Wasps. They end up spoiling picnics, pool parties, barbeques, baseball games, and almost anything else you want to do outside in the late summer.
In our case, they are really harassing our hummingbirds. It’s gotten so bad that we have had to set up wasp traps near each of our 3 hummingbird feeders, just to try and give the hummies a little bit of a fighting chance. It’s helping, but the wasps seem to be in an endless supply and just keep coming.
As mentioned last time, August was HOT. We had a really intense day of thunderstorms right near the end of the month, and we are expecting a cooldown over the next couple of weeks.
We caught sight of a couple more ships coming along the river that looked interesting. This time it was a Tug pulling a barge.
One day at Holiday Beach our resident fox put on a bit of a show for us. It looked like it might have been playing with something it had caught, while still keeping a close eye on us to make sure we didn’t get any closer (not that we were going to).
So August has seen the return of a lot of various Sandpipers, such as Yellowlegs, Solitary, Spotted, Stilt, White-Rumped, and others that I just have no idea about yet. Some are small, some larger, some have long necks, others don’t, some have long straight beaks, some have short beaks, and some have long beaks that dip at the end, the plumage is similar but slightly different, and so on. Give me time to really be able to identify the warblers, and maybe I can learn some of the myriad shorebirds that drop by. Don’t ask me who any of these are yet.
The butterflies and dragonflies were still putting on a show, with the Monarchs hopefully coming by in numbers soon.
We found out that late August is not the best time to go to the tip at Point Pelee. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way. This is the time when all of the Stable Flies decide to have their babies, and need to fill up on blood. Dogs, cats, farm animals and people are high on their list of best things to bite. And it HURTS! Note to self, try to remember to stay away during that time.
So, other than that, we are looking forward to the outbound migration of the warblers, and the real push out of the Raptors (no not the sports team, the birds). Last year we had some amazing days and if we see that again, it would be fantastic.
Welcome to the Dog Days of Summer, the time when Sirius (the Dog Star) shines brightly in the sky, marking the hottest days of summer.
We thought it was hot before, it’s getting even hotter right now. Believe it or not, we have taken up staying in the house with the windows closed for now, and only going out when it’s a bit more comfortable.
As for going out, we still want to see the birds, and thankfully there are a few still around nearby. The Pelicans made a really quick flight by our place a week or so ago, but of course I didn’t have my camera ready, and by the time I saw them they were already going behind the tree. Sadly my lady didn’t get a chance this time.
We have had a couple of courting Northern Flickers and a family of Cedar Waxwings hanging out in the trees behind our house over the past month or so. The Flickers start off with a couple of loud squeak calls, then settle into a bit of a dance while kind of murmuring to each other, then off they go to do it all over again in another tree. The Waxwings just seem to softly whistle to each other as if to say “here I am”.
One morning we were out and found a couple of bunnies that didn’t mind us being near them. These guys are all over the place. They breed like rabbits.
Last year we had a House Wren hanging around, and this year we have a Carolina Wren waking us up by hopping around, looking for bugs, and singing just outside our window. Truly a sweet sound from such a tiny little bird, except when we want to sleep in.
That doesn’t mean the House Wren hasn’t been visiting, it just hasn’t tried setting up a love nest.
It looks like our Hummingbirds might have had their babies, and have begun bringing them around, showing them the best food spots. Fortunately our place has a couple of feeders for them to visit, and they seem to like our sugar water.
We sometimes get Canadian and US Air Force aircraft buzzing our area, not at the same time though. Often I’ll hear the sound of fighter jets in the sky, and by the time I run to the back deck, they are just passing overhead, and of course I’m not able to get a good photo. But I’ll keep trying anyway. Sometimes though, I get lucky and fire off some photos of the slower ones.
The neighbours cat often walks across our back fence (along the catwalk), and jumps up onto their garage roof. I was lucky one day as I got this photo of it grooming itself, kind of looking like a Playboy model.
Of course, who hasn’t heard of Comet Neowise. We had very few nights when we were able to see it, but my lady and I tried the best we could while battling the mosquito hordes. As it turned out, the best shot I could get was from my neighbours driveway, but this time I had to battle extra lighting from our streetlight. Not the greatest photo, but maybe I can get a better one when it comes back around in 6800 years or so.
Did you know there’s such a thing as Shipspotting? Kind of like Trainspotting, but with ships instead. Living right near the Detroit River, we get a great chance to see all kinds of vessels moving up and down river. I don’t actually track online to see who’s coming by, but when I get a chance to see something and get a photo, it feels pretty good, and if it’s something other than the standard lake freighter, it’s even better.
So I’ll finish up with the local Ospreys. They are still on the tower, and we have seen a youngster’s head pop up from inside the nest, but sadly we haven’t been able to get a photo yet. Gonna keep trying though and I’ll let you know.
Once again, thanks for reading. I hope to have more stories within a couple of weeks.
Point Pelee and Hillman Marsh opened up, with Pelee being open weekends only for a bit, and although we haven’t been yet, we have heard that a good number of American Pelicans have been spotted down near the tip. We have seen a few flying by our little piece of heaven, but haven’t been able to get any photos of them.
A bit of good news with our tower Ospreys. They are still around and it looks like they may have babies, but they are staying low in the nest right now. So the ones that we saw flying around last month weren’t ours. The only way we can figure that they might have babies is that we have seen the parents on the nest, or bringing more nesting materials up to it.
We went to Holiday Beach one evening and as we wandered the road we heard a strange sound. At first I thought it might have been a Heron, but after a couple moments it made a Tok-Tok-Tok type of sound and we realized it was a Yellow Billed Cuckoo. Sure enough after a few minutes of searching, it showed itself to us and we got a couple of reasonable photos. We have gone back a few times and have heard it in the area, but it seems to be a bit camera shy now.
Although the Orioles are still in the area, they have stopped stealing from our Hummingbird feeder. Unfortunately our Hummies have been only making infrequent stops right now, and we rarely see them.
The Fish Flies came in for about a week, and they are pretty well gone now, and the Fireflies have started their nightly fireworks displays. We expect them to be gone soon as well.
Speaking of Fireworks, we heard a couple of houses shooting some off in our area, but due to COVID-19 the town cancelled all of the real Canada Day celebrations, and instead had virtual stuff online.
So what’s a birder to do when the majority of birds have moved along?
It seems bugs and Butterflies are a reasonable distraction. Unfortunately, the really good ones are so damn hard to photograph because like the birds, they just don’t stay still very long.
So, how’s the heat treating you? We had a string of Heat Alerts here with the temperatures feeling up in the 40’s due to the humidity. Let’s just say it was STINKING HOT some days.
Went out a couple of nights ago to watch the moon rise over Big Creek. The mosquitoes were trying to have me for dinner but they didn’t like the stuff I sprayed on my body. They still whispered into my ears but I tried to ignore them.
One morning we were out for a short drive (best time to see wildlife is around sunrise and sunset), and my Lady spotted what we thought were deer in the field, but when we had a closer look, it was a pair of Sandhill Cranes dancing around. They would normally be gone north by now, so it was nice to see them here.
Other than that, there’s not a ton more to talk about, so all we can say is, stay safe, stay healthy, wear a mask, and we’ll all get through this.
So ends another inbound migration. This time not with a bang, but a whimper. Thank you COVID-19.
I was just about to put this post up, but Windows Update decided I need to do some reworking on my hard drive. So, finally after a few days of struggling, and moving my data to a different computer, here it is. I don’t think I can actually blame this one on COVID.
I guess you could say it was pretty quiet on the bird watching side this year. With Point Pelee and Hillman Marsh both closed, and nobody getting inside, all the birds that funneled through there must have enjoyed the peace and quiet.
We were still able to get out to Holiday Beach, but since all the facilities were closed, we only spent about 3 hours at a time there before we had to go home and get some lunch, and go to the washroom. We had to get to the park early enough, because it has a small parking lot and by 9:00 it was usually full.
There were also a couple of smaller areas that we checked out, but for the most part Holiday Beach was our favourite stomping grounds. Some days it became our favourite Sloshing grounds due to bad weather pushing the marsh waters right over some of the trails. Without high water boots, some areas were impassable.
One good thing though, without taking the few extra thousand photos, I have been able to keep up with the editing pretty well. Some of the highlights;
Lots of Yellow Warblers, a couple of Black and Whites, a Wilsons Warbler, Hermit Thrush, Grey Cheeked Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Indigo Bunting, Palm Warblers, lots of Warbling Verios (I don’t recall any from last year), our friendly Woodcock poked about a few times, Scarlet Tanagers, Summer Tanagers, Magnolia Warblers, Northern Perula, Prothonotary Warblers, Nashville Warbler (hey, we didn’t see them when we went to Nashville!), different types of Sparrows. We even went to Hillman Marsh before it was closed off, and were lucky enough to find the Black Throated Stilt close to shore.
We expect the next couple of months to be fairly quiet bird-wise. Of course if anything really special shows up, you will hear about it.
Our Osprey nest is sitting empty again. One day we saw a few Osprey flying near the tower, and wondered if the babies had fledged, and it appears to be the case. Wow, kids grow up so fast don’t they?
Interestingly, our local Oriole couple have stopped eating the oranges and grape jelly that we have been leaving out for them, and are just stopping by once in a while to check out the hummingbird feeder. They aren’t even going to their own feeder, even though it’s the exact same sugar water from the same batch. We are surprised that they are even still around. Last year they were gone by now.
Funny thing, we were supposed to go to Iceland a couple years ago, but held off so that our son could come with us. This year, we were all set to spend 10 days in Iceland, beginning June 3. Guess what. Yup, cancelled. Better yet, let’s just say Postponed. I guess when we do get to go it’ll be the 3rd times a charm trip. I really was hoping to get some Puffin photos. Ah well, thanks COVID-19.
How is your Honey-Do list coming along. Most of our neighbours have turned theirs into Honey-Done lists. Thankfully my Lady doesn’t set up big tasks for me to do, so we are able to spend a lot of our time enjoying each other as we go birding.
Been to Costco or Walmart lately? How was your line-up? Isn’t wearing a mask so much fun? How about going to parties with friends and family. That was a thing not too long ago, remember. It’s funny how we are all learning how far 6 feet is. Have you noticed that it’s a bit inconsistent – some stores say 1 shopping cart, others say 2 shopping carts, and some even have lines almost 10 feet apart, and staff telling you which checkout to go to. Social and Physical Distancing. Thanks COVID-19.
I wonder how many stores and businesses will keep the plexiglass partitions up after all this is over. I’m sure some of what we are seeing now will become the new norm. Wash your hands. Use sanitizers. Video Meetings. Working from home. Gloves, masks, face shields. Temperature checks entering Long Term Care or Health Care facilities.
Come to think of it, what will our Long Term Care facilities even be like, once the government brings in all the changes, whatever they will be. Will loved ones be able to get back inside and help look after their families? God that situation is so heartbreaking. Thanks COVID-19
Yup, so many things will change, but I guess the question is, will we?
Oops sorry, fell off the deep end there.
Anyway, it’s just about June, and shortly after that, summer and all the sunshine funshine. Enjoy yourselves, and if we ever get the go ahead to get together with family, give them all a big hug, but remember to stay safe, and stay healthy. If you feel sick, stay home.
Hey, just a thought, do you think the hospitals will be ready for the maternity wards to be filled starting in November or December? After all, if you have to stay home, you might as well have some fun, right?
We aren’t certain when or how it happened, but the Horned Owls are no longer occupying the Osprey nest. We stopped one morning to have a look at how the little ones were doing, and we were shocked to see the Ospreys enjoying their old home. All kinds of emotions ran through us; fear that the owlets were tossed over the side when mommy wasn’t there, and shock when we considered that maybe they were eaten! We were happy of course for the Osprey, seeing as how they seemed to be clueless as to how to build a new nest.
A few days later, we stopped again to check out the nest, and just as we were leaving, my lady noticed what looked like a plastic bag in a nearby tree. When we put our binoculars on it, we realized that it was one of the fledged owls! Big sigh of relief. After posting it to our local birding group, we learned that the owls actually come in early in order to use other bird’s nests, and then leave before the residents arrive (usually).
Point Pelee is closed. Hillman Marsh is closed. Provincial parks are closed. Fortunately for us, our local conservation area is still open for walking in, but there are no facilities available. The birds don’t care, they are coming in bit by bit. So far we’ve see the Yellow Warblers, Yellow Rumps, Black and White Warblers, Blue Grey Gnatcatchers, Flycatchers, Cowbirds, Catbirds, Herons and Egrets, a couple of Sandhill Cranes are hanging out nearby, a pair of Prothonetary Warblers are trying to get into the Tree Swallow nests, the hummingbird and Baltimore Oriole have returned to our backyard, and we have seen some Warbling Vireos around as well.
We had a pretty nice day late last week, we were over at our favourite spot, and met a couple of our birding friends who brought us some extra luck. We were able to see a few Summer Tanagers, a Female Scarlet Tanager, and even a Woodcock out in the daytime.
The weather is getting warmer, but we are all still under physical distancing restrictions. The area we live in is pretty close knit, so lately a few of us have been having “end of the driveway” meet ups. We sit around, at a safe distance, and shoot the breeze with each other. Such is the new normal I guess.
So, once again this is a short one and hopefully we can get this pandemic over with and return to some semblance of real life once more.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and we’ll talk again soon.
Welcome to all of my new readers, and thanks again for everyone who continues to follow our little escapades.
Point Pelee is closed, and as of May so is Hillman Marsh, effectively shutting down the local birding season for this year. The birds are coming in, and they are going to have the parks to themselves without all the paparazzi. This is just so sad. How are we going to know when the Cerulean Warbler comes in?
Fortunately a couple of conservation areas near to us are still open (for now) as long as people follow the distancing rules, so we can get out once in a while to check things out. Likely won’t get as many photos as last year, but hey, I can hope can’t I?
We have been keeping an eye on the Horned Owls squatting in the Osprey nest, and there are now 2 young fluffballs keeping their eyes on us. We were watching them one afternoon, and noticed an Osprey sitting in a tree a short distance away. As we waited, it took off and started circling around and rising up to the height of the tower, before finally doing a strafing run showing off its talons. As quickly as it started, it ended with the Osprey flying away right after.
On another day, we watched as the 3 original occupants flew in, and we got excited for some real action, but the same damn thing happened. What a letdown. Couldn’t even get all 3 Ospreys together.
Now 2 of the Osprey are thinking of setting up house on top of the light stand at a ballpark across the road from their old home. Sadly, for every 2 twigs they bring in, 1 falls down to the ground. At this rate, it will take a couple of years before they can bring up a family there.
The little ones are starting to come in now. We’ve seen Kinglets flitting gingerly in the trees, as well as an Eastern Towhee, Yellow Rump, Carolina Wren, a couple of Wood Ducks in the trees, Coopers Hawks building a nest, a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, as well as some of the bigger guys returning, such as Cormorants, Herons and Egrets.
Eagles have been plentiful this spring and we have a couple hanging out pretty close to our home.
As for the Astrophotography, it’s taking a little while to learn what part of the night sky to take photos of, and how to get worthwhile shots, so this time I have nothing new. Hopefully in the next couple of months I might be able to get some Milky Way shots, and maybe the Andromeda Galaxy.
Well, that’s all for now.
Till next time, just stay safe and healthy, and let’s get through these interesting times that we are currently cursed with, and look forward to brighter times soon.
Let’s hope not. Sure it’s a lot of frustration for almost everyone, but eventually this virus will be tamed, and the world will slowly get back to normal. Hopefully we will all learn to be a bit nicer to each other after having to stay locked up for a while, and socially distant as well.
And now it is Spring with all the good stuff that comes with it. The days are getting longer, the temperature is getting warmer, the snow has melted (at least in our area), and the birds are starting to return.
Before we were all asked to stay in, we had heard that a Horned Owl had taken over our local Osprey Nest, so of course we had to go and check it out. The questions now are; what will happen when the Ospreys return, and will anyone be able to get out to see the action? We’ll have to try to let you know who wins possession of the nest.
One evening we were at Holiday Beach trying to get some photos of the Orion Nebula (amateur astrophotography now?) when we heard the little Buzz sound of a Woodcock. These guys are night birds that hide out in the underbrush during the daytime, so you will hear them more than ever see them. I couldn’t get any photos of them that night, so we went back a couple of days later and I had to use a flashlight to be able to see it with the camera.
One morning the fog had started to roll in upriver so I rushed over to the Navy Yard to get a few photos of the mist. It was a bit cold and damp of course, but I ended up spending over an hour in the enchanted morning light (or lack thereof).
This is a short one for now, with any luck we’ll be able to get back out in time for the May inbound migration rush, and I’ll have more to talk about next time.
In the meantime, everyone stay safe, stay healthy, and if at all possible, stay home when we are asked to.
Overall, it has been a fairly gentle one down here, other than the constant cloud cover, and the occasional snowfall that we have to sweep away. But hey, the sun has actually been making an appearance a little more often nowadays. We have even had the front and back doors open a few days, and the freshness of the air is exhilarating.
Just had a silly thought, if 1 year in human time, is equal to 7 years in dog time, how old is the dog if it celebrates its birthday on February 29. Since it only comes around every 4 years, that dog could live forever!
And what about cats? If they have 9 lives, and are born on Leap Day, do they automatically get 4 times as many?
My brain hurts.
And now for something completely different ,,, Birds. You knew it was coming.
We had a Snow Goose hanging out with all of the Canada Geese in a field across the road. Then one day we were driving alongside the river into town, and my Lady says to stop, there’s something different on someone’s riverfront yard. Sure enough, there’s our little Snow Goose, up nice and close.
Then we got word of some Snow Buntings out near Point Pelee. Into the car we go and eventually find them out distant in the field where we first saw the Black Bellied Whistling Duck in the summer. It was beautiful to see a few hundred of these little birds dancing from spot to spot.
We also got word of 6 Meadowlark sticking around a field about 20 minutes away, so we packed up a cup of tea and headed over to see if we could find them. As we approached the area, they flew out of the trees on the left and into the field on the right. Of course, they flew a good way out into the field, but a bit of patience allowed us to get a couple of good photos. Not only that, we had some Snow Buntings playing around nice and close. Not close enough to get single birds, but a wonderful display of them flying.
We wandered over to Wheatley harbor a week or so ago, and we were graced with a beautiful display from some Bald Eagles. They mostly paired off and did their aerial gymnastics, but at one point we counted 7 spread out across the lakefront.
I almost forgot, we were out for a walk at Holiday Beach last week, and as we were passing an area where we had seen deer before, my Lady stops me and looks through her binoculars. I look through my camera, and get off a couple of shots of a little Fox out sunning itself. It didn’t like the fact that we had stopped, so it quickly got up and moved further into the trees.
As for everything else, we are going through photos of the birds from last year’s migration, and are trying to be able to identify them quickly, just in case we get put on a spot, or maybe even tested.
Sorry for the long time between posts, but it’s been a bit hard to sit down and put my mind into writing, when there has been so much wildlife outside to keep us busy.
Welcome to 2020. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s.
So, I didn’t make any resolutions for this year. I suppose one of them would have been to get this blog updated every week, but based on the current date, I would have blown that one already.
First off, how about some bird sightings. There still seem to be a lot of Kestrels and Red-Tailed Hawks hanging around these parts. We see a lot of them as we are out and about. Went over to Holiday Beach a couple days ago and actually saw about 4 Carolina Wrens searching for food in some brush on the ground. Went to the tower there the next day and there were some Goldfinches bouncing around from tree to tree. When we were in Toronto we would only see these little ones in the spring and summer.
There have been a couple of Egrets still visiting the waters nearby, and the Eagles are making their way back in as well.
Have you ever on the spur of the moment thrown some clothes into a bag, jumped in the car and just go somewhere, without knowing where you will end up. A few days before Christmas, we did just that. Since we are fairly close to the border, we crossed the bridge and made our way south on I75. Ended up spending the night just south of Dayton, and the next morning pointed the car southwest and eventually ended up in Nashville. We made sure to stop at the visitors info centre and made our plans for the next few days.
Honky Tonks – check Belle Mead – check Hop On Hop Off – check Country Music Hall Of Fame – check and of course The Grand Ole Opry – check
We also visited some other sites around the city, and eventually worked our way back home for Christmas. What’s nice about travelling on Christmas Day is that there is hardly anyone on the road, and the border crossing is pretty fast.
We did the same spur of the moment thing, and visited Sarnia the weekend before New Year’s and found out that there was a Snowy Owl being spotted occasionally in the fields nearby. We decided to take a walk along one of the trails, and sure enough, way out in a field we saw a white blob. I tried to take a couple of photos to see what it was, and couldn’t really tell. I ran back to the car and grabbed my stronger binoculars, and walked quickly back to my Lady who was keeping an eye on the blob. After a few moments of trying to catch my breath (hey I’m an old guy now you know), I was able to confirm it was indeed a Snowy Owl, and it was actually facing our direction. I placed my lens on my Lady’s shoulder and fired off a number of shots, hoping that at least one would come out (this is called spray and pray). It took a bit of cropping in but I feel this might be the best shot.
We had also heard that a Harlequin Duck had been seen by the Bluewater Bridge that morning, so we zipped over there, but the water was running so fast, nothing was sitting around. We then wandered over to the Sarnia harbor, and checked out the waterfowl taking refuge in the docks area. Sadly, the Harlequin wasn’t around, but this little guy came over to see if I had any food for him.
There were also a few Long Tail Ducks out on the river.
As we were getting ready to move on, this Eagle came to harass some of the ducks, before flying off to a tree out on an island in the river.
So the weather here has been on and off lately. Sometimes cool, sometimes a bit warmer, but you can tell the seasons have changed. Hey, we even had snow for an hour. Then, within 30 minutes, it was gone. We had some ice cover on the marsh for a few days, but it too has melted again.
The sky though has been a different matter. It feels like weeks have gone by where there is either cloud cover, or just overall grey. The sky has been covered in some way for so long, that when I looked outside the other day, I was almost blinded by a strange bright light shining down from a weird coloured sky. Believe it or not, the sky was BLUE! I went online to see what that light was, and found out that it was The SUN! What a day for celebration! Sadly, it has disappeared again though.
Anyhooo, it’s only a few months before the season changes, and the birds start to make their way back north, and we are out traipsing around our favourite birding areas again.
In the meantime, please leave me a comment below and let me know what you like or don’t like about my verbal meanderings, and don’t forget to click Follow to get email notifications when I put up another post.
And if you aren’t getting notifications, please be sure to check your Junk mail. You might have to put me as Not Junk.
I’ll try to get another post out sooner, rather than later, but until then, thanks for reading.
So, once again time rampaged through another month, and now November is done, and we are counting down the days until Christmas.
We spent some time helping out with the raptor count at Holiday Beach, and that too has come to an end for the year. We had some days when almost nothing went through the area, but a couple of days when it was extremely busy. One day was so busy in fact that there was an urgent request for assistant counters to help out.
It just so happened that morning when my Lady and I woke up, I opened the blinds and watched as thousands of crows traveled past our house and made their way up river. It literally went on for over an hour. Then, just after the crows, the raptors started going by. It was not as busy as the crows, but it was an amazing sight none the less.
I made a point to go to the tower in the early afternoon, and arrived just as the request for help was going out. I got to the tower and just stood dumbfounded as the birds just kept coming by in waves. I am still not confident enough to call out what I was seeing, but I know that most were Red Tailed Hawks. I tried to count the crows that mixed in, since I was fairly certain of what they were.
At the end of the day, it turned out to be the 3rd largest Red Tail Hawk migration day on record at Holiday Beach, with 2,414 Red Tails. Total number was 3,069 various raptors, and around 15,000 crows. All I remember saying was “Oh My God” as they kept flying overhead. Truly awesome to see. A multitude of ducks and other waterfowl were counted as well that day.
Now here it is, early December, and the skies have been pretty gloomy and cloud covered for at least a week or so. Not too many larger birds visible in the sky and most of the waterfowl have left the area. Our little egret roost just up the road sits empty.
We did get a nice view of a large group of Swans in a field a couple of days ago, and just this afternoon we had 2 Bald Eagles fly almost 50 feet directly overhead.
The snows have started blowing through. We had a couple of inches fall a few weeks back, but within a day or two, it was all gone. Nothing like what it sounds like Toronto is getting. Thank goodness for moving down to the “Banana Belt”. I guess we’ll see what this winter brings.
Anyhow, this might be the last entry for 2019, unless something really interesting comes up.
We hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a safe and Happy New Year.
Thanks for reading, and we’ll talk again next year.