Sunday, 31 December 2017

Desbarats Christmas Bird Count 2017

Another day, another bird count.  This time it's in Desbarats, Ontario.  This is the count that I created last year as a event for The Kensington Conservancy (TKC), the land trust that I work for.  Last year, in our inaugural count, we had 35 species recorded, so that was our goal to beat.

The day started off great.  I spent the night at my parent's house in Hilton Beach and my dad and I did some owling before the sun came up.  At our second stop, we hit the jackpot.  A Northern Hawk Owl responded with an alarm call to the Barred Owl playback.  This was a new bird for the count, a lifer for both of us, and my dad's 200th species on the year for the Algoma District.  He was worried he was going to get stuck on 199!

We then went our separate ways, as we had different areas to cover.  I met up with my group and the five of us started birding!  As we were driving along Highway 17 to our first destination, we came across a large flock of Snow Buntings.  I estimated about 150 birds and got some photos of a portion of the flock before they flew into the back of the field.  Many American Crows and Common Ravens were coming out of their roosts, so we got good counts of them while we were stopped.

We arrived at the Archibald Homestead, a 169 acre property owned by TKC.  A lone male Pine Grosbeak flew overhead as soon as we got out of the truck, more crows and ravens were counted and we added Black-capped Chickadee and Golden-crowned Kinglet as we snowshoed around the property.

We then headed back into Desbarats to try and find some feeders.  We found two very productive spots, which gave us new species for the day in Dark-eyed Junco, American Tree Sparrow, both nuthatches, Purple Finch, European Starling and Blue Jay.

Our next stop was the Black Hole Preserve, another TKC property.  We only saw three species here, Pine Grosbeak, Black-capped Chickadee and Red-breasted Nuthatch.  However, the wildlife tracks were plentiful.  We saw tracks from Ruffed Grouse, Snowshoe Hare, what was likely a Red Squirrel, Ermine, Northern River Otter, Eastern Coyote, White-tailed Deer and Moose.  We also came across a mysterious spot where a bird landed then took off again.  It was definitely not a typical Ruffed Grouse hole.  There was no scat or anything else down in the hole.  Here are the photos in case anyone knows something that we didn't!




By now, it was lunch time and we headed back to the TKC Conservation Centre.  After warming up and eating, the rest of my group took off for the day.  My dad showed up as well and we decided to do some more driving around.  We were able to add Ruffed Grouse, Rock Pigeon and Pileated Woodpecker for his area and American Goldfinch for mine.  He then went home and I continued driving around.  I was able to add Ruffed Grouse, Common Redpoll and Pileated Woodpecker for my area.  That gave my area a total of 18 species, two more than I had last year in the same area.

Ruffed Grouse

It was now time to participate in another Christmas Bird Count!  The Neebish-Dunbar count, which is almost entirely in Michigan, includes a small sliver on the northeast corner of St. Joseph Island.  they were looking for some to cover that section and I said I'd do it, assuming I had time after doing the Desbarats CBC.  I spent about 50 minutes and got Blac-capped Chickadee, Common Raven, American Crow, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Bald Eagle and Ruffed Grouse.  Nothing too exciting, but a few numbers to add to their totals!  The full results can be found here.

Now that the Christmas Bird Count is over for me, it's time to start up that 2018 list once the clock strikes midnight tonight!

Full results for the Desbarats CBC can be found on The Kensington Conservancy's website here.

Rudyard Christmas Bird Count 2017

Rudyard, Michigan, best known for it's abundance of Snowy Owls during the winter, finally got a Christmas Bird Count.  I had the opportunity to participate in this inaugural and was really excited for it.  I was paired up with Rob Routledge, one of my professors from my time at Sault College, and although the Snowy Owl hotspot wasn't in our assigned area, I was sure we'd still come across some cool birds.

We were supposed to meet at the Rudyard Township building at 7:30am, but Rob and I were half an hour early, so we tried our luck to find some nocturnal Snowy Owl.  We ended up being successful, as the truck lights picked up one sitting on top of a utility pole.  We didn't count it though, because this wasn't in our assigned area and would surely be found again by the area's assigned group.

Once we met all the other groups and determined when we were meeting for lunch, it was starting to get light out, so off we went.  Our day started off with six Wild Turkeys still roosting up in some trees, some American Crows and Common Ravens flying around, a flock of Common Redpolls and a Ruffed Grouse eating buds in a tree. 

It wasn't long before we came across our first Snowy Owl of the day.  It was a fair distance back in a field, so I could not get decent photos of it unfortunately.  However, it was not our last one of the day, as we end up with four total and I got photos of the other three.  Not bad considering we didn't have the prime Snowy Owl location.




Our highlight of the day was a lingering American Kestrel.  It was hanging out on the top of a tall spruce tree overlooking a farm.  We noted many European Starling and House Sparrows at the farm, so maybe that's what it was feeding on.  It was a fair ways from the road and had it's back to us, but I got the record shot.


By the time 1:30pm rolled around, which is when we planned to meet everyone in Rudyard for lunch, Rob and I had a total of 20 species, which wasn't too bad, considering this was an inland count with no chance of waterfowl.  Lunch was fantastic and it was great to talk more with some of Northern Michigan's fine birders.


After having lunch, a group of us decided to take a drive up to the Hulbert Bog (which is actually a swamp) to look for Gray Jays.  We ended up finding two of them.  A new species for my Michigan life list!



At this point, it was starting to get dark, so we called it a day and headed home.  I got to bed early as I had the Desbarats Christmas Bird Count to run the next day.

As for the total results of the count, click here. 41 species is a really good total for the inaugural count and gives us a number to beat for next year!

Monday, 18 December 2017

Sault Ste. Marie Christmas Bird Count 2017

Saturday was the Sault Ste. Marie Christmas Bird Count.  This year is my first year as one of the co-compilers for the count.  My job is to compile all the data after the count.  It's a big task, with 18 different routes and many feeder watchers, but nothing I couldn't handle.

I was assigned to do the M5 route on the Michigan side of the river.  This route was the most southern section of the circle and probably the best habitat to find Snowy Owls and other raptors.  I went scouting the weekend before, just to get an idea of the area, since I was not familiar with it at all.  We didn't see much of interest, but we didn't bird anywhere near as intensely as we would have if were were actually doing a CBC.  There were five waterfowl species, but we feared the water would freeze up come count day with the cold weather forecast looming.

My birding partner for the day and I arrived at the edge of our route at 7:55am, just as it became light enough to see.  About 10m down the road, I heard the first Black-capped Chickadee call not of the day.  We stopped and stood in this area for a while, which turned out to be productive.  In addition to a few chickadees, two American Goldfinches were heard, a few American Crows flew over and some Wild Turkeys flew out of their roost and into someone's driveway.  We continued down to the end of the road, which was 6km, over the course of the next hour.  We were up to 11 species now.  We got two unexpected, but no unusual Golden-crowned Kinglets, some American Tree Sparrows, a Common Raven, a Hairy Woodpecker, a Downy Woodpecker, a calling White-breasted Nuthatch and some flyover Common Redpolls.

Within the next hour, we came across three different flocks of Sharp-tailed Grouse for a total of 29.  The only good photo I got all day was this one of three Sharp-tailed Grouse in a pine tree.


By the time we got over to the river, my fear had come true.  The only open water remaining was right down the middle of the channels.  There was no waterfowl to be found at any of the vantage points during the three times we checked throughout the day.  By the end of the morning, we added Herring Gull, Bald Eagle, Mourning Dove, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Rock Pigeon and Blue Jay to bring us up to 18 species.

The afternoon dragged on and we barely added anything to our list.  A Pileated Woodpecker was the only new species we saw after lunch.  We were at 19 species and desperately looking to add our 20th.  I've never wanted to see a European Starling in our life.

By 4:00pm, we were so tired that we called it quits.  It was a real joy to came back to an hour long wait to get across the International Bridge and back into Canada.  I made it just in time to the results potluck that I was supposed to run!

Most of the results have been submitted at this point.  Some of the highlights include three late staying birds, a Peregine Falcon, a Belted Kingfisher and a Great Blue Heron, plus an always rare for the area Carolina Wren.  Total numbers and species were down, but it was a pretty cold day, which likely explains it.The full results are available below.

I've got two more CBC's to complete this season.  One in Rudyard, Michigan, which is actually an inaugural count, and my very own Desbarats, Ontario count.

2017 Raw Data: https://drive.google.com/open…
2017 Count Summary: https://drive.google.com/open?id=18pS5WySl-PXwo5XYBmrc488cGFy0qk20
Historical SSM CBC Data: https://drive.google.com/open…

Friday, 24 November 2017

Southern Ontario Work Trip

This past week, I attended the Latornell Conservation Symposium in Alliston, Ontario.  Luckily, I got to do some birding on the side.  I flew into Toronto around noon on Monday and had the rest of the day to get up to Alliston, so I took a quick jaunt further south the Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Etobicoke.  While I didn't get any standout species here, I did managed to rack up 31 different ones during my hour and a half there.  It's definitely a cool park and I hope someday to get back there again during a more peak season.

Mute Swan

Red-tailed Hawk

During the course of the two and a half conference, I was able to get 25 species at the Nottawasaga Inn in between sessions, but nothing of note.  After the conference ended, I still have lot's of time before I had to be back in Toronto to catch my flight home, so I headed up the Barrie to try for the Pacific Loon that was still hanging around.

I arrived in Barrie, parked along the waterfront and walked straight to the marina.  It took me less than five minutes of sifting through the Common Loons to find my target. Lifer Pacific Loon!


I then walked along the beach to see what else I could find.  I spent some time photographing some Great Black-backed Gulls.



Further along, I walked down a little rocky point and ended up spooking up a Snowy Owl!  It flew across the bay and got harassed by a bunch of gulls, but it successfully landed on the far side of the bay.  I felt bad for spooking it, but I had no idea it was there in the first place!


The weather started downing a bit sour, so I got in the car and headed down the 400, onto a plane and got back home.  I'm glad I was able to get one lifer in this visit to Southern Ontario, especially since it wasn't even a birding trip!

Monday, 6 November 2017

Eurasian Tree Sparrow in Wawa

On Friday, I learned that there was an Eurasian Tree Sparrow coming to a feeder in Wawa.  Apparently, it had been there since October 16th, but wasn't identified until recently.  The report was made to the Sault Naturalists website.  I only noticed it while I was on there uploading my own report of a Harlequin Duck from the day before.  There finder, Gail Smith, included her phone number so I gave her a ring and she had no problem with people coming to her house to see it.

There had never been an Eurasian Tree Sparrow recorded in the Algoma District before.  The OBRC has only ever accepted 11 records of the species before.  There was one sighting in Southern Ontario this spring, meaning this bird will likely be the 13th ever record of the species in Ontario.  So obviously I had to go see it.

Unfortunately, I'm in the process of moving, so I didn't really have enough time to make the 5 hour round trip to Wawa from Sault Ste. Marie to see a bird, but I found the time.  I left town at 5:30am and arrived in Wawa before the sun was up.  After waiting at Tim Horton's for the sun to rise, I stopped at the sewage lagoons to see what was there.  There were a lot of Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, Hooded Mergansers and Lesser Scaups, among a few other things.  It was now 8:30am so I headed over to find the sparrow.

Gail welcomed me into her home and said she had already seen the bird that morning.  So we chatted for a while and kept tabs on the feeder, waiting for it to come back.  After maybe 10 or 15 minutes, I looked over and there is was!  I grabbed my camera and snapped some pics through the window.  I went outside to try to get better shots, but it didn't like my presence and wouldn't show unless I was inside.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow and Song Sparrow

I couldn't stay long as I had to get back home to continue packing, but I got what I came looking for.  However, I was still going to make a few quick stops on the way home.  In Michipicoten, there were two Gray Jays, who were almost impossible to photograph and a nice Red-tailed Hawk who landed for a photo shoot.  In the next 10km or so south of that, I saw my first Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings of the fall while driving.  I didn't see anything too exciting at stops at Lake Superior Provincial Park's Old Woman Bay and Katherine's Cove, despite the water being calm and ideal for waterfowl.

Gray Jay

Red-tailed Hawk

My last stop was back close to home in Haviland Bay.  There were White-winged Scoters, Surf Scoters and a new Algoma District life for me, Black Scoters.  They were all hanging out with a bunch of Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes.

Black Scoters

Even though it was a really quick trip, some good birds were seen!

NOVEMBER 11, 2017 UPDATE:

My photo of the Eurasian Tree Sparrow made the American Birding Association's Rare Bird Alert for November 10, 2017: http://blog.aba.org/2017/11/rare-bird-alert-november-10-2017.html?platform=hootsuite


Friday, 27 October 2017

Short-eared Owls in Bar River

A few days ago, I was birding with my friend James when we decided to head down Lake George Road in the Bar River area, which is not too far outside of Sault Ste. Marie.  We stopped for a while and tried to ID a flock of small birds, which ended up being Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings.  It was getting dark, so we decided we had better get going if we were going to cover the whole road.

After driving a couple kilometers, I saw a bird flying over the back of a field.  I assumed it was a Northern Harrier and kept going.  Then there was another bird, but this time it was closer and it quickly became apparent that it was a Short-eared Owl and not a Northern Harrier.  I stopped the car and got out and snapped a few quick pics.



James had stopped to further investigate the first bird and he said it was also a Short-eared Owl.  This was awesome since Short-eared Owl was a lifer for both of us.  We stayed and watched the owls until it got totally dark.  It turned out that there were four of them in total, all hunting over the fields on both sides of the road.  One of them even caught what was probably a vole and landed out of sight to eat it.  I managed a few more proof shots, but the lighting and distance made them very hard to photograph.  CHeck out my eBird report here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S40121362



Three of them made a repeat appearance last night, according to an eBird report from another local birder: http://ebird.org/ebird/canada/view/checklist/S40136936

Monday, 25 September 2017

Bruce Mines Hawk Watch

Yesterday was a Sault Naturalists outing to the Bruce Mines area to look for some migrating raptors.  12 members of the club, including myself, made it out, despite the hot temperatures that were coming later in the day.

The first stop was just up Centre Line Road from Highway 17.  This open field area provided a great vantage point to see migrating birds.  The group leader, Mark Olivier, had apparently had great success here in previous years.  I arrived first and was able to pick up 11 species before anyone else arrived, but only one raptor, a Northern Harrier that was cruising over the field.  Not too long after everyone else arrived, a Turkey Vulture and two Common Loons flew over.  Mark then spotted our first of seven Sharp-shinned Hawks fly by.  The Northern Harrier, which appeared to be a juvenile, made a return appearance so that everyone could see it.  Two falcons flew by as well, a Peregrine Falcon followed by an American Kestrel.  The last new raptor was a Red-shouldered Hawk that flew right overhead of the group.  

We went to have lunch at the Bruce Mines Marina.  There we added a few more species for the day, but no raptors. 

The last stop of the day was the the Bruce Mines arena.  A Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawks and two Sharp-shinned Hawks greeted us right away.  A Bald Eagle, another Peregrine Falcon and another Sharp-shinned Hawk rounded out the raptors for the day. 

While we did not get the large numbers of raptors that we were looking for, we did manage 8 species.

The non-raptor species of the day were:

Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Mallard, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Common Loon, Great Blue Heron, Sandhill Crane, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, European Starling, American Pipit, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Common Grackle, and American Goldfinch.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Sault Ste. Marie Ross's Goose

An email was sent out the SaultBirds listserv about a white goose at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.  I was just leaving Desbarats from work at the time, so I thought I'd go check it out.  I arrived and found it instantly, since a white goose really stands out among a flock of Canada Geese.  Thanks to Mark Olivier for finding and spreading the word about this bird!  I had one in the spring as well, but it was seen from a distance with no chance to get decent pics like the ones I got below of this one.




There have been two other reports on eBird of a Ross's Goose right in Sault Ste. Marie, one bird being in March 1995 and one being in April 2008.  Both of these birds were reported at a generic Sault Ste. Marie location though, rather than the actual exact location they were found.  Therefore, it's hard to say if this is truly the first Ross's Goose ever recorded within Sault Ste. Marie's city limits or not.  It's possible the previous two birds were found in the fields near the airport, which are technically not within city limits, ever though most people would still call the area Sault Ste. Marie. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Road Trip to Kenora

On August 25th, my girlfriend Lindsey and I packed up the car and headed off towards Kenora for a week long trip.  It was not a birding trip rather a trip home for Lindsey, but I hoped to get as much birding in as I could.

Before just we left the Algoma District, while stopped at the A&W in White River, four Red Crossbills flew over, calling away.

We broke up the trip and stopped in Terrace Bay for the night.  The highlights of the drive up there two bull moose near the side of the highway, a Common Nighthawk and a Red-tailed Hawk.  My Thunder Bay District bird list was seriously lacking, so I was able to add quite a few common birds to the list while driving.  I hoped to find some cool shorebirds down at the Terrace Bay Beach, but a Spotted Sandpiper was as much as I got.  By the time we left the Thunder Bay District, I was up to 41 species.  Quick stops at rest areas really helped get the smaller birds that would almost impossible to see while driving.

We entered the Kenora District, where my list was a little better, but definitely could be greatly added to.  Throughout the week, I was consistently able to find birds in between all the family visits and fishing on Lake of the Woods.  We went walleye fishing on Lake of the Woods our first day and we sure did well fishing.  Better yet, American White Pelicans and Bonaparte's Gulls were out and about on the lake.
American White Pelican

Bonaparte's Gull

Lindsey's dad lives on Rabbit Lake, a small lake at the north edge of Kenora.  While fishing on the lake, I was able to find plenty of small passerines and even a couple shorebirds.  A Boreal Chickadee was in with some Black-capped Chickadees and there was a variety of warblers. A Killdeer and a Semipalmated Sandpiper were chilling on one of the beaches before a dog came along and flushed them.

A trip of the Old Man Lake, probably an hour and a half north of Kenora, produced a Black-backed Woodpecker, an Olive-sided Flycatcher and two Gray Jays.  We pulled some nice bass out of  the water there too.

Not of the other species were really that exciting.  I was just able to find a decent amount of the common birds, despite really dedicating much time to strictly birding.

On the drive home, just before Vermilion Bay, a Black-billed Magpie flew up from the side of the road and into a tree.  In the fields just before Dryden, there was a Northern Harrier, some Savannah Sparrow and a Hairy Woodpecker, making my final Kenora District list for the trip at 90.  This gave me an even 100 species for my Kenora District Life List.

The drive back through Thunder Bay featured a crazy thunderstorm, with hail.  This greatly limited the birds sightings, of course.  We arrived in Nipigon for the night and her I was able to add a few more species.  Once we arrived back in Algoma, I was up to 49 species for the Thunder Bay District.  Not bad considering it was only at like seven before the trip.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Bar River Sod Farm Shorebirds

The sod far, just south of Echo Bay in the Bar River area, can be a great place for shorebirds when the conditions are right.  It just so happened that August 24th was the best day of shorebirds so far.  I had already observed Killdeer, Semipalmated Plovers, a Least Sandpiper Black-bellied Plovers, and an American Golden-Plover at this location in the few weeks prior. 

In the morning, my dad left for work and made a stop to see if there were any birds.  He sent me a photo of identification help, which was of a Baird's Sandpiper.  I needed this species for my life list, so I rushed out the door, knowing I just had enough time to go there before I had to get to work.

I arrived and found all the birds right away.  There were four Semipalmated Sandpipers and two Least Sandpipers hanging out together.  A little further back were six Baird's Sandpipers.  There was one more shorebird that seemed different than the rest.  I snapped some shots and zoomed in on it on the camera.  I was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper!  This was I think the first record of one in Ontario this year.  It turns out another was was found in Southern Ontario the same morning, but I'm pretty sure mine was first based on the timing of the ONTBIRDS emails.  My dad did see it as well though and had pictures, but just hadn't sent it to me for ID help yet.

Other birds in the area were able to make it out and see these birds as they hing around for the whole day.  Two American Golden-Plovers showed up later in the day as well and were there when I stopped again on my way home from work.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Baird's Sandpiper


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Desbarats Dickcissel

After returning from leading a guided hike on one of The Kensington Conservancy's properties yesterday, I saw an ONTBIRDS email from David Pryor saying there was a Dickcissel in Algoma.  I was wondering when one was going to show up with the invasion that is happening in Southern Ontario.  Turns out he saw it at the corner of Barber Side Road and Government Road.  I couldn't believe that, as that is literally a 30 second drive from my office in Desbarats.

I hopped in my car and flew up the road.  David heard it about 75m east of the intersection on Government Road.  I rolled down my windows and starting listening.  All of the sudden, I was hearing this loud bird calling, unlike anything I've heard before, so I assumed it was the Dickcissel.  I stopped, whipped out my phone and quickly recorded the song.  I pulled up the Dickcissel song on my Audubon app and turns out that it definitely was the Dickcissel calling.  Lifer!

It was coming from a shrub in the ditch, but I could not see the bird.  I opened my car door, which flushed it out of the shrub.  It landed on a shrub in the middle of the adjacent hay field, so I was able to snap a proof photo:



I had to get back to work so I had to leave the cool bird.  I continued to spread to word of this bird.  Ken McIlwrick and Stan Phippen came down to get it after work and Ken got a great photo of it, which can be seen here.

I checked back this morning before work to see if I could find it again, but no luck.  The field was starting to get hayed, so I'm guessing it found somewhere else to go.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Fort St. Joseph BioBlitz

Over the weekend, there was a BioBlitz run by Parks Canada at Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site.  I had been on the organizing committee for this event for the past few months as The Kensington Conservancy had been asked to participate.  Once they found out I was a bird guy, I was tasked with leading some birding hikes during the BioBlitz.  The Kensington Conservancy, as well as other organizations that were involved, had booths up the participants could visit.

Fort St. Joseph was an important site during the War of 1812 and that is what it is mostly known for, but the Parks Canada property is also federally recognized as a Migratory Bird Sanctuary.  It is located on the very southwest corner of St. Joseph Island.

The morning of the first day of the BioBlitz, I was there early to set up my booth and start birding!  I had 33 species before my first birding hike was scheduled to start, but nothing of note. 

The first bird hike that I was leading started at 1:30pm.  To my surprise, this was a very popular hike for the BioBlitz participants and I had 20 people join me for it.  It started out pretty good as a Red-shouldered Hawk came out of nowhere and was doing circles above us.  That got a lot of the people in the group excited.  Unfortunately, that was the highlight for the first 50 minutes or so of the 1 hour hike.  We got many of the usual suspects for that I had already recorded for the BioBlitz.  However, with only a few minutes until the hike ended, we got our highlight species.  Christine Drake, a Parks Canada employee from Pukaskwa National Park, who was down to help run this event, heard a strange call from the trees.  Then another member of the hike point up into the top of a tree.  Black-billed Cuckoo!  It hung around for a few minutes, giving everyone a great opportunity to see and photograph this cool bird.  I had seen this bird last week when I was doing some scouting, so I'm glad it showed itself again for the group.  Apparently staff at the fort have been seeing it around as well.  In total, my first bird hike produced 26 species.

Black-billed Cuckoo
For the rest of the afternoon, I hung around the booths and talked with people who came up to my booth.  The fort closed to the public at 5:00pm, so it was just BioBlitz participants left.  The evening bird and bug hike, being lead by Christine, didn't start until 8:30pm, so I had lots of time for birding until then.  My friend Christopher Zayachhowski and I drove down Fort Road and walked a few of the hiking trails that the fort has.  We got 29 species in total in about 2 hours.  Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Common Goldeneye and Eastern Wood-Pewee were the only new additions for the BioBlitz.

A group of seven of us walked the length of Fort Road in search of cool bugs and birds for the 8:30pm hike.  We hoped to call in a Barred Owl after it got dark, but we had no luck.  We did hear a couple American Bitterns and a Wilson's Snipe though.  We got 21 bird species in total for the hike.

I went back to my parents' house for the night and was back down at the fort at 5:30am for my 6:00am bird hike.  Despite the rain, a few hardcore participants made it out.  A few of the new ones we got were Red-breasted Merganser, Caspian Tern, Wood Thrush, Northern Waterthrush and Golden-crowned Kinglet.  The rain stopped and we dried out a little before heading out on the next birding hike at 9:00pm, this time lead by Jennifer Foote of Algoma University.  It only ended up being Christopher, Jennifer and I as the rain scared away the participants from the public and others decided to go on other non-bird hikes.  We got a couple dozens species or so in the hour hike, but nothing new for the BioBlitz.

In total, 74 species of birds were recorded during the 24-hour BioBlitz at Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site.  This was great as the current list of birds that Parks Canada had for the site was only about 10 birds long.  Despite the bad weather, it was a great weekend and everyone involved had lots of fun!

The Island Clippings, St. Joseph Island's weekly newspaper, wrote a front page article on the event, which features a photo of the group looking up at the Black-billed Cuckoo.  Read it here.

All species recorded during the Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site BioBlitz:

Canada Goose - Branta canadensis
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Common Goldeneye - Bucephala clangula
Common Merganser - Mergus merganser
Red-breasted Merganser - Mergus serrator
Ruffed Grouse - Bonasa umbellus
Wild Turkey - Meleagris gallopavo
Common Loon - Gavia immer
Double-crested Cormorant - Phalacrocorax auritus
American Bittern - Botaurus lentiginosus
Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias
Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
Osprey - Pandion haliaetus
Bald Eagle - Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk - Buteo lineatus
Sandhill Crane - Antigone canadensis
Wilson's Snipe - Gallinago delicata
Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularius
Ring-billed Gull - Larus delawarensis
Herring Gull - Larus argentatus
Caspian Tern - Hydroprogne caspia
Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
Black-billed Cuckoo - Coccyzus erythropthalmus
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubris
Belted Kingfisher - Megaceryle alcyon
Red-bellied Woodpecker - Melanerpes carolinus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus varius
Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus
Merlin - Falco columbarius
Eastern Wood-Pewee - Contopus virens
Alder Flycatcher - Empidonax alnorum
Eastern Phoebe - Sayornis phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo - Vireo solitarius
Red-eyed Vireo - Vireo olivaceus
Blue Jay - Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow - Corvus brachyrhynchos
Common Raven - Corvus corax
Tree Swallow - Tachycineta bicolor
Black-capped Chickadee - Poecile atricapillus
Red-breasted Nuthatch - Sitta canadensis
White-breasted Nuthatch - Sitta carolinensis
Brown Creeper - Certhia americana
Winter Wren - Troglodytes hiemalis
Golden-crowned Kinglet - Regulus satrapa
Veery - Catharus fuscescens
Hermit Thrush - Catharus guttatus
Wood Thrush - Hylocichla mustelina
American Robin - Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird - Dumetella carolinensis
Cedar Waxwing - Bombycilla cedrorum
Ovenbird - Seiurus aurocapilla
Northern Waterthrush - Parkesia noveboracensis
Black-and-white Warbler - Mniotilta varia
Nashville Warbler - Oreothlypis ruficapilla
Mourning Warbler - Geothlypis philadelphia
Common Yellowthroat - Geothlypis trichas
American Redstart - Setophaga ruticilla
Northern Parula - Setophaga americana
Blackburnian Warbler - Setophaga fusca
Yellow Warbler - Setophaga petechia
Chestnut-sided Warbler - Setophaga pensylvanica
Yellow-rumped Warbler - Setophaga coronata
Black-throated Green Warbler - Setophaga virens
Chipping Sparrow - Spizella passerina
White-throated Sparrow - Zonotrichia albicollis
Savannah Sparrow - Passerculus sandwichensis
Song Sparrow - Melospiza melodia
Swamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgiana
Scarlet Tanager - Piranga olivacea
Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalis
Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Pheucticus ludovicianus
Red-winged Blackbird - Agelaius phoeniceus
Common Grackle - Quiscalus quiscula
 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Birding in the St. Marys River IBA

Over the winter, I came across the IBA Canada website and noticed that there is an Important Bird Area just south of Sault Ste. Marie along the St. Marys River.  I contacted the Ontario IBA Coordinator to find out some more information on it.  It turned out that no formal bird surveys had ever been done for the IBA.  All their data came from sources like eBird.  In order for an area to by considered important, it has to have certain trigger species present.  If a certain threshold is met for a trigger species, then it meets the criteria for being an IBA.  Rusty Blackbird (2003, 2009, 2014-2016), King Rail (2007) and Chimney Swift (2012) have been the IBA's trigger species that have met the threshold so far under IBA Canada's current criteria.  Black Tern (1991 and 1996) triggered the threshold under the previous criteria, which was in place circa 2000.

Ken McIlwrick and I teamed up to organize some formal surveys so that some real data could be submitted for the IBA.  However, it turned out that we were both so busy this spring that we ran out of time to properly recruit volunteers and set up survey dates.  Therefore, we decided that we would do the surveys on our own and turn it into a trial run so that we totally knew what to expect for 2018.

The surveys I completed this spring within the IBA were definitely a lot of fun and a great learning experience.  I was able to get a few new birds for my life list, including a local rarity, a Yellow-headed Blackbird.  Every single species of waterfowl that you could commonly expect to find within the IBA for the spring was recorded.  All the usual gull and tern species were found as well. 

Stan Phippen, another birder in the area, recorded 860 Rusty Blackbirds at the Echo Bay viewing platform, meaning a threshold has been met for at least one trigger species within the IBA for 2017!

Now that spring migration is wrapping up and birds are starting to breed, there is a lot less action at the hotspots within the IBA.  Hopefully the excitement picks up again when fall migration starts!

AUGUST 4, 2017 UPDATE:

To date, I have personally recorded 134 species within the St. Marys River IBA with a total of 85 eBird checklists under the IBA Canada protocol since January 1, 2017.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Point Pelee National Park 2017

I had the pleasure of joining a group of Sault Naturalists for a birding trip to Point Pelee National Park from May 7-11.  I was able to turn it into a work trip, with the idea was that I would increase my knowledge of birds and observe the conservation and recreation efforts of the park and hopefully use this new knowledge during my work with the conservancy.  Our group was one of a select few groups who had the pleasure of camping at the actual park, giving us a break on travel and parking each day.

Over the course of the three and a half days that I spent birding at Point Pelee, I was able to observe 168 different bird species within the park's birding area.  This included 55 species that I had never seen before.  Some of my personal favourites were Scarlet Tanager, Great Crested Flycatcher, Great Egret and Red-headed Woodpecker.  However, my top favourite was definitely seeing a red morph Eastern Screech-Owl, which is a bird we do not get up here in the Algoma area.

Another significant bird that our entire group saw was a Whimbrel.  I reported it to eBird at the time, not knowing that this was the first Whimbrel to be seen in Ontario this year.  Apparently, my report was seen right away and tons of birders flocked to the Wheatley Harbour to see this cool bird.

I also got to see some pretty cool warblers.  There was a Kirtland’s Warbler reported down a little foot path and the crowds running to see it were insane.  This warbler is one of the rarest in North America, with only a few thousand of them around.  I got a quick but great view of it with binoculars and a very crappy photo before I had to move along.  Park staff was making people move along after they had seen it in order to try to control the massive crowds.  Another neat warbler was the Prothonotary Warbler.  Apparently, these are not seen very often at Point Pelee, but there were at least six individuals around, which is unheard of.

Besides birds, I also got some see a few other interesting wildlife species.  I saw my first ever Cottontail Rabbit, Virginia Opossum, Blanding’s Turtle, Map Turtle and Gray Ratsnake.  These were in addition to some familiar species like Raccoon, Midland Painted Turtle and White-tailed Deer.

While I have not explored a lot of Canada, Point Pelee National Park is definitely one of the most beautiful and interesting places that I have been to.  While there was not much of an actual tip due to high water levels, being able to stand at the most southern point of continental Canada was pretty cool.  Their trail system is excellent and leads through a variety of habitats, including mature forests, swampy forests, open fields and marshes.  The ecological rehabilitation work that Parks Canada has done and is continuing to do there is outstanding.  They have returned a majority of the park back into natural ecosystems from when they first acquired the land.  While I’m not sure if any of the things I learned about the park’s trails and ecological rehab will be able to directly translate into my work with the Kensington Conservancy, I definitely got some ideas that could be used in the future.

In the end, it was a very successful trip.  The group was able to beat their previous record of 174 species seen among the group, so that was exciting.  The weather was fantastic, there was only a little bit of rain overnight on the last night.  Every year, they give out a pin to everyone who gets 100 species, but for Canada 150, they had a special pin for those who got 150 species, so I was able to get both.  Some of the highlight photos are below!

Prothonotary Warbler
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Scarlet Tanager
Trumpeter Swan
Eastern Kingbird
Barn Swallows
Whimbrel
Red-headed Woodpecker

All species recorded on the trip:

Canada Goose - Branta canadensis
Mute Swan - Cygnus olor
Trumpeter Swan - Cygnus buccinator
Wood Duck - Aix sponsa
Gadwall - Anas strepera
American Wigeon - Anas americana
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Shoveler - Anas clypeata
Northern Pintail - Anas acuta
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Greater Scaup - Aythya marila
Lesser Scaup - Aythya affinis
Surf Scoter - Melanitta perspicillata
Black Scoter - Melanitta americana
Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola
Common Merganser - Mergus merganser
Red-breasted Merganser - Mergus serrator
Ruddy Duck - Oxyura jamaicensis
Wild Turkey - Meleagris gallopavo
Common Loon - Gavia immer
Horned Grebe - Podiceps auritus
Double-crested Cormorant - Phalacrocorax auritus
American Bittern - Botaurus lentiginosus
Least Bittern - Ixobrychus exilis
Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias
Great Egret - Ardea alba
Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
Osprey - Pandion haliaetus
Northern Harrier - Circus cyaneus
Bald Eagle - Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis
Virginia Rail - Rallus limicola
Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
American Golden-Plover - Pluvialis dominica
Killdeer - Charadrius vociferus
Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus
Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
Dunlin - Calidris alpina
Least Sandpiper - Calidris minutilla
Pectoral Sandpiper - Calidris melanotos
Short-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseus
American Woodcock - Scolopax minor
Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularius
Solitary Sandpiper - Tringa solitaria
Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
Willet - Tringa semipalmata
Lesser Yellowlegs - Tringa flavipes
Bonaparte's Gull - Chroicocephalus philadelphia
Ring-billed Gull - Larus delawarensis
Herring Gull - Larus argentatus
Great Black-backed Gull - Larus marinus
Caspian Tern - Hydroprogne caspia
Black Tern - Chlidonias niger
Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
Forster's Tern - Sterna forsteri
Rock Pigeon - Columba livia
Mourning Dove - Zenaida macroura
Eastern Screech-Owl - Megascops asio
Great Horned Owl - Bubo virginianus
Chimney Swift - Chaetura pelagica
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubris
Belted Kingfisher - Megaceryle alcyon
Red-headed Woodpecker - Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Red-bellied Woodpecker - Melanerpes carolinus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus varius
Downy Woodpecker - Picoides pubescens
Hairy Woodpecker - Picoides villosus
Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus
American Kestrel - Falco sparverius
Merlin - Falco columbarius
Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus
Alder Flycatcher - Empidonax alnorum
Willow Flycatcher - Empidonax traillii
Least Flycatcher - Empidonax minimus
Eastern Phoebe - Sayornis phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher - Myiarchus crinitus
Eastern Kingbird - Tyrannus tyrannus
White-eyed Vireo - Vireo griseus
Yellow-throated Vireo - Vireo flavifrons
Blue-headed Vireo - Vireo solitarius
Warbling Vireo - Vireo gilvus
Red-eyed Vireo - Vireo olivaceus
Blue Jay - Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow - Corvus brachyrhynchos
Horned Lark - Eremophila alpestris
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - Stelgidopteryx serripennis
Purple Martin - Progne subis
Tree Swallow - Tachycineta bicolor
Bank Swallow - Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Cliff Swallow - Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
Black-capped Chickadee - Poecile atricapillus
Red-breasted Nuthatch - Sitta canadensis
White-breasted Nuthatch - Sitta carolinensis
Brown Creeper - Certhia americana
House Wren - Troglodytes aedon
Winter Wren - Troglodytes hiemalis
Sedge Wren - Cistothorus platensis
Marsh Wren - Cistothorus palustris
Carolina Wren - Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - Polioptila caerulea
Golden-crowned Kinglet - Regulus satrapa
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Regulus calendula
Eastern Bluebird - Sialia sialis
Veery - Catharus fuscescens
Gray-cheeked Thrush - Catharus minimus
Swainson's Thrush - Catharus ustulatus
Hermit Thrush - Catharus guttatus
Wood Thrush - Hylocichla mustelina
American Robin - Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird - Dumetella carolinensis
Brown Thrasher - Toxostoma rufum
Northern Mockingbird - Mimus polyglottos
European Starling - Sturnus vulgaris
Cedar Waxwing - Bombycilla cedrorum
Ovenbird - Seiurus aurocapilla
Louisiana Waterthrush - Parkesia motacilla
Northern Waterthrush - Parkesia noveboracensis
Blue-winged Warbler - Vermivora cyanoptera
Black-and-white Warbler - Mniotilta varia
Prothonotary Warbler - Protonotaria citrea
Tennessee Warbler - Oreothlypis peregrina
Orange-crowned Warbler - Oreothlypis celata
Nashville Warbler - Oreothlypis ruficapilla
Common Yellowthroat - Geothlypis trichas
American Redstart - Setophaga ruticilla
Kirtland's Warbler - Setophaga kirtlandii
Cape May Warbler - Setophaga tigrina
Northern Parula - Setophaga americana
Magnolia Warbler - Setophaga magnolia
Bay-breasted Warbler - Setophaga castanea
Blackburnian Warbler - Setophaga fusca
Yellow Warbler - Setophaga petechia
Chestnut-sided Warbler - Setophaga pensylvanica
Black-throated Blue Warbler - Setophaga caerulescens
Palm Warbler - Setophaga palmarum
Pine Warbler - Setophaga pinus
Yellow-rumped Warbler - Setophaga coronata
Black-throated Green Warbler - Setophaga virens
Wilson's Warbler - Cardellina pusilla
Yellow-breasted Chat - Icteria virens
Grasshopper Sparrow - Ammodramus savannarum
Chipping Sparrow - Spizella passerina
Clay-colored Sparrow - Spizella pallida
Field Sparrow - Spizella pusilla
Dark-eyed Junco - Junco hyemalis
White-crowned Sparrow - Zonotrichia leucophrys
White-throated Sparrow - Zonotrichia albicollis
Savannah Sparrow - Passerculus sandwichensis
Song Sparrow - Melospiza melodia
Lincoln's Sparrow - Melospiza lincolnii
Swamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgiana
Eastern Towhee - Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Summer Tanager - Piranga rubra
Scarlet Tanager - Piranga olivacea
Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalis
Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Pheucticus ludovicianus
Indigo Bunting - Passerina cyanea
Red-winged Blackbird - Agelaius phoeniceus
Rusty Blackbird - Euphagus carolinus
Common Grackle - Quiscalus quiscula
Brown-headed Cowbird - Molothrus ater
Orchard Oriole - Icterus spurius
Baltimore Oriole - Icterus galbula
House Finch - Haemorhous mexicanus
Purple Finch - Haemorhous purpureus
American Goldfinch - Spinus tristis
House Sparrow - Passer domesticus