Things I am Thinking About Right Now...

  • 1. Finally Updated; A busy ( and not-so-birdy fall ) fall
  • 2. A smew in Ontario ??? And I got to see it !
  • 3. Thinking about summer vacation...
  • 4. And Sping trips too !
  • 5. Quite a few Winter rarities around. May try to add a few more to the list
  • 6. Still no snow on the ground...
  • 7. Project FeederWatch is going strong. Two eports submitted...
  • 8. I think I have convinced my wife to visit Cape May next summer !
  • 9. The Elephant Pepper Development Trust ( Check out their site ! )
  • 10. Tying to decide how to spend my remaining gift certificates !

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Birds of 2011 ( and 2012 ? ) - The Whitby Smew, Shearwaters, etc.

Here are my favourite birds for 2011

5. Barred Owl - A very co-operative Barred Owl at Cranberry Marsh provided a great opportunity fo THE SON and THE DAUGHTER to get a close-up look. This bird may be #1 on my son's list as for weeks he would ask if we were going to see the owl.

4. The swarms of shearwaters off Little Catalina, Newfoundland - An impressive site and great to pick out three differrent species for the old life list

3. Golden-Winged Warbler - A singing Golden-Winged Warbler at the Carden Nature Festival provided me with a new life bird and the first in-the-feather look at my favourite bird. But if this is my favourite bird, why is it at #3 on my 2011 list ?

2. Atlantic Puffins ( Lots of them ! ) - The sheer number of Atlantic Puffins on our boat tour of Witless Bay Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland was mind-blowing. Even better, the whole family was able to take in this spectacle. Oh, the whales were petty cool too !

1. The Smew in Whitby Harbour - A late-in-the-year addition. An ultra-rarity that I dragged my family out to see ! A great Christmas present and only the third confirmed sighting in Ontario !

And looking forward to 2012, here are the five species I hope to see in 2012

5. California Gull

4. Grey-Cheeked Thrush

3. Barrow's Goldeneye

2. Connecticut Warbler

1. Kirtland's Warbler ( I'm going fo it ! )

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Niagara River + December = Gulls !

And back again...An insanely busy fall has made posting an endangered activity but now that the big holiday has passed, we have time to reflect on fall birding. Of course, my fall birding was limited but for one road trip. After years of wanting to go but never quite going I finally made it to the Ontario Field Ornithologists Niagara River Field Trip. This trip is one of their most popular trips and this year was no exception with a solid 60-70 people plus many others along the route. The weather was great, balmy for an Ontario December ( the exception to the rule ). The kids were at home, as this trip was my delayed birthday present. And the target for birders on this day...Gulls. Yes, the most frustrating family in ornithology ( despite what people watching a flock of "peep" sandpipers will tell you ). Unfortunately no pics but here are 10 key points about this field trip if you are interested in going.

1. It is hard to pick out gulls but the presence of experts makes it a little easier.

2. Getting close enough to hear the experts is tough. This field trip is insanely popular for people who have tried to add gulls to their list before and failed miserably.

3. Bring a scope and binoculars. The overlook of the Sir Adam Beck Hydro plant is one of the most impressive places to bird as one looks down ( way down ) into the gorge onto the hundreds of gulls congregating on the river. Seeing the sitting birds in any detail is impossible without a scope. However, once they take off and start to fly you need a decent pair of binoculars to track them. I had two life birds and with both I was able to see diagnostic features with 10 x 40 binoculars.

4. The scope is even more impotant when birding sites above the falls, like the Chippewa Control Gates or the river immediately above the falls.

5. When birding above the falls, try to stand in the middle of the group. If you end up on the periphery of the group, you will be asked by non-birders what this crowd of people on the sidewalk is looking at. Which means explaining that everyone is looking at seagulls.

6. The Slaty-Backed Gull may be the most frustrating bird to identify in North America. To identify a Slaty-Back in North America, you must essentially eliminate all other possibilities ( i.e. all the normal gulls ). Thankfully, I have my life Slaty-Back but every time I see a possible candidate, it makes you realize the challenge that birding provides.

7. Jaegars are cool. After missing out on jaegars completely in Newfoundland this summer, I wrote off these birds as overly fat, nasty seagulls. And while there is some truth in my assessment, seeing one in action was impressive. The POMRAINE JAEGAR at Adam Beck was a great surprise. It was gliding with the other gulls, then bolted towards it's target and began harassing it relentlessly in the air, then into the water. As I stated before, even with my binoculars i was able to see the typical white flashes on the wings.

8. Waiting for the gulls is part of the game. Sleeping gulls show just enough to be intriguing but of course, there is always one other feature that remains hidden. Our group spent nearly 20 minutes waiting for a potential CALIFORNIA GULL to show it's legs. Finally, it stood up to legs !!! No California Gull, although the birders with more expertise mused that this might be California/Herring gull hybrid. Ah, hybrids. Another reason why gulls cause birdes to assume the fetal position.

9. There is more to this trip than gulls. PURPLE SANDPIPERS, HARLEQUIN DUCKS, TURKEY AND BLACK VULTURES(!) in addition to the gulls ( including my life THAYER'S GULL ). The scenery is great too. This trip gave me my first look at The Whirlpool, which is impressive.

10. This trip rates a 2 out of five on the kid-meter. Staring at seagulls requires patience beyond that of young children. I would recommend leaving the kids at home for this one, despite the chance to see the falls.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

And the saga ends ???

And so Happy Feet is on his way to somewhere. A nice ending to an interenting story

Newfoundland - Part 2 - Shearwaters

It seems odd but I have never seen a shearwater before. Most people probably are in the same boat as me, although probably more apathetic to the issue than I am. However, I want to see shearwaters and have had ample opportunities. Despite living in and visiting Nova Scotia and despite several trips to Newfoundland, shearwaters never made it into my field of view. Or maybe they did and I couldn't ID them. Whatever the reason, the recent family visit to Newfoundland held promise to break this streak.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Newfoundland Vacation - Part 1 - In search of whales

The family vacation to Newfoundland is over. Despite butal summer weather, even by Newfoundland standards, everybody enjoyed themselves. Now it is time to get back into routines, prepare for back to school shopping and blogsome trip reports. From a birding perspective, the trip brought 6 life birds including some nice pelagic species. In fact Newfoundland is a great place to indulge in the outdoors and get closer to nature. One of the activities that I would recommend is a whale-watching tour and there may be no better place than Bay Bulls, a small town about 40 minutes south of St. John's.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Newfoundland update

I am halfway through my trip to Newfoundland. It has been great. The family is having a great time and I have added 6 lifers. Preparing a trip report when I come back. Check out my new sightings on my Birdstack feed below. And check out the videos I have on my twitter feed. Later !

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Plans can go awry when planning/preparing to go on vacation. I had grand designs on posting some pictures of Newfoundland and Newfoundland birds but unfortunately time dwindled and here I am in Newfoundland, staying at my in-laws with wife & kids in tow.
Despite an late night departure and early, early morning arrival, everyone is in good spirits. Even the birding is off to a good start. A walk down to the bay netted me my life ARCTIC TERN. Tomorrow is a whale watching trip that I will post ASAP. And then... well who knows ?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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