Monday, 25 February 2013

Speaking of the Snowy Egret

Three white Water birds, all in a row.

Sounds like the start of a little poem but I am terrible at rhymes so will quite while ahead.

Just yesterday I had talked about not seeing a Snowy Egret this year, and today, I stopped at a park I haven't birded in here in Dunedin and saw my first Blue Jay for Florida this year, and across the street in the bay, my first Red-breasted Merganser, a female, and finally a Snowy Egret feeding with a Great Egret and White Ibis.  You certainly get a sense of how small the Snowy is next to the Great Egret.  I don't think I had ever seen them together like that, so it was a nice surprise.  A pair of Osprey were not a surprise at all.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Returning to Florida and Possum Branch Preserve

Naturally, on my first day of 35 in Florida, I found a White-winged Dove perched on a wire and singing for me.  Last year it was on my final day in Florida before I added this bird to my list.  That is the fun, and beauty of birding.  You just never know what you'll see,(or not see), on any given day in the field.

And, as such, I didn't expect to see a Wood Stork in Possum Branch Preserve this evening.  I also didn't expect to see a possum, but you never know, it is in the title.  I did, in addition to the stork, see a rabbit, but I really want the possum, as I have been there a dozen times with out a single sighting.

The wood stork was fun to find, as was a juvenile heron.  Today also marked the return of the annoying Red-winged Blackbirds.  I jest, but just barely.  They just sing so loud that they tend to drown out most of the other birds that are calling, except, perhaps, for the herons and Common Gallinules.  Speaking of which, it was a year ago that I first encountered them at Possum Branch, when I discovered they were no longer Common Moorhens.

It was fun to walk around a year later and be able to know all the birds I saw, without the aid of Sue or a bird guide.  I also saw an American Kestrel that I had hoped was a Merlin, as I still do not have a great photo of one.  And, oddly, I have yet to see a Snowy Egret this year.

I still have a week before getting a full day off, and am hoping that the White-cheeked Pintail and Brown Booby will hang around for another week.  Meanwhile there are lots of local trips I can take to fill my afternoons after work.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

South and North Birding

Well within one week, I birded two extremes of North America.  As far south as one can get in mainland North America, down in Key West, and 3 hours north of Toronto in Algonquin Provincial Park.  I finished my first Florida trip of the year with 66 species for the 3 day excursion, including the La Sagra's Flycatcher, Black Skimmers, Carolina Wren, Common Myna, Monk and Nanday Parakeets, Orange-winged Parrot, a female Painted Bunting, Short-tailed Hawk, Sora and a Great Horned Owl with the cutest pair of baby owls.

Up in Algonquin Park, Sue and I spent Valentine's Day birding in the cold, hoping to find the Great Gray Owl, and a Spruce Grouse, and even though we didn't find either, we did enjoy great looks at Pine Grosbeaks, Gray Jays, which ate peanuts from our hands, and very good looks at the Boreal Chickadee.  Sue also saw a White-winged Crossbill at the Visitor's Centre feeders.  Last year, at nearly the same time those same feeders were busy with Evening Grosbeaks, but this year were busy with the Pine Grosbeaks instead.

All in all a good week.  I have to work the next week at the Car Show before heading back to Florida for 35 consecutive days during baseball Spring Training.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

La Sagra's Flycatcher in Florida

I had to chase this bird.   Really, I had no choice.  The La Sagra's Flycatcher was present for the entire month I was in Florida last March, in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.   I should have stopped there on my way to The Dry Tortugas, but figured it had been there so long that It would still be there when I returned in April.   I spent parts of two days from April 24 to 25 walking a hot and dusty nature trial and later learned it had been last seen around April 21.  The trip wasn't for naught, as I did see a Great Cormorant amongst the 8 species I counted down in south Florida on that trip, but I really wanted the La Sagra's for the year.

This year, though I am not going out of my way to chase birds, I was in Florida for work and a La Sagra's had returned to nearly the same place, just up the coast to Green Cay Nature Preserve, where I had seen a Least Bittern in 2012.   I only had to drive about 3 hours from Tampa Bay to find the bird and it was all over in a matter of minutes.  I had read that it had been recently seen in the parking lot, so I walked around before entering it and was hearing it call almost immediately, but couldn't locate it.  A couple from up north was also looking for it and we had a quick check at the visitors center to see where they recommended we look.  "Just go back to the parking lot and behind the storage buildings," we were told.

Off we went and very quickly spotted two other birders back there who were also looking for it.   I played its call and within minutes it appeared and popped around in a tree for about 10 minutes while we all took photos. Easy Peasy.  After the success of finding the targeted bird we posed for a photo and then walked the boardwalk seeing what else was there. One of the birders was a fellow from Mississauga, Ron Orenstien.   He birds around the world and has a Life List over 4500 species, over 40 years in the field.   As we walked, we found two Sora and a Purple Galinule.

After leaving I went in search of, and found both Monk and Nanday Parakeets.   The Monk's I didn't have a photo of and the Nanday's I realized after photographing them and then checking my blog from April were actually the once uncountable Black-hooded Parakeets.  A bonus that, for what it's worth in the grand scheme if things, upped my 2012 Big Year total to 596.  As a bonus, I also found an Orange-winged Parrot high atop a utility pole, enjoying the company of a plastic owl.  I stopped, thinking it might be a real owl, then hoping the live bird was a White-winged Parakeet, which would have been another ABA Lifer.  The Orange-winged Parrot is not on the ABA list, but is now on my Life List.

The La Sagra's Flycatcher:

Monk Parakeet:

Nanday Parakeet:

Orange-winged Parrot:

The Flycatcher Squad:

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Western Grebe of the East

It's always fun to have a bird that is common in one place, but rare in Toronto, show up nearly on one's doorstep.  In this case, a Western Grebe, that had been seen about a week ago in Colonel Sam Smith Park had made its way down to the Toronto Waterfront.  Sue and I went looking for it two weekends ago without any luck, but a few birders found it again at Sunnyside Beach down at the west end of Toronto's waterfront on Sunday and David Creelman, who lives in the area, found it again yesterday and provided good directions to where he saw it, allowing me to find it yesterday afternoon.

It was actually quite close at one point, but kept diving, much like the Tufted Duck in Maryland, and then drifted way off into the distance before we were able to find it again.  I snapped a few shots of the lake and after some cropping in iPhoto, was able to find it.  Again, it never sat still enough for a digiscope shot, so the photos below were the best I could get.  The Western Grebe is an unexpected addition to my Ontario Life List.

I went back this morning and searched along with Geoff Carpenter, a frequent reporter on OntBirds, who always has something good coming to his feeders, but we were unable to relocate it today.  I was hoping for a better photo.  Perhaps it has moved back to Colonel Sam.  Might check there tomorrow.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Ross's Goose

While out birding the Humber Arboretum in search of a Saw-whet or Great Horned Owl, Sue and I stumbled upon a raft of ice upon which sat about 20 Canada Geese and one Ross's Goose.  A pretty good substitute for the owls, as it was a lifer for Sue.  Though we didn't see any owls, we did have nice looks at a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Downy Woodpecker and a few Goldfinches and many Black-capped Chickadees, that love eating seeds out of your hands.  So far this year, I have seen one Great-Horned Owl, but didn't get a photo.  

Home for hot soup to warm me up,  and will head out to see if I can find that Western Grebe down by the lake.