Friday, December 21, 2007

Brief update

Yes, it's been a long time since my last post but this season has a way of bogging one down in business. I have been working many hours this past month and most mornings that I have off, I have slept in, catching up for all of the 6-hour sleeps I had during the week.

However, updates will come soon, mainly from the holidays when I'll be able to birdwatch Pelee again. My Greyhound trip home is only 2 days away and after Christmas, I plan to bird, bird, bird. It's become a bit of a tradition for Marianne and I to be the first birders to the tip on New Year's Day so hopefully we'll be out there to find the first birds of the year!

I'm also on my way to becoming a member of the Toronto Ornithological Club. The irony is that by the time I become a member, I'll be moving back to Leamington! That is, unless a good job falls into my lap (unlikely). One of the most exciting aspects of being a member is that I will get a tour of the ROM's bird collection and I can look through the files for all of Ontario's rare bird reports. I could spend a week reading those and not get bored! I also finally checked out the Toronto Reference Library and they have a wonderfully large section of texts and guides on birds. I sat for about an hour perusing field guides I plan to purchase, some rare texts, and a few guides that I didn't even know existed. A day spent looking through all of this material is something I definitely plan to do once I get back to Toronto.

So stay tuned for upcoming updates and hopefully things will settle down in 2008 so I can start posting again...and of course, go birding as often as possible.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Humber Bay East/West and High Park OFO Trip

On Sunday, December 9, David Milsom lead an OFO trip to Humber Bay, Colonel Sam Smith Park (southwest of Humber Bay), and High Park. All in all, it was a great trip lasting from 9:00am to 4:30pm with a total of 56 species, good for a day of birding in December.

I personally knew I was in for a good day within minutes as the first birds we saw walking away from the parking lot in Humber Bay East were a group of Trumpeter Swans in the small ponds adjacent to the bay. There were 2 adults and 2 juvenile birds, all trumpeting a few meters away from the group (32 people total to start). This was a lifer for me, as the species is now considered countable after enough years post-reintroduction. This is one of many lifers I've gotten this fall, probably due to being on Lake Ontario versus Lake Erie where some of the species that are difficult to find in my hometown are quite easily found here. Other waterfowl (and waterbirds) present in the ponds and also at Humber Bay East/West included Common Loon (3), Horned Grebe (1), American Coot, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, American Black Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Redhead (good numbers mixed in with large rafts of Scaup), Greater and Lesser Scaup, Long-tailed Duck (numerous), singles of Black and White-winged Scoter (each only seen by a few members of the group), Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded, Red-breasted, and Common Merganser, and a single, nonbreeding male Ruddy Duck.

Landbirds were few and far between but in Humber Bay East/West we saw Northern Shrike, American Tree Sparrow, Chickadees, 2 Northern Mockingbirds, and a Killdeer at the warm-water outlet near the white archway connecting Humber Bay East and West.

We then headed to Colonel Sam Smith Park (at the foot of Kipling Avenue), which was a new area to bird for me and it produced some good birds. There we had 8 Snow Buntings, an American Kestrel, an American Pipit, American Tree Sparrow, Golden-crowned Kinglet, a single Winter Wren, and 4 Red-necked Grebes. At this point, it began to snow a bit more intensely so visibility was low. There was also the trouble with ice; two members slipped and fell leaving us with a knee and ankle injury.

Those brave enough to stay out in the snowfall then drove to High Park to visit the north end of Grenadier Pond where open water is still available. Here there were Mallards, a Great Blue Heron, 3 Swamp Sparrows, and the highlight for the day, a secretive Virginia Rail found by Chris Escott. In this area, we also picked up American Robin, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, American Goldfinch, and a few other passerine species.

The trip proved that winter birding can be a great time, especially when some of our common species produce the most excitement. Unfortunately, no white-winged gulls were present.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Humber River birding

Well, I don't have much to report from today's trip as the cold brought me back inside and next to my radiators with a blanket and the remote control fairly quickly. Note to self: buy warmer gloves.

I decided to try somewhere different than High Park or Humber Bay East today so I hopped on the streetcar and transferred onto the subway to get to Old Mill Station where the trails run along the Humber River (including Etienne Bule Park, King's Mill Park, and Home Smith Park). My hope was to get Pine Grosbeak but I unfortunately wasn't that lucky. Note to self: don't get hopes up for Pine Grosbeak.

The area is decent for birding with open water that had Mallards, Canada Geese, and Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. In the wooded areas, I found Chickadees, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatch, Juncos, Downy Woodpeckers, Cardinals, a flock of Blue Jays, 3 Purple Finches, 2 Golden-crowned Kinglets, a single Brown Creeper, and two perched Red-tailed Hawks overlooking the river.

I did get some neat mammal sightings though. I saw my second Red Fox for Toronto skulking through the trees near the river. The last time I saw one was at High Park. There was also a Muskrat in the river and once I got home, Jess and I saw a Raccoon in the trees outside our apartment window.

The next time I go out, I think I'll try Humber Bay East again since there are a lot of waterfowl on the lake right now. Note to self: buy warmer gloves.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lifer! Brant (status pending?)

Photo courtesy of "Michael" on the Toronto and Southern Ontario Birding Forum.

On Saturday, a single Brant (pale-bellied) was reported from Harbour Square, Toronto, just west of Queens Quay where the ferries dock to cross to Center Island. The initial reporter mentioned that the bird was probably an escape as it was mingling with some resident Canada Geese in the small park next to the lake and was very easily approached. However, another person posted a reply on Sunday saying the bird actually had an injured leg (extreme swelling of the tarsus) and said that was the reason for the approachability. I decided to investigate (especially seeing as the bird is a lifer for me).

Here is where I attempt to rationalize why I am counting this species:

1) Time of year indicated that it could in fact be a wild-type bird as the report falls within fall migration dates.

2) The injury to the tarsus tells me that the bird stopped in a sheltered place in the small park among Canada geese in a metropolitan area where there is constant food availability and it is safer. Sadly, it could also mean it was injured by a pedestrian (I've seen Canada Geese along the Waterfront trail with injured wings). I believe it's due to the injury that the bird is so approachable (versus escapee). The leg is swollen enough that the bird will take a few steps then rest down on its belly and feed from a sitting position.

3) The bird didn't have any bands, nor did it have a deep belly, often demonstrated by domesticated waterfowl.

4) The bird was flying without any trouble, moving back and forth between the lake and the water (there is no beach here, so the geese have to fly over a railing to get to the lake).

5) I do not know Brant as a common domestic goose, nor do I often hear of escapes. However, when it comes down to it, someone could argue the exact opposite and probably convince me that the bird is uncountable. Perhaps a 6th point in my list could read "I need Brant for my lifelist." I guess I can rest easy on the fact that I'll no doubt get Brant in Ontario in the future.

Any thoughts?

Monday, November 26, 2007

High Park - Saturday

Just a quick update on my trip to High Park last Saturday. The weather was really great, cold but not bone-chilling and bird activity was decent. Immediately upon entering the park, I heard Robins and Chickadees singing as well as an abundance of Starlings (always present in large numbers). Just north of Colborne Lodge, I had Downy Woodpecker, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and White-breasted Nuthatch. There is an area just around the bend from the first parking lot in the park where someone puts out seed for the local birds and this keeps a number of the species just mentioned close-by (White-breasted Nuthatches always look like they're about to land on me and then turn in flight at the last second). In this spot, there were a lot of White-throated Sparrows feeding, a few Juncos, and a lot of House Sparrows. Overhead I heard a few flocks of Goldfinches. As I walked past this location, I saw an owl fly off in the distance (being harassed by songbirds). By its size, I would say Great Horned or Barred but I couldn't be sure. Still a nice sighting.

Later, I decided to check Grenadier Pond. There are still good numbers of Northern Shoveler, Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, and Mallard. This time, I counted 5 Domestic Mallard types versus the three I've had consistently in the past. Only 1 pair of Mute Swan is present right now. Lastly, I had a single female Ruddy Duck on the pond. She actually swam right up to the shore into the shallows and preened for a while right in front of me. Sometimes I hate not having a camera.

Later on, on some trails, I had a flock of Common Redpoll fly over me while I was looking at a large group of Robins and Juncos (in another area where birds are often fed seed). In this location, I also had an interesting Junco that showed slight white wing-bars; not to the extent shown in Sibley's but not far off. I don't recall ever seeing this before.

Lastly, I have to report a Rufous Hummingbird right in Kingsville that has been hanging out at a feeder there for about a week now. Once again, a significantly rare bird is within short driving distance of my Leamington home and I can't go to see it! Although I was successful with my last chases, Northern Wheatear and White-faced Ibis, this bird is definitely going to go unseen by me. Oh well, there will be others!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Butterflies of Panama City Beach and other Wildlife

Although I thought the Red-cockaded Woodpecker post would be my last Panama City Beach Trip discussion, here comes another aspect of my trip that I forgot to mention before: other wildlife! Although birds always come first when I'm in the field, I also study butterflies and dragonflies, and pay attention to any other wildlife like mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Unfortunately, I do not have a comprehensive dragonfly guide so I skipped trying to identify new species. However, I did get 4 new butterfly species.

My list of butterflies is short and this is no doubt due to the time of year as well as me mostly paying attention to birds. However, here are the species I recorded (those with stars were new species):

Monarch - I saw Monarchs everywhere but always in small numbers.

*Gulf Fritillary - by far the most common species, this butterfly was most abundant right in Panama City Beach. There were hundreds along the beach, along the road, in marshes, and next to woodlots.

Buckeye - quite common

*Cloudless Sulphur - common and found in all of the same locations as Gulf Fritillary but in far fewer numbers (usually 1 or 2 per location)

*Long-tailed Skipper - this attractive skipper was fairly common in open areas and along roadsides

Least Skipper - found in similar locations as Long-tailed Skipper but more abundant in marshy locations

*Little Yellow - a single individual at Apalachicola National Forest

In the mammal category, I saw White-tailed Deer, a Coyote at roadside, Raccoon (roadkill), and numerous wild Dogs and Domestic Cats. I wasn't lucky enough to see any dolphins on this trip.

Reptiles: Five-lined Skink, which was numerous in St. Andrew's State Park and a single, large Alligator at St. Andrew's as well (basking in the sun).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

As promised, I'm finally getting around to making a post on my Red-cockaded Woodpecker sightings. I'll start right from the beginning.

Early on in the planning of our trip, I mentioned to my parents that we were about an hour and a half hour drive from one of the best spots to see an endangered species that is on the decline. With enough persistence, I was able to get them intrigued and they agreed to drive me there on one of the days of our trip to Panama City Beach. We decided on Friday, the day before my brother's race but there was a catch. Although we left early in the morning to head for Apalachicola National Forest (Florida's largest national forest), we had to be back to the hotel by 2:00 to take my brother's (Jamie) bike to the race transition area. We left and arrived at the park by 8:00 giving us 4 hours to find the Red-cockaded Woodpecker (listed as common year-round in the ABA Birder's Guide to Florida). I was in charge of directions and although I had looked at both the atlas and the birder's guide before leaving, I still managed to take us down the wrong road into the park (which was also a longer route than was necessary). So, the entire time we were looking for the birds (and trees marked with a white ring around their base indicating cavity locations), we were in the wrong location. Mind you, the birding was great here so it wasn't all bad. As mentioned in an earlier post, we found Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, and Pileated Woodpecker...but no Red-cockaded. Warblers were abundant and Eastern Bluebirds were constantly flying past.

Around 10:30 I started to feel the urgency and it was around that time that I also realized we were on the wrong road! Change of plans, we quickly drove south on the road to a "town" called Sumatra, which was actually just a small gas station. I decided to go in and ask if there were any reports of Red-cockaded Woodpecker nearby recently (even though I now knew we were on the right track). The woman in the gas station snickered at me and complained that "those woodpeckers stopped us from logging this land." I got a really bad Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe from the place so I quickly just told my parents to drive down the new road, called the Apalachee Savannahs Scenic Byway. The habitat here was made up of pristine, mature Longleaf/Wiregrass woods, shrub-swamp, and cypress stands providing a beautiful drive through pinewoods and savannah where controlled burning takes place. This is prime habitat for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, which builds cavities in mature (60 years or older) Longleaf Pines that have been infected with Red-heart, a fungal disease that softens the heartwood. With such specific habitat requirements, it's no wonder the species is endangered in an area that is constantly undergoing development. I was also shocked to read that it might take up to three years to build a cavity, often undertaken by a trio of birds, an adult male and female with a young male from a previous brood. However, there are also human-made cavities in the area to further protect the species. Also interesting is that the birds drill 'resin wells' around the cavity entrance, which is thought to detract predators as well as identify the tree.

Finally, around 11:15, we found our first pines marked with the telltale white rings around their trunks. I knew I was running out of time and frantically searched for woodpeckers and listened for drumming but to no avail. Around noon, after we had driven most of the scenic byway and stopped at various white-marked trees, we had to give up and call it a day (I later learned that one of the calls I heard was indeed a Red-cockaded Woodpecker and I cursed myself for not listening to their calls on my tapes before leaving). My parents must have sensed my disappointment (and I daresay they were really getting into the hunt at that point) and so they agreed that we would come back the day we were leaving Panama City Beach, but this time we would start in the right location at dawn. The birds leave their cavities just before sunrise and it is the best time to see them as they often hang around their cavities for a while before spreading throughout the national forest.

Now, here's where the real fun begins. Sunday night, after the race on Saturday, there was a party going on at a nightclub that is adjacent to the United States' largest bar (so both are very popular). Jamie and I decided to go but didn't realize how late we'd be. I admit, I probably had a bit too much to drink (O.K., way too much to drink...especially since it took us an hour to walk home - and I was wearing flip-flops). The moment I stumbled into the hotel room (around 3:00am), my parents were already up packing for us to leave to go to Apalachicola National Forest and then home. At this point, I started drinking lots of water to try to sober up and slept maybe 20 minutes on the drive the park. When we got there, the brisk morning air woke me up and I no longer felt the alcohol. It was time to find this bird! About ten minutes after we stopped along the road at the first white-marked trees, my mom motioned me back to the van when she heard drumming on a nearby tree. I looked up and saw my first Red-cockaded Woodpecker. My relief, excitement, and the realization of just how rare this species is sunk in and I couldn't take my binoculars off the bird.

All of us got great looks after that. We ended up seeing about 5-6 birds in total, all of them noisy and active. At one point, I had three individuals on the same tree. Just before dawn is definitely the time to look for these birds and the experience is spectacular. I was actually able to witness one bird poke its head out of a cavity and then emerge and fly across to join two other birds. As I studied their field marks and behaviour, I noted the large white cheek patch, the white-barred black back, the dense spotting and barring on their underside, and their black tail. The red 'cockade' at the back of the head, which the species is named after, was not visible on any birds. Nor did any of the individuals I saw have any coloured bands. I also noted the social aspect of this species, forming small groups that actively nest and forage together. I couldn't get over how noisy they were with a strange nasal call that was made frequently. After about half an hour, the birds started to disperse as quickly as they had emerged. Definitely my best birding experience of the year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lifer! Red-necked Grebe

My second trip to Humber Bay East (November 20) was just as exciting as the first. This time around, I had all the same duck species and more. Long-tailed Duck still outnumbers all others (it's amazing how common they are on Lake Ontario compared to the western basin of Lake Erie where I'm used to). There are also good numbers of Red-breasted and Hooded Mergansers and Bufflehead. However, Scaup numbers in the vicinity are low (I only saw 3 Lesser), and Scoters are virtually absent (the single White-winged Scoter female is still present in one of the marshes). Only 1 Common Loon was present again today.

In terms of marsh ducks, Mallards are very common while Gadwall, American Black Duck, American Wigeon, and Green-winged Teal are also present but in fewer numbers.

Somewhat surprisingly, I still had not seen a Red-necked Grebe until today so I was very excited to see a nonbreeding individual at close range, its yellow bill and buffy crescent quite distinctive. I believe this species is much more common on Lake Ontario but I'm not sure of its status in the eastern basin of Lake Erie (any comments here on its abundance on Lake Ontario versus Erie would be greatly appreciated). The Toronto Ornithological Club's status forms has peak numbers in the triple digits.

Inland, I had a single Mockingbird, both Kinglet species, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, a lot of Dark-eyed Juncos and Chickadees, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, American Tree Sparrow, and a few migrating Goldfinches. Also present in the estuary were Killdeer, a Great Black-backed Gull, and a large group of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Humber Bay East / West - Long-tailed Ducks

Just thought I'd write a quick post on my first trip to Humber Bay East/West Metro Parks on Saturday. They were much smaller than I expected, but there are a few great lookouts onto Lake Ontario to scan for ducks, the majority of which were Long-tailed (about 200-300 birds would be a conservative estimate). The East and West parks are split by Mimico Creek Estuary, a marshy area that contained many Mallards, Green-winged Teal, and American Black Ducks as well as a few Bufflehead. The marshes within the park contained these species as well as a number of Gadwall, American Wigeon, Hooded Mergansers, and two single birds, a female White-winged Scoter, and a female Redhead. Also on the lake was a single Common Loon, Red-breasted Mergansers, many Bufflehead, and a few Common Goldeneyes.

For other birds, I had a flock of 6 Snow Buntings fly over, a good number of Red-breasted Nuthatches, 3 Northern Mockingbirds, 1 Belted Kingfisher, 10 Killdeer, a ton of Chickadees, a few flocks of Goldfinches, many American Tree Sparrows, 2 Yellow-rumped Warblers, and an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron hunting along the estuary. I still haven't been lucky enough to have any winter finch flocks but I'll be checking out High Park this week and some areas along the lake to try my luck.

My final counts were as follows:

Green-winged Teal - 16
Bufflehead - 30+
Killdeer - 10
American Black Duck - 11
Redhead - 1
Hooded Merganser - 39
Gadwall - 28
Mute Swan - 29
White-winged Scoter - 1
Long-tailed Duck- 200-300
Common Loon - 1
Common Goldeneye - 3
Red-breasted Meganser - 30+

The highlight was the constant, musical OW OWeLEP! calls of the Long-tailed Ducks that I could hear all morning. The lake was also extremely calm and I had great, close views of this handsome species.

Here's a short video where you can hear the Long-tailed Duck calling.

Friday, November 16, 2007

White-faced Ibis - Hillman Marsh

After all the Panama City Beach posts, I completely forgot about making a post on the White-faced Ibis, which now seems like the distant past. October 27 marked the addition of this species to my life list when Blake Mann and I saw the bird, which stayed at Hillman Marsh for about a week, fly over the northwest bridge near the entrance to the conservation area. The weather conditions were quite poor as the sky was overcast and lighting was terrible. Also, where the bird first landed, it was very difficult to see its pinkish face (no white due to it being in nonbreeding plumage). Needless to say, we couldn't detect the iris colour at that distance either. Fortunately, the bird eventually flew closer while hanging out with a group of Greater Yellowlegs and at that point, I could see the pinkish face through my scope. Blake has photos on his blog that you can see here.

This record accounts for very few Ontario sightings and I'm relieved that I was able to see this particular bird (I would have had trouble making it to see the Dundas Marsh bird and I missed Pelee's former sightings). I now have Glossy and White-faced Ibises in the Pelee Birding Circle and it's always a pleasure to study a new species we don't often get to see.

Canada and Cackling Goose and a SIBLEY BLOG!

While searching for information on the status of Canada Goose subspecies in North America, I came across the following link that has a good summary of which populations are assigned to what species. You can access it here. As I figured, there is still considerable debate over how many subspecies should be assigned as well as complications over the naming of the smaller-bodied species, Cackling Goose ('Cackling' Goose was formerly considered a subspecies of Canada but now 4 subspecies are listed under the newly split species, Cackling Goose!).

After reading it, I certainly agree with the author on two major points: 1) This has certainly rejuvenated the study of the Canada Goose and Cackling Goose in North America and better data might now be found to bring new information to the status of the many subspecies (which will aid in conservation). 2) There is much study needed at the intermediate level, particularly with parvipes that has been grouped under Canada Goose and taverneri, that has been grouped under Cackling Goose.

The article states that there are also suggestions to split the North American population into 2-4 species! Although I haven't read the research behind these suggestions, this seems a little out of hand at this point if we're already having trouble classifying subspecies into 2 different groups. Don't get me wrong, I agree that we should constantly be studying taxonomy to look for species splits, but in some cases, it seems that 2 species are split that still have broad range overlaps and many intermediate birds that can't be classified. The Canada/Cackling Goose is definitely the perfect example and much more study is needed in my opinion. There are a lot more articles out there on the topic that be found through a simple Google search.

Which brings me to another discovery in the article. David Sibley has his own blog! I'm elated to see that he provides updates online including discussions of identification, conservation, taxonomy, and sightings. His blog, Sibley Guides Notebook is a great read and he currently has a discussion of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker controversy and also a compelling discussion of the status of Great White Heron - species, colour morph, or subspecies? Sibley also has a discussion of the Canada/Cackling Goose on his website that you can reach here. I definitely recommend checking it all out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Panama City Beach # 5 - Annotated List (4)

My annotated list continued...

Common Yellowthroat - Common in any marshy areas, I saw many birds, male and female.

* 'White-eyed' Eastern Towhee - Not a new species, but a new bird nonetheless. This was one of my first Florida birds on this trip when we stopped at a gas station with a woodlot behind it. I heard a peculiar Towhee call and when I found it, I realized it was the White-eyed Eastern which has a distinctly upslurred call compared to the Red-eyed Eastern we are used to hearing in Ontario. I didn't notice whether the birds I saw had more limited white in their tails than the Red-eyed Eastern.

Field Sparrow - a single bird in a woodlot just outside the city.

Song Sparrow - same as above

Lincoln's Sparrow - a peculiar sighting as this species is listed as rare during the month of November but I had the bird in my sights for a long enough time to identify it as this species. I can find a Lincoln's Sparrow in Florida but not Seaside Sparrow, which is much more common (and would have been a lifer!).

Northern Cardinal - abundant and easy to find anywhere in the state.

Red-winged Blackbird - very common in all marshy areas.

Common Grackle - Incredibly, I forgot to look for the Florida type birds within the groups of Grackles I had. I have seen Atlantic and Florida birds before but didn't bother to pay attention this time around, which is too bad in retrospect. Surprisingly, I didn't see a single Boat-tailed Grackle.

Brown-headed Cowbird - An easy find in any habitat type (except coastal marshes).

House Sparrow - Obviously abundant (seeing as the species is nearly cosmopolitan), I saw the most birds right within Panama City Beach near shopping centres and fast food restaurants where they have immersed themselves into the urban landscape by nesting in signs, on ledges, and any other suitable location they can find in even the most developed areas. I have heard, however, that there has been a decline in House Sparrow populations in various parts of their introduced North American range so I want to look into this more and see if there is more evidence of this. If you forget the competition with our native species and its overabundance after being introduced (considered a nuisance by many), the House Sparrow is actually quite an attractive bird.

So there it is, my annotated trip list for Panama City Beach 2007. Hope you enjoyed it! I had a lot of great birds, a lot of memories, and another great birding experience in the state of Florida.

Total Species: 78 - not bad considering the time of year, the duration of my trip, and the urban location.
New Species: 4 (+ White-eyed Eastern Towhee and Florida Red-bellied Woodpecker)
Highlight: Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Monday, November 12, 2007

TOC- Guatemala

Tonight I attended my first official meeting with the Toronto Ornithological Club as a guest of Don Barnett. Two more meetings and a short biography later, I'll be a member. Tonight's speaker was a woman who had just gotten back from a trip to Guatemala. Her presentation was excellent and she had many great photos of some fascinating birds as well as some Mayan temple ruins. There are some amazing birds from there including the Resplendent Quetzal, Pale-billed Woodpecker, and the Red-capped Manakin to name a few.

Here is a video she showed of the mating ritual of male Red-capped Manakins during the presentation that I have to share because it's just hilarious what this little guy can do.

The meeting was great and I look forward to the next outing. I also have a contact that might provide me a ride out to the Leslie Street Spit this winter so that would be a great experience. I've heard a lot of good things about this hotspot and I hope to get out there soon.

Also, just a quick update in terms of sightings: Sunday was an awful day for hawk migration (0 birds tallied), but I did get some good ducks on Grenadier Pond in High Park after a tip from some of the hawkwatchers. There were Hooded Mergansers (males doing their territorial displays), Bufflehead, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, and Mallard. American Wigeon was also reported but I couldn't find them. Also of note were three domesticated Mallard varieties hanging out together near the shore where people often feed the ducks. All three were quite large compared to their wild counterparts. One was an all-white bird, another an all dark bird, and another mostly dark with a white patch on its head.

Panama City Beach # 4 - Annotated List (3)

Before I continue the list, I forgot in a previous post to mention my search for the Northern Bobwhite. My dad and I went a ways out of the city one morning to a hunting range we noticed nearby on the way down that had pictures of Bobwhites posted next to 'No Trespassing' signs and a shooting range. As soon as I stepped out of the van, gunshots rang out close by and I nearly had a heart attack before we even started. We went to the main buildings and I (nervously) asked one of the hunters if they see Bobwhites occasionally near the range. He told me that habitat destruction and alteration in the area had brought their numbers down significantly and that he had only seen a single bird this year running across the road near the range. They don't hunt any birds at the shooting range, it's just for skeet shooting. Not exactly the best news. We searched for a couple of hours but didn't come up with much, seeing as they're already secretive birds as it is. Florida birds are much darker with a darker head pattern and black extending down to the breast.

*Loggerhead Shrike - An easy-to-find lifer. At the golf course I visited daily, I saw the same Loggerhead Shrike each time calling and flying from hydro wires to trees hunting. I could definitely see the darker back compared to the Northern Shrike and also the thicker black mask. I found another bird at St. Andrews State Park.

White-eyed Vireo - A single bird at Apalachicola National Forest. This protected area was great for passerines and there was a lot of bird activity wherever we stopped to look for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. Apparently, White-eyed Vireo can be found in the state year-round.

Blue Jay - I saw many birds during the trip and they are a year-round permanent resident.

American Crow - same as above.

Fish Crow - To be safe, I didn't try to identify crows unless they called so fortunately I heard some Fish Crows. They are smaller, have more pointed, swept-back wings, and a longer tail but these attributes are hard to judge in the field.

Tree Swallow - quite a few birds. The only common swallow species in the fall.

Carolina Chickadee - These are a great treat for anyone visiting the south. They're very similar to our Black-capped Chickadee (which does not occur in Florida) but smaller, grayer, and undeniably cuter. Their song is also faster than their northern counterpart. I had Carolina Chickadees in every woodlot I visited.

White-breasted Nuthatch - At the same location that I had Brown-headed Nuthatch for the first time, I also had one White-breasted mixed in. This species is not as common in the Panhandle so I was happy to see one there.

*Brown-headed Nuthatch - A very easy lifer. My second day in Panama City Beach, I found the Wal-Mart pond and had 2 Brown-headed Nuthatches, which respond to pishing. This was one of my target species as I should have easily got in on my first two trips to Florida (although those times, I was much more focused on waders and ocean species than any woodland passerines).

Carolina Wren - A few singing across the city as well as inside St. Andrews State Park in marshy areas. Many times when I would start pishing, a Carolina Wren would pop up.

House Wren - a few birds within woodlots as well as along the dunes next to the beaches.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - various locations including St. Andrews, Apalachicola, and a few scattered woodlots in the city.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - only a few birds near the end of the trip.

Eastern Bluebird - I couldn't get over the number of bluebirds we saw at Apalachicola. Flocks of 10-20 birds were commonplace and they flew over quite frequently. I've never had such high numbers of this species, although Marianne and I did get a group of about 6 birds at Delaurier Trail in Pelee before I left for Florida. At High Park, you can find them quite easily right now near Hawk Hill and surrounding area.

Swainson's Thrush - A very peculiar sighting, I saw a single bird while on a walk with my mom along the main road through Panama City Beach. This species is listed as casual during the fall but I was never able to ask anyone how rare the species is during November.

Hermit Thrush - a couple of birds in St. Andrews State Park.

American Robin - listed as an irruptive visitor, I saw only a few in the state.

Gray Catbird - one of the most common species. I saw almost too many of this species no matter where I was or what time it was. Seemingly as common as Northern Mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird - Abundant. Every morning you can hear a mockingbird outside your window and no matter where you walk in the city, you can count on seeing and hearing a mockingbird. I don't mind because I love their imitations and flashing wing pattern.

Brown Thrasher - a few birds during the trip at Apalachicola as well as in scattered woodlots in the city that have not been developed into condos yet.

European Starling - the most abundant bird during the trip. I saw thousands of starlings every day. You can't look at a hydro wire without seeing a flock of at least 10+ starlings. This opportunistic species is certainly successful, especially because they can coexist with humans so well in an urban setting.

Orange-crowned Warbler - a single bird at the Wal-Mart pond.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - a common migrant, I saw many during the week at various locations (with the largest numbers at Apalachicola).

Pine Warbler - the most abundant warbler, which was a great experience considering its uncommon status at Point Pelee. At Apalachicola in the early morning, we had large flocks of them in various locations.

Palm Warbler - within flocks of Pine Warblers, there were a few Palms mixed in along with Yellow-rumped.

Well, I’ll end it there, but there should only be one more post on my Panama City Beach annotated list. I apologize if this is a dry read, but it’s as much for my records as it is for posting on my blog.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Panama City Beach # 3 - Annotated List (2)

Here is the continuation from my last post on my Panama City Beach trip. Another list will be added later with other wildlife sightings (I found 5 new butterfly species and a couple of interesting mammal sightings).

Laughing Gull - Florida's most common gull species and the most abundant ocean bird during my trip. No matter where I was along the beach, there were always large flocks of Laughing Gulls on the beach (nonbreeding with a handful of 1rst winter birds thrown in). It never ceases to amaze me how large this hooded gull is, only a bit smaller than Ring-billed. However, the dark mantle separates it easily. I still need this species for Ontario. One of my favourite features on nonbreeding birds is the small red mark at the end of the bill.

Ring-billed Gull - I actually saw very few Ring-billed Gulls on the trip at the Gulf of Mexico. Most were flybys of single birds.

Herring Gull - A single dark, immature bird flying by. There were very few seabirds along the coast besides pelicans and Laughing Gulls, which was quite disappointing.

- although Royal and Sandwich Tern and Black Skimmer were target species for my trip, I only saw one group of terns and they were across the bay at St. Andrews State Park. Even with a scope, identification would have been difficult and I only had my binoculars. This was particularly disappointing because Royal Terns should be common year-round in the Panhandle.

Rock Pigeon - The most abundant species from family Columbidae. No big surprises here.

Eurasian Collared Dove - When I was in Jacksonville, Florida almost a year ago, I was amazed at how many Eurasian Collared Doves there were but there are much fewer in Panama City Beach. Mourning Dove still outnumbered this species. According to the ABA guide, their greatest numbers occur in the Central and South Peninsula but the species is spreading. I still need it for my Ontario list. After colonizing southeastern Florida after a few dozen birds were released in 1974 in the Bahamas, this species is now easy to find over most of Florida (and has apparently reached the west coast). I doubt they'll become as successful as the Rock Pigeon, but it wouldn't surprise me if we had some birds start to colonize Ontario in the near future. This is one of my favourite species to observe in Florida.

Mourning Dove - Quite common, especially in the more rural areas at the outskirts of the city.

*Common Ground-Dove - A lifer that shouldn't have gone unseen on my first trips (in my defense, the second was not a birding trip and I was just getting into things during my first time in Orlando). These guys are noticeably smaller than Mourning. I had a group of about 8 Mourning Doves in a closed water park (after ignoring a no trespassing sign) along with 2 Ground-Doves. The scaled patter on their head and neck stands out and they are more colourful than the Mourning as well. However, size is the giveaway. They're about half the size and look tiny in comparison. I was even able to see them fly, revealing the rufous underwing, which is somewhat hard to see because their wingbeats are fast. Note the scaled head and neck, the colourful body, and small, stout frame.

Belted Kingfisher - 2 birds; one perched next to a pond adjacent to the highway as we drove into Florida and another at the Wal-Mart pond (yes, sadly, this was one of the hotspots in the city).

- One of the highlights of the trip was the number of woodpeckers I was able to see. This is one of my favourite groups of birds and in Apalachicola National Forest in one day, I ended up listing 6 species.

Red-bellied Woodpecker - The most common woodpecker of Florida and unmissable. No matter where I was, I could always count on seeing at least one Red-bellied. I also noticed that many of the birds were intermediates between the Northern and Florida subspecies. One bird in particular had a gray forehead instead of the red crown extending all the way to the bill and much less white on its rump than in the Northern subspecies. The white rump extended about halfway down the tail, but was not as limited as the extremes in the South Florida subspecies. In the ABA guide, the quote next to this species reads, "If you miss this one, you should turn in your binoculars" (Lane 1981). The red belly is hard to see in the field; rather, the bird was named back when ornithologists studied species by hand.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - The most frustrating bird of the trip. Every time I thought I might have a Red-cockaded, it turned out to be a sapsucker. As always, plumage in most birds was ratty and worn. This was the second-most common woodpecker after Red-bellied.

Downy Woodpecker - The first Downy I had, I got excited and called out Red-cockaded...only to notice that it had a white back...and no white cheek patch...and it was too small. Grrr.

*Red-cockaded Woodpecker - I'll give this species its own entry soon.

Northern Flicker - A single bird at Apalachicola.

Pileated Woodpecker - 2 birds on the same tree; an amazing bird. I first heard its loud, deep call before hearing heavy drumming. I was able to locate the birds easily and we all had great views. My parents were fascinated with their size and striking pattern. I love this species.

Eastern Phoebe - One of the most abundant forest birds. I saw a ton of phoebes where I was and many were calling. There is a quote in the ABA Florida guide: "If you miss this one, your life list must be under 100" (Lane 1981). I can see what the author means.

Well, I think I'll end there until my next post.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lifer! Golden Eagle

After 12 years, I can finally say I've seen a Golden Eagle. 2 in fact. This marks my 306th species for my life list, which seems to be growing fast this year (most likely due to graduating and actually having time to go birding again!). Today at High Park, north winds and a clear sky brought 75 birds total through the area. The highlights included 2 Golden Eagles, 1 immature Bald Eagle, a few Red-shouldered Hawks, a couple of Sharpies and Cooper's Hawks, and a huge number of Red-tails.

The Golden Eagle, my target bird for this fall, is a stunning species. Its large size is palpable, even at a distance. The second bird was initially called out as a Turkey Vulture due to a noticeable dihedral but once it got closer, the group realized it was an eagle. On the first bird, the bulging primaries was quite obvious.

Other highlights at the count included a number of American Tree Sparrows, both species of nuthatches, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, and a drab Eastern Bluebird that was catching grasshoppers from the same perch for most of the day. Near the entrance to the park, I had a Blue-headed Vireo and I was told by other birders at the count that I'll probably have to fill out a report for the bird because it might be record late. All in all a great day of birding.

Panama City Beach # 2 - Annotated List (1)

Here it is, the first post of my annotated list for my trip to Florida. All species were observed within the state. New species (just 4) have a star.

Gadwall - only a single bird. Strangely enough, this male bird was part of a trio of males consisting of Gadwall, Ring-necked Duck, and a Redhead. I don't think I've ever seen this combination together. The three were mixed in with a large group of American Coots in a marshy area behind a Wal-Mart Supercenter (a disturbing example of how much that store has taken over).

Redhead - see Gadwall

Ring-necked Duck - see Gadwall

- surprisingly enough, I didn't get any other duck species, but this is probably due to the fact that I was in a highly developed urban area. There are local populations of feral Muscovy Ducks and Mallards in the Panhandle (more common in the Peninsula) but I couldn't find any at golf courses or ponds within or outside the city. I did not see any waterfowl on the Gulf of Mexico.

Wild Turkey - although I have already counted the resident Point Pelee Wild Turkeys towards my life list, it was nice to see 2 large groups of about 10-20 birds in their natural range (versus reintroduction programs). Both groups were roadside birds that I wasn't able to observe for long because we were trying to get to Panama City Beach as soon as possible.

Common Loon - a single nonbreeding bird quite far out on the ocean diving.

Pied-billed Grebe - a few sightings, mostly in urban ponds and at St. Andrews State Park. 2 birds, probably residents were easily located daily in a pond at a golf course near our hotel.

- unfortunately, I wasn't able to locate any Northern Gannets during the trip.

Brown Pelican - the second-most common ocean species after Laughing Gull. During the entire week (and all times of day), flocks of 5-10 pelicans, nonbreeding adults and juveniles, were flying east and west along the beach. Although I saw hundreds, the huge wingspan of this species never failed to impress.

Double-crested Cormorant - common. Large numbers near the Gulf of Mexico and at St. Andrews State Park (within a saltwater bay).

Great Blue Heron - the most common wader.

Great Egret - also very common but mostly seen flying.

Little Blue Heron - a single bird flying over a small pond within the suburban areas of Panama City Beach. Its overall dark appearance was distinctive.

Cattle Egret - 2 birds; one flying over the Wal-Mart marsh, another seemingly injured bird at roadside right in the city, dodging cars and walking in a parking lot.

Green Heron - a single bird in the Wal-Mart marsh, which was surprisingly large. I don't know who owned the land but I hope it is kept intact because it's a small oasis surrounded by big businesses.

Black Vulture - a few birds. I got a very good look at a flying bird at Apalachicola National Forest. Their shape and wing pattern are quite distinctive from Turkey Vultures in the right conditions. The short, square tail is quite easy to see in flight.

Turkey Vulture - huge numbers of migrating TV's were flying along oceanside while I was there with the rare Black mixed in. In fact, Turkey Vulture was my first Florida bird for this trip and we saw thousands on the drive down.

Osprey - a few birds flying over, possibly residents.

Sharp-shinned Hawk - 2 birds migrating.

Cooper's Hawk - a single bird circling and hunting over the Wal-Mart marsh (this again shows how important these tiny areas of natural land are, even though they are under severe threat of development).

Red-shouldered Hawk - Florida's most widespread diurnal raptor and an easy find (a few were even calling). I had perched birds and flying birds, all of the Eastern subspecies. The Florida subspecies must be more abundant in the peninsula.

Red-tailed Hawk - a few birds.

American Kestrel - quite common, I found around 5 or 6 birds in total. Most were outside of the city.

Merlin - a single bird riding the thermals over the golf course I birded at quite frequently. It shared a thermal with Turkey Vultures and a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Peregrine Falcon - 2 flying over Panama City Beach east to west.

- unfortunately, I didn't see any rails but I may have hard a Clapper or King but it did not call long enough for me to get an I.D. I also kicked myself for not listening to my tapes beforehand so when I heard the bird I froze up. Ah well, we learn from our mistakes.

Common Moorhen - only a single bird that was also within the Wal-Mart marsh along with the Coots.

American Coot - abundant and easily found in any ponds or marshes in the area. The most abundant marsh bird on the trip.

Killdeer - more often heard than seen. Not easy to find in the urban areas.

Ruddy Turstone - my Dad's favourite bird and he was able to see it as well. I saw one nonbreeding individual on the beach, hanging out at a spot where warm water was draining into the ocean from an unknown source.

Sanderling - 3 birds total along the beach together. I love to watch these guys avoid the waves. They're really like wind-up toys.

- once again, finding shorebirds shouldn't have been a problem, but I could not find a single place with the proper habitat because there is so much development in the area.

Well, I'll stop here for now because my eyes are starting to hurt from the computer screen. Obviously more to come because I haven't even got to the passerines yet!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Panama City Beach # 1


Duration: Tuesday, October 30 to Tuesday, November 6. However, only 4 full days were actually spent in the Panhandle as my family and I drove down instead of flying.

Reason for traveling: my brother was participating in Ironman Florida, an incredible event where athletes swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles. You can access the event's official site here.

Weather conditions: the weather down there was beautiful for the entire trip, 70+ almost every day of the week where you could be comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt during mid-day but throw on a light sweatshirt or jacket in the evening.

#1 Target Species: Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

Of course, being in Florida, I took full advantage of the birding there even though the Panhandle isn't renowned for its birds. In the fall, many birds withdraw from the region and travel to the southern peninsula. Some waders stay behind along with some of the more common eastern-ranged birds. Also, I knew in advance that staying at a resort hotel in Panama City Beach (ocean view!!) would not be the best place to go birdwatching. The beaches along the coast are under severe threat of development and condos are always being built (in fact, we saw one newly constructed building that had over 1,000 rooms, no doubt to cater to Spring Break).

Panama City Beach itself is now mostly urban areas and many of the small woodlots have signs posted 'for sale: commercial opportunities'. Very few marshes or ponds still exist in the vicinity. Nearby, there is a park, St. Andrews State Park, that is bordered by a saltwater bay and the ocean. There is a small spit of protected land here that holds a good variety of habitat, some bird and insect life, and a reliable pond for alligators as well (we saw one large adult basking in the sun).

We also visited Apalachicola National Forest, a 569,596 acre protected area that is home to the largest population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in the world (611 clusters as of 1999). They are permanent residents year-round. The forest contains pristine pine flatwoods and savannas with controlled burning to sustain the land. Apalachicola definitely provided me with my best birding on the trip with a good variety of migrating warblers and other species, and a great diversity of woodpeckers (6 species). More on Apalachicola when I post an entry on the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. We were also going to try Eglin Air Force Base for the Red-cockaded if things didn't pan out at Apalachicola, but since they did, I didn't have to visit. Eglin's bird list is second only to Everglades National Park at 327 species and holds the fourth largest population of Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

So there are the details of my trip. Coming up: my annotated trip list.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Back from Panama City Beach!

After a week of warmth, sandy beaches, and palm trees, I'm back to the cold, drab days of November in Canada. Although I'm currently rushed because of work and getting everything back to normal in Toronto, updates are on their way. I ended up getting 4 lifers in the Panhandle, not bad considering the time of year and this trip being my third time to Florida. Obviously a ton of detail will follow each of my sightings. The highlight of the trip? Red-cockaded Woodpecker, which I will describe in great detail!

As with any trip, it's good to be back in Ontario and although it may not be everyone's favourite time of year, there are still a lot of good birds moving through the province. This includes Golden Eagle, my target species for November. There have been 13 birds tallied so far this fall at High Park so I can't wait to get back there. Before I forget, I also got the White-faced Ibis at Hillman Marsh! I couldn't believe I was lucky enough to get it almost a week after its initial finder. Blake and I had some good looks at it together and I'll be adding a post for that sighting as well.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Just a quick update as to what will be happening around here for the next couple weeks. As I've been writing, my trip to Florida has arrived and I'm leaving soon to the Panhandle for a week. Obviously, many posts with many lists will follow. I wanted to get around updating the High Park hawk counts from this week but it's been another slow week for migrants (at least at this particular counts...according to reports from Holiday Beach and a few other locations, huge numbers are still going through; especially Turkey Vultures). Hopefully when I get back from Florida (November 7), there will still be some good hawk movement and I can get Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Golden Eagle, and Red-shouldered Hawk (at least the first and last should be easy).

I'm also VERY MUCH hoping that the White-faced Ibis is still in the vicinity of Hillman Marsh. Marianne just sent me an email telling me there are a lot of migrants of all kinds flying through the Pelee area right now so hopefully we can get a good day of birding in there before I hit the road to Florida.

A few highlights from my week: a great show from 2 Cooper's Hawks at High Park, chasing squirrels and pigeons. They were an adult (probably male by the size) and an immature bird. Another great sighting was on a rainy day when I watched a relatively late Osprey hunting in Grenadier Pond at High Park. I also had a domesticated Greylag Goose there, which was a first for the park (not that it's countable, just interesting). Grenadier Pond is very reliable for decent numbers of Northern Shovelers right now with 20 birds present the last day I visited. I have also seen at least 1 or 2 Pied-billed Grebes each time I've visited this week. Not much in terms of passerines, but good numbers flying over the hawk count including migrating Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Starlings, Robins, Goldfinches, and Cedar Waxwings. A few Eastern Bluebirds and Purple Finches have been flying through as well. On Thursday, we had a flock of White-winged Scoter fly over, many migrating Canada Geese (no Cackling), large numbers of Mergansers (probably Red-breasted), and Double-crested Cormorant. Definitely worth it to take a visit to High Park this time of year.

Lastly, the Cormorant Cull meeting regarding Middle Island was very interesting, a bit frustrating, but very informative. It really sounds like they're going through with the cull no matter what. The meetings may just be part of the environmental impact assessment so management can at least say they consulted the public. A lot of strong words about the cull were stated and my final thought is that there is too little strong scientific evidence to back up a management decision of this capacity, time-scale, and cost.

Well, I guess I'll sign off until I get back from my Florida trip.
Happy birding!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Correction - third White-faced Ibis

In my last entry, I mentioned that the 2007 White-faced Ibis was only the second record for the Pelee Birding Circle. However, Blake (check out his blog in my links section) informed me that this is in fact the third record. Unfortunately, the second (a bird in a local birder's backyard) went unreported and it's possible that an OBRC (Ontario Bird Records Committee) report wasn't written for the sighting. This took place in 2004, a year after the first record. Surprisingly, I wasn't aware of the sighting, but because it went unreported, the 2007 bird remains the second official report for White-faced Ibis in the Pelee Birding Circle. There appears to be an influx of sightings in Ontario for this species and the fact that there were 2 birds in the same week in the southwestern portion of the province may predict that the species will show up more often in future years.

White-faced Ibis - ANOTHER MISS!!

White-faced Ibis (photographed by Steve Pike)- second record for the Point Pelee Birding Circle

On Saturday, October 20, Dean Ware of Wheatley reported a Plegadis Ibis sp. at Hillman Marsh. This is one of very few records of Plegadis Ibises for the Point Pelee Birding Circle. I'm just surprised the bird wasn't witnessed by any other birders during the OFO convention. Here is his post:

Yes, I am still alive. I still do look at birds! And here is a post for down south here is Essex County.

Early afternoon Saturday Oct.20/07 my uncle and I observed a dark Ibis flying from west to east through the center of Hillman Marsh. When the bird arrived to the beach it turned around and few back the same flight path heading west. I did not get close views however a nice sight no matter what species. The Ducks Unlimited/ERCA shorebird/waterfowl cell is being filled slowly and perhaps it may have went there.(?) Perhaps I may look for it later and try for a closer look.

Good Birding,

Dean Ware
Wheatley ON.


As if this wasn't exciting enough news, I just got a message from Marianne saying she got a call from Alan. The bird was a White-faced Ibis, only the second record for this species in the Pelee Birding Cirle (the first was seen during May of 2003). Here is Marianne's post:

This afternnoon around 2:00pm an adult White-faced Ibis was seen at Hillman Marsh near the north bridge right at the Hillman Marsh main entrance. I arrived at 3:30pm and the Ibis was still there feeding, and preening.

This is most likely the same bird that Dean Ware posted on Saturday.

Good birding,
Marianne Reid

Special thanks to Alan Wormington for the phone call....


>From Leamington:
Take Oak Street east out of the town. When you see the entrance for Hillman Marsh just keep going a little further until you see the bridge. The Ibis has been seen from both sides of the bridge.

>From 401
Tilbury exit south to County Road 1 (Wheatley townline) to Number #3 highway. Turn right onto the number #3 then watch for the Hillman Conservation area Signs. They will show you the way.


Hopefully this bird will stick around until this coming Saturday. It's a long shot, but I'm going home a few days before leaving for Florida so I could have a chance to see it. I missed the first sighting on the lawns next to Pelee Days Inn and I was IN Point Pelee at the time! It's probable that I'll miss it again. I guess I shouldn't be complaining though...I did just get Northern Wheatear for my Ontario list. Interestingly enough, this is the second report this week of White-faced Ibis. There was also one present on October 20 at Dundas Marsh, Hamilton. Here are directions to the marsh as posted on Ontbirds by Cheryl Edgecombe:
Dundas Hydro Ponds

It is best to park in the front of the hydro utility station on Olympic
Drive (near the intersection with Cootes Drive) in Dundas. To reach the
pond follow the north side of the Desjardins Canal on the east side of
the road.

There is a small trail that leads through a dense stand of Phragmites
grass for 200 - 300 m. You then reach the medium sided pond where the
bird was seen.


I have not read any further reports of whether the bird is still present at Dundas Marsh or not. But when two birds of this species are reported in Southern Ontario on the same day, the best advice I can give other birders: keep an eye out!

Slow days for Hawks at Hawk Hill / Cormorant cull

Probably due to the stormy weather that Toronto had all week, or the strong southwest winds that blew on days when it wasn't raining, not many hawks flew through the area of High Park at all. Those of us at the hawk count envisage that a large number of Turkey Vultures probably fly through the area daily, but new tree growth on Hawk Hill has obstructed the view of the northern horizon where many birds likely fly by unnoticed. I was told that the weekend of OFO brought good hawk numbers including a single Golden Eagle (on this year's wish list) and a handful of Red-shouldered Hawks (which I have yet to see this year as well). So far, out of the annual raptors, I'm still missing Red-shouldered and Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Goshawk, and Golden Eagle. Fortunately, these are all late-season migratory species and I have a good chance to get every one of them. Of course, I'll have no trouble finding Rough-legged Hawks along highways in southern Ontario throughout the winter but I'd like to see a few in migration and study the fine details of their flight.

I was able to make it out Saturday and Sunday of this week and very little flew over; A moderate number of Sharp-shinned Hawks, a few Kestrels, and a handful of Red-tails (migrants and locals). Only a few Turkey Vultures are being reported even though other hawk counts along Lake Erie are getting huge numbers currently.

Tonight I'm attending a meeting on the proposed Double-crested Cormorant cull on Middle Island which should be very interesting. I am mostly against the proposal thinking there is too little evidence to support a cull of this size but I'll certainly be making a post soon to discuss this topic in more detail and also give my opinion. I can say that I worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources in 2006 and never did another employee discuss Cormorant populations as a factor in the amount of fish stock in Lake Erie. I also think there are too many factors involved in the management of the population that haven't been investigated enough to allow such drastic decisions. My guess is that the proposal coincides with Canada's decision to buy the island and is an issue of economics and based on the concerns of specific stakeholders rather than an issue of conservation. If the ownership of the small land mass was still in dispute, would there be nearly as much heat over whether the Cormorant population is a problem at all? Apparently, slides demonstrating the damage done to 1/3 of the tree population on the island are to be shown as well as a presentation on why the cull has been deemed appropriate.

The following document is very informative and should be read by anyone concerned with the cull or looking for more information on the proposed plans. It is the AOU's full report on the proposed Cormorant cull including criticism, recommendations, and alternative solutions. You'll need Adobe Acrobat:

Review of the Double-crested Cormorant Management Plan, 2003: Final Report of the AOU Conservation Committee's Panel

Friday, October 19, 2007

OFO Summary and Winter Finches

Just thought I'd post Ron Tozer's summary of the OFO weekend at Point Pelee and surrounding areas. Sounds like the 25th anniversary was a year for records. Next year's convention is in the Hamilton area so hopefully I'll be able to attend again. Here is the post as it appears on Ontbirds:

Over 270 registrants (a record high) enjoyed a superlative 25th anniversary
OFO Annual Convention at Leamington this past weekend. Field trips to
Point Pelee National Park, Holiday Beach Conservation Area, St. Clair
National Wildlife Area, Rondeau Provincial Park, Blenheim Sewage
Lagoons, and nearby areas were undertaken on Saturday and Sunday, in
great weather for birding.

An all-time high tally for OFO conventions of 168 species was achieved over
the weekend. Highlights particularly appreciated by participants included:
Snow Goose, Cackling Goose, Red-throated Loon, Golden Eagle, Peregrine
Falcon, Long-billed Dowitcher, Little Gull, Sabine's Gull, Tufted Titmouse,
Northern Wheatear, Cerulean Warbler, Grasshopper Sparrow, Le Conte's
Sparrow, and Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

As always, we wish to thank all the trip leaders and birders for their
enthusiastic participation on the field trips.

Already, we are looking forward to next year's great convention at Hamilton,
tentatively set for 4 and 5 October 2008. Hope to see you there!

Good birding.

Ron Tozer
OFO Convention Bird List Compiler


Also being reported on Ontbirds currently by Cheryl Edgecombe is an influx of winter finches in the Hamilton area including White-winged Crossbill, Evening Grosbeak, Purple Finch, and Pine Siskin. I'll have to keep an eye out for these specialties. Here is the Winter Finch Forecast for the 2007-2008 period.

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear - photo courtesy of Jean Iron's Photos

The time was about 3:30, going on 4:00, on a Sunday afternoon and I had just got home from being in Leamington. My parents dropped me off at home to start packing for my trip back to Toronto and they turned around and left again. I went into the house and casually checked our messages...first message: Marianne informing me that a Northern Wheatear was spotted near Blenheim at a town called Shrewsbury! My heart sank. I new I had to leave within an hour to get to the Greyhound station in Chatham in time and that I'd be cutting it severely close to try to see the bird. Our van was also out of gas so I couldn't leave and come back. I had to wait for my parents. I quickly called Marianne back and she was on the bird, which raised my hopes a bit knowing that the bird was still around (it had been in the vicinity since noon).

I panicked. I paced. I thought of the hundreds of ways this could turn out, 90% of which ended in me not seeing the bird. So, I did what any sane birder would do, I called into work and told them I wouldn't be able to make it because I missed the Greyhound (which ended up being the case anyway) and I called the Greyhound station to confirm that my ticket was valid for Monday. Within the next hour, my parents were driving me to Shrewsbury to see a bird they had never heard of, nor particularly cared about, but it was totally worth it! When we arrived at the location described on Ontbirds (we almost missed a turn because we were looking for a church instead of a street sign), there was a span of about 5 minutes where my Mom, Dad, and I searched for the bird (I had showed them what it looked like in Sibley's so they could help me). Once again, I panicked. I had just dragged two non-birders on a 45 trek to see a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Then, around 5:30 (in the rain) I caught a glimpse of something larger and there it was; The Northern Wheatear landed on a post within a few meters of where I was standing. I alerted my parents by flailing my arms and pointing towards the bird but little did it matter. We ended up getting amazing views for over half an hour without any other people around! We saw the Wheatear feeding, flying, preening, and hopping. I studied the bird until my parents thought I was crazy (I thanked them later...profusely...for putting up with me). They did enjoy a quick trip to see Erieau Marina though and I got to show them where I went fishing off the docks for Round Goby with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

This bird was a lifer for me and I'm so glad Marianne alerted me to it or else I would have found out about it that night when I logged onto Hotmail. I was struck by how interesting it was to see a bird from an Old World group that shows resemblances to its North American counterparts, but is still entirely distinct. Its conspicuous white rump and upper tail is stunning in flight and its wash of pale gray on its back and rich brown on its breast (the bird was in nonbreeding plumage) gives it an air of stateliness, accentuated by its long legs and upright poise. I also noticed two other things. The Wheatear bobs its tail quite frequently and also dips its entire body, much like a Spotted Sandpiper (less frequently).

Definitely the highlight of the OFO weekend for me, this was my 300th bird to be added to my life list (which is kind of low considering in 2005, I had over 200 species on my May list and have traveled to Florida and the East Coast of Canada). This was probably my best bird since the Neotropic Cormorant and many thanks to the original finders who alerted the birding community. You can see photos of the bird at Jean Iron's website if you follow this link and look under latest additions. The bird was last seen Monday, October 15.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Although the morning of Saturday's OFO weekend was great, the afternoon trips were equally interesting due to Steve Pike, a birding friend of mine, volunteering me as a leader because of an overflow of people during that shift. The trip was the same as the morning: checking out the hotspots around Pelee (Hillman, Pelee Days Inn, Wheatley Harbour, the Onion Fields). As soon as he introduced me to the group, my heart sank because my van had its seats taken out and my gas tank was on empty (oh, and I didn't have a scope!). Fortunately, I was able to get a ride and the afternoon went well considering I had no preparation. Highlights for that trip included a large number of Greater Yellowlegs at Hillman, another Bald Eagle, Long-billed Dowitcher and White-rumped Sandpiper at Pelee Days Inn, Purple Finch, Eastern Bluebird, and a good variety of sparrow species. Fortunately, I didn't have a large group with me and as we visited different areas, some people decided to stay so by the end, I only had 5 people.

Then, it was time for visiting friends and acquaintances that I haven't seen for over a year because of my move to Toronto. The OFO convention is a great place for networking and learning about volunteering and job opportunities. Young members should definitely take advantage as some of Ontario's top birders and naturalists are in attendance. The dinner and banquet this year was great as was the very interesting discussion of the birds of Cuba. This year included a time-capsule that will be reopened in another 25 years that included a variety of memorabilia. Special booths were also set up to commemorate 25 years of the organization, which is currently at an all-time high for members.

More posts to come on my weekend.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

OFO Convention - 25th Anniversary

Well, the OFO weekend is over, I'm back in Toronto, and I'm reflecting on how great the weekend really was. I think Marianne summed up the weekend exceedingly well when she said, "Good food, good friends, and good birds." Really, what more could you ask for?

And good birds there were. On Saturday morning, I joined Marianne's group. Marianne was the assigned leader for the hotspots within the Pelee birding circle, but outside of the park boundaries. This included places like Hillman Marsh, Wheatley Harbour, the Onion Fields, and Pelee Days Inn. We ended up only checking out the North Dyke past Concession E and the mudflats behind Pelee Days Inn (a highlight of the weekend) but this was O.K. because we got some great species in that time. Surf Scoter, Purple Finch, Eastern Bluebird, Long-billed Dowitcher, White-rumped Sandpiper, Peregrine Falcon, Virginia Rail, and Orange-crowned Warbler were among the highlights. Other interesting sightings include large numbers of migrating Double-crested Cormorants, a huge number of Swamp Sparrows along the reeds at the north end of Point Pelee, huge numbers of Turkey Vultures, 3 Bald Eagles, Stilt Sandpiper, a late Barn Swallow and Eastern Wood-Pewee, and a number of others (check out my weekend list below).

This is just a quick update for the weekend and I'll post more soon (including details of how I became a makeshift leader after being volunteered to do so completely unexpectedly!). I also plan to make a post on my number 1 bird of the weekend, Northern Wheatear. What an experience.

Here's my overall list for the weekend (not including other birders' sightings from Saturday and Sunday...those will probably be tallied and sent out soon):

Pied-billed Grebe (1 bird at the end of Concession E at the north end of Point Pelee marsh)
Double-crested Cormorants (huge numbers flying over Pelee marsh and elsewhere)
Great Blue Heron (a fair number at Pelee Days Inn and Hillman)
Great Egret (about a dozen birds at Hillman Marsh)
Canada Goose (a fair number of migrating birds, especially in the Onion Fields where hunters have placed decoys)
Wood Duck (1 heard on Concession E)
Green-winged Teal (a group of birds behind Pelee Days Inn)
Surf Scoter (a group of 3 birds flying east over the Onion Fields)
- note: my list is very low on waterfowl mostly because we were never at the lake, therefore, I missed out on either Scaup species, Mergansers, Scoters, etc.
Turkey Vulture (huge movement of migrants; I counted 60 birds within a few minutes flying past the Roma Club parking lot where the convention was held. Later at home, I counted 280 birds fly over my backyard in a span of about 15 minutes)
Bald Eagle (a total of 3 birds for the weekend)
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk (a few birds migrating)
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel (only a single bird within the Pelee Circle, but a few birds on the hydro poles north of Leamington)
Peregrine Falcon (a single bird in the Onion Fields that may have been responsible for the lack of shorebirds in the vicinity)
Virginia Rail (a single bird at the north end of Pelee Marsh. Out of our group of 7, I think 4 people ended up seeing the bird. I had a decently long glance at it before trying to point out where I had seen it)
American Coot (I only saw one bird, but there may have been more behind Pelee Days Inn)
Semipalmated Plover (1 behind Pelee Days Inn)
Greater Yellowlegs (a good number of birds at Hillman Marsh; at least 20+)
Lesser Yellowlegs (fewer present than Greater in all areas)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (at least one behind Pelee Days Inn)
Least Sandpiper (unknown number behind Pelee Days Inn)
White-rumped Sandpiper (1 behind Pelee Days Inn)
Dunlin (the most abundant shorebird behind Pelee Days Inn)
Stilt Sandpiper (at least 1 bird present behind Pelee Days Inn)
Long-billed Dowitcher (unknown number behind Pelee Days Inn)
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker (1 heard at the end of Concession E)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (probably 2 separate birds at the Onion Fields)
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee (I actually heard this late migrant at the location of the Northern Wheatear in Shrewsbury near Rondeau Provincial Park)
Eastern Phoebe (at least 2 birds over the weekend)
Horned Lark (many in the Onion Fields)
Tree Swallow (large numbers in the Onion Fields. Interestingly enough, we initially mistook them for shorebirds because of their similar flight patterns and the birds were landing on the soil. However, closer inspection revealed a flock of swallows)
Barn Swallow (1 bird on Concession E)
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee (a few birds calling at Concession D)
Brown Creeper (1 bird at the east end of Concession E)
Winter Wren (1 bird at Concession D)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (a few birds)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (quite a few birds)
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Wheater (a lifer and by far the highlight of the weekend. I'm dedicating a full post to this species soon)
American Pipit (a few flyovers)
European Starling (enormous numbers in the fields north of the park. In one field, half of the soil was blackened by the flock and it was amazing to see the entire group of birds take flight)
Orange-crowned Warbler (4 birds in total)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (1 female)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (the most abundant warbler)
Palm Warbler (at least 3 birds)
Common Yellowthroat (a couple birds along Concession E)
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow (1 at north dyke)
Fox Sparrow (1 bird at Concession D)
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow (huge numbers of birds along Concession E; I wish I could have got a count)
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (a few birds)
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Purple Finch (at least 3 birds at Concession D)
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Rough total for the weekend (I call it rough because I'm trying to remember everything from Saturday and it's already Tuesday): 71
More to come.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hawk Hill - October 10

Another relatively slow day for hawks today at High Park with only a handful of birds showing up including Sharp-shinned Hawks (most abundant hawk right now), a few local and migrant Red-tails, a local Cooper's, a Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, and a reported Merlin that I missed (flew behind Hawk Hill and was gone by the time I turned around). Winds were out of the SSW today and scattered showers also hindered migration (but did make for some beautiful cloud formations). However, at least the temperature is finally dropping. Saturday's record high temperature was awful and worrisome and I welcome some cooler temperatures over the next few weeks.

Other interesting sightings during the day include 2 Loon flyovers, a migrating Great Blue Heron, a large, scattered flock of Cormorants, migrating Blue Jays, Robins, and Blackbirds, a decent number of Monarchs fighting the wind, and as I was leaving the park, a flock of 6 White-winged Scoters flying south towards Lake Ontario.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to get out birding tomorrow because I have to pack for my trip home for the Ontario Field Ornithologists convention (25th) at Point Pelee. I can't wait to go birding this weekend with Marianne, and also visit with a large number of birders that I didn't see in the spring because of my move to Toronto.

Monday, October 08, 2007

High Park Hawk Count - October 8

Another productive day at High Park, this time for hawks (I realize this is starting to turn into a High Park blog, but the place is just so conveniently located that I can get there everyday to bird...yep, I'll likely be there again Monday). I didn't waste any time with passerines today because I was late arriving and quickly walked straight to hawk hill; the result of sleeping in after staying up till 2am the night before watching Some Like it Hot. Anyway, the winds started out of WSW but ended up switching and coming out of the NW by noon and migration really picked up.

There was a good number of counters out today and we had large numbers of Sharpies, sometimes 5 or more in the sky at once. There were a decent number of Coop's mixed in as well as local and migrant Tails. Only one Harrier made an appearance and 2 Peregrine Falcons but Kestrel numbers were up. 2 Bald eagles gave a spectacular show by flying quite low over the hill and its so great how excited people get over the majestic species. A good amount of Turkey Vultures also made an appearance with one kettle containing 20 individual birds.

Here is the official count for October 8 as posted on Ontbirds. For some reason, the Harrier from today didn't get counted but this isn't too surprising as oftentimes, many different birds were being called out at once. The list also gives numbers from the week (October 1-8) as well as for the year.
Species Oct8 Oct 1-8 Year to Date
Turkey Vulture...........82...........130..............394
Bald Eagle................2.............3...............29
Northern Harrier..........-.............3...............82
Sharp-shinned Hawk......230...........369.............1541
Cooper's Hawk.............4............13...............98
Northern Goshawk..........-.............-................-
Red-shouldered Hawk.......-.............-................1
Broad-winged Hawk.........-.............1.............3757
Red-tailed Hawk..........25............35..............225
Rough-legged Hawk.........-.............-................-
Golden Eagle..............-.............-................-
American Kestrel.........20............28..............206
Peregrine Falcon..........2.............7...............19


High Park - October 7

Another great day of birding at High Park, proving that poor weather isn't always a bad thing. Slight chance of rain, fog in the morning, overcast skies, and a lower temperature likely held back a lot of birds during their migration and High Park once again experienced a fallout of sorts. The most abundant species in the park was Yellow-rumped Warbler with hundreds of birds at the southern end. Pishing was also working extremely well and I could bring over 10 birds within a few meters within seconds. After seeing a Northern Mockingbird, I decided to post my sightings again onto Ontbirds, basically hoping get people out there to the park and witness the heavy songbird migration that's in full force.

Here is my Ontbirds post, followed by my list for the day along with further details on individual sightings:

At noon on Sunday, October 7, I had a Northern Mockingbird at the south end of High Park, Toronto. The bird was about 50 meters west of Colborne Lodge drive, directly across from Grenadier Pond. It was perched on the hydro lines.

In addition, it was another excellent day of birding at High Park with large numbers of migrants, no doubt due to the weather conditions holding them in the park.


Yellow-rumped Warbler - I counted over 250 just at the south end of the park
Orange-crowned Warbler - 2
Northern Parula - 2
Chestnut-sided Warbler - 1 first fall female
Magnolia Warbler - 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler - 3 (2 females, 1 male)
Black-throated Green Warbler - 1
Blackpoll Warbler - 5
Northern Waterthrush - 2

I also counted over 20 White-breasted Nuthatches (outnumbered Red-breasted), 3 Brown Creepers, had both Kinglet species, 1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 1 Black-billed Cuckoo, both White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, and decent numbers of migrating Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Robins, and Starlings. At Grenadier pond, I had 2 Pied-billed Grebes, 8 Northern Shoveler, and 1 Peregrine Falcon. Also, there were 8 Red-breasted Mergansers flying overhead.

In total I had 43 species in the span of 3.5 hours (10:00am - 1:30pm).

High Park is located at the west end of Toronto near Keele and Bloor. The main entrance is on the south side of Bloor, or you can access the park via the Queensway on its south end at Queensway and Colborne Drive. If you're getting there by transit, get off the Bloor subway line at High Park station and cross the street.


I'm so glad to have High Park within a short streetcar ride away. It's very convenient and I've had some great birds there already. I wish the islands didn't require so much planning or else I would visit them more often to birdwatch as well because they sound like they're pretty active right now. However, the great aspect of High Park, at least right now during fall migration, is that if there aren't many songbirds about, you can always check out Hawk Hill and watch the hawk migration, something else I've been doing frequently this past month.

Here is my full list for the day:

Double-crested Cormorant – a few on Grenadier Pond
Great Blue Heron – 1
Mute Swan – 4 on Grenadier Pond
Canada Goose – a few migrants but mostly local birds
Wood Duck – 6
Northern Shoveler – 8 on Grenadier Pond
Red-breasted Merganser – 8 migrants
Peregrine Falcon – 1 local bird
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Black-billed Cuckoo – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 1
Downy Woodpecker – around 20 birds
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay – only a few birds
Black-capped Chickadee – abundant
Red-breasted Nuthatch – fewer than usual
White-breasted Nuthatch – 20+ (some were being very tame and one landed on my hand)
Brown Creeper – 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 10
American Robin – abundant
Northern Mockingbird – 1
European Starling – abundant
Orange-crowned Warbler – 2
Northern Parula – 2
Chestnut-sided Warbler – 1 first fall female
Magnolia Warbler – 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler – 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler – 200+
Black-throated Green Warbler – 1
Blackpoll Warbler – 5
Northern Waterthrush – 2 late migrants
Northern Cardinal
White-throated Sparrow – 20+
White-crowned Sparrow – 1
Red-winged Blackbird – a few migrants
Common Grackle – quite a few migrating
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Total Species: 43 This number is up from other days, probably because I visited a variety of habitats and also spent more time exploring than restricting myself to the vicinity of Colborne Lodge. Also, no raptors at the hawk count. In fact, no hawkwatchers at the hawk count. The conditions were too poor for any raptor migration to occur.

Last thing: I'm uber-excited about birding my old stomping grounds, Point Pelee. The OFO convention is this coming weekend and I can't wait to get out there and bird the Pelee Birding Circle!


UPDATE, 2008: It was brought to my attention that some of the counts that I made during my trips to High Park in the fall were probably overestimates. Most numbers are still accurate, however, Tennessee Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Downy Woodpecker numbers, in particular, were probably overestimates. I was counting by memory so a few counts might be high and I also made rough estimates with some species, which is why I added a '+' sign after many of the counts. I plan to be a lot more careful with reporting numbers in the future, making sure I write them down and not overestimate any numbers and provide a false impression of how many birds were present.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sibley's Lord God Bird plate

For those interested, Sibley did indeed create a plate for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but included the species in the 'extinct' section instead of including the plate in his The Sibley Guide to Birds. The guide was published before new evidence was found showing perhaps the rarest species of bird in the world flying in the Florida Panhandle in 2004. This was the first 'verified' (there's still debate about Cornell's reports) sighting in 60 years.

You can see the video footage here at YouTube, or check out some compelling new evidence here.

It's up to the viewer. Although some eyewitnesses are not birders, I believe there are at least a few birds probably still persisting in the south that have been seen by locals there. Mind you, the species is obviously in extreme threat of extinction and no extensive searches have produced definitive evidence so the outlook is grim.

This news story has also seen a few books published on the events, including The Grail Bird: The Rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker by Tim Gallagher and In Search of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker by Jerome A. Jackson.

Finally, as promised, here is the plate that is missing from the guide. You will need Adobe Acrobat to open the file but it's worth it. Certainly this elusive bird will continue to mystify birders for a long time.

Friday, October 05, 2007

High Park - yet another good day

This time, for hawks. I started off the day in the vicinity of Colborne Lodge where I had so many migrants the day before but it looks like most of the birds flew through overnight. The heavy fog on Wednesday night probably held most of the birds in the park until Thursday morning when I had excellent numbers. However, Thursday night was quite clear. There were still a good number of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the area but other numbers were down significantly including Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Flickers, both Kinglet species, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Though there were probably a few present, I didn't see any Blackpoll or Tennesse Warblers this morning, or American Redstart.

Due to the the lower numbers, I decided to check out the hawk count around 10:30 and I wasn't disappointed. Don Barnett and I (along with a few others) had good raptor numbers today, particularly Sharp-shinned. During certain half-hour intervals, we were seeing more than 30 Sharpies in the sky, meaning 1 or more a minute. This kept things very exciting. Later in the day, Turkey Vultures started to appear and we had 2 separate kettles of about 20 birds. One Bald Eagle also flew over as well as 3 migrating Peregrine Falcons. Once again, the local Red-tails provided some entertainment, but a few juvenile and adult birds were definitive migrants. 3 Cooper's were counted, the rest being local birds and finally, a single, late Broad-winged Hawk migrated past, well beyond the peak time for this species. Also of interest was the number of Blue Jays migrating through. Many were seen during the hawk count, but I had just as many throughout the park.

Here is my list for the day:

Double-crested Cormorant - a few migrants over Hawk Hill
Great Blue Heron - one bird at Grenadier Pond
- no Mute Swans, but I'm sure they were somewhere on Grenadier Pond
Canada Goose - no migrants, all local birds
Turkey Vulture - two groups of about 20 birds each
Bald Eagle - one adult
Northern Harrier - 2 birds
Sharp-shinned Hawk - I forget the total right now, but I believe we made it to over 100 birds. I'll have to check the Hawk Hill update on Sunday.
Cooper's Hawk - at least 3 migrants, as well as some local birds
Broad-winged Hawk - 1 late juvenile
Red-tailed Hawk - a few migrants and a few local birds (there is a local juvenile that hangs out around Hawk Hill, flying within close proximity to the hawkwatchers and providing spectacular views)
Peregrine Falcon - 3 birds, all in a row
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove - only 1 bird flying over Hawk Hill
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 1 juvenile
Downy Woodpecker - a few heard but numbers were far lower than the day before (and none landed on me this time!)
Northern Flicker - a few birds
Blue Jay - abundant, many birds migrating throughout the park and along the waterfront
Black-capped Chickadee - extremely abundant in the park right now
Red-breasted Nuthatch - fairly good numbers, but down from Thursday
White-breasted Nuthatch - only heard one singing
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 2
American Robin - abundant
European Starling - abundant
Yellow-rumped Warbler - numbers dropped significantly, but still the most abundant warbler in the park
Northern Cardinal
White-crowned Sparrow - a single bird, my first for the fall
House Finch - a few singing at the zoo within the park
American Goldfinch - a handful of migrants
House Sparrow

Total Species: 32 - my total species counts are always low because I don't specifically try for diversity and oftentimes, I'm not at the site long enough to get a decent list. On one of my days off, I'll probably see if I can get 60+ species in a day.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Another quickie update

A very quick update/list from this morning after birding the waterfront east of High Park and the southern half of High Park at Grenadier Pond:

Double-crested Cormorant - fair amount including adults and juveniles
Great Blue Heron - 1 juvenile on the beach
Canada Goose - all local residents (prior days I had actual migrants over High Park)
Mute Swan - 39 total
Gadwall - a pair, male and female
Mallard - many (males are close to full breeding plumage, some show remnants of eclipse plumage)
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
American Crow - good numbers of migrants are starting to show up
Black-capped Chickadees - good numbers all the way along the waterfront
European Starling
American Robin - some migrants
White-throated Sparrow - 7 total (juveniles and adults)
House Sparrow

Nothing substantial, but I like to keep track of all my field records so that I can eventually do a summary of my year in Toronto. As well, I like keeping a record of all the birds I see in case I want to look back at migration dates, numbers, or any other information. More lists are on their way!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Hawkless Hill

A quick update from Hawk Hill at High Park on October 1, 2007. Southeast winds, warm weather, and poor cloud cover resulted in very few birds being seen today. And by very few birds, I mean 4 in total over a period of 3 hours. However, it's given me a chance to talk to the other hawkwatchers. One of the topics of debate was the Double-crested Cormorant cull at Middle Island and other vicinities in Ontario. My opinion falls somewhere in the middle until I can hear some hard scientific justification for the cull. There is a meeting in Toronto that I plan to attend on October 22 at High Park Tennis Club that will discuss the issue. More on this soon.

So, I may as well tell you what the 4 birds were:

1 Cooper's Hawk
3 Turkey Vultures (all of which showed up minutes after a visiting school group left...they didn't see any migrants)

2 resident Red-tailed Hawks were also present again, one adult and a juvenile bird that sticks close to Hawk Hill and provides quite the entertainment for the counters. On Saturday, I witnessed 2 juvenile Red-tails harassing each other on the soccer field near the north entrance of the park and it was fantastic to watch. Also Saturday I saw my first Common Mergansers of the fall, a few migrating Goldfinches and Jays, as well as my first Golden-crowned Kinglets. Lastly, at the count location, we saw two Common Loons flying south. The Golden-crowned Kinglet starts to migrate mid-September with larger numbers throughout November and October.

So that's all for now. I won't be going tomorrow because rain is being predicted by Environment Canada for the morning (hawks do not migrate during rain). I hope to return Wednesday or Thursday though and help out once again.