Friday, 20 April 2018

Ruddy Duck in Sault Ste. Marie

A Ruddy Duck showed up in Sault Ste. Marie!  While these ducks are commonly found in Southern Ontario, they rarely make it this far north.  There have been only a handful of previous eBird records of Ruddy Duck in Sault Ste. Marie.

This bird was first found by Euan Aitken in the St. Marys River, out from City Hall.  Luckily, it stuck around for the rest of the day and many people got to enjoy it.  It was extremely windy, which made it cold, but it was worth it.  It was also hard to photograph because it was going up and down in the waves, but I managed some alright shots.




Monday, 16 April 2018

Cuba 2018

So, last month, my girlfriend, Lindsey, and I took a vacation to Varadero, Cuba.  It wasn't a bird watching trip, but I still got to see lots of cool birds.

We stayed at a resort called Muthu Playa Varadero.  We didn't arrive to the resort until well after dark, but that didn't stop me from getting my first bird.  As we explored the resort in the dark, we spooked a Short-eared Owl, who started barking at us.  We got a very crappy look at it too when it flew off. This was definitely one bird I was not expecting to get here!

I woke up bright and early to explore the resort for birds.  There were birds calling left and right but none of them were visible.  Then, I looked up and four Magnificent Frigatebirds were flying over! Here's a bad photo of one of them:

Magnificent Frigatebird
It quickly became apparent that House Sparrows, Northern Mockingbirds and Greater Antillean Grackles were going to be the abundant species.  I also got a distant flyby Wood Stork, two Yellow-throated Warblers, a Zenaida Dove, some Neotropic Cormorants, a Cuban Blackbird, a few Eurasian Collared-Doves, some Laughing Gulls, Antillean Palm-Swifts, Cuban Martins and Cave Swallows.  Ten lifers in just over an hour!

Later in the morning while down at the beach, a Royal Tern went flying by.  After lunch, we went for a walk at the nearby Varahicacos Ecological Reserve. Here I got Cuban Emerald, Yellow-headed Warbler, Gray Kingbird, and Cuban Vireo.  My last lifer of the day was Brown Pelican, back down at the beach.

Day two was a bus trip down to the Zapata Peninsula to a beach and crocodile farm.  I figured I'd get some cool birds down there, as it's one of the prime birding locations in Cuba.  If only I was able to actually concentrate 100% on birding!  The first lifer of the day was a Glossy Ibis flying in front of another resort.  On the ride there, I saw countless Cattle Egrets in the fields, as well as a Cuban Crow. 

Our second spot was a place called Cueva de los Peces.  Here I got Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Pewee, and Red-legged Thrush. Not bad for a 20 minute stop!

Terrible photo of a Red-legged Thrush and Cuban Green Woodpecker
Blue-headed Quail-Dove
The next stop was at a beach.  We hung out here for almost two hours.  There wasn't much for birds, but I did managed lifers White-winged Dove, Little Blue Heron and Loggerhead Kingbird here.  We headed back north towards the crocodile farm and we passed a Swallow-tailed Kite sitting on the wore along the road. Neat!

The crocodile farm, Criadero de Cocodrilos, was a birding hotspot.  I really wish we had more than half an hour of free time here.  I got Common Gallinule, Purple Gallinule, West Indian Woodpecker, Cuban Oriole, Red-shouldered Blackbird and Tawny-shouldered Blackbird, among a bunch of other birds I'd already seen before.

Cuban Oriole

West Indian Woodpeckers

Red-legged Thrush

Common Gallinule

Great Egret

Cuban Pewee

Green Heron

Purple Gallinule

Cuban Emerald
Our last stop of the day was at some place that also had quite a few birds, but the only lifer was a few Smooth-billed Anis

Smooth-billed Ani



Just before we got back to the hotel, we saw a few Anhingas sunning themselves on the rocks along the shoreline.

On day three, I took a walk off the resort in search of birds.  It ended up being pretty successful!  The highlight was definitely seeing another Swallow-tailed Kite, and getting photo proof this time, although very distant shots.  I also got Gundlach's Hawk, Cuban Black Hawk, Common Ground-Dove and Western Spindalis, plus some great up close look at some Cattle Egrets.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Cattle Egret

Anhinga

Cuban Black Hawk

Gundlach's Hawk

Common Ground-Dove

Western Spindalis
Upon returning to the resort, I got photos of a Yellow-throated Warbler, Cuban Blackbird, Royal Tern, plus a lifer Prairie Warbler.

Cuban Blackbird

Prairie Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

Royal Tern
Day four didn't produce any lifers as we just hung out at the resort.  On day five, we took a boat tour out to an island called Cayo Blanco.  There was a Reddish Egret right at the beach when we got off the boat, a lifer.  There was some great gull photo ops here.  Plus I got my only shorebirds of the entire trip here, two Ruddy Turnstones.  On the ride home, there were 43 Magnificent Frigatebirds over a little island.

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Laughing Gull

Magnificent Frigatebirds
That was a wrap on the new birds for the trip, but I did get some good Brown Pelican photos over the last two days.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican
In total, I observed 76 species over the course of a week in Cuba, 44 of which were lifers.  Here is the complete list of birds I saw:


Helmeted Guineafowl
Wood Stork
Magnificent Frigatebird
Neotropic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Anhinga
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Little Blue Heron
Reddish Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Glossy Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Swallow-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Gundlach's Hawk
Cuban Black Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Purple Gallinule
Common Gallinule
Ruddy Turnstone
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Blue-headed Quail-Dove
White-winged Dove
Zenaida Dove
Mourning Dove
Smooth-billed Ani
Short-eared Owl
Antillean Palm-Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Cuban Emerald
West Indian Woodpecker
Cuban Green Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Cuban Pewee
Gray Kingbird
Loggerhead Kingbird
Cuban Vireo
Cuban Crow
Purple Martin
Cuban Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cave Swallow
Red-legged Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Northern Parula
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Western Spindalis
Yellow-headed Warbler
Cuban Oriole
Red-shouldered Blackbird
Tawny-shouldered Blackbird
Cuban Blackbird
Greater Antillean Grackle
House Sparrow

St. Marys River IBA Waterbird Survey #1

The Sault Naturalists conducted the first waterbird survey of the St. Marys River Important Bird Area (IBA) of the year yesterday morning. Obviously, spring wasn’t predicted to be this delayed when the date was scheduled back in December! However, six participants, including myself, braved the cold wind before the snow started to fall and went out to see what they could find.

When it came to waterbirds, three Ring-necked Ducks, three Common Goldeneyes and two Hooded Mergansers were observed from the bridge on Highway 17B in Echo Bay in a little sliver of open water. Many Canada Geese were observed over the course of the morning, but the usual Mallards and American Black Ducks had not arrived to the fields for the day yet. One Herring Gull was observed flying overhead.

Ring-necked Ducks
Other highlights within the IBA were a Ring-necked Pheasant and a Peregrine Falcon at the west end of Calabogie Road in Laird Township. Many blackbirds were seen at this location too. Some common feeder birds like American Goldfinches, Common Redpolls, American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos were observed in various locations. Snow Buntings, American Robins, Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures and Sandhill Cranes were observed as well.

During a quick trek outside of the IBA to the Bar River Flats, a couple participants briefly heard a couple Lapland Longspurs on Lake George Road. This field also had 80+ Sandhill Cranes and hundreds of Canada Geese. No Cackling Geese or Snow Geese yet!

Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese - photo by Val Walker
 In total, only 24 species were observed within the IBA this morning, which is incredibly low for mid-April, but not terrible considering the weather today. This time last spring, there were thousands of ducks observed throughout the IBA, so it is quite the difference this year.

Echo Bay viewing platform - photo by Val Walker
Echo Bay viewing platform - photo by Val Walker
Old train bridge in Echo Bay - photo by Val Walker
To learn more about the St. Marys River IBA, click here.

The next St. Marys River IBA Waterbird Survey is scheduled for this upcoming Saturday, April 21st. Hopefully a few more birds show up by then and the weather is a little nicer! If you wish to participate, please RSVP with me at 705-297-0677 (text or call) or carterdorscht@hotmail.com.