Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chaffeys Lock area: Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Today, April 29th, spent the morning birding the Chaffeys Lock/Opinicon Lake Road area. Overall it was somewhat quiet likely due to the cooler temperatures. Few birds were singing at first but the activity level did pick up and we had a good morning. Highlights included 7 Yellow-throated Vireo, 3 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 4 Great Crested Flycatcher, 1 Least Flycatcher, 3 Ovenbird and 4 Red-shouldered Hawk. Overall 8 species of warblers with Pine being the most common, 12 individuals.

Many Yellow-throated Vireos go undetected during migration further south and are found on their breeding grounds early in the season.

Though a rare visitor and very rare nester in the Otawa area, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is a regular summer breeder north of Kingston, in the Chaffeys Lock area.

A Solitary Sandpiper shares a log with a few Painted Turtles.

Good birding,

Directions: Chaffeys Lock/Opinicon Road: Opinicon Road is north of Kingston. From Hwy. 401 take county road 10 (exit 617) north towards Westport for about 20 kilometres. Roughly 1 or 2 kms. past Perth Road Village on the right is Opinicon Road. Turn right and drive towards Chaffeys Lock making regular stops along the way to listen. Anywhere along Opinicon Road is can be good. The old railway line or the Rideau Trail system opposite Skycroft Campgrounds are great for birding. From Ottawa take Hwy. 417 west to Hwy.7 to Carleton Place. Turn left onto Hwy.15 and follow past Smiths Falls and continue towards Kingston. After passing Crosby start watching for Chaffeys Lock Road on your right.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ottawa: Warblers & Migrants

Today, April 28th, despite the cooler wet weather there was lots of activity at Britannia Woods/Mud Lake in Ottawa. A total of 10 species of warblers were observed between 7:30-11:30a.m. 1 Northern Parula, 1 Ovenbird, 4 Northern Waterthrush, 4 Nashville, 1 Black-throated Green, 8 Palm, 4 Pine, 15+Yellow, 1 Black and White and 200+ Yellow-rumped Warbler. Other migrants included 1 Great Crested Flycatcher, 1 Least Flycatcher, 2 Warbling Vireo, 5 Blue-headed, and 1 male Baltimore Oriole (early).

Good birding,

Directions: The Britannia Woods/Mud Lake area is located in Ottawa off Richmond Road and Carling Ave. Take Britannia Road north to Cassels and turn right and go east a few 100 metres and park near entrance to woods.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Algonquin Park: Sandhill Crane

Today, April 26th, we spent the day birding various sites along Hwy. 60 in Algonquin Park. The weather conditions changed considerably from yesterday with a cool low of 2c and occasional rain today. We managed to locate a male Spruce Grouse along Spruce Bog, 1 Boreal Chickadee at Tea Lake Dam and 1 Black-backed Woodpecker near KM 8. The highlight was a Sandhill Crane flying over Hwy. 60 calling and then landing in a marsh along the highway between KM 23 and KM 24.

Sandhill Crane flying over, calling along Hwy.60 in Algonquin Park.

We were lucky to have the Sandhill Crane land beside the highway and have a great view! [Photo: Ben Di Labio]

Despite the rainy, cool weather, the male Spruce Grouse put on a great display! [Photo: Ben Di Labio]

Other birds of note included 1 Savannah Sparrow at the Old Airfield and 1 Blue-headed Vireo at Tea Lake Dam.

Good birding,

Directions: [Courtesy of Ron Tozer]
Algonquin Park is three hours north of Toronto, via Highways 400, 11 and 60. Follow the signs, which start in Toronto on Highway 400. From Ottawa, take Highway 17 to Renfrew, then follow Highway 60 to the park. Kilometre markers along Highway 60 in the Park go from the West Gate (km 0) to the East Gate (km 56). Get your park permit and the park tabloid (with a map of birding locations mentioned here) at the gates.

The Visitor Centre at km 43 has recent bird sightings and information. The centre is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm starting this weekend.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spring Migration Continues!!

April 24, 2009

This past week we have had a variety of weather condition from rain, wind, sunny and finally warm today. The field trip for the birding courses and specialty outings also have been variable due to the weather. One of the highlights was the American Woodcock outings on April 21 and 22. Both trips produced excellent views of American Woodcocks during their flight displays at dusk. On the first outing we watched one American Woodcock do 17 flights in 30 minutes landing within a few feet of the same area each time. It was interesting on the second outing that the timing was almost the same as the first outing. The woodcock started its flight at 8:10 pm on April 21 and 8:12 pm on April 22.

American Woodcock

Before dusk we made a few stops at wetlands in the Dunrobin area on April 21 and had no luck with Virginia Rails but the following day, same time and place we had 4 Virginia Rails. Migrations is definitely underway!

On my specialty trip on April 22nd we birded the Quebec side of the Ottawa River from Masson to Plaisance. Overall still 1000's of Canada Geese on the move and once the rain stopped we observed 3 American Bittern at Black Bay, 1 Great Egret flying east over Plaisance and an adult Peregrine Falcon at the Masson/Cumberland ferry.

Other migrants included Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, lots of Barn Swallows, Savannah sparrow and great views of Rusty blackbirds. My feeder still has lots of finches eating Niger seed and on April 22 there were still 150+ Pine Siskin, 3 Common Redpoll, 15+ American Goldfinch and a couple of Purple Finch along with Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow and Mourning Dove. The feeders at Shirley's Bay had a few White-throated Sparrow and 5 Fox Sparrow nearby along with a flock of 16 Bohemian Waxwings. With the forecast promising warmer weather this weekend, who knows what will show up!

Good birding,

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quiz 11 - Who am I?

Photo #1
How many species can you identify? Look closely.

Photo #2
Tails up! Who am I?
We hope to see your answers in the comments.

Good birding,

Answers: Quiz 10 - Who Am I?

Here are the answers to Quiz 10:

Photo #1

Eastern Towhee

In general note the overall coloration and finch/sparrow bill. The Black upper parts and rufous sides are key marks. Also, note the white markings on the wings. You are looking at a male Eastern Towhee, formerly, Rufous-sided Towhee.

Photo #2

Royal Tern (in flight) & Forster's Tern (smaller birds)

Always a challenge to identify terns can be confusing. In the photo note the size difference. The tern in flight is larger with a orange slender bill, white crown and pale under wing. This is a winter plumage adult Royal Tern. The smaller terns, both have a distinctive ear patch which is a field mark of Forster's Tern. Have a look at your Eastern Sibley Guide or the "New" National Geo. "Birds of Eastern N.A.".

Good birding,

Birding Texas

Just back from a 10 day trip birding the Texas Hill Country, Lower Rio Grande River and the Texas coast. Overall it was a great trip with lots of exciting birds.

We started at Cancan, Neal's Lodge and found two endangered species, Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler. Both species are very rare and only occur on a limited range.

We had great views at Lost Maples Natural Area. The Golden-cheeked Warblers were easy to find by listening for their distinctive song, reminiscent of the Black-throated Green Warbler of the east. The Black-capped Vireo took a bit more effort to find. We climbed a steep trail for about a mile, in +30c temperatures, but finally had excellent views of 2 or 3 individuals.

The Lower Rio Grande region was an interesting area for a number of specialties that just reach into southern Texas. These species included Least Grebe, White-tailed Hawk, Plain Chachalaca, White-tipped Dove, Ringed Kingfisher, Red-billed Pigeon, Common Pauraque, Great Kiskadee, North Beardless Tyannulet, Couch's Kingbird, Clay-colored Thrush and Green Jay to name a few.

While birding along the Rio Grande for a few days we visited a number of the State Parks, Wildlife Refuges and Audubon areas. Frontera Audubon House and Thicket, near Weslaco, had a few rarities including a female Crimson-collared Grosbeak and Blue Bunting. Other north bound migrants included Hooded Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula and Blue Grosbeak.

Many areas were very dry due to a lengthy drought, but Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and Estero Llano Grande State Park had a number of ponds and lots of activity including both Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Least Grebe, Green and Ringed Kingfisher, Mottled Duck and White-faced Ibis.

Before heading to South Padre Island we made a brief stop along Old Port Isabel Road and had fantastic views of both Aplomado Falcon and White -tailed Hawk resting in trees while Cassin's Sparrow's were in full song!

On South Padre Island we had a number of spring migrants including Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Summer Tanager, Yellow-breasted Chat and Yellow-throated Warbler. These birds were attracted to the fruit feeders and water drips at the South Padre Convention Center, always a good location to look for migrants.

We finished the trip part way up the Texas coast in the Corpus Christi area at Blucher Park with a small variety of migrants. Highlights included Kentucky Warbler, Chuck-wills-Widow, Indigo Bunting and Buff-bellied Hummingbird.

A wonderful 10 days of birding and photography. You can view photos of the trip here.

Good birding,

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring, spring, spring

April 8, 2009

With all the snow falling as I write this, you can't be sure spring is well and truly here....but there are signs around.

American Goldfinch are now molting into breeding plumage.

A Killdeer looking for an open patch of earth to feed. This late winter snow can sometimes make life difficult for our early migrants.

An American Robin wondering if spring is really here!

Good birding,

The Last Cuba Tour of the Winter

April 8, 2009

My final tour to Cuba this winter was very successful and we observed 49 of the 50 possible specialties. Highlights included Bee Hummingbird, Zapata Wren, Zapata Sparrow, West Indian Whistling Duck, and excellent views of Cuban Nightjar. A few North American rarities were observed including an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, 4 American Avocet, 1 American White Pelican and an Eastern Phoebe.

I've added a few photos to the ones from the previous tours. You can view them here.

Good birding,

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cackling Goose and Swamp Sparrows (Ben Di Labio)

Hi Everyone,

Today, April 2nd there were 2 Swamp Sparrows out and about in the creek area behind my house. Amongst the 1000s of Canada Geese on the Carp River, a Cackling Goose was right out in the open. I got great looks at this bird and could easily determine the size was much different. Other birds of interest were a Great Blue Heron and a few Turkey Vultures.

Good birding,
Ben Di Labio