Sunday, January 19, 2014

Short-eared Owl - #269

A great day of birding yesterday!  Started the morning off in the Little River area of Windsor with the Ojibway Nature Centre birding group. We counted 47 Bald Eagles hanging out on Peche Island and the nearby ice floes - this doesn't include the ones we couldn't see on the back side of the island.  A few overwintering birds were spotted on the outlet from the sewage treatment plant, including a couple Wood Ducks, a Great Blue Heron and a Lesser Scaup.  No sign of the Kingfisher or Black-crowned Night Heron that had been seen lately. 

Eagles on the ice - Windsor, On
A chilly Mute Swan

After lunch, I headed back down river in hopes of spotting the Ambassador Bridge Peregrines or maybe even some gulls on the river - but no luck.  The gulls have been lacking down here this winter.  Too much ice!  I made my way out to the county to look for more birds.  In a very flat and barren field off of French Line Rd, I spotted a very white Snowy Owl - my first of the year.

After a bit of looking around, I headed home to pick up Sarah and Emily.  We had planned a family outing to go look for the Short-eared Owl that had been seen recently in the Onion Fields just outside of Point Pelee.  After a bit of cruising around, Sarah shouted "Look - What's that?!"  She didn't have a great look at first as it dove down, but we both quickly got back on it.  The target bird - Short-eared Owl.  It was actively hunting so I slowly drove up and found a safe place to get off the road where we could watch but not disturb it.  It was amazing to watch.  It was dive-bombing the field constantly.  It disappeared for a bit, so I assume it was successful at least once - What a cool experience.  We've seen them before hunting off of Arner Townline area, but this one had a little different feel to it.  Hard to explain but nonetheless it was Pelee bird number #269 - and a new life bird for Emily.

The lighting was not great, but I managed to get some "record" shots of the hunt anyway.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

A Pelee Saturday Morning

I got up and out the door a little later than I had planned but I was in the park by 8am.  My first stop was a quick check at Delaurier.  I was rewarded with a Screech Owl posing nicely (minus the vines in the way).  Off to the tip.  I was surprised that no one was around.  Okay, I wasn't that surprised - that was a cold wind this morning.  At least the sun was shining!

As I got to the Tip, I noticed that more work had been done on that mystery post that the park put in.  Whoever guessed "camera" was right (that's what my guess was).  The park is taking time lapse photos of the changing tip.  It sure was different this morning than the last time I was there. It was short and jutted out to the east.

Other than finally getting closure on the mystery post, not much else exciting happened at the tip.  It was very quiet.  Large rafts of scaup were off to the east and west but they were out at the extreme view of the scope so I couldn't pick out much else other than a few other common waterfowl species.  No rare gulls.  Oh well.  Like I said, the sun was shining.

Off to Sparrow Field.  Along the way, I noticed a Hermit Thrush working the edge of the shrubs.  It sat and watched me for a bit, so I did the same.  It never did get out in the open for a good pic.  I really noticed how silent the park was at that point, aside from the crashing waves on the west side.  Not even a kinglet making a peep.  I did eventually run into a small group of Golden Crowned Kinglets and some Brown Creepers just before Sparrow Field.

Hermit Thrush

Brown Creeper

Eastern Bluebird

Immature Bald Eagle

Just as I got into the opening in Sparrow Field, a Great Horned Owl flushed out in front of me. I admit it, I jumped a little.  It saw me before I even had a chance to see it.  It would have been a great photo op.  It headed off north into Post Woods.  It's amazing how something that large makes no sound. I finished walking the loop, picking up a few sparrows, and even some Eastern Bluebirds along the way.  Just as I got back around, a Long-eared Owl flushed out of another tree and headed south.  This time I at least got a silhouette shot when it landed and turned to watch me.

Long-eared Owl - Silhouette
The next stop was Woodland Nature Trail.  A juvenile Northern Goshawk was soaring over the Visitor Center. I also came across a few more small groups of White-throated sparrows and some Yellow-rumped Warblers.  I cut back through Redbud trail, which the park has done some major clearing on.  It will be interesting to see what happens with all this clearing they're doing.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

After a quick and unsuccessful check for Snowy Owls in the Onion Fields, I was on my way home.  It was a great morning. I enjoyed just being out today with no pressure of chasing down rarities.  Today was just about enjoying what I saw, no matter how common.  It really cleared my head after a few long weeks at work.   In fact, I might do the exact same thing tomorrow morning!
For a full list of the birds seen today, click here.

Oh yeah.. and don't forget to join Wepbirds

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Windsor-Essex-Pelee Birds - Online Group

With birds like Pomarine Jaeger, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Snowy Plover, Purple Sandpipers and high numbers of Golden Eagles showing up recently - things have been great in the Windsor-Essex-Pelee region!

These sightings got me thinking. Other regions, such as Hamilton, do a great job of spreading the word to everyone in their area about the birds that they're seeing.  We should be doing the same here!  I've decided it's time to do something about it.  Introducing Windsor-Essex-Pelee Birds Group (WEP Birds for short) -

WEP Birds is a simple local birding group page where group members can post sightings, ID questions, general tips, and anything else bird related.  It's not just be about rarities.  Topics can include things like high counts, first of the year birds, late birds, a trip report, and so on!  The idea is not to take over fantastic resources like Ontbirds or Windsor-Essex Nature Sightings on Facebook, but rather extend these so discussions can be had about the birds in this area.  The group is open to all experience levels - backyard beginner to "expert".

On, you will not only see the group discussions, but a calendar of local birding events as well as Birdtrax widgets showing all recent eBird reports from the area.

If you're from the area, or just visiting, I hope you will visit the page, join the group & start sharing!  To join, visit and click on New Topic.  It will ask you to sign in to your Google Account (or create one if you don't have one).  After signing in, just click "Apply to join group".  If you have any questions along the way, let me know.

Follow WEP Birds on Twitter -

Good Birding!

Purple Sandpiper - Point Pelee Tip - November 3, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Southwest Florida Getaway - Part 1

Emily's first trip to Florida is going great.  She was perfect on the plane (it was causing us a bit of stress wondering how that was going to go) and she's at home here at the Wilkki condo - Emily says thank you so much grams and poppa for letting us stay here!

We've been coming to Florida for years, but we usually don't make it down until late November. This year we wanted to try something different and head down a little earlier to catch a few more southbound migrants. This is working out perfectly.   I don't remember seeing this many birds in the area.The ditches are full of birds (ibis, egrets, herons, etc).   I just did a quick eBird check and I'm already at 108 species.  I've added new trip-birds everyday.  I've added 15 birds to my Florida list and even added a few lifers!

One of my favourite places to visit while I'm here is Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. The birding has been fantastic for me.  A few of the locals seemed a little disappointed in the lack of new migrants but I was seeing lots of birds I don't get to see back home.   Since the condo is so close, I've been able to get out 4 mornings to have a look around. Each day has been different bird-wise and I added new trip birds on each visit. Emily and Sarah joined me one day as well which was my favourite day.  The highlight bird for the Slough was the Short-tailed Hawk - a lifer!
Short-tailed Hawk - Six Mile Cypress Slough
Mommy & Emily - Six Mile Cypress Slough
One afternoon while Emily was napping, Sarah mentioned that I should got look for the Crested Caracaras that I had seen reported on eBird down Corkscrew Road.  I really like exploring new areas and this one didn't disappoint.  I made it almost all the way to the bend where Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) starts, when I saw the prehistoric looking bird flying toward me down the ditch - Lifer!  Ifigured that since I had driven that far that I should check out the CREW parks.  It was a good decision as there were lots of warblers and I even flushed some Bobwhites down the trail - a new Florida bird.  Very cool areas that we will definitely go back to.  On the drive back home, I found 3 more Caracaras up in a tree.
Sandhill Cranes - Corkscrew Rd
Crested Caracara - Corkscrew Rd
After seeing reports of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and a Western Kingbird at the Lighthouse Park on Sanibel, I knew we were definitely going to check it out. Unfortunately we didn't see any flycatchers or kingbirds but it was still a great morning. Hundreds of Palm Warblers were flying off into the Gulf into a strong headwind.  It was quite the sight.  

After the lighthouse, we headed over to Ding Darling, another one of our favourites. They repaved the road, very smooth!  Tides were high so we didn't see a large variety but I like exploring the park. I added about 5 trip birds. On the way back to the condo, we made a stop for low tide at Bunche Beach, another of our favourites.

Yellow-throated Warbler - Ding Darling
Piping Plover - Bunche Beach (Have to submit band info)

That's it for Part 1.  Tomorrow we're heading down to Corkscrew.

To the pool Daddy

Thursday, July 18, 2013

MacGregor Point Provincial Park - Emily's First Camping Trip!

As most of you know, Sarah and I like to be outdoors, and so will Emily!  Emily went on her first birding/hiking trip at maybe 2 weeks old (much to the dismay of our healthcare professional) and even spent a few days with us at Pelee this spring (much to the dismay of a passing tourist who under her breath mentioned "A little young, isn't she?" --- too young for what?  Fresh air?).  Emily is loving it so far, and so are we.  I want to teach her everything about the outdoors!

Emily sleeping the day away
We've been wracking our brains on what to do for a cheap and cheerful OUTDOOR summer vacation.  Well the idea came up about camping.  We only have a small lightweight tent for backpacking/canoeing so that wasn't going to cut it.  We weren't sure how it was going to go either with diaper changes in the middle of the night... night feeds, etc.  So I started looking at Yurts.  There was one available at MacGregor Point on Lake Huron - Perfect!

Last week we made our way up, stopping a few times at some small parks to feed Emily.  It worked out well for me because while waiting, I just picked up my bins and looked around.  Added some new birds in new counties!  It was a long day but we made it. We had been to the park many years ago, but I didn't remember much about it.  This was the first time as birders, in the Bruce area as well.   I was looking forward to searching out a few new year birds and even the possibility of some life birds.

The first full day was just spent in the park.  We were seeing birds we hadn't seen since early in the spring back home.  A new experience to see them on territory.  The highlight though was hearing the distinct call of a Northern Waterthrush, right behind me - literally 5 feet away while I ate my breakfast.  I turned around and spotted the singing male, followed by a female... and then their little "baby".   The little wet spot beside our campsite was their territory.  Everyday they were there and every day we watched them.  I've never had such great looks (not great pics though)!

Northern Waterthrush
Fledgling Northern Waterthrush

The plan from the beginning was to take one full day and drive further north, in search of new birds.  First stop was Sauble Beach to see the nesting endangered Piping Plovers.  The fog was rolling in off the lake which added something to experience!  We noticed one adult with 2 young birds.  The adult was busy fending off the gulls.

Isaac Lake
After some lunch (for all 3 of us), we headed further north for a quick stop at Sauble Falls and then on to Isaac Lake - a wetland / large lake.  It was mid-day so I didn't expect to see too much but wanted to see what it looked like.  I definitely will be back to this area!  We did pick up a few trip birds (Black Duck and Common Loon)... off to the next spot.

Showy Lady's Slipper Orchid

Steve Pike had told me about a little known spot down a dirt road that after walking a semi-hidden trail you can find Showy Lady's-slipper orchids in the middle of this forest.  His directions were spot on and we took turns going to look at the plants while Emily slept in the car.  There were only 2-3 plants still blooming but definitely worth the stop!

My main target bird for this trip was the Upland Sandpiper - a life bird.  Josh Vandermeulen had mentioned that he had seen one on Everatt Side Rd, just east of hwy 6.  We drove slowly down the road, checking every fence post but no luck.  Emily was hungry and getting restless.  We were about to give up when Sarah said, "I have to feed her, just pull over here."  So I did.  Baby comes first.  While they were doing that, just for fun I pulled my scope out and started scanning.  A few Eastern Meadowlarks and then Bam!  Upland Sandpiper!!  Thank you Emily! This is the second life bird she helped me get this year (more about the other later).  Another flew out from the field.  A least 2 were in this area.
Family Picture

It was getting late in the afternoon but we made the decision to head a little further north to the southern edge of Bruce Peninsula National Park.  After a lot of driving around to find a good spot, we ate a quick dinner and headed out for a hike down to Georgian Bay.  What a gorgeous evening and spot.  On the way back south, I spotted a large Black Bear on the side of the road.  It bolted right back in the bush before I could get my camera out.  Fantastic day!

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
The next couple of days were spent in the campground itself.  I was hoping to come across a Pileated Woodpecker.  I don't have a lot of luck with them in Ontario.  I've seen them easily in Florida but have had only fleeting glimpses back home.  One morning I got up early and went for a quick solo hike on the tower trail.  On the way back to the car, I looked up at a tree that I had passed earlier and said to myself "Perfect tree for a Pileated" - Sure enough, there were at least 2 possibly 3 picking away at "The Pileated" tree.  But again, only a quick look and they were gone.  Oh well.  At least I got a look --- but no pic.  I felt a little guilty because Sarah didn't get to see them... until we were leaving the park and 2 flew across the road, right in front of us (still no pic).

What a great vacation.  We ended up with about 80 species of birds in the Bruce area, a couple of porcupines, a bear, as well as a few butterflies and Odes that I still have to ID.  MacGregor Point is a great park and I know we'll be back.  We're already talking about going to the birding festival there next year.

Fire!  That must have been something to see
Still need to ID You... Any help?
Porcupine --- Nom nom nom

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A little after work birding

I had to run up to the office for a few days so I thought I'd try and fit in some after work birding.  I checked the sunset time tonight and thought I "might" have enough time to make it down to Col. Sam Smith Park before sunset.  This would be my second attempt at finding the long-staying Western Grebe & Harlequin Duck.  After fighting the Blue Jays traffic on the 427 (the ball club not the bird) I was at the park by 6:35.  Plenty of light left.

First stop was the marina for a quick scan.!   Western Grebe to be more specific!   I didn't have a camera so I had to settle for the iScoped record shot.  New Ontario/Canada bird for me.   That was easy!   Scanned the rest of the birds and headed east.

After scanning the eastern bay, I was picking out a lot of species but not my target duck.  Still nice to be out though.  A photographer standing on the rock jetty caught my eye.  He seemed to be fixated on something.  Maybe my target?   I made my way over and struck up a conversation.  He wasn't familiar with the species.  That's ok - I wanted to find the duck on my own.  I moved the scope to a new spot and had a look.  Sitting dead centre was the Harlequin!  I love when that happens.  I invited the photographer over for a look.  I tried in vain to take a record shot but it would only stay on the surface long enough for the camera to focus and he was down.  I gave up and just watched it for a while. What a way to cap off the night.  Lifer!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Snowy Surprise

This morning I went Birding with Paul Pratt's group at Hillman. We were rewarded with good looks at an immature and an adult Glaucous Gull as well as a few of the lingering Greater White-fronted Geese - a bird I actually just lifered last weekend.

After a few hours of windy birding, we headed to Janet's house out in the county for lunch. On the way there, I noticed a blob in the field. I thought for sure that it was just another bag - but nope - a Snowy! First one I've seen in the area this winter.

iScoped Snowy Owl - County Road 8, Essex County

After lunch, I met up with Jeremy Hatt back in the Hillman area. We were hoping to pick out a Ross's, Snow or Cackling Goose but no luck. Still a nice walk!

Tomorrow... I heard of a possible pair of Trumpeter Swans in Windsor so I might go have a look  in between some other commitments - it would be a nice bird to add to my winter list!

Friday, January 18, 2013

2012 Essex County Big Year in Review

If you've been following this blog you know that early last year I set a goal for myself to see and be able to ID 250 birds in Essex County within one year.  Well as you probably know, I was successful... and then some.  I actually ended the year at 261.  No record of course but I don't think it was too shabby for my first official year-and-a-half of birding!  In case you're interested, here's the complete list of the birds that I saw.

What was the Best Bird of 2012?

iBinned - Magnificent Frigatebird
I get asked a lot about what was my best bird and that's a tough one.  For me, it was more about being out there - looking, listening, and learning.  Some of the highlights for me included re-finding the Bell's Vireo, sitting in the parking lot and waiting for the Chuck-will's-widow to start calling, a self-found Cerulean Warbler, and a late-ish Virginia Rail found in Marsh this past Fall.  The greatest thing about 2012 was that a lot of birds that I saw and ID'd were completely new birds for me.

My favourite bird of the year, unfortunately did not count for my 'big year'.  This was the Magnificent Frigatebird at Rondeau.  This one was more about the experience.  I got to share this bird with Josh Vandermeulen, his girlfriend Laura, and my wife Sarah.  The long, sweaty walk down the beach was totally worth it -- just wish it would have made it's way down to Pelee!

A Tourist in my Own Backyard

Birding at the Sewage Lagoons
When I set out to 'see what I could see' in Essex County, I didn't realize how much of the area I had never seen before.  I grew up in the county but there were some areas that I had never been to or even knew existed.  I was a tourist in my own backyard and it was fantastic.  I'm looking forward to heading out to some of those spots again this year but this time more for fun. I still find it weird though to say - "Sewage Lagoons are a great spot to check out!"

One of my new favourite spots, aside from Point Pelee of course, is Pelee Island.  Sure, it's not always the easiest place to get to but there are some amazing habitats on the island.  If you've never been, you definitely need to check it out.  I know I'll be heading over at some point this year - and not just for the wine.
What about 2013?

I've been asked if I've set a new goal for this year.  The answer is absolutely.  I only have one goal for this year - enjoy every bird I see this year and not worry about numbers.  I don't regret setting a goal for 2012 (and then foolishly revising it higher when I met it) because it forced me to get out and to learn, but at times I wasn't really enjoying it.  I was getting frustrated because I wasn't finding new birds.  I know this is part of birding but when I set a goal, I am too stubborn not to reach it.  This frustration was the worst on December 30th - stuck at 259 for weeks.  I had crisscrossed the county for days in search of one more bird but was getting skunked.  Thanks again to Alan & Richard for finding that Purple Sandpiper and Iceland Gull on the 31st - it made my year!

This year is going to be a little different on a completely different front.  We've got a "birder", I mean bun in the oven!  We've been researching strollers that will be suitable for the trails - so if you have any advice, please send it along!  This baby is going to be a birder from day 1 I think!

Baby's First Bins
A Big Thank You

The birds were fantastic last year but the best thing about the year was all the great friendships that I've made.  Pretty much everyone I met was willing to teach me everything they know.  I can't express how thankful I am for the guidance and advice I received. I can't wait to get out there again with all of you this year!

A Few Other Pics from the Year...

Great Egret Roost - Holiday Beach
Sanderling - Point Pelee

Prothonotary Warbler
Sarah in the Fog at Pelee
Black-crowned Night Herons - Holiday Beach

Good Birding!


Monday, December 31, 2012

Right down to the wire!

I've been birding almost everyday for the last week and a half hoping to find one more bird. I was 'stuck' at 259 Essex County year birds - just 1 shy of my revised goal for the year.  Originally I was targeting 250, but as soon as I hit that, I thought why not go for 260!  I was turning up new winter birds but couldn't find that last year bird.  That all changed this morning.

After a lazy start this morning - been feeling a little birded out - I made my way to Leamington marina for a quick check then off to Point Pelee.  The winds were strong so I thought this might be the day --- it had to be since it was the last day of the year.  I haven't been bringing my camera along thinking that might change my luck but today I said to myself - bring it!!

I started out walking down the "42" trail to East Beach and then from there down to the tip.  I could see Alan Wormington & Richard Carr standing down at the tip.  I thought I saw one of them wave me down.  Was it a "hurry up and get down here" or just a "Hi" sort of wave?  I wasn't taking any chances so I picked up the pace.  As soon as I got there, Richard asked "You still stuck at 259? ... we've got something for you... A Purple Sandpiper!"  YES!  I got a quick ID look (just in case) and then made my way down for a better look and some pics.

I sent a few quick text messages off to those who I thought might want to come down for a look.  Jeremy Hatt, Dwayne Murphy and Jeremy Bensette all ended up getting great looks at the bird...  my Essex County year bird #260.

After doing a long lake watch, Alan picked out an Iceland Gull.  Another bird I needed.  I got on the bird quickly and had great looks.  Bird #261.  Both of these were life birds as well - what a great day.  A huge thanks to Alan and Richard!
Windy day at the Tip - Iceland Gull in there somewhere

I came home to this amazing card from my loving wife.  She knew about the Purple Sandpiper but she didn't know I got the Iceland too, so she just crossed out 260 and wrote 261.  Works for me!  I love this card.  She really supported me throughout this year so I thank her so much - especially for her patience and understanding!

What a year.  I plan on doing a full year in review post so look for that soon. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

All I Want for Christmas...

Just one more bird!  That's all I want.  I'm happily sitting at 259 (Cackling Goose was the latest) for Essex County... I just want that last one... but I'm running out of time!  It's not been for a lack of effort, there just hasn't been that many birds to chase, or when they did show up, other commitments got in the way (including a Florida vacation).  Why did all those birds pick the week I left to show up (Cave Swallow, Bohemian Waxwing, etc).  Oh well.  That's the way it goes.  After all, birds have wings.

Snow Buntings in there (iScoped)
I've been out as much as possible, including participating in the local CBCs.  I've had a great time birding with Sarah Rupert, Jeremy Hatt, Dwayne Murphy and Jeremy Bensette on these CBCs.  We turned up some pretty decent winter birds, just not one I can add to my list.  I finally got some good looks at some big flocks of Snow Buntings though, a bird I've only seen singles of!  I got some really bad iScope shots of the birds.  Check out the "flight" shot of the bird near the top.

I decided to do something different this morning.  I wanted to cover a part of the county I don't get to hit too often, in search of an elusive rare goose or gull.  I started out cutting across the county with the first target being area being River Canard.  There is still a lot of open water in parts and I've seen a lot of Canada Geese hanging out there but never had time to go through them in detail.  I was hoping to pull out a Greater White-Fronted or Snow but no luck.  I did pick out a couple Cackling -- good bird but not new.  On to the next area.

Next stop was LaSalle Marina - very quiet.  On to Ojibway.  No real target here but was just a spot I don't get to often.  I had a great long walk through the prairie and was able to turn up some good local birds include Titmice. I'd heard about a Northern Shrike in the area but didn't come across it.  A nice walk though.

Next stop or area to cover was a long stretch of the Detroit River, all the way up to 26 Stop Beach.  I checked every group of geese and gulls I came across but nothing unusual.  After spending some time at the beach checking every gull 4-5 times looking for that Kittiwake that Tom Hince found the other day, I decided to head back home... well at least in the direction of home.

Headed down to the mouth of River Canard but it was mostly frozen.  Not much here except for a Great Blue standing on the ice.  I decided to head back up and check the geese up on Canard Drive (Snake Lane) one more time...  So many geese to go through, but couldn't pick out anything new.

Next area to check was around Holiday Beach.  There was a Snowy Owl reported last week.  Would have been a good day bird but I didn't find it.  I did find this Great Blue below hanging out on the completely frozen marsh.  Shouldn't it be moving on to a better spot?
Great Blue and a frozen marsh

Harrow Lagoons.  Last stop?  Yeah right.  I was determined.  The only cell that wasn't frozen was the one at the far end with the pumps.  Just some Northern Shovelers.  Oh well.  Worth a check.  Off to Kingsville/Cedar Beach.

Lots of gulls out in areas I couldn't get to because of private property.  It was getting dark so it was hard to scope out anything from down the coast.  Oh well.  One last check at the Marina - a couple of Double-crested Cormorants and some of the regular gulls.

It was a bit disappointing, but still a good day to be out.  There's always tomorrow (at least until the 31st) to get a new bird! 

Stay tuned for a full year in review --- hopefully after I hit 260!  Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays!!