Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 28, 2012 Local birding around Ottawa.

Hi Everyone
Spent a number of hours birding along the Ottawa River and a couple of nearby woodlots. Overall it was quiet except for numerous flocks of Bohemian Waxwings flying over. I observed one flock of 100+ near the corner of Moodie Drive and Carling Ave. and another flock of 50+  near Carleton University. With the number of fruit/berry trees in the Ottawa area I'm sure the waxwings will be around for some time.
 Still 1000's of Canada Geese along the Ottawa River and feeding in fields on the outskirts of the city. I've noticed on birding list servers there has been a few Pink-footed Geese in north-eastern United States and Newfoundland. I know it's tedious but it's worth checking all the flocks of geese. There is a spring record of Pink-footed Goose at Plaisance, Quebec back in late April 2004. This maybe the next new species for Ontario. With the Pink-footed Goose record from  Plaisance and a Barnacle Goose record (banded) further east at Bainsville near the Ontario-Quebec border be sure to check all Canada Geese flocks.   Anything is possible!

Good birding, Bruce

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 26, 2012 First snow fall of the season.

The first snowfall of the season produced very little activity at our feeder. It was more like everything left town except for the Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches. Hopefully over the next couple of days things will change for the better!
On a brighter note, bird activity in areas with berries-any fruit was exceptional. There were good sized flocks of Bohemian Waxwings, Pine Grosbeaks and American Robins. At the rate they're eating, there may be no birds left to count on the upcoming local Christmas Bird Counts!  Also, keep an eye out for other berry eaters such as Varied Thrush. There are numerous records for eastern Ontario since the early 1970's. We even have a sight  record of  a Fieldfare, a Eurasian thrush, for Ottawa from the Arboretum back in  January 1967. Anything is possible!
Good birding, Bruce

The feeding frenzy begins!

Which one should I eat?

No fruit is left on touched.

These nomadic wanderers can travel in large flocks in search of food.

No problem!

Most of their winter diet is made up of berries and fruit. 

An American Robin also consumes many berries and other fruits during the winter months.

Many species of birds will use snow for a source of water during the winter.

This  American Robin with a leg injury picks up fallen fruit on the snow covered ground.

Even though this adult Ring-billed Gull is missing a foot it has fared well and will survive.

November 23, 2012 Another Cave Swallow near Ottawa,Ontario

The Ottawa-Gatineau district's second record of Cave Swallow was discovered this afternoon at Constance Bay by Jeff Skevington. The swallow was feeding along the edge of the Ottawa River off the end of Whistler Road. It was present til' dusk and on November 24th at dawn it was observed for a brief time before disappearing. I was able to take a number of photos to document this record of the southwestern subspecies P.f. pallida.  The first record also P.f. pallida was found on November 3rd feeding over the Ottawa River at Bate Island along with a Cliff Swallow. The Cliff was observed on November 4 and 5 but no Cave Swallow. On November 6 both swallows were reported again at the same location late afternoon and never seen again.  Below is a couple of photos of the 2nd record of a Cave Swallow for the Ottawa-Gatineau district.

Good birding, Bruce


Cave Swallow: P.f. pallida   November 23, 2012 Constance Bay,Ontario

Cave Swallow: P.f. pallida November 23, 2012 Constance Bay,Ontario  

November 20-21, 2012 Birds in search of berries and fruit.

 Yesterday and today I birded a number of local parks and found an impressive number of Bohemian Waxwings including a flock of 550+ at the Arboretum and another flock of 150+ in the west end of Ottawa.   This is part of a large flight of waxwings that are moving through our region in search of  berries and other fruits. There were a couple of flocks of American Robins including 50+ in Bells Corners and another 20+ at the Arboretum. With a plentiful berry/fruit supply these birds are consuming the berries quickly and moving to greener pastures. While searching for a Townsend's Solitaire which was found near Bell High School on November 17-18th,  I observed a adult male Northern Goshawk flying around the woods being harassed by American Crows. The hawk landed in a tree close to me and I was able to get a short but good view of it. The goshawk finally flew off and disappeared. Back in the 70's and into the 80's the Northern Goshawk was a regular sight in the Ottawa district but these days a tough one to find. Unfortunately, no Townsend was found.

Good birding, Bruce

Over 50 American Robins were feeding on berries in the Bells Corners area.

The American Robin can survive our winters as long as there is enough food which includes Mountain Ash, Buckthorn, Wild Grapes, Crab Apples and other fruit-berry producing trees/plants.

A female Pine Grosbeak picks up pieces of fallen crab apples.

Even a Pileated Woodpecker was eating crab apples.

The Pileated Woodpecker checks over a telephone pole for insects.

A large group of Bohemian Waxwings resting.

American Robin

A male Northern Cardinal enjoying a morning snack.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 19, 2012 Female Barrow's Goldeneye Identification

Hi Ontbirders,

With the influx of goldeneyes during the past few weeks into southern Ontario, I've been looking through the flocks for both male and female Barrow's Goldeneyes. Today, November 19, I observed a female Common Goldeneye with an orange-yellow bill on the Ottawa River at Shirley's Bay. This is the second individual that I've seen during the past two weeks and I've had a few local birders report possible female Barrow's that have turned out to be Common Goldeneyes. The bill colour of female Barrow's is only an "aid" to the identification and it is not diagnostic. Most important is to look at the head shape. The head of the female Barrow's Goldeneye has an oval shape created by a steep forehead, flat crown and elongated hind neck feathers like a mane. The latter gives the appearance of a swept back crest, similar to the male Barrow's and female Hooded Merganser. The head shape of the Common Goldeneye lacks the "puffiness" of the female Barrow's. Common has a rounded rather than flat crown with a sloping forehead and longer bill. Some birds appear intermediate.

Good birding, Bruce Di Labio and Ron Pittaway

See link: Bill Colour and Identification of Female Barrow's Goldeneye by
Bruce Di Labio, Ron Pittaway and Peter Burke in Ontario Birds 15 (2): 81-85,

See also photos on my blog.

A distant female Commmon Goldeneye with a orange/yellow bill at Shirley's Bay.

Di Labio Birding Website
Courses and Field Trips

Bruce Di Labio
400 Donald B. Munro Drive
P.O. Box 538
Carp, Ontario
K0A 1L0
Office 613-839-4395 Cell 613-715-2571

November 17-18, 2012 Birding Prince Edward Point and Presqui'le

The birding at Prince Edward Point was rather slow this morning with few land birds remaining. A couple of flocks of Dark-eyed Junco and American Tree Sparrow were observed along the road and a couple of Pine Grosbeak, 22 Common Redpoll and 3 White-winged Crossbill were noted overhead.  An immature Bald Eagle was observed perched as well as an immature Northern Goshawk. There were hundreds of Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser and a small number of White-winged Scoters and a Northern Shrike was seen hunting. While making our way out to the lighthouse I received a call from Doug McCrae, he had an odd looking sandpiper at Presqu'ile. We cancelled our plans and headed to Presqu'ile. The drive took just over an hour and we arrived at the causeway just outside the park. A number of birders had gathered studying the "peep".  Due to the distance and poor light conditions it was difficult to be sure of the species. After a while it became apparent the sandpiper was a winter plumage Least Sandpiper. We could see the leg colour - a yellow-green. Due to the late date it was in a plumage that wasn't familiar. It was a great learning experience!
Along with the Least Sandpiper there was an amazing 38 Wilson's Snipe, 6 White-rumped Sandpiper, 3 Pectoral Sandpiper, 9 Killdeer and a number of Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal and Mallards. A quick look off Owen Point revealed one Purple Sandpiper feeding along the south-east corner of Gull Island. The following morning we headed out to Gull Island and observed 2 Snowy Owls and were able to watch one bathing and having a drink. It was interesting to watch it walk slowly out into the shallow water. Off shore 100's of Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye and Red-breasted Mergansers were observed.  Unfortunately no Purple Sandpipers were seen. Owen Point and Gull island are the most reliable locations for these sandpipers in eastern/southern Ontario during late November and early December. Maybe next week!
At the lighthouse a couple of Pine Grosbeaks  were observed flying over calling and another one was seen near the Township Park feeding on berries. Presqu'ile Bay was full of Mute Swans, over 200 along with an American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Ruddy Duck and Ring-necked Duck.

Good birding, Bruce
Directions courtsey of Fred Helleiner: To reach Presqu'ile Provincial Park, follow the signs from Brighton. Locations within the Park are shown on a map at the back of a tabloid that is available at the Park gate. Visitors to Gull Island not using a boat should be able to walk across the gap without special footwear unless a wind change creates a gap of shallow water. It should also be noted that, because duck hunting is given priority on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Gull Island, High Bluff Island, Owen Point, and part of the calf pasture are not available for bird-watching on those days. Birders are encouraged to record their observations on the bird sightings board provided near the campground office by The Friends of Presqu'ile Park and to fill out a rare bird report for species not listed there.

An immature Bald Eagle resting along the shoreline

This immature Northern Shrike was investigating all the small bird activty around a feeder.

Barred Owls appear to be again on the move south this fall. Numerous birds have been reported along the east shore of Lake Ontario and Amherst Island.

An adult winter plumage Bonaparte's Gull feeding off Owen Point at Presqu'ile.

Incredibly low water levels along the Lake Ontario. You can walk from Owen Point to Gull Island without getting your feet wet!

A Snowy Owl walks out into the water for a bath and a drink. Surprisingly this is only one of the few times I've ever witnessed an owl bathing.

After its bath the owl flapped its wings a number of times and began preening.

November 12-17, 2012 A late lingering Gray Catbird in Carp.


On November 12th while walking down my lane I noticed a Gray Catbird feeding in my neighbour's crap apple tree. The bird was quite tame and I was able to watched it for a few minutes as it ate the berries. I went back home, got my camera and managed to get a couple of photos. This is a very late date for the Gray Catbird and I suspect it will likely attempt to overwinter. This is my first November record but I've seen Gray Catbird in late December and January coming to my parent's feeder at Constance Bay a number of years ag. Both Ben and I saw the catbird on and off during the week but it was only present for short periods of time and would disappear for most of the day. Unfortunately by November 17th all the crap apples were gone do to a flock of 25+ Bohemian Waxwing, 6 Pine Grosbeak, and a couple of European Starlings which came in on November 15th and consumed most of them. There are still lots of fruit/berry trees in the neighbourhood.   Since there is no snow yet and temperatures are somewhat mild I sure this catbird will find a feeder or other berries to eat in the area. 

A late lingering Gray Catbird was a surprise as it fed on crab apples.  

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

A flock of Bohemian Waxwings finished off the fruit on this tree.

A male Pine Grosbeak feeds on crab apples.

The Gray Catbird sometimes appeared briefly before dusk likely spending the night in a nearby dense cedar tree.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 10-11, 2012 Amherst Island Birdng

Hi Everyone
Spent the weekend birding Amherst Island. With great weather and very mild temperatures, it felt more like mid October and a few  species of reptiles and amphibians were still active along with a couple of butterfly species.  The Owl Woods produced 4 species of owls  with Northern Saw-whet, Long-eared, Short-eared, and Barred Owl being found. A check along the roads produced a number of American Kestrel, Rough-legged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Harrier. The KFN property at the east end of the island was quiet with little activity.
Good birding, Bruce
Directions: Amherst Island: Located 18 km. west of Kingston. Exit off Hwy. 401 at exit 593 (County Rd. 4, Camden East) and drive south to the very end (Millhaven). Turn right on Hwy. 33 and drive 100 metres until you see the sign for the Amherst Island ferry. The ferry (20 minute trip) leaves the mainland on the half hour and leaves the island on the hour. Cost is $8.00 Canadian round trip. There are no gas stations on the island. There are restrooms on the ferry, and at the island ferry dock. The East End K.F.N. property is at the easternmost part of the island on the east side of the Lower Forty Foot Road.

Because of liability issues, visitors to the Kingston Field Naturalists' property at the east end of Amherst Island MUST be accompanied by a KFN
member. For KFN contact information or how to become a member, please visit ."


Numerous Common Loons were observed on the crossing.

A 2nd year (cycle) Iceland Gull was observed along the south shore of the island.

A Mink in full stride.

With mild conditions everyone was out sunning!

A Northern Water Snake was also out with the warm temperatures.

American Tree Sparrows were easy to observe at the feeders in the Owl Woods.

A number of American Kestrel were observed feeding along the roads catching insects that were active due to the warm temperatures.

A Barred Owl eating a Garter snake a first for me!

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was vocal in the woods giving a "chuck" call.

A late Fox Sparrow was feeding at the feeders in the Owl Woods.


November 6, 2012 birding Amherst Island

Hi Everyone
Spent the day birding Amherst Island. Overall it was quiet but there were a few owls in the Owl Woods including 2 Northern Saw-whet, 2 Long-eared and 1 Barred Owl. Also species present included a small flock of White-winged Crossbill, a couple of Common Redpoll, 1 Fox Sparrow and a Red-bellied Woodpecker at the feeders. A walk out to the east point, KFN property produced a late Dunlin, 34 Tundra Swan,  and 500+ Greater Scaup. There were a small number hawks including American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk and Rough-legged Hawk.   
Good birding, Bruce
Directions: Amherst Island: Located 18 km. west of Kingston. Exit off Hwy. 401 at exit 593 (County Rd. 4, Camden East) and drive south to the very end (Millhaven). Turn right on Hwy. 33 and drive 100 metres until you see the sign for the Amherst Island ferry. The ferry (20 minute trip) leaves the mainland on the half hour and leaves the island on the hour. Cost is $9.00 Canadian round trip. There are no gas stations on the island. There are restrooms on the ferry, and at the island ferry dock. The East End K.F.N. property is at the easternmost part of the island on the east side of the Lower Forty Foot Road.

Because of liability issues, visitors to the Kingston Field Naturalists' property at the east end of Amherst Island MUST be accompanied by a KFN
member. For KFN contact information or how to become a member, please visit ."

The Owl Woods on Amherst Island will be closed from November 19-December 9th.

One of two Northern Saw-whet Owls that were present in the Owl Woods.

A section of the Owl Woods is now fenced off and there is no access.

The Long-eared Owl is a regular migrant on the island and usually very wary. This individual was very tame.

This Long-eared Owl spent most of the day roosting quietly in a Jack Pine.

A small group of Evening Grosbeaks was a nice bonus on the island.

These birds were feeding on the Staghorn Sumac fruit.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker continues to expand its range north into eastern Ontario. 

The low water levels on Lake Ontario continue and the gravel point at the east end of Amherst island is now connected to the first island.

Access to the east point KFN property is restricted. You must be accompanied by a KFN member.

A late lingering Dunlin on the KFN property.

The Snow Bunting is an Arctic breeder and winters in eastern Ontario.

Usually travelling in flocks this individual was on its own.