Monday, 25 July 2011


This weekend I met with 5 University friends in Kincardine. We mostly sailed, swam, kayaked and enjoyed the 'world famous' sunset - or so they claim...

I did, however, get the chance to explore the local sewage lagoon! I was hoping for some shorebirds but unfortunately the lagoons were flooded. The only birds of note around there were 6 male Wood Ducks molting into eclipse plumage, 1 male Green-winged Teal and a male Merlin.

Dunn Skipper:

American Lady:

Eastern-tailed Blue - probably my favourite butterfly species:

There were several White-faced Meadowhawks around:

Next weekend I hope to finally see my first southbound shorebirds for the year!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

NL photos

I really didn't take many photos and the ones I took weren't all that great - but at least I documented a few things.

Gannets - so common that you're even guaranteed to see them with fog so thick you can't see your hand in front of your face.

They might even peck your eyes out if you're really nice to them:

Yellow-rumped Warbler wing stretch:

Humpback Whales:

Bellevue - On Sunday my family checked out Bellevue only to be disappointed by cold windy weather and very few shorebirds:

This interesting flower was there though:

The stem appeared to be a blade of grass... any ideas?

Monday, 18 July 2011


I'm back in Ontario for my last 4 weeks - I haven't got any concrete plans for what I'll be doing but I have high hopes, as usual!

For now I'll share some of my favourite sightings from this past weekend in Newfoundland:

In the thick fog I managed to pick out 2 Manx Shearwaters and 1 Pomarine Jaeger chasing a Kittiwake.

Sunday (a more exciting day):

1 Sooty Shearwater very close in briefly checking out a small feeding frenzy involving several Gannets, Kittiwakes and Alcids - and then it disappeared.

Whales - several Humpbacks feeding within 100 meters - occasionally they would stick their heads right out of the water gulping full of food. Awesome.
+ what I'm pretty sure was a Fin Whale based on the spout size and shape - it was pretty distant though so I couldn't get a good look at the whale itself - would have been good though because it's the second longest whale (behind Blue Whale)!

My first dolphins! 4 White-sided Dolphins... actually I think Orcas might be considered dolphins so the WSDO will have been my second dolphin species. Either way, they were awesome to see - right next to shore as well.

Capelin rolling - not many of them but I haven't been in NL at the right time to see them in over 5 years!

And probably the oddest sighting was an Osprey flying around the city more than an hour after sunset - I think it was looking for a place to roost for the night.

Didn't see many butterflies - just the common stuff (Cabbage White, E. Tiger Swallowtail..etc)

Pictures to come...

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Ohhh Newfoundland

I'm heading back for a quickie tomorrow! And there's 5 good reasons why:

5: Cheap flights, can't say no to them!
4: My mothers food! It's good ;)
3: Whales - I have a bit of an obsession with whales... not as much as birds though I suppose
2: Shearwater action - I'm hoping to see/find a seabird feeding frenzy! I've yet to see one and it's just about the perfect time of year for it!
1: I need another dose of Newfoundland - it's been 7 months since I've been there - the longest I've ever gone. I'm craving family and friends!

It'll be a hectic 48 hours and I hope to squeeze a fair bit of birding in during the 2 days. I won't be doing any excessive driving to get to any of the real 'hot spots' like the Southern Shore (Cape Race area). But I'll be watching the sea from Cape Spear - a point that juts out into the ocean just enough to be branded the most easterly point in North America - and it happens to be a mere 15 minute drive from my house!

Lists - being a birder we all love lists:

Species that I haven't yet seen this year and am pretty much guaranteed:
Northern Gannet
Black-legged Kittiwake
Common Murre
Black Guillemot
Atlantic Puffin
Great Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Black-headed Gull

Other species that I hope to see and I will likely see:
Northern Fulmar
Manx Shearwater
Leach's Storm-Petrel
Pomarine Jaeger
Thick-billed Murre
Great Cormorant

And slightly less likely but not unexpected:
Red Phalarope
Parasitic Jaeger
Long-tailed Jaeger

And slightly less likely... (I could keep going on and on - but it's unlikely that it'll keep you interested!)
Cory's Shearwater

There's probably some more I'm missing (Red Crossbill for example) and the order may not be flawless - but those are the ones I'm excited about (notice how they pretty much all are seabirds....). I suppose I'll have to spend sometime near the ocean then.

And the fun stuff:
Common Ringed Plover
Fea's Petrel - had to put a rarity or two in here somewhere!
I've been studying seabirds over the past month or two in preparation for a week stint in NL in August! So this will be a sort of training session!

This is the right time of year for Fea's Petrel with several sightings off of the coast of Eastern USA over the past month - and if I find a large Shearwater gathering (not very likely... I should make an official scale of likely-ness) then it's likely that I might find something interesting - although I'd probably/likely be distracted just trying to take it all in... who knows... all I know is that I'm very likely excited for seabirding and NL in general!

I'm also excited for some different butterflies!

Anyway, after work today I did a quick loop of the Spit (Leslie Street Spit) in Toronto - didn't find anything of real interest. Main highlight was a Spotted Sandpiper calling excessively - it was clearly upset about something - turns out there was a coyote sleeping near its nest/young. It had a tracking collar on it - someone once told me that the coyotes from the Spit regularly walk across Toronto during the night in search of food... literally from the East end to the West end - which is amazing because it has to go right through the core of downtown Toronto.

If you haven't read the blog about Spoon-billed Sandpipers you should! 18 of them just hatched within the last few days:

Monday, 11 July 2011


This weekend I took part in the annual Toronto Butterfly count. This was my second year so it was fun to be back and see everyone again and also be able to help out more with identifications since I've learned a little more since last year.

My group was quick to begin barging through the woods and we were soon rewarded with several Banded Hairstreaks dueling it out to protect their territories:

We found several species of skippers which was good for me because I have for the most part neglected the family (they're very difficult).
But I think I've learned a few at least, correct me if I'm wrong though:

Northern Broken-Dash

Long Dash Skipper:

Dun Skipper:

Eastern Forktail:

My group ended up with 23 species for the day, which isn't bad considering we were in Toronto!

I thought this dragonfly was going to be so easy to ID because of it's striking orange colour. But apparently it can be 1 of 3 species that are only distinguishable by their genitals!

I think the best part of dragonflies and damselflies is the badass names some of them can have! You can boast to your friends about the Dragonhunters you've caught or scare a hiker walking in the direction when you mention that a Cobra (Clubtail) is just up the trail or make them think you've gone mental when you suggest they look for the Zebra (Clubtail) that was flying around the bog.

On another note, the University where I'll be studying in Denmark has recently found me a place to live. The first thing I did was search the location on Google Maps and make my first guesses as to what/where my 'local patch' will be. I am less than 3km from the Baltic Sea and less than 2km from a relatively large lake. So needless to say, those will be one of the first locations for me to experience EU birding! The next most important thing was to see how far away from the University I will be...

A few interesting articles about birds on BBC today:

Thursday, 7 July 2011


After some thought I've decided to discontinue my website, but not the blog. It was a fun run with the site and I definitely learned a lot and it helped me focus on improving my bird photography. I certainly have a lot of room for improvement for my photography and I will needless to say continue to learn. I've been thinking of discontinuing it for a while and now is a good time to stop because I'm going to be asked for more money soon - my subscription is ending.

If you want to see images of any species of birds there's many many many sites out there where you can view them and study them. The sites that really stand out for me though are the ones that at least offer some articles/lessons on the birds themselves. There seems to be far too many sites out there with a bunch of photos and no words on helping people out with identification, improving photography, trip reports (I think those are fun!) etc...
And, admittedly, my site fell into that criteria for the most part despite my efforts to not let that happen. But that's alright, I'm still young and I have many years ahead of me to study birds (and other wildlife) and maybe when I'm old and wise I'll put together a website again to do what I think a lot of sites lack.

Anyway, I found that having a blog has been fun, so I'll keep at it and I'll continue to show my photographs there (it's free too - which goes well with being a student - especially since I won't have another job for two years - which is crazy for me because I've had a full time job at least part of the year for the last 8 years!!) 
I know a lot of bird watchers (especially the slightly more aged ones ;) ) aren't too keen on "the proliferation of personal sites and blogs" and I see their argument. But I find blogs to be fun and useful, particularly if they have a 'local' focus, whether that be Toronto or all of Ontario or all of Canada. They help new birders figure out which species they can expect to see and where to go, amongst other benefits...
In fact for my upcoming 4 month trip to Denmark I have been entirely relying on blog archives to figure out which birds I can expect and where/when to find them around my area!

Also, when coming/going to a new city/province/country it's good to know that I can follow someone's blog for the area and try to learn about the birds that can be seen around there and help me learn about them more quickly. When I go to Denmark in less than 2 months I expect to become a 'newbie' again starting from the beginning. At first glance that may seem a little frustrating, but I'm excited for many reasons!:

-new birds to learn about and study
-the opportunity to study birds that may be rarities somewhere else (i.e. Newfoundland!) helping me find those birds when I'm back there... 
-new habitats to explore, new people to meet
-more new birds for my life list (duh)!

I've also been thinking about the whole 'listing' thing that birders are obsessed with (me included). It's certainly fun especially because it's a way of keeping score helping create that competitive atmosphere. It's also good because it makes you get out and explore new areas.
But on the other hand, you end up ignoring the common species or ignoring sub-species or ignoring difficult to understand plumages. Something I plan on focusing a lot more attention on over the next while... and the rest of my life.

Well, enough rambling for me now. Back to birding and enjoying the summer. 

This post ended up being a lot longer than expected.

These Willets were at the tip of Point Pelee in May:

For some reason no other photographers were around nor any birders which I found very odd because they are a rare-uncommon bird for Ontario - so why wasn't anyone interested!? Especially since some of them were walking up very close to me while playing with smelt...

Sunday, 3 July 2011


Went to Algonquin on Saturday with Mira and meandered back on Sunday through the Havelock area. I had a lot of specific birds on my mind (Black-backed Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Chuck-will's-widow, Prairie Warbler, Yellow Rail...) and only managed to see one of those 5. Despite that disappointment it was still a lot of fun - there were a lot of Odes (dragonflies & damselflies) and butterflies. I'm really becoming partial to running around fields chasing butterflies! Simply being in an open field full of wild flowers makes it so much fun - even if there isn't much butterfly species diversity!

On Saturday morning one of the first butterflies I saw was a White Admiral. I was pretty happy because they're relatively uncommon in Newfoundland and so I assumed they would be here as well.

By the end of the day we had seen about 200. So they weren't exactly uncommon. In fact it was only one of 2 species of butterfly we had seen all morning!

The birding was as expected - lots of bird song but very difficult to see them, which helps force me to learn the songs. The highlights were a heard-only Olive-sided Flycatcher and this juv. Common Loon:

The next day we were in the Havelock area. Where we hoped to hear Chuck-wills-widow, Yellow Rail and Prairie Warbler - they were slightly far-fetched hopes as none of the 3 had been heard in the area for 2 weeks or more. Needless to say, we never saw or heard any of them. But the area is home to some unique habitat for Ontario which was neat to see.

The previous weekend I was in Waterloo I managed to photograph this Northern Crescent:

A Northern Pearly-eye:

and this Common Yellowthroat as it sang and danced on its log:

I promise some more exciting birding to come within the next month! I have at least 2 and probably 3 more trips planned before I'm gone for good - sorta - in mid-August.