Thursday, March 29, 2018

Schomberg Barnacle Goose

I was lucky enough to be in Southern Ontario last week and close enough to Schomberg that I was able to make a stop to see the rare Barnacle Goose that was hanging around.

In the first photo, the Barnacle Goose is standing up on the ice, near the top right corner, facing right. In the second photo, it's laying down on the ice, back centre.

This rare goose was first found March 13, 2018 and was last reported on March 25th.

This very well could be a species I'll never seen again in the wild in Ontario.  This bird likely came from the eastern seaboard, where some rare European goose species have been known to winter.  On it's journey back to Europe, or Greenland, it must have flew around a big storm that occurred the night before it was found, as the radar photos of the storm made the Schomberg area a very logical place for it to land.

After seeing this bird, I headed to the airport and traveled to Cuba for a week.  Now I'll begin writing that blog post, which may take a few days to finish!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Michigan Day Trip

Yesterday morning, fellow birder Christopher Zayachkowski and I headed over to Michigan for a day of birding.  Our day started out with a mini Sault Naturalists outing.  Dave Euler was taking people down to the Rudyard area to see some Sharp-tailed Grouse leks and see the Snowy Owls prior to the regularly scheduled outing.

We arrived at a known lek location.  There were five Sharp-tailed Grouse hiding among the tall grass at first, then anther five flew it.  They soon began their dances.  It was pretty cool to see!

Then, they all suddenly stopped calling and dancing and just sat still.  This, sitting on a telephone pole just down the road, probably had something to do with it:

This was the first of many Snowy Owls we'd see over the next hour or so.  We did one loop of the Rudyard Loop and saw sixteen Snowy Owls and two Rough-legged Hawks.  Many of the owls provided good photo opportunities.

At this point, the others had to take off to meet up with the main Sault Naturalists outing.  Chris and I headed south to continue birding.  We crossed the Mackinac Bridge and arrived at the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch.  For the first hour or so, not a single raptor was seen.  We did many a decent list of other birds as we waited though.  Finally, our patience paid off.  Golden Eagles!  In total, we saw 14 pass by.  A few flew directly overhead and I got some pretty crappy photos!

We ended up seeing three Bald Eagles, two Red-tailed Hawks and a Rough-legged Hawk before we took off and headed back north.

We made a quick stop in St. Ignace, where I saw my first Canada Geese of the year.  Other than that, nothing exciting at all was seen on our way home.  It was a great day though and I'll be sure to visit the raptor watch again soon.  But first, I'm leaving for Cuba tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Boreal Species Trip to Wawa

On Sunday, I was up before 4:00am to get ready for a day trip up to Wawa in search of boreal birds.  I picked up a friend and we were on our way.  My main targets for this trip were Black-backed Woodpecker and Boreal Chickadee, as they were two species I still did not have for my Algoma District list.  Any other boreal species would be nice for my year list too, as well as the Eurasian Tree Sparrow that's been in Wawa since October.

Our first stop was downtown Wawa to see if the Eurasian Tree Sparrow was still around.  We decided to make this quick though.  The annual ice fishing derby was taking place in Wawa over the weekend and snowmachines were flying around in every direction.  It didn't help that the house hosting the rarity is right on the edge of Wawa Lake, where all the ice fishing action was happening.  We pulled up and hopped out of the car.  It didn't take long for me to find the sparrow and snap a distant few photos.  I also caught a quick glimpse of the Song Sparrow that decided to hang around here this winter too, but I didn't get photo of it.

With our first target quickly acquired, we were on the move again.  We drove just back down the highway to Michipicoten.  We walked all around the little town and saw a ton of common feeder birds, such as American Goldfinches, Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins and Pine Grosbeaks.  We had hoped to find a Boreal Chickadee among the Black-capped Chickadees, but no luck here.  There was a Common Grackle though, which must have been the same one seen here last week by a couple other birders.  I'm guessing it stuck around all winter rather than it being a very early migrant.

Our next stop was the road on the way to the landfill.  Here we struck gold.  Soon after we got out of the car and started walking, four Red Crossbills went flying over.  I wish they had landed, as I've still yet to photograph this species.  It didn't take long until I heard a woodpecker banging away on a tree.  We stopped and listened and it finally made a call.  Black-backed Woodpecker!  It seemed like it was slowly coming closer, so we waited.  Sure enough, it flew out of the trees, crossed over the road, and landed.  I managed only one photo before it took off again, but it was enough to tell what it was!

We continued walking down the road.  Blue Jays, Common Ravens and American Crows were zooming all over the place while being very vocal.  We soon came across some trees with some very active chickadees fluttering about.  After a few seconds of checking them out, I found one that was indeed a Boreal Chickadee!  I took a lot of crappy photos before I finally got one that wasn't nearly as bad as the rest.

There ended up being at least three Boreal Chickadees here.  I also heard another Black-backed Woodpecker just a little further down the road.  We got to the gate at the landfill, which was closed, so this was the end of the line for us.  On our walk back to the car, we stopped because we heard some howling.  A pack of wolves were nearby!  It was so cool to hear them.  After an early lunch at Tim Horton's in Wawa, we stopped at a few more places and walked around.  We saw lots of birds, but not really anything else of note.  So we got back on the highway and started our journey home, with plans to make some stops on the way home.

Our first stop was at Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park.  Bird wise, not much going on here, but just as we were leaving, I saw a Gray Jay flying through the trees.  Our next stop was to check out the feeders at the park office.  There were lots of Pine Grosbeaks, as well as some Black-capped Chickadees, Common Redpolls and Red-breasted Nuthatches.  I got some decent Pine Grosbeak photos here.

Our last stop of the day was at Katherine's Cove, still within the park.  This was definitely the most eventful spot, but not for a good reason! After checking out the view of frozen Lake Superior and seeing some Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers, we got back in the car.  However, the car didn't want to go.  My front left tire was parked on a patch of ice and was just spinning.  It didn't help that I couldn't move any further ahead.  My only option was to reserve up a small incline.  After 45 minutes or so, we finally got a tree branch under the tire enough for the tire to catch and I got out of there.  The one positive of this scenario was that a small flock of White-winged Crossbills flew by at some point.  We were back on the road, and despite some extreme frustration on my end, no damage was done and we enjoyed the rest of the drive home on what was a beautiful, sunny day!

Friday, March 2, 2018

2017/2018 Algoma District Winter List

This winter, I didn't try super hard to add to build up my winter list.  However, I was able to get some good winter species this year for the Algoma District that I didn't get last year:

White-winged Scoter
Barrow's Goldeneye
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Ring-necked Pheasant
Northern Hawk Owl
Barred Owl
Great Gray Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Black-billed Magpie
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Red-winged Blackbird
Song Sparrow
Hoary Redpoll

In total, I had 68 species between December 1 and February 28, a slight increase from 61 last winter.  This brings my two year total to 77 species for my Algoma District winter list.  Next year, I'll have to actually make it up into the boreal forest before the end of February to get those species on my list!

In addition to my personal list, I started keeping track of all of the species recorded during the winter in the Algoma District.  There were 94 species total, with three of them being brand new ones for the overall Algoma District: Barrow's Goldeneye, Pied-billed Grebe (which I found) and Eurasian Tree Sparrow.  That list now sits at 165 species.