Sunday, 27 January 2013

Beware of Raptors

Today I joined the Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists club on a search for hawks and other fun birds in the area.

Red-tailed Hawks appeared to be the most numerous at the start of the day, being the first hawk species to break the 10 individuals mark. Gradually Rough-legged Hawks started to catch up, and eventually had established a strong lead with 19 vs 14 individuals when we were well on our way home. Red-tailed Hawks tried to make a last ditch effort to re-claim their lead with an additional 5 being seen while we were in the last 2km stretch of the trip. But that wasn't enough as 1 RLHA venturing unusually close to the urban city managed to seal the deal with 20 RLHA to 19 RTHA!

Other interesting statistics from the day:
- I submitted my 600th ever sighting of a Mallard to eBird :p

- And submitted 298th checklist for the year already!

Many of the trees were iced over in the morning:

One of the main highlights from the day was a Lapland Longspur that I found feeding within a flock of Horned Larks and Snow Buntings. Unfortunately only a few people got to see any of the 3 LALOs that we found today.

Later down the road, a large flock of approx. 1000 Snow Buntings was fun to see. The flock also included a hand-full of Horned Larks and at least 1 Lapland Longspur.
Can you find the somewhat obstructed LALO in this photo:

Only 1 Northern Shrike today - at least it was patient enough to allow everyone to see it:

On our second try we found the Red-shouldered Hawk that has been over-wintering at Hawkesville since December 2003! That makes it the 10th consecutive year it has been hanging out in this area.

Red-shouldered Hawks have been known to live until 26 years of age. So this bird may be here for yet another few winters!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

2012 - Part II

As promised, a summary of the second half of my 2012 birding year.

In early July I did a short trip to Alberta to visit Mira. We traveled around Edmonton and the nearby Rocky Mountains and turned up 124 species of birds.

The number of waterfowl there is astounding - it really is a duck factory!

There's only one thing nearly as awesome as the ocean. The mountains:

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches were one of the highlights of the trip for me:

Shorebirds also breed in the province in large numbers. Black-necked Stilts were one of the species I wanted to see most:

Coming across Mountain Bluebirds at the treeline as we were hiking up one of the mountains was another awesome experience:

A month long trip to Newfoundland during shorebird season was great as I hadn't spent a good chunk of time there in the past few years, nor during shorebird season:

Fall birding in Waterloo was highlighted by a Greater White-fronted Goose:

And then another:

A large flock of 1000+ Turkey Vultures migrated through my neighbourhood over a 2 day period:

Then the gulls started showing up, including this 2nd winter Nelson's Gull:

Then back in Newfoundland to finish off the year.
The Yellow-breasted Chat living in my yard for over 2 weeks (and still there!) was certainly one of the highlights:

Purple Sandpiper was one of the last species I added to my year list:

Some quick and fun stats:
571 species seen/heard, across 1370 eBird checklists! 273 life birds.

Big miss: Rough-legged Hawk!!! Yes, I did not see that species in the year 2012...

I ended up biking 2397km last year

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Bird is the Word

Did some birding in the Niagara region with Josh V, Dave B, and 6 other birders from the Guelph + Waterloo region.
We tallied over 60 species of birds, submitted 34 checklists, and saw 31196 individual birds (+/- 100000 birds).

Two main highlights for me were a heard only Fish Crow, and a distant Black Vulture.

No luck with the Slaty-backed Gull today - but there was an insane number of gulls on the river.
This hybrid had us confused - obviously has some Herring Gull in it (same size, only slightly darker mantle, pink legs). The darker mantle would point to Lesser Black-backed Gull or some were thinking it could be California Gull. I think the head shape is typical LBBG and others had a LBBG X HERG hybrid at the same location. May be a F2 generation (i.e. 1 grandparent is LBBG, other 3 are HERG).
What do you think?

4 Purple Sandpipers were an overdue first for my Ontario list:

Snowy Owl was pleasing the baiters:

At the Red-headed Woodpecker spot a certain someone decided to drive off the road. Took 6 men to push the truck back onto the road - but not after spraying us with mud in varying degrees:

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Birding Hamilton

Did a morning birding trip with David Gascoigne and Mira this morning to the Hamilton area looking for winter birds.

This adult Black-crowned Night-Heron was super tame enjoying the warm sunshine at LaSalle Park.
Seems a bit odd to see an adult at this time of year?

White-winged Scoter:

Ruddy Ducks:

American Coot:

Pine Siskin:

My first ever photo of a Carolina Wren:

Also had my 3rd Great Horned Owl of the year this evening!

Not many words + lots of pics = easy blog material + keeping y'all happy

Monday, 14 January 2013

Aging male King Eiders

Thanks to Kevin McLaughlin for pointing out that the Goderich King Eider is in fact not an adult.
It is actually a 2nd winter male King Eider.
Apparently, one of very few full adult male King Eiders in Ontario was in Toronto in March, 2011.
Luckily, I was there for that, and, there was also that 1st winter male King Eider at the same location and time...

Here's the progression for male King Eiders from 1st winter to adult plumage:

The 1st winter male has a pinkish/buffy bill, white breast, and generally dark brown throughout the rest of the plumage.

1st winter in Toronto - March, 2011:

The 2nd winter male looks very much like the adult male. There are a few differences though. When I first saw yesterdays bird I thought it looked "a little dirty" in that there were black markings on the neck and throat area. These weren't very obvious though and the photos I took don't clearly show that. One feature, though, that is quite noticeable is the head shape.
Adult male King Eiders have a large frontal lobe that is outlined with black - the large lobe looks like a protruding forehead. 2nd winter males retain the same head shape as a 1st winter King Eider.

2nd winter in Goderich - January, 2013:

Compare the head shape in the previous photo with the next. There is a distinct difference which should be easily noticeable in the field.

Adult in Toronto - March, 2011:

A neat thing about the King Eider plumage is the protrusions or extensions on the back. These are actually scapular feathers that stick up like sails. The female has this characteristic as well, but to a lesser degree.

1st winter King Eiders have no white in the wings.

1st winter (Toronto, March 2011) in flight:

By the 2nd winter, there is white on the upperwing of the male King Eider.

2nd winter - Photo credit: Christopher Wood.
King Eider (2nd winter male) in flight

The protruding frontal lobe of the adult male King Eider is still noticeable in flight.

adult (Toronto, March 2011) in flight:

Don't forget about that quiz below!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Bird Wing Photo Quiz

Any ideas? Post 'em below!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Goderich is happenin'

Ken Burrell and I checked out the Lake Huron area today.
Things were pretty unexciting until we hit Goderich where the birding was craayyzzzayyy :p

A 1st winter Black-crowned Night Heron was surfin' the waves on ice: 

It then proceeded to disguise itself as a gull:

Not long after that we were shocked to see a beautiful adult male King Eider not too far offshore:

If you're looking for this duck, you need to walk down a 500m long dirt road to the lake. The entrance to the road is blocked off.
Here's a picture of the entrance to the road to get you to the eider:

Later in the day we saw a very big p.... I mean a big sign:

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Yellow-breasted Chat celebrity

The St. John's Morning Show, a local radio program, called me to talk about the Yellow-breasted Chat that was living in my yard for the last couple weeks of 2012.

Here's the link!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

2012 - Part I

Finally getting around to this...

A quick run-through of my birding year:

I did a fair bit of traveling in 2012 which allowed me to see and photograph many species of birds.
For the first 4 months I was living in Singapore, where a family of Straw-headed Bulbuls (a globally threatened species) were living just outside my bedroom window:

I was also lucky to have this Buffy Fish-Owl hanging out nearby my residence:

I did a fair bit of birding in the city state, and managed to see 181 species of birds - many thanks to the very generous birders living there.
One of the easier species to digiscope, a Yellow Bittern:

Collared Kingfishers are very common - but also very beautiful. This shot of the bird sitting in the daily downpour really captured the trip for me:

Pittas are high on many birders "want" list. However, I wasn't much impressed by them despite their intricate plumage. Hooded Pitta:

Shorebirds was what I was interested in. Pacific Golden Plovers were very common in Singapore:

A week long trip to Thailand with Mira, was one of the best birding trips I've ever been on. Highlighted by 4 individual Spoon-billed Sandpipers. It doesn't get much better than that!

The insects were phenomenal in South East Asia. I didn't appreciate them enough, but the common Blue Pansy was my favourite:

On my first day back in Canada I was lucky to find a Golden-winged Warbler just down the street from where I was living in Waterloo:

I also found a Mourning Warbler on breeding territory allowing me to get some decent shots of this species:

I was also happy to see many Grasshopper Sparrows in the region:

The two highlights from the first half of the year are easy to pick:
1: An unexpected encounter with the very rare Rail Babbler.
2: Spoon-billed Sandpipers

Part II to come soon...