Cerebral Escape

a photo journal of my escapes

While Whales Sleep – Debut EP

WhalesAlbumCoverNope.  This post isn’t about the outdoors or birds but rather another one of my passions – music.  More specifically about some tracks some friends and I have recorded under the band name “While Whales Sleep”.  I’m one of 3 guitar players in the band – not something you’ll see or hear everyday.  If you have a look at our Facebook page or our Bandcamp page, you’ll see that we’ve labelled ourselves as a post-rock instrumental group.  Whatever it is, it’s a lot of fun to play.

If you’re interested, you can stream our release for free on our Bandcamp page or while you’re there, feel free to make a donation to download the tracks.

Back in September, we played our first show – Phog Fest 6.  We got to play on the main stage.  Tons of fun.  Here’s a few pics from the show – Photos courtesy of Jay Verspeelt.

I can’t wait to play some more shows – hopefully in December – Stay tuned!


Golden Day at Holiday Beach

This morning the winds were blowing fiercely out of the north but I decided to hit Point Pelee anyway (North winds are not great for lake watching at Pelee).  I ran into Alan at the tip and he mentioned that he wasn’t seeing much – not surprising.  I figured I would just do a quick scan of the lake and head back north in the park since I did see a lot of hawks flying around.  Just before Alan left, he got me on a Woodcock he spotted flying way out over the lake.  It must have been blown out by the strong winds.  After my scans, I decided to bring the scope back to the car and head north up the West Beach footpath up to the Serengeti tree to see what was around.  On the way up, I flushed a few more Woodcocks along the trail (4 more) so I ended the day with 5 Woodcocks!  After a quick look around Sparrow Field I decided to head out to do a few things at home.

Windy Tip

Very windy tip

In the afternoon, I ran out to Holiday Beach to join Jeremy Hatt on the Hawk Tower.  It turned out to be a great decision.  My goal of the day was to try and find a Northern Goshawk – a year bird and a big one for Essex County for me.  I’ve been having a pretty good year, seeing 264 species in Essex County so far.   Not bad for working full time and with a 1 1/2 year old at home!  Goshawk would be 265 – much higher than my previous Essex best of 261.

Within a short time of being on the tower with the crazy north winds, a gorgeous Golden Eagle flew up over the trees.  This would be the first of many that I’d end up seeing.  A little while later, a call came over the radio from the Hawk Banding Station that a Juvenile Goshawk was headed in our direction.  We all trained our eyes on the skies to try and pick out the bird.  A few minutes passed and it looked like it was going to be a no-show but nope, it popped up right over the trees in front of the tower – #265 Essex bird for the year!

Juvenile Golden Eagle - Showing golden nape

Juvenile Golden Eagle – Showing golden nape

The birding was great on the tower and it was tough to leave but I still wanted to drop by the banding station before heading out.  I’m sure glad I did!  I got to witness a 2nd year Goshawk fly into the nets, get banded, and released.  What a gorgeous bird to see up close!  As the bird was being released, 3 more Golden Eagles soared over head.  A truly Golden Day at Holiday.


Slo-mo Release Video


A few other shots from the day.


White Ibis Madness

Last night I was flipping through some emails and I noticed an eBird rare bird alert for Chatham-Kent county that really peaked my interest.  An Immature White Ibis was reported earlier in the day at Wheatley Provincial Park – an extremely rare bird for this area!  I immediately texted Jeremy Hatt to see if he knew anything else about the posting.  After some quick emails back and forth with the original eBird poster, he found out that a camper, the eBird poster’s mother, had seen the bird and had no easy way of getting the word out about this rarity.  Some clever thinking led them to have their daughter, who lives in Michigan, make an eBird report about the bird to start spreading the word.  Well it worked.

I checked to see what time sunrise was going to be and planned on getting there to have a look before I had to get back home to work.  The bird did not disappoint.  The sun was not even up yet and I was set up on the bridge that leads from Two Creeks Campground down to the beach and started scanning.  Within 20 minutes, I noticed a dark bird land right in the middle of marsh, directly in front of me.  There was no mistaking what this was.  That bill is unlike any other common bird around here – everything checked out on the bird!

White Ibis

White Ibis – Pre-sunrise

I made a few quick calls, texts and a post to Ontbirds to help continue spreading the word.  Within 15 minutes, the birders started arriving to add the bird to their Point Pelee Area bird list.  I watched the bird for a little longer but had to get on my way and get to work.  Nice start to a Monday! Point Pelee Area bird # 284 for me  – and Ontario Bird # 315.


Heavily cropped Immature White Ibis

Thank you again to the original finder – a great bird!  Point Pelee area’s only 2nd record for this species!

Labour Day Lifer!

I spent Labour Day morning at Point Pelee.  I was up an out of the house by 6:15am with plans to be one of the first to the tip.  Not sure why but I was just trying to motivate myself to get out of bed.  I parked at the Visitor Centre and walked down.  I thought about bringing my bike but just decided to enjoy the walk instead.  It was a very warm and sticky morning and the woods seemed awful quiet other than a few little chips and the occasional Eastern Wood-pewee calling.

As I made it to the tip, another birder, who had passed me on a bike, was already set up and scanning the Gulls.  He mentioned that I hadn’t missed anything exciting.  There wasn’t a lot of birds moving around yet.  The occasional Swallow flew over head and a few gulls were passing by but not the great movements I was hoping for on a Southwest wind.  But that would soon change.


Gulls at the Tip. What’s up with that GBBG in the middle – molting?

Blake Mann showed up just after 8am.  By now, things were starting to move around out over the lake.  Within 10 minutes of his arrival, Blake yells out “Sabine’s Gull!”  He quickly got me on the bird – a lifer- thanks again Blake!  We also got the other birder, who was just packing up, on the gull.  I watched it dip and fly fast past the tip from west to east.  I was too busy watching the gull to get a great photo but I did get an identifiable record shot.  Blake got a much nicer shot.


Sabine’s Gull – Lifer #382

After watching the lake for a few more hours, more birders showed up, including Alan Wormington, who mentioned that he had spotted a Parasitic Jaeger earlier in the morning from a beach further north in the park.  I decided I would stay a little longer and keep scanning the lake.  We didn’t come across anything new so I decided to go for a little walk up to Sparrow Field to see what was around.


Five-lined Skink

In Sparrow Field, a large group of Warblers were flitting around at the northwest corner of the trail just before it meets Post Woods.  The trail is really overgrown in this area!  I watched for awhile and ended up with about 10 species before I decided to keep moving and check on the beach.  On the way over to the beach, I spotted a Black-billed Cuckoo about a foot off the path, low in the scrub.  I slowly walked up to get a better angle and a picture.  I couldn’t get all of the branches out of the way but I was happy with the pic I got below.


Black-billed Cuckoo destroying a Cicada

After the Cuckcoo photoshoot and an uneventful check of the beach, I decided to head home and see what Sarah and Emily were up to.  Another fabulous day in the park.



Bruce Peninsula – Tobermory Side Trip – July

Back in July, we took a nice extended vacation at MacGregor Point Provincial Park.  One rainy morning, we thought should take a nice drive up the Bruce Peninsula, making a few quick stops along the way to pick up a few birds for our trip list.  I was hoping to add Upland Sandpiper, maybe Brewer’s Blackbird and a few more.  A couple days before, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was reported about half way up the Bruce on a side road so we were definitely going to look for that bird!

Where the bird was previously seen was a gorgeous area with large expansive fields, which I suppose is pretty common on the Bruce and many other areas in Southern Ontario, but it just seems to have a different feel to it.  It’s hard to explain but I really enjoy just staring out at the fields, wondering what might be lurking in the tall grass.  We did add Savannah Sparrow here.  I thought I might have heard a Grasshopper Sparrow but wasn’t sure and it stopped singing.  Unfortunately, we didn’t relocate the target bird but we watched the Bison for a while.


We continued on a little further for our next target – Upland Sandpiper.  We had found a few down Everatt Side Rd, just north of Ferndale, the previous year so I thought that it might be a good spot to check.  Just as I turned down the road and drove maybe 50 metres Sarah yelled out, “There’s one right there – beside the road!” Great spotting Sarah!  This bird gave killer looks.  I’ve never seen one this close before.


Upland Sandpiper

After that success, we decided that would should give Emily a snack.  We pulled over into a little farmers field turn off.  Here you could hear Eastern Meadowlarks, American Crows mobbing something far off in the distance, and a few other passing birds.  I was watching a very curious Ring-billed Gull that seemed to be plucking flowers at the side of the road.  It must have been insects or something he was after.  I watched it for a while.  Unfortunately a few minutes later when I had my back turned, I heard a car racing up the road and a loud thump.  I knew it was the Gull.  I don’t think the driver even attempted to miss the bird.  It was a bit of a bummer on the trip especially because I was just watching and laughing at the Gull’s behaviour about 30 seconds earlier.

RIP Gully

RIP Gully

After uttering a few choice words at the fleeing car, I thought it was time to move on to help bring the mood back up for this trip.  It was still early in the day and Emily was being a trooper so we thought, heck, let’s just keep going up to Tobermory.  The weather was very dreary but the drive was nice.  I hadn’t been up to Tobermory in many years – since I took the Chi-Cheemaun ferry over to Manitoulin to go to my friend Trey’s cottage.


Lunch in Tobermory


Chi-Cheemaun Ferry

We drove around a bit, had a nice lunch, and even watched the ferry leave port on its way over to the island.  We made one last stop at the Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor Centre to have a look around and climb the tall lookout tower.  We added a new bird here – a Caspian Tern flew right over the high tower.  Sarah and I have always talked about wanting to hike the entire Bruce Trail so we chatted more about this and how we’d love to be able to do it with Emily some day.


Bruce Trail Terminus – Tobermory


Emily At Bruce Peninsula Nat. Park Visitor Centre

It was time to head back to the campsite to get Emily to bed and light the fire.  This was a great little mid-vacation side trip.


After Work Rarities

On Monday, Dan Greenham reported a Snowy Egret at Holiday Beach to WEPbirds.  This would be a year bird for me so I really wanted to go look after work. In between packing for my work trip for this week, I cleared enough time to make a quick run out to look for the bird. I’m glad I did! Just as I started climbing the Hawk Tower, I noticed a very small egret hunting in the shallow pond. That was it – quickest twitch I’ve ever had!




This week’s work trip ended up working out perfectly because it gave me the chance to twitch another bird being seen in a Toronto park. A juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron had been seen by many at Col Sam Smith Park. This would be a new “Canada” bird for me!

Well I guess I still had some luck left for this week. After walking around the pond for a little while, a young Night Heron perched right out in the open for me. Everything checked out. I had the bird! I went to find the others who were looking but unfortunately by the time we got back to the spot, it was gone. I stuck around for a while, but I don’t think it showed itself for the rest of the evening.  However, the bird was seen again this morning so if you haven’t had a chance to go for it, you still have time.

I didn’t bring my camera with me on this trip but I managed to get a few digi-scoped pics of the bird with my iPhone.  This was the “best” ID shot I had.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron


I wonder what else will show up this week?

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