June was super quiet on the birding side with just a few specials making an appearance early in the month.
Around the end of May we heard from friends that at least 1, maybe 2 White Winged Doves were being seen and heard in a very small area in Windsor, but we couldn’t get there until June 1. Almost as soon as we parked, we saw something pop up from the top of a house and fly towards the other street behind the houses. Off we went around the block, eyes scanning the rooftops, until suddenly we heard a guttural call and searched the trees without luck. Suddenly it flew overhead and landed in a tree nearby. Sure enough it was the White Wing Dove! It allowed me to take a few photos before flying away again.
As we rounded the corner to return to our car, we heard the call again and frantically searched until we found it resting in a tree over a house. The homeowners soon arrived and we struck up a conversation with them, and they were so happy that we were able to point it out to them. They had seen all the other birders in the area before us, but this was the closest that they had seen it themselves. As we talked the bird gave us a nice show back and forth across the road. This bird is not usually found in this area as it is more common to Texas and the Southern USA.
A couple of days later we heard about Dickcissel in a few fields around the area and after getting a tip about some being seen close to the road on the far side of the county, my Lady and I scooted on over and spent a good amount of time listening and watching not only the Dickcissel, but Bobolink and Meadowlark as they did their thing in the fields. Later on we found out that they were in a radio tower field just a little north of our home, and we spent a little time watching them there as well.
Other than that, the regulars are still here, including the Osprey family that decided not to move back into their nest on the tower after the Horned Owls moved out. The Ospreys finally finished the new nest on top of the light stand that they started in the ball park last year, and appear to have a couple of young ones there.
We know the Cuckoo was at Holiday Beach earlier, but we haven’t seen it in a while. Our White Headed Robin appeared to have a nest, but it too may have moved elsewhere.
The Fish Flies were a strange visit this year too. Started out with a small handful, but by the 3rd week of June they were everywhere. You couldn’t enjoy going for a walk with so many of them flying out from the grass as you disturbed them. By the end of the month, they were almost all gone.
So, I guess part of the reason we aren’t getting out as much is due to the fact that the company that I retired from called me up and asked if I might be interested in helping out for a little while. When I originally left I had suggested maybe working remotely, but that didn’t pan out. Times have changed and when they asked, I didn’t hesitate to get on board with them again. Thankfully they are comfortable with me taking time to do my birding as well, just in case something shows up. Strangely, not much has.
It seemed to take quite a while for the Baltimore Oriole and Hummingbirds to return to our yard, but they were few and far between. By the end of May we didn’t see the male Hummingbird anymore, but the female must be looking after some babies as she is the only one that comes by. Hopefully the little ones will be showing up soon at our feeders.
The Orioles were only around for a couple of weeks, and they didn’t even want the oranges that we put out for them. They sucked up their nectar, then came to steal from the Hummy feeder, and soon they were gone too.
The Yellow Warblers and Tree Swallows really showed up in abundance this year, which made it difficult to tell if any of the “special” ones were around.
The Purple Martins set up in their homes all around the county and were often seen buzzing around the wetlands. These birds are like the swallows, but are a bit bigger. The males are a deep colour, almost a royal purple/blue in the sunlight.
I happened upon an Egret at Holiday Beach close to the edge of the water, in the shade with sunlight in behind. It was a male, preening his breeding plumage. I sat at the edge of the marsh and made myself comfortable. I didn’t have long to wait. Within 2 minutes he stretched himself out and the magic happened. After a few seconds, it was all finished. I chimped the camera and felt elated! This time I got decent photos of the feathers being spread in the sunlight.
The shorebirds started their annual march northwards, so it was time to visit Hillman Marsh. Although it was busy enough, there just seemed to be fewer species coming through, and those that visited didn’t stay around very long. We did get a chance to see the Black Throated Stilts, a Western Sandpiper, Golden Plovers, Black Bellied Plovers, Yellowlegs, Dunlins and a pair of Trumpeter Swans. One special visitor was a Leucistic Canada Goose.
Slowly, the warblers began to show up. A few came in early, but this year it seemed that the majority got the Stay at Home order from the Ontario Government, and decided not to migrate. It was either that or the weather. It’s no fun to fly when it’s just too cold and the winds like to blow from the North too often. The warblers need winds from the South to help push them across Lake Erie, but those winds were as scarce as the warblers themselves.
This is not to say that nobody arrived, but if we were looking for the big push, it just didn’t happen. And by the time it warmed up enough for anything to come through, the trees had already popped out their leaves and the groundcover was too deep to see anything.
I know, I sound like a whining child.
Alright, what were some of the highlights; Warblers – Black Throated Blue, Black Throated Green, Yellow, Palm, we got to see a very rare Kirtland’s way up at the top of a tree (not the best place to get photos), Prothonotary (endangered), Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, Ovenbird, Black and White, Blackburnian, Chestnut Sided, Magnolia, Yellow-Rumped, Parula, Canada, and a few other ones. Have I lost you yet? Others include – Orchard Orioles, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, various Thrush, a quick glimpse of a flying Woodcock, a Sedge Wren, Sora, a few Red Headed Woodpeckers, various Flycatchers, Terns, Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Titmouse, Blue Grey Gnatcatcher, a really cute bunch of baby Wood Ducks, a few kinds of Sparrows, Cedar Waxwing, maybe I am dragging this on too long. Skipping to the end of the month brought us a pair of Glossy Ibis, way out on the other side of a flooded field, but at least we can say that we saw them.
My Lady had been pushing me for some time to make a major purchase of something that would help us both see some of the birds that were too far away for our binoculars. I kept putting it off complaining that it would just be another thing that I would have to carry around to go along with the camera and binoculars (and tea, and snacks, and backpack with warmer clothes, and other various stuff). Little did I know she was biding her time for the right moment.
We were able to go out birding with a couple of our friends, and they had a nice scope that brought the distant birds in close enough to identify. When my Lady was able to see one of the rare birds so clearly, she really began pushing in earnest. “You should get one of these” she said, pointing to the scope. From there, they ganged up on me and it became the running line for the rest of the day, even popping up a few times in the following days. It wasn’t just my Lady and our friends pushing me, but also a few members of our birding group got into the act. They were efficient in knocking down my defenses, and after a couple of days I made a stop at the best place in the area to buy optics, and after some humming and hawing, I ended up spending more than a few bucks on some really good equipment. It wasn’t so much that the store saw a sucker, but it was the opportunity to compare products, and select the best product for what my Lady and I would do with it. Of course I am secretly happy about getting a scope and have used it many times over the past couple of weeks, I was just in that “I couldn’t justify it” stage for too long.
Yup I’m one step closer to moving up a stage in the old Birding 101 blog from June 2019. Heck, I’m even starting to learn some of their habits and calls.
Anyway, even though it looks like we saw a lot of different birds, this year’s migration really was very soft. We didn’t get the normal number of birds coming through, even trying multiple locations. Everyone said the same thing, almost becoming a mantra – Slow year eh?
Makes me worry about the future, especially if the warblers couldn’t make it to their breeding grounds this year.
Wow, you actually stayed with me to get to the end?
Wow, I really didn’t take a lot of photos in April. We went out a few times, but not much seemed to be happening
As mentioned last month, we had some Pelicans fly in and eventually land in Holiday Beach marsh.
Early April my Lady and I went over to the Hawk Tower, and as soon as we arrived 40 Pelicans performed their landing routines, before splitting into 2 groups and giving us a great show.
We saw them 1 more time after that and then poof, they were gone and haven’t been seen around here recently (but we have heard of some near Pelee)
We happened to see a juvenile Bald Eagle catch a fish and get chased by a handful of Gulls. They wanted the fish, but really had no chance.
The Horned Owls had at least 1 baby, but they always stayed on the wrong side of the tower to get any worthwhile photos.
As of the end of the month the nest appears to be empty, and the Ospreys have returned but are building a nest on one of the light stands in the baseball field across from their original home. Maybe they don’t like the smell of Owl.
The Egrets have also made a comeback, and are showing off their breeding outfits. I have been waiting to get photos of them ruffling all their feathers, but they continue to elude me.
We heard of an Evening Grosbeak at Point Pelee, and made our way over as quickly as possible. Although we had seen a few last year way up in a tree, this one gave us a really nice show.
We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers for Saint Vincent. La Soufriere has been explosively erupting on and off for the past number of weeks, with lots of rock and ash debris, pyroclastic flows, over 20,000 people evacuated, and we are hearing that the 2 old craters have become 1. The north part of the island, considered as the best growing area, is wiped out and may take a very long time to show any signs of regrowth.
Family is safe right now, but we are still concerned for them. None of them live in the Red zone, but all are being affected in one way or another, some worse than others.
With May comes the real big push of incoming birds on their inbound Spring Migration. We will be trying to be out every day possible, looking for anything that moves, hoping it’s something that is new or special for us, and praying that we get a decent photo.
I will try to get another post out early next month, fingers crossed.
This is certainly not the type of blog that I would normally write.
As many people know, My Lady is from the tiny Caribbean island of St. Vincent.
A few years ago we visited her family back on the island, and had a great time in the sunshine, the lush greenery of the landscape, and warmth of the West Indian culture.
We enjoyed the Botanical Gardens, Fort Charlotte overlooking the capitol of Kingstown, a lovely cruise up the shoreline to visit one of the areas where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed, and so much more.
The biggest thing was an exhausting hike up to the crater of the La Soufriere volcano. A 3 hour hike up, followed by a 3 hour hike down. At that time a large dome had built up inside the crater, and the skies were clear enough to get some beautiful pictures.
A couple days ago, so much changed when La Soufriere took a turn for the worse and erupted smoke and ash miles into the sky.
Since that time we have tried to maintain some contact with family there, and have heard first hand stories of stone and ash covering almost all of the island, mass evacuations from the north end nearest the volcano, power outages, water shortages, food shortages (all crops have been wiped out), thick black air and poor air quality, and overall fear that this is possibly going to go on for much longer…
Right now all family members are doing ok, but the conditions sound so hellish. Just hearing what they are going through is enough to shake us to the core.
Most of us have never experienced a disaster of this magnitude, only seeing it on TV or at a movie. Can you imagine having to actually live through it for more than 2 hours? We thought wearing a mask when we go shopping was tough.
The situation in St. Vincent is very fluid right now, and news is going to be hard to follow, but if you have a chance, please keep the people of St. Vincent in your thoughts, and please consider making a donation to any proper charity of your choice that is assisting the devastated island.
Thank you for reading and we should be back to the birds in a couple of weeks.
The weather is starting to warm up and the ice is finally off the lake. As it broke up we found a few lake icebergs floating a little off shore.
It’s really nice to see some of the early birds working back into Essex County. We had a few Sandhill Cranes visiting our little area again, unfortunately they seem to be staying pretty far out in the fields, or higher up in the sky. They like to give a loud call similar to a turkey gobble, and as soon as we hear them our heads are up and swiveling all over.
All over the place we are seeing the Turkey Vultures, Killdeer (they tell you who they are when they fly), Redwing Blackbirds, Dark-Eyed Junko, Phoebe, Kinglets, and Robins. Herons and Egrets are finally showing up in small numbers. We’ve even had a flock of American Pelicans resting on the Detroit River just a 3 minute drive from our house. All kinds of ducks are starting to show up. We missed the Long Tailed Duck in Windsor, but Pintails are enjoying themselves at Hillman Marsh.
So last month we were chasing the Snow Buntings, but early March was all about the Redpolls. This time we got a message that they were at a park that we often visit for waterfowl and shorebirds. The initial post was about over 100 redpoll, so we hopped in our car and off we went. By the time we got there, they had either moved away, or were hiding from us.
We went back a couple days later and as we got to a small brush at the edge of the trail, we noticed the bushes almost seemed alive. We had struck Redpoll gold! In all we counted almost 70 in a couple of trees, and they were giving us quite a show. Although we couldn’t find a Hoary, we were giddy just seeing so many Common Redpolls so close.
My Lady and I were walking through Holiday Beach a couple days ago and spotted a strange bird. I took a photo, and was quite surprised to see a White Headed Robin! Right away I put it onto our birding group and went on taking far too many photos. After getting home and putting them onto the computer, it turns out I took just under 600 pics of this poor bird. After getting rid of the obvious bad ones, I am still left with about 90. I really should get rid of some more. We have found out that this is a pretty rare bird so it’s nice to see it again a few days later, and this time we showed it to a few other birder friends who were able to get their own photos.
And guess who’s back on the Osprey nest? Yup, those Horned Owl squatters. They are making it harder to see them this time, and we haven’t seen any babies yet, but we are keeping an eye out for them.
We had a Common Loon spending time in the Colchester Harbour for a few days. We stopped there a couple days and tried getting that perfect photo of it rising up with the wings out, head up and bill open in a call. Unfortunately it chose not to do that for us. We did show up one afternoon when the sun was shining nicely and got some close ups of it. Very happy with that.
On one of our many drives, we spotted 4 female Pheasants near the side of the road. We went back a few days later and found the male trying to hide, before it went running down the side of the field.
So I teased about the Pelicans earlier.
We were lying in bed one morning and our phone beeped with a bird group message. Someone had 40 Pelicans just off his back yard. Back and forth messages followed finding out where, and it was 3 minutes from our house. After receiving permission to go visit his back yard, we flew out of bed, threw on our clothes, grabbed a cup of tea to go and zipped over. We missed the large group but were quite entertained by the dozen or so that were left. The next day, they were there again, and off we went again. Sadly most had left by that time, but we managed to find a small group out on the lake just a short walk away. Later we heard they were in the marsh at Holiday Beach. We zoomed over there and found 4 of them close to the Hawk Tower where we spent so much time in the fall.
Quite a different experience than we had last year, when we had seen a few in flight, but couldn’t get any photos until the very end with only 1 directly overhead at Pelee.
EASTER IS CANCELLED…?
Due to a hungry Eagle spotted by local photographers (My Lady and I), it has been confirmed that the Easter Bunny has met a sad demise.
Initially spotted in a farmer’s field, the young Eagle quickly flew into the trees in a guilty attempt to hide from prying eyes, but was soon again found enjoying a satisfying lunch of pulled rabbit. A basket of coloured eggs magically disappeared as the photographers tried to focus on them.
Considering that they breed like rabbits, we can only hope that at least one of his multiple offspring is willing to take up where this poor bunny’s place ended.
WARNING – GRAPHIC PHOTOS FOLLOW
So, that’s pretty well it for March, we are trying to see whatever we can, and hopefully April will start to bring in some of the warblers.
In the meantime, I am still trying to figure out how to take a few shots of the stars, and since Orion is the most prominent constellation in the sky from my back yard right now, the Orion Nebula has been my target of choice. One day I’ll be able to post something really cool, but for now, here’s Orion.
Welcome to my new readers. Always nice to see you here. Hope you continue to enjoy.
Well, originally we didn’t expect February to be anything interesting, but I guess in a way, it turned out to be alright.
The past few months have been pretty grey with a lot of cloud cover, but for some reason we actually got to see the sun a number of times in February. With this though came the colder weather. The ice on the river built up quickly so Lake Erie and Lake St Clair both froze over as far as the eye could see. A lot of the waterfowl moved in a bit closer so we visited the Lakeview Marina a few times to see what we could get photos of. Sadly we missed a couple of the different visitors, but we were always entertained by the good old regulars.
Early in the month we heard about a Mockingbird being seen in Ojibway Park in Windsor. So my Lady and I packed up our lunch and set off to see if we could find it. Thankfully it wasn’t too hard to find as it was just along the trail leading to the popular bird feeding bridge, and it was willing to give us a show. At one point it was chasing some Eastern Bluebirds out of the area while we were trying to photograph them as well.
And SNOW, geez did we get snow this year. Some of the residents in our area said they hadn’t seen this much in almost 10 years. We actually had to go out and shovel a few times, and when the plows came along we had to work hard to clear the end of the driveway. Thankfully, we have a great group of neighbours who are all willing to work together to help everyone out.
Sure, some people living in more traditional Snow Belts would laugh at us complaining of a “little bit of snow”, but we live in a Banana Belt down here at the bottom of Canada. I guess if Texas can get slammed by old man Winter, then it’s fitting that we get a bit here too in the Great White North, even if we don’t like it so much. Kids on the other hand were having a blast. With the marshes frozen over we saw a good number of skating and hockey rinks popping up, and even had a few parents out scooting over the fields in their snowmobiles.
One really nice thing about the snow was the arrival of thousands of Snow Buntings being seen all over the county. A few concessions over from us had the largest flock of Buntings that I have ever seen. Sure, I really haven’t seen a lot, but this one was really big. They hung around a couple of silos that must have had enough food scattered about to keep them satisfied, but they would be so far away from the road where I couldn’t really photograph them. I did manage to find other flocks that would kinda let me be close enough and have added a few photos below. A large number of Horned Larks and a very, very small number of Lapland Longspur would join in with the Snow Bunting feasts.
Just down the road is Big Creek which also was almost completely frozen over, except for a small area close to the road, about 50 feet across, where the ducks, geese, swans, a couple of herons, and the local Eagle family would all congregate and feed. One day we stopped to watch an eagle harass the other visitors, and eventually it caught a small fish and then flew off to a tree to enjoy it. It was snowing a fair bit at the time, as you can see in the photos.
Oddly, we had a few Virginia Rails that were trying to overwinter at the Point Pelee Marsh this year. We were fortunate to be able to get out to see them on a good day when at least one was feeding along the boardwalk. With the cold weather there was a lot of concern about whether or not they would survive and we aren’t sure if they made it, as we went back a few days after the heavy snowfalls and we couldn’t find any new tracks and nobody has seen them since. They nest in the marsh so we can always hope that they were able to find a new area to hunker down in and stay safe. It’s a big marsh after all.
While at Pelee, I climbed the tower at the tip to see how much ice had been building on the lake.
And here we have a few more of the Pelee residents
We went to the marina a couple days ago when it was getting warmer, and all the eagles were gone from Peche Island. Often there are over a dozen or more hanging out in the trees, but with the ice breaking up, and the lakes and rivers running again, they have either moved on, or found somewhere else to find food for now.
There were still a small number of the regulars close by, and I was really lucky to find a Hooded Merganser in the mix. At one point it was cleaning itself up, and I just sat there waiting for the inevitable rise up and flap wings motion. Finally, up it goes and my finger hits the button and click click click, and then it’s over in about 1 second. Fortunately, I got the shot I was waiting for.
So that’s about it for the February roundup. Hopefully March will begin to bring some of the early birds in. On the 28th we had some Killdeer flying around our heads as my Lady and I went for a walk in the neighbourhood. Maybe some of the other shore birds will start showing up too.
Remember, if you like the stories or photos, enter your email and click the Follow button to get notifications of any updates. Looks like I may have actually settled into a routine of doing a monthly roundup, so I think I will try to keep it that way, unless something really special happens.
Well, we tried to stay awake long enough to help kick last year out the door and down to the curb, but for some reason, we just couldn’t do it. Must be getting older. We are just thankful that it is gone.
New Year’s day found us walking around the Navy Yard park in beautiful downtown Amherstburg, and I took a few photos of the Christmas lights, just because I thought they looked nice. My lady suggested that I send a couple of photos into our town newspaper to see if they would get published. As it turned out, the photos didn’t make their way into the paper, but I had also written a Letter to the Editor based on one of the photos, and it Did get printed. YeeHaw, I’m a published writer now! I will include the letter at the end of this (yup, you’re going to have to read all the way through before you get there).
Birding has slowed right down this month, with just a few things worth noting.
We had another visit from a Grey Ghost (male Northern Harrier), and we found a Merlin sitting comfortably on top of a hydro pole.
The Eagles have returned to various locations around the county, and just a week ago we saw almost a dozen flying around the Windsor Marina at Peche Island.
Holiday Beach marsh has begun to freeze over, but there are still some open areas for the various waterfowl to hang out in.
Sparrows are often visible clustered together in the bushes, and occasionally we can find one out on its own away from the maddening crowd.
Redpolls at Pelee showed up in much smaller numbers than before, and after Pelee closed for a week for the deer cull, we haven’t heard of any others around.
It looks like fishing is going on out in Lake Erie and the gulls are just too happy to see what they can get.
Coyotes are still showing up, often where people don’t want them. One morning we were out for a drive, and found one a little close to the road, but well enough out in the country.
Got close to a Screech Owl that didn’t seem to mind me taking its picture.
Hmmm, I feel like I’m missing something. Let’s see…, Oh yeah, getting lucky again (mind out of the gutter please).
Remember last month we had a female Snowy Owl come to visit us? Well, early in January we received an alert on our birding group about a Snowy Owl in a field, just outside of our county. We couldn’t make it there the same day, but the following day we hurried out to where it was seen, and sure enough, there it was way out in a corn field, like most of the ones we end up seeing. The road we were on had almost no traffic, so we hung around for a little while just in case it moved. After about 30 minutes it seemed startled by something and suddenly took flight. It landed on a road sign just a ways down the road from us, so I gently pulled forward and stopped to take a few more photos. It seemed like it had settled down, so I moved the car about another 50 feet or so and just watched it. We got a few more photos, but then another vehicle came down the other road and flushed it up again, and back further into the corn field.
I have edited out the names on the sign so that the focus is on the male Snowy Owl, not the location.
For us to be able to have seen both a female and a male Snowy within just a couple of weeks totally blows my mind.
Thanks for reading. Now for my little Letter to the Editor.
My wife and I wandered through the Navy Yard early New Year’s Day and admired the light displays. One in particular caught us, as it simply said Believe. Many of us struggled with so many difficulties through 2020, and we are beginning to find it hard to simply Believe. Children Believe in The Tooth Fairy, Fairy Tales, The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. Why? Because parents and society pronounce them to be true. As we grow up, we believe that we will fall in love, marry, have children of our own, and live happily ever after. Why? Because for the most part, that is the way of life. Throughout our lives, and for generations before us, we have Believed in God, no matter what name it goes by. Why? Because in times of stress, we need to turn to something that is greater than ourselves. Something or Someone who can guide us, or save us, or simply to hear our prayers. As we head into 2021, we as a society are still struggling with the past, be it Covid-19, racial divide, homelessness, poverty, or any of the 7 deadly sins. But one thing that we can hold onto is the ability to Believe. Believe in our health system, that they will defeat not only Covid, but whatever might come along afterwards. Believe in our elected officials, that they will make the proper decisions that will guide us all towards a better life for everyone, not just the chosen few. Believe in ourselves, that we can see the things we need to change in ourselves, and be willing to make those changes. But above all, let’s Believe as a child Believes, and we will find the joy and wonder of living again.
Happy New Year everyone. Let’s hope we kicked 2020 out and slammed the door on that vile creature. Who needs to watch horror movies when we’ve been living through one for almost a year.
Well, we didn’t expect December to be quite like it was.
Of course we had lockdowns in the GTA, but also here in Essex County, and then the whole Province joined in with the fun. What a way to screw up the Christmas Holidays.
On the birding front, it was fairly quiet for the most part, but we still managed to get out and see a few things.
December started off with a beautiful snowfall, which brought in some Snow Buntings that came close enough to get some photos of. These little birds seem to follow the snow storms and pig out on the seeds in the fields. Always moving makes it difficult to photograph, and every few moments the whole flock flies into the air and land a few paces away. They are often found with Horned Larks and Lapland Longspur. We found the Lark but not the Longspur.
Shortly after that day we hung out with one of our birding friends and we were very fortunate to watch a number of Sandhill Cranes making their way along Lake Erie shores. These beautiful birds must have decided they don’t want to stick around for the snow. One flock that flew just north of our viewing area had almost 100 birds in it. We counted 35 in one flock and another 20 plus in a second flock as they passed overhead.
By the middle of the month we were hearing of some Common Redpolls that were hanging around at Point Pelee. If we hadn’t been made aware of what we were looking at, we might have misidentified them as another type of Finch or Sparrow, but these little ones are much prettier. The day we found them, they were enjoying themselves in the grasses on the west side of Point Pelee, with the winds blasting cold air straight across the lake, making it not only brutal for us humans to be standing in, but buffeting our cameras sideways as we tried to take photos.
Then we found out that everyone was trying to find the Common Redpoll’s elusive cousin, the Hoaries. After a few days of searching, we finally spotted a couple fly from the ground to a tree just as we arrived in the area. I quickly blasted a couple of blurred photos of them and they were gone over the trees. A few people have seen them afterwards, but they have evaded My Lady and I ever since.
As we went for a walk one day at Holiday Beach, I noticed a large bird fly into the trees across the way from where we were. Immediately the binos went up and we were very happy to see that it was a Great Horned Owl. Wonder if it was one of the little ones from our Osprey nest this spring.
Just before the end of the month My Lady and I were standing in line at Costco and I noticed a light coloured bird land on the lamp post ahead of us. Initially I thought it was a mature male Northern Harrier, so I wandered over to have a closer look. As I came around the proper side, I was Gobsmacked to see that it was the one bird that we had been searching 2 years for a close-up of. When I told My Lady, she rushed me off to get my camera out of the car, and I started firing off shots while moving all around the area for the best light and position.
A SNOWY OWL!!!
Not way out in a corn field allowing for tiny little dot photos that crop in terribly. This one came to visit US!
Just imagine seeing some crazy guy run out of line at Costco, who grabs a big long lens and camera out of his car and starts moving between parked cars, passing in front of people in line to get against the building, running back to his Lady, all the while smiling like a kid in a candy store (behind a mask, so no one could see that anyway) and taking photos.
I sent a blast out to our bird group and unfortunately just as we got to the front of the line, and one of our birding friends pulled in; it flies off and hasn’t been found since.
I got some great shots that I am very happy with, but we are going to keep on looking, hoping to get the classic perfect lighting while it sits on a fence post (or a stump), looking at me with wide open eyes (preferably a full white male, but the female is beautiful as well) photo. Am I asking too much? Might take a few more years, but we will keep on trying.
It was brought to my attention that on my last posting I misidentified a sparrow on a photo. Thank you Rick for pointing out that the White Throated Sparrow is actually a White Crowned Sparrow. It’s going to take a while for me to get these little ones right, even with the app.
Ok, how about my resolutions? Yup, More posts, More often.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA… …hahahahahaaaa… (wiping away tears from laughing so hard).Who am I trying to kid? Ok, maybe I should at least say that I’ll do my best.
Thanks for continuing to read this little bloggy thing. I will keep trying to improve the pictures, and change up the stories, especially if any really rare birds happen to show up in front of my lens.
What a whirlwind the past couple of months have been for birding.
Just imagine, starting in mid to late April, and through the month of May, a huge number of birds fly into Canada on their northbound migration, and many of them funnel through our little area in Southwestern Ontario as they hunt for food and a place to mate and bring up their young. Thousands of people from around the world come here to observe this spectacle. Sadly this year was a no-go for the visitors, but the birds still came anyway.
The outbound migration is usually not as frantic for either birds or people, and takes a lot longer to happen.
The annual Raptor Count started at the beginning of September and ran right through until the end of November. During these 3 months there is a person on the top of the Holiday Beach Hawk Tower every day, keeping a count on all of the different raptors that fly by our area. Usually there are a good number of people helping out, but unfortunately with Covid-19 screwing everything up this year, only 3 people at a time were allowed on the tower, and that was restricted to the official counter and observers. To make matters worse, the Conservation Authority had blocked off physical access to the tower, so we had to climb over the barrier any time we wanted to go up or down. This was very difficult for my lady to do, so she would often stay at the bottom, or wander the park looking for the smaller birds. Fortunately, I was allowed up as one of the observers, so I spent quite a few hours helping out.
September was an amazing time for birdwatching this year.
My Lady and I got an alert about 2 Swallowtail Kites hanging out near Point Pelee National Park, and within minutes we were in the car and on our way. Once we got there and one of our friends told us where it was, we were entertained by 1 of them for 45 minutes as it flew back and forth over the fields looking for insects to eat.
One morning I was up the Hawk Tower helping to count the Raptors going by, when all of a sudden the young lady doing the official count got very excited and asked me to take some photos of one particular hawk. We were able to confirm that it was a Swainson’s Hawk, which is normally found in the prairies, and is considered a Provincial Rarity here. We were extremely lucky to see it, and I was even luckier to have gotten a few good photos of it.
The Broadwing Hawks made their grand exit over a few days mid-September. Initially we only had a few going by either by itself or with a few extras, then the next day it was as if a switch had been turned on and great kettles of the birds were forming over our area, and streaming out across the marsh on their way out. At times it was difficult to count with so many at one time. Over 44,000 Broadwings passed from September 11 to the 19th. I left the counting to the professionals and for the most part I just stood there in awe, and taking a few photos along the way.
A Woodcock made an appearance right at the base of the tower one morning while I was there. It had been spotted the day before, and this time it had startled a lady walking along the path. It was much easier to get a good photo this time, than the ones I took in the spring
I guess the Blue Jays had a good year, because over the course of 4 or 5 weeks, they created steady streams in the sky as they flew out of the east and onward towards the USA. They had the counters on the tower working furiously with their clickers, with a final count of well over 1 million Jays. And this was only the ones we could see during the counting hours. It’s amazing to see the sky filled with birds like this.
Near the end of the September we had a couple of friends visit the area, giving us a chance to show them around. While we wandered through Holiday Beach we observed more Jays flocking through, along with a number of warblers and a pair of Green Heron. We were lucky enough to watch one of the herons catch and eat a fish from the marsh.
The warblers are also outbound during September through November, but sadly their colouring is much duller than in the spring. This makes it harder for the untrained eye to be able to determine what bird it is. I was snapping photos, but could only identify a few of them.
Not to be outdone by the birds, September is also when the Monarch Butterflies start their journey down to Mexico, with a short stop at Point Pelee. One evening over 4500 butterflies were resting on a single tree right near the tip. We got there in time to see them, but it was too dark to get a photo, so we came back in the morning to observe them leaving, but by the time we arrived most had already taken off.
And a bit of good news, the Ospreys on their communication tower successfully raised their young, and they fledged during September. Mom and Dad stuck around to teach them about life all through October.
Into October the Starlings begin to gather in large numbers and make wonderful patterns as they fly over the fields. Eventually they too make their way past the counters on the tower, but are not included in the counting. Often many other birds fly at the same time as the Starlings, such as Red Wing Blackbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Rusty Blackbirds, and Crows. It all becomes an Avian Frenzy.
The Turkey Vultures come through in October. It’s cool to watch them slowly rise over the trees to the east of the tower, and as they find the lifting thermals, they circle higher and gather into large kettles before one decides to peel off and head west, and the remainder follow.
October finds the Golden Eagles making their appearance, usually just beyond camera range, but this year we had a few fly close enough to be able to get reasonable photos with a long enough lens. Although we have a number of Bald Eagles in the area, everyone loves to see the Goldens, and there are often a number of people hanging around the tower watching for them. Unfortunately this year the restrictions forced most people to watch for them from the bottom of the tower.
Red Wing Hawks and Red Shoulder Hawks came by in good numbers, along with Kestrels, Merlins, Coopers Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, Sharp-Shinned Hawks and Northern Harriers. Each has a different shape and flight style. It takes a while to learn how to tell them apart, and I often get them confused (Good thing I am an Observer and not a Counter).
Things seem to settle a bit come November, so we began visiting Point Pelee more often.
This year we had some Pelicans in the area, and we even saw them a couple of times but never had the chance to photograph them, until one morning in early November when we had gone to the Tip to see a Cave Swallow (missed it). One of our birding friends had seen the Pelican just off the east side, so we trudged over and as we were looking he texted me with a simple “Look Up”, and sure enough, it was passing directly overhead. We are very thankful to have great birding friends.
As we wandered one of the trails I noticed some birds at the top of a tree. Took a few photos and once I chimped the shot I saw that they were the Evening Grosbeaks that we had been trying to see for a couple of weeks. I pointed them out to my Lady and she was very happy to see them. Within a few moments, they all took off, and we haven’t seen them since.
Another evening we were settling down to watch some television and got an alert about a Frigate Bird hanging out near Leamington. Within the hour we were standing with a number of birders watching this bird that must have been blown up from the Caribbean or southern US by one of the hurricanes. After an hour or so, it was getting dark, so we decided to leave, only to find out that a few minutes later it flew off its perch and headed south to Point Pelee, and was not seen again.
The ducks are starting to show up on the lake and waters in the area. We had a visit from a Ross’s Goose at Jack Miners near Kingsville. Not usually found in this area.
Another thing found at Jack Miners was a small group of Cackling Geese hanging out with the Canada Geese. Up until last year we might have just thought they were young Canada Geese, but thanks again to our friends, we have learned there are some differences between the Cackling and Canada Geese, with the Cackling being much smaller, with a shorter neck and smaller bill. I wonder if we have seen these in Toronto, and never took notice of them before.
We have had a few female Long Tailed Ducks off the Point Pelee tip. Haven’t heard of any males around, but the last time we saw them they were a bit north in Sarnia. Maybe we’ll get lucky this year to have both hang out this far south.
At the end of November My Lady and I were out for a drive near Point Pelee and as we went up one of the small roads to the east we had a very close encounter with an adult male Northern Harrier, also known as a Grey Ghost. It flew past us going the other way, hunting low and slow over the ditch by the road, so I swung the car around and buzzed past it to get ahead, parked the car, jumped out and grabbed the camera and started trying to get photos. Thankfully it somewhat cooperated and gave us enough of a show that I was able to get a few worthwhile shots. It eventually wandered up another road and we lost sight of it shortly after.
Finally wrapping up the Hawk Count on November 30, I went up the tower again to help out and wish our counter a safe drive back home. We spent a few hours looking into a grey sky filled with wind driven snow and sleet, with not a single raptor flying.
What started off with such a blur of activity, ended as it should, a dwindling down to shorter days, colder winds, snow, and the satisfaction of a job well done. Overall, the official count was over 115,000 raptors, taking 4th place for the highest season.
Not sure if I will have another post this year, seeing as how it’s been a few months since the last time.
I will leave you with a bunch more photos and wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. May 2021 bring us all better times.