Monday, 29 July 2013

Nonquon Lagoons-Black Tern

Just a quick post here.  I was at the Nonquon Lagoons in the Durham region the other day, specifically to see Black Terns.  We missed seeing them a couple of weeks ago when out searching for the Dickcissel and I had heard that the above Lagoons had 72 the previous day.  I had to go.  I had seen them at a distance last year and didn't get good photos, so seeing 72 Black Terns would have been great.

Trouble was, once there, I didn't see any.  There were lots of shore birds, swallows, and even an Osprey and a Lesser Scaup.  I e-mailed Geoff Carpenter to ask where the best viewing spot for the terns would be, as there are 4 cells there, and he wrote back that the terns were really active in the evenings but he doubted they would be in the heat of the day.  Great.

Still, I kept looking and at the larger south cell, I finally found one, lone Black Tern, flying and feeding.  I got some acceptable photos, but birds in flight are not as easy to catch with my Canon digital camera, as they are with the Sony DSLR.

I also saw some Bonaparte's Gulls, nice and close, and the first of season Trumpeter Swans, including a couple of youngsters.

Next report should be from Florida.  Here's hoping the Brown Booby is still there.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Helping the Next Generation of Birders Become Obsessed Like Me

I was out birding down at Humber Bay East in Toronto.  Not really looking for any bird in particular, but just maybe seeing what birds were around.  Unexpectedly, I found a Greater Scaup hiding in the reeds at the edge of a hidden pond.  I guess it was hiding because Scaups are not supposed to be hanging out in southern Ontario in the summer.  Either it never left last spring or it's just an early arrival.

Either way, it was a fun bird to find in the heat of the summer.  As I was walking across bridge leading to the north part of the park I spied, not a bird, but a young birder and his mom.  He must have been just 8 years old and had his own binoculars.  I asked him about the birds he'd seen and he told me about Starlings and Blackbirds and even a Great Egret and Red-necked Grebe's with babies.  I was happy to hear about baby grebes, and wanted to return the favour so told them about the Scaup.  Neither mom or the young birder had ever seen one, so I took them over and set up my scope low to the ground so the young guy could see his first Scaup.  It was a cool feeling, having spent the early part of 2012 being guided to birds and looking through other birder's scopes.  Afterward I headed over to the north water cells and found the Red-necked Grebes, including the babies, for whom it was lunch time.

Now I am less than a week away from a road trip that will take me through Michigan for work,(unlikely to see any birds), before I head to Florida for both work and birds.  Just like last year when I was hoping not to be too late for the Fork-tailed Flycatcher,(I was in late July last year and almost died looking), I will be hunting for an American Flamingo for a photo, a Purple Swamphen, new this year on the ABA list,(it would be a lifer), and Brown Booby, a bird I chased and missed on a few occasions last year, in the Clearwater area, along with Common Eiders and, up in the Orlando area,  and a Fork-tailed and Grey Flycatcher.  I'll head down to Miami and hope for some rarities along with photos, I hope of White-crowned Pigeons, and I would really like to return to the Dry Torgugas, this time by sea plane, rather than the vomit comet they call the Yankee Freedom.

Summer Scaup

 Baby Red-necked Grebe

 Lunch Time

 Baby Barn Swallow

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Kidney Stone Saga Comes to an End... Let the Birding Begin Anew

Last week I underwent a medical procedure that I cannot pronounce, but which used a laser to break up the kidney stone I have been suffering from for over 6 weeks now.  There was precious little birding in that time and it was a struggle to go to work and just get through a day.  However, nearly a week after the surgery, I seem to have healed and this past weekend was for the birds.

After being stuck in bed for a few days, we got out of the city for a few hours to take a drive and see some birds on Saturday.  The most interesting of which was a Black Swan, imported from Australia to add a little interest to the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario, along with a few other exotics.  The Swan is the official symbol of the city.  There had been a male and female Black Swan pair, but recently the female died leaving the male all on it's own.

Though not officially countable on an ABA list, I can add it to my list of "wild" exotics I have seen, such as the Egyptian Geese in Florida, though those have long since started breeding in the ponds of the Baptist Hospital near Miami.

Anyway, it's good to be feeling better and with fall migration beginning and a trip to Florida looming, I feel ready to take on the rest of the year, stone free!

The Swans of Stratford on Avion,(Ontario):

The Baby Grebes are getting bigger at Colonel Sam Smith Park:

 Cormorant Island at the Leslie Street Spit:

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Building the Ontario Life List

Short post, so I can remember where and when, when I am an old, old man and want to know, for whatever reason, where I saw a Northern Bobwhite here in Ontari-ari-ari-O.  The Northern Bobwhite was species 492 for my 2012 Big Year, but was seen, crossing the road at a sprint in Falcon State Park.  It momentarily paused at the edge of the road, but we were driving and there was no chance to get the camera on it before it vanished as quickly as it had arrived.

Recently, here at home, a family of Bobwhite's were seen in and around Rouge Park, and reported on E-bird.  I finally had a morning free to go search, and thanks to great GPS coordinates from the reporter, and great timing, I arrived in time to see a male and female eating some morning gravel along a path leading into the woods.  I watched and photographed them for about 10 minutes before they vanished into the woods and the rain started to fall.

I must say, it was one of the easiest target birds I have ever found.  My Ontario List now stands at 246, and my year list is at 255.  My unstated,(until now), not set-in-stone goal for this year is to get to 300 without going to Arizona, Texas, Alaska or California.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Vancouver: No Lifers but Lots of Good Birding

So, the hunt for Black Swifts ended with a whimper and a pair of Vaux's Swifts teasing me near a waterfall where I was hoping to see the Black Swifts.  I saw a flyover of Band-tailed Pigeons, but no photo of that bird I had seen in Arizona as well last year, but failed to get a photo.  This year, having seen a lot of birds,  my only goal, aside from lifers whenever it works out, is to get photos of birds I didn't snap a shot of last year.  I am achieving that goal slowly but surely.

I did, however visit some amazing places within an hour or so drive of Vancouver, including Lighthouse Park, Golden Ears Provincial Park and Mount Seymour PP.  I scored new birds for my year list in every location, including Bewick's Wren, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bushtit, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Spotted Towee, Steller's Jay and Rufous Hummingbird.  However, it was the hiking that really made the trip fun.  As well, the drive up to the summit of Mount Seymour made me want to return next year and bike the 12 KM.  There were so many cyclists making their way up and I haven't biked a mountain like that since Montana many years ago.  I need to get back on my bike and get back to cycling so I will be ready for future trips.

Aside from birding downtown Vancouver's Stanley Park,(which is expensive to bird, as they charge for parking), I spent my last day halfway between Vancouver an Whistler, in the small mountain town of Squamish.  I'd have loved to have spent much more time there, and not just looking for a Black Swift or American Dipper, but again, the hiking was amazing.  The area around the hotel was overrun by White-crowned Sparrows, and the views were amazing, including Eagle Run.

In one provincial park there were warnings that the hike was "NOT a walk in the Park!"  They warned that many people need to be rescued from hazards such as steep stairs and ladder, slippery rocks and roots, shorts scrambles over rocks and cliff drop offs.  They weren't kidding.  It was one heck of a walk up to the waterfall where I had hoped to see and photograph an American Dipper.  I thought I could hear one chattering in the background of the roaring waterfall, but it did not do any dipping for me.  The walk up was an amazing workout and the walk down was a little harrowing as I attempted to not slip and fall on my butt and tumble off the cliffs.

So, I am back in Toronto, still suffering through my stent and stone issues.  Not much going on bird-wise in Ontario, and my next trip is not until the end of the month, to Florida, where I hope to spend a lot of time in the Miami area, the Keys and perhaps a trip to the Dry Tortugas if any rarities show up there while I am in the area.  Still hoping there are a few lifers to chase within the Toronto area.