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.