from the front gate.  All of these were lifers for my father! We also we not able to walk anywhere without hearing Baltimore Orioles...they were everywhere!

Northern Parula

Nashville Warbler
Closer to the Park Store, we noticed a few birds hopping around in the grass.  There were a variety of sparrows (Chipping, White-crowned, White-throated), as well as some warblers!  A few Yellow Warblers were feeding on some of the insects they could find in the grass, and then amongst them was my very first Palm Warbler (109th species of the year)!  

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler jumping

Have you ever noticed that you can see a bird for the first time (even after a year of searching for one) and then suddenly you see them, quite literally, everywhere?  This was definitely my experience with Palm Warblers.  As soon as I saw my first one on the Park Store lawn, suddenly there were about 15 more.  Then the next day at Pelee, I saw a couple dozen more!   It makes me wonder how I never noticed them before.

We then began chatting with a park visitor from Whitby who had seen a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers on the bay.  I began showing him the different birds that were around us and giving him their IDs, when out of my eye I spotted something blue.  It was a Eastern Bluebird!!  Another first for my Dad and it definitely made this visiting couple very happy as well! This little guy flew from branch to brach giving us some amazing views.

On our walk out of the park we were stuck with 49 species.  I was pretty determined to get us an even 50, however with the sun setting and it getting dark it seemed like it would be rather difficult to do!  As we continued to walk, my father and I talked about all the different birds we had seen, what ones I thought we missed and what could potentially be our number 50.  He was astonished how within about two hours we had seen that many, especially since we had barely made it into the park.  Then, a few steps before the gate, we heard our #50. "Peeeeeent".   An American Woodcock.

Driving home to Chatham, we took the highway through Blenheim, Ontario.  As we drove down the road my dad suddenly came to a screeching stop and pulled into a gas station as he excitedly started screaming "OHHHHHH MAN THERES AN OWL!".  Sure enough, on the top of a telephone pole, there was a Great-horned Owl.  It swooped and grabbed a dead squirrel before flying off into the park across the street. Of course my camera settings were not at all prepped for this (not that I am great at night photos to begin with!), so my photo turned out...a little eerie!

Beam me up Scotty! (Great-horned Owl)

Hope everyone is having a great migratory bird day and enjoying the greatness of spring migration!!!  I am a few days behind on my blogging, so I will be trying my best to catch up.

Our full checklist can be found at :

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Birding can be a saving grace

What an eventful week it has been, bird wise at least!

Being able to bird from our windows and within the local area has been a bit of a saving grace for me the last two weeks.  Having moved to the area and not knowing anyone, much of my time has been spent glaring at my computer screen.  While you can only think so much in one day (thesis wise) and have limited internet access (good ol 5GB/mth router), you are bound to get a bit stir crazy!

White-breasted Nuthatch
So, to try and calm my mind down and curb internet usage, I've begun to take up run-birding (running with binoculars).  While it is more birding than running, it still gets me outside and more active than sitting on a couch does! Thanks to it I have not only inched my way into #1 on the Parry Sound Ebird list, but I've have also been able to start shedding some of this graduate student weight and become more productive with this mind-clearing method. Anyone who has chatted with me in the last few months, or anyone who has been in graduate school at all, will know that it's something I've is greatly needed. While I absolutely love my project and love the work I am doing, you can get a bit overwhelmed and lose yourself in the process. So the last few weeks I've not only been trying to work, but also trying to reset my sleep schedule and getting out to do things for myself too, and birding is my way of doing that.  Being here has been a complete blessing, resetting both my brain and my soul.

Beautiful Sunset over Deep Bay, Georgian Bay

So now onto the birds! Our backyard has been full of birds the last week, causing us to fill our bird feeders at least once a day.  The Pine Siskins, Juncos, Purple Finches and American Tree Sparrows are still around and make up the majority of the birds we see.  Grackles have since moved into our back yard in large numbers and more recently, so have the Brown-headed Cowbirds and Red-wing Blackbirds.

Pine Siskin

Purple Finch

American Tree Sparrow and two Chipping Sparrows

Over the last week we've noticed an increase in the number of White-throated Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows under the feeder!  Every morning I've been able to wake up to the sounds of "sweet home Canada, Canada, Canada" and it's been so pleasant!

White-throated Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Male Downy Woodpecker
Perched White-throated Sparrow
Two more species have made visits to our feeder and were a great surprise to us!  They were both a FOY (first of the year) species for me.  The first was a Fox Sparrow and the second was a Yellow-rumped Warbler!
Fox Sparrow
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Along with birding from my back window, I have also been able to get out a little bit every few days to check out the area.  Georgian Bay area has so far not been a disappointment when it has come to sightings.  We recently inherited a canoe from our neighbour and took it out on Raby Lake.  Here we saw Ring-necked Ducks, Wood Ducks, Lesser Scaup, and Bufflehead.  A few days after this, we noticed a flock of Blackbirds in a tree.  I got Mike to stop the car as recently I've been obsessed with trying to find Rusty Blackbirds. 
Ring-necked Ducks
Rusty Blackbirds

Rusty Blackbirds

A little further down the road, we were able to spot Green-winged Teal and Greater Yellowlegs in a flooded field.
Greater Yellowlegs
 Another day we spent an hour doing a loop in Killbear Park.  The day was pretty quiet, however that didn't stop some bird sightings!  The first bird of the day was the Yellow-rumped Warbler.  Two of them were chattering away along the lighthouse trail along with a Pine Warbler, who remained to be unseen!  Along another path we noticed that Great Blue Herons had begun nesting!  No matter how many times I see it, I'm always find it hilarious and baffling to see them high up nesting in a tree! It will never get old.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Great Blue Herons

As we were leaving the park, a beautiful Broad-winged Hawk made an appearance.  Lighting at the time was pretty awful, so I am hoping that either before I leave this week, or sometime throughout the summer I can get a better photo!  

Broad-winged Hawk

Turkey Vulture

Coming home from the park, we were super excited to see Sandhill Cranes so close to the road!  I have never actually seen a crane on the ground (only ever either seen them flying over or heard them) so it was pretty neat watching these dinosaur looking birds walk. 

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane playing Peek-a-boo
 One more week in this beautiful area before I head home for a visit (of course visit Pelee too!) and then back to Peterborough to finish up this degree *fingers crossed*.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!