Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Birding in Paradise-Kind'a

Just so I can keep track of where I was, and when, and what I saw, many years from now; and for those of you who still read what I have to say and might enjoy some photos I've taken, I am here to blog a little.

I've been out and about birding over the last week or so, to Rattray Marsh, Sobey's Pond in Whitby, Cranberry Marsh and Coote's Paradise in Hamilton, amongst other local birding haunts.

I have finally got myself some photos of a Pectoral Sandpiper, after over 20 months of birding, at the pond across from the Sobey's Warehouse; I stopped by the lift bridge in Burlington and enjoyed watching the Peregrine Falcon, and this morning attempted an ill-advised, badly timed search for a Nelson's Sparrow in Coote's Paradise, part of the Royal Botanical Gardens out Niagara way.

Firstly, I only had until 10am to look for this bird.  Sue was celebrating her 25th year at Woodbine Racetrack and we were going to the annual Years of Service Luncheon at noon.  Secondly, I didn't arrive at the "trailhead,"(and I use the term very loosely), until 8:30am, and lastly, as referred to previously, there really was no trail beyond the entrance to the so-called paradise.

Last October, when I saw but missed photographing a Nelson's Sparrow, the trail to the then dried up pond, was well worn, and dry.  This year, I was most likely only the second party to explore that side of the creek.  A couple of other birders had done so the previous day, found a Nelson's and reported it on E-bird.  What they didn't report was that there was no trail, and the grass was waist high, with tree limbs scattered about the riverbank.

And in the morning, before the sun was high in the sky and the dew had dried off, it was more marsh than paradise and, no, I saw no Coots.  I had at least worn lined winter cargo pants and my waterproof winter hiking boots, but neither were up to the task of keeping me dry.  By the time I had made it halfway to my destination, my pants were soaked up past my knees, and my feet were swimming in dew.

And I was lost. I had no idea where I was, but knew that as long as I kept the the creek to my left, I would eventually get where I was going.  And with a my GPS App and a little luck, I actually did get to the pond where the bird had been seen.  I could see the knocked down reeds where others had been the previous day.  Last year, the pond was dry and you could walk in what felt like a huge crop circle and scan the Cattails for the bird.  This year the pond was, well, a pond complete with ducks and swans, but alas, no Nelson's Sparrow.  By the time I actually arrived, I had only about 20 minutes to stand in 3 inches of water in the reeds and cattails to search for the bird, before I had to turn around and find my way back to Coote's Road and my car.

I did, and spent a lovely afternoon at the racetrack watching people get their years of service awards, including Sue, "the glue that holds the marketing department together."  We enjoyed a nice lunch, I met some of her coworkers, including one who was retiring after 23 years, and afterwards we birded in Claireville Conservation area.

Hopefully there will be more reports of Nelson's Sparrows and perhaps a rare bird alert or two this fall to keep me busy after the baseball season ends at the end of September.  There will be lots of fall birding and in December I'll be heading out on the road looking to end my year with a Dovekie, the bird I missed at the end of my 2012 Big Year.

Here are some recent photos, along with a partially leucistic Common Grackle:

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

PP Birding

And no, I'm not talking about watering trees in the woods, when a washroom is nowhere in sight.  Here in Canada, we have Provincial Parks where, this week at Long Point PP a Connecticut Warbler had been seen, and on Saturday joined a group outing with Sue to Presqu'ille PP, where we had a veritable Warbler Festival.  I ended the week looking for a Western Kingbird and Peregrin Falcon out in Hamilton.

On Wednesday of last week a sighting of a Connecticut Warbler was reported on eBird and on Thursday morning I headed out to Long Point PP to see if I could get a photo.  I had seen one very clearly almost exactly a year ago, on September 8, 2012 in Higbee Beach in New Jersey, but as is often the case with skulking warblers, failed to get a photo.  I hoped for better luck this year.  The bird had been seen in campsite 419 and I headed straight there after a 2 hour+ drive from Toronto.

I parked a few sites down from 419 and walked over to the empty campsite and as I walked into the site, in a bush, amongst the grape vines was a small bird.  I got my binoculars on it and low and behold, within 30 seconds of my arrival I had my second Connecticut Warbler in two year.  It posed for about 20 seconds, gray hood, very significant eye ring, and then, as I was getting my camera ready, it flew off and wasn't seen the rest of the day.  Bummer.  It's the Worm-eating Warbler all over again.  I've seen that bird twice in the last two years without a photo.  That being said, the rest of the day was fun-filled birding from the park to the Old Cut Bird Studies Centre.  I think I saw more American Redstarts in the park in a few hours than I had in the last 20 months since I began birding, along with a good number of Black-and White Warblers.

The rest of the week was spent in various local hot spots, such as Ratray Marsh, Colonel Sam Smith Park, and Humber Bay East, where I had middling success with the birdiness of the parks.  But that would all change when we got to Presqu'ille PP where we walked along with the annual OFO outing, led by a great guide, Ian Shanahan.  Though photos were hard to get of many of the warblers we saw first thing in the morning by the lighthouse parking lot, we did get great looks at Blackpoll, Tennessee and Palm Warblers, a Northern Parula and even a Great-crested Flycatcher.

The bird of the day was a very close look at three Baird's Sandpipers.  We also got great looks at a good  handful of Semipalmated Plovers, along with great photos of each bird.  We also got to watch a Merlin on the road out of the park, at the end of the day, just sitting and posing on a tree at the side of the road.

While we were in Presqu'ille Ontbirds was reporting another Western Kingbird out near Hamilton,(I had missed seeing the one close to home a week or so ago), so I went early Monday morning to see if it was still there.  Alas, this particular bird doesn't work the morning shift and I missed out on it.  Eventually, at 7:15 that same evening, it was re-found.

Since I was out in the Hamilton-Burlington area anyway, I decided to check out the lift bridge where a pair of Peregrin Falcons hang out all year.  It only took about 5 minutes of scanning the girders to find one sitting soaking up the sun, but it flew across to the other side before I had my camera ready.  However, I was able to make my way around to the side it was sitting on and get some good photos before heading back to the city.

So, fall birding is under way, migrants are starting to show up and perhaps this year I will get a photo of a Nelson's Sparrow.  Speaking of which, 3 were seen in Ratray Marsh yesterday.  So, I better get going...

Now, here's an odd looking Blue Jay... Or is it...

Sharing my lunch at Campsite 419 in Long Point PP