Monday, June 27, 2016

Darlington Piping Plovers

Last week, my labmate Dan and I took a bit of a break and went to Darlington Provincial Park in hope to see the Piping Plovers that were nesting there.

Piping Plovers are a species at risk here in Ontario listed as Endangered. In 2007, Piping Plovers began nesting again along the Great Lakes along the Ontario shore around Lake Huron.  Here on Lake Ontario, the last documented nest according to the Ontario Recovery Strategy for Piping Plovers was 1934 on the Toronto Islands or 1916 at Presqu'ile Provincial Park.  SO, this news has been really exciting for this area as its been over 80 years since they have nested on the lake!!

Darlington Provincial Park set up enclosures to ensure the best chance of nest survival.  These include a caged area (to protect the nest from not only being trampled, but by depredation of raccoons or other egg eaters, and also a larger roped off area to allow the birds as much space as possible to forage and not "run-into" humans on the beach.  During daylight hours volunteers are also there ensuring that people follow the rules of the enclosure, that there are no off leash dogs, or any other human imposed things that could harm the young.  They are doing a great job!

Plover on the nest
Dan taking photos near roped off area
Once we arrived at the Park we headed almost straight to the beach. The first of the two nests were very close and we were delighted to see three young scampering around!  They were super adorable and reminded me of little marshmallows on sticks.  It was such a delight to be able to see them!

Young Piping Plover

Young Piping Plover

Adult Piping Plover
The second nest was a little further on the beach.  At this time, the nest had not been hatched and so we saw the adult on the nest in the enclosure.  Hopefully all eggs will be hatched shortly and fledge successfully!

On our way to and from the second nest we noticed..or more like were a nesting Killdeer.  The killdeer carried on for a few minutes of our walk with its broken wing dance, followed by more "kill" screaming, etc.  The beautiful adult had 4 eggs on its nest, and hopefully they will be successful!

Oh no!  My wing is broken...I am hurt...follow me!

Earlier in the week, Dan mentioned that a Least Tern had been seen around the area!  We assumed that it would be gone by then, however one tern seemed to catch our eye!   It was certainly different from the others: did not have a full cap, a little greyer, black bill.  We got incredibly excited, however we quickly realized that all these ID marks just didn't quite fit the bill for an adult Least Tern.  In didn't quite fit the bill for any adults except one from Alaska.  After more digging and reading through some field guides, we determined that it was actually an immature Common Tern.  So not as exciting...but still exciting that we were able to catch our ID.

It was a great day trip and I was so excited to see my first ever Piping Plover.  I hope that this wasn't just a fluke year, and that these birds begin to nest again on Lake Ontario...and most of all nest successfully!

This will probably be my last post before I head up to Nunavut for the month of July!  But I am excited to come back with plenty of posts and stories to share. So I hope that everyone has a fantastic month of July!!  See you all again in August.

Until are some more photos:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Another Spring Day at Rondeau

Well, I am a bit behind on this bandwagon! 

May 13th was a perfect day to be at Rondeau.  It was warm, sunny, no insects biting you, and the perfect amount of people at the park to make birding exciting and enjoyable.  I came to the Park to meet up with an old coworker and friend Charlotte and her husband.  

We started off on the Tulip Tree trail with hopes that I would be able to see my lifer Prothonotary Warbler.  Well...that's exactly what we did!  We stood for a little while just watching the bird flit around, catching insects, and were so luck to have gotten such an intimate look at it!  At times the bird was even too close for my camera to focus on!  When I used to describe Prothonotary ID to other people I would always describe it as being yellow with grey-blue wings. While this technically is true, its a shade of yellow you can't even describe. It's so beautiful! 

Next, we went on a search for the White-winged Dove.  It took us a little bit of time, but eventually we did find it!

One of the fun parts of birding in Rondeau is that you often see and meet people you know or have heard of.  While birding Tulip Tree Trail I bumped into Kenton Otterbein, the park naturalist for Killbear Provincial Park, on his camping trip!  We were able to share some of our morning sightings and also talk a little about Parry Sound!

Blackburnian Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Throughout the day, I spent the most time on South Point Trail.  There were a bundle of sightings and probably just as many people!  The great thing about birding is that usually everyone is so friendly, offering sightings and helping you try and find a particular bird of interest.  The first person I ran into along the trail was Allen Woodliffe, a fantastic birder and retired MNR employee.  Almost immediately upon meeting, Allen got a call about Whimbrel on the beach and so we were off, following to hopefully see them.  On the beach we met up with another Chatham-Kent birder, Steve Charbonneau...a name I've seen constantly on Ebird. Unfortunately, by the time we got there the Whimbrel were likely spooked off and no where to be seen.

Charlotte looking for the Whimbrel
Back on South Point Trail, we continued to see a wide variety of species including warblers of all kinds, Great Crested Flycatcher,

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Great Crested Flycatcher

The most exciting sightings of the afternoon were three specific species: Mourning Warbler (lifer!), Canada Warbler, and Hooded Warbler! I can't quite count the amount of time I spent trying to get a photograph of these birds, and still got such crappy shots! Haha.  I also saw Denise Dykema, an amazing photographer, out on the trail taking photos of the same species.  I last met her on an OFO outing to Skunk's Misery and absolutely loved how decked out in camo she was, since then I've seen many of her photos on Ontario Birds Facebook page and..WOW. They are stunning!

My attempt at a Mourning Warbler photo
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
When I finally gave up on trying to catch a photo of the Canada Warbler, I decided to pop out onto the beach and see if there were any shorebirds hanging around.  My first sighting was not a bird, but instead a Five-lined Skink!  The little guy ran up my pant leg until eventually I was able to direct it back to his cover board.

Once out on the beach, I was happy to see that just a short distance away were the Whimbrel previously seen by Steve.  By this time I was alone and frantically called Charlotte to come back to see them.  Looking at the parking lot, I noticed a car stopped and someone in it looking at me with binoculars (if this was anywhere other than a birding area, it would be really creepy!). I just assumed that it must the Allen and began waving for him to come over.  Once both Allen and Charlotte got to the beach we tried out best to inch a little closer for a better view.   The last (and only time) I have seen Whimbrel before this was on Lake Ontario at my field site, and it was a very fast flyby.  So this was certainly a treat!!

Back in the South Point Trail parking lot I met Keith Burk, another Chatham-Kent birder who has compiled the Rondeau Christmas Bird Count for the last 40 years.  We heard word of a Worm-eating Warbler and made our way back into the trail. While we weren't able to find it, I was able to finally get a decent photo of the Hooded Warbler.  Keith was also a sweetheart and took his time to try and find me an Orange-crowned Warbler.  While we had no luck with the Orange-crowned or Worm-eating, it was so fantastic to spend the day birding with some awesome birders and learning from them.  It is one of my favourite parts of birding...the amazing network of people and learning from them.

Hooded Warbler
Hopefully I run into all these birders again the next time I am birding in the area!  Thanks again to Allen, Keith, Steve, and all the other amazing people I met that day who chatted with me, directed me to a bird, told me neat bird facts, or gave me camera tips.  Friendly and excited people always make an outing that much better.

Hope everyone is having a great summer!

Rondeau <3

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all the father's out there!

I am so lucky to be able to share so many interests with my Dad, from musical tastes, sense of humour, and love of nature.

From a baby, my family would bring me to my cottage.  Looking through old photographs, I see photos of my Dad teaching me how to swim, teaching me to fish off the dock, bringing me on hikes along the trail, feeding birds and chipmunks. Even when back home we would go on bikes to see the horses down the street or buy me mass amounts of peanuts so I could feed the Blue Jays in my backyard.  It really is no wonder that I caught a bit of a nature bug.

Going into the environmental field and especially becoming a birder, I think came as a bit of a surprise...especially as in high school I always talked about music or at least a field with less "science" in it.  All of my jobs were a bit more unconventional, especially as a young female.  I am so lucky to have a father who pushed me to believe that I can do anything I want to do, even in a male-dominated field.  I've pushed, gone out of my comfort zone, wondered MANY times what I got myself into, but all along the way he's never failed to be curious, show interest, and tell me how proud he is.  Just hearing that makes me know that while I think I'm crazy, he just may think I'm crazy awesome. 

During my field season last year, my Dad came out with my to my field site and got to see me in action.  It was so much fun being able to share what I love to do (and let him see some places few people get to!).  During my visits home, we have been making a small tradition of going out on short birding trips. Its gotten to the point now too where both him and my mom will send me texts about birds in the backyard or during their drives places! I am incredibly lucky to have two parents who take interest in what I do and push me to be a better person and a better person in my field.

So on Father's Day...Thank you Dad.  Thank you for always being there for me. For always taking interest in what I do.  For raising me to believe that I am interesting, smart, and that I can do anything.  In just two weeks I will be heading off to Coat Island and work in the Arctic for six weeks...something that I never thought I would get the chance or have the guts to do.  I can't wait to share stories and photos with you and Mom!

Dad rocking the early 90s moustache