Sunday, 31 May 2015

Migration Means Magee Marsh: May 2015

Migration Means McGee Marsh: May 2015

I have been trying to hit all the best North American Hot Spots for spring Migration, but had yet to go to the Biggest Week in American Birding in Ohio.  This year we finally made the trip.  Before heading out, there was the matter of a Kentucky Warbler here at home in Toronto's spring hot spot, Col. Sam Smith Park:

Two days later we were off to the Biggest Week in American Birding, in the areas of Toledo-Oregon, Ohio.  And who did we meet along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, but one of the all time kings of Big Year Birding, Greg Miller.

But the real celebrities were the birds, warblers everywhere!  We counted 51 species on our first day along the boardwalk, including 16 species of Wood Warbler.

A Tree Swallow, actually in a tree:

We got very close to most of the birds on the boardwalk

Blackpoll Warbler:

Prothonotary Warbler:

 Blackburnian Warbler:

Singing Indigo Bunting:

Finally, got a photo of the very elusive Mourning Warbler:

The next day, we went on a guided tour, the highlight of which was a Lifer for most of us, a distant look at a Henslow's Sparrow,(#638 for the ABA Life List:

That night, we went on an outing to see American Woodcocks, another difficult bird to see, especially after sunset.

We finished off the trip by taking a day at Canadian Migration central, Point Pelee National Park and Hillman Marsh.

American Avocet in Hillman Marsh:

My first photo of a Chuck-will's-widow at Point Pelee.  I've only ever heard them at dusk, so seeing one high in a tree during the day was an unexpected bonus for everyone at the park

Not long after returning to Toronto, there was more excitement in the Toronto Birding World, as a Swainson's Warbler had been reported in Tommy Thompson Park, which is another place I spend a lot of time during migration.  I missed the bird in the morning, but after work I headed straight back to the park and with a large group of local and some not so local birders, the bird was found and everyone got great photos.  It was my third time in four years looking for this hard to find bird, but it was worth the wait!

We were not yet done with the excitement of spring birding.  For the first time in a generation, a Piping Plover showed up on a beach on Toronto Island.  An entire area had to be fenced off to protect this threatened species.  This was one of just about 6,000 remaining Piping Plovers world wide.

And finally, to cap off a great month of birding, we took in Carden Alvar an important birding area east of Toronto.  Eastern Bluebirds, Upland Sandpipers, Loggerhead Shrike and Sedge Wrens all breed here.

My first ever photograph of a Sedge Wren!

A distant Upland Sandpiper, hiding in the tall grass:

Friday, 1 May 2015

As Migration Draws Near it's Time to Catch Up on the Year

As Migration Draws Near, It's Time to Catch Up on the Year

Dear Birding Diary,

After Blogging nearly every day during my 2012 Big Year, and on a very regular basis throughout 2013 and the beginning of 2014 I was all blogged out.  So I took a break from Blogging.  But now, I'm back!  I need to review the first part of the year before I set out on my Spring Migration travels.

I'm actually going to cheat a bit on what I am considering my "Year List," this year, since I began my travels with a trip to California on December 10, of 2014.  So I'm going to consider my 12 month Year from December 10, 2014 to December 9, 2015.  So there!


Every December I head down to different states for the Winter Meetings, usually in Orlando or Nashville, sometimes Houston, but this year it was San Diego for the first time.  Sue normally does not want to come on these trips, but who would turn down a nearly free trip to Califronia in December?  And, it was an opportunity for her to catch up on our friendly Life List Competition.  And it was my chance to finally go to Santa Cruz Island for the Island Scrub Jay, one of the places and birds I missed during my 2012 Big Year.

We began the trip in San Diego and our first bird was a Western Gull, seen from our hotel window.  After the "meetings" we began our trip north to The Salton Sea, stopping at La Jolla Beach for Black Turnstones, Whimbrel, and a photo-bomed Brandt's Cormorant.

Black Turnstone:

Winter  Plumage Whimbrel:

Brandt's Cormorant and his photo bombing friend:

I had read about the Salton Sea as a great birding destination, especially for White-faced Ibis, and had just finished an Agent Pendergast novel that took place, in part, at the Salton Sea, so was excited to visit, and we were not let down, though the sea is not what it used to be, back in the days of grand hotels and celebrity stopovers.  However it is great for birders.  We were greeted by a Say's Phoebe and saw Western Meadowlarks, a White-tailed Kite and were treated to a flyover of White-faced Ibis at dusk.

Say's Phoebe greets visitors to the Sulton Sea:


 White-faced Ibis at dusk:


Heading back to the coast, we stopped in Oxnard, home of Johnny Carson's lawyer, Omar of Oxnard, where I added Tri-colored Blackbird to my ABA Life List, and saw and photographed Cinnamon Teal,(Sue's target bird for this trip), Townsend's Warbler and saw and tried unsuccesfully to photograph the ever-flitting Wrentits.

The deliciously named Cinnamon Teal:


Townsend's Warbler: 


      Anna's Hummingbird, California Towhee and Western Scrub Jay

      at the Orcott Ranch Horticultural Park           


     Common Raven and Island Scrub Jay on Santa Cruz Island:

      Nuttle's Woodpecker at the Orcott Ranch:

    Near the end  of our trip Sue wanted to spend time at the aquarium, so I ventured north to San
    Francisco  for the day to see if the Rustic Bunting was still around.  A somewhat rare bird in northern
    Alaska, it was a huge deal to have one spotted in Golden Gate Park.  When I arrived before 8am there
   were already a dozen birders lined up with scopes looking for it.  By the time we found it, the crowd had
   nearly tripled in size.  My first view was not great, but once we got it in our scopes it was a beautiful
   sight for all present, though I'm sure any non-birders would just see as a drab, brown sparrow and wonder    
   what all the fuss was about.

    My original camera view of the Rustic Bunting:

      Cropped scope view of the Rustic Bunting:

   Though we didn't get to see the California Condor at Big Sur, it was worth the drive down the coast, even i  in the pouring rain.  But that just leaves us something to shoot for on a future trip out west.  But befor that, we were headed to Arizona for our next big birding trip, only weeks later.

Back in Canada