Saturday, July 4, 2015

PeregrinePrints highly irregular quiz - birds in flight (May 2015 edition) #3


Answers to quiz #2. It seems like if there are any birds that are tricky/sticky, people don't enjoy playing along! Thanks to those who did though :)

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-headed Woodpecker
 Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Willet x 2
Oriole sp. - I wasn't sure what to call it, but everyone said Baltimore. Could it be impure due to Bullock's influence though?!
Double-crested Cormorant (left) with Cormorant sp. (right). I'm guessing DCCO for both birds (size variation and single-image photo illusion) but there is no way of saying it's not a Neotropic or hybrid.
Common Tern x 2

------------------------------------------

Part 3!!! -

You know the drill - leave a comment, don't leave a comment, don't cheat, cheat - play along however you like... If any photos in particular are overly challenging, I'll highlight them and provide some additional chances to get it (otherwise, I'll just post the answers at some point!)

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Twitching/Listing laid bare



It has been a long time since I've relaxed in the month of June and 2015 was no different... With that in mind, I've had the urge to write a short blog post on twitching/listing and the Little Egret that I presumably won't be seeing...


------


Avid Ontario birders were stunned to see Ben DiLabio's photos of a spankin Little Egret taken on June 2nd, 2015 in Carp, ON (major congrats Ben!). Probably one of the most exciting birds ever to be found in the province - it happened to be sporting breeding plumage and the photos showed almost every feature you would want to see. WOW. Several local birders saw it in the afternoon.

Understandably a number of people went looking for this stunner the next morning but many/all were thwarted as it left the site quite early in the morning. Dang. But that's birding for you. A rare bird is found, and eventually it leaves.

Then things got weird.

The bird was refound, but was now lacking its beautiful (and ID useful) head plumes, several km from the first site, and continued to be challenging to nail down. Over the month of June and into July there were sporadic sightings until birders have figured out enough of a pattern that people can travel some distance and hope to get a sighting of the beast. For those who enjoy the chase, or the tick, or the social aspects of seeing rare birds - it must be a real treat. As a disinclined chaser, I just can't wrap my head around the idea of going for it.

Others have written more detail on why this Little Egret is so rare, so I'll keep it short and simple. Our Snowy Egret appears to be the "new world" counterpart to the "old world" Little Egret. We guess that they blow from Africa over to the Lesser Antillies (or beyond) on the trade winds that blow in the oppisite direction as the northern Atlantic (east to west). These are the same winds that bring us Cape Verde-type Hurricanes in the fall. Once they're in the "new world" - a select few get REALLY freakin lost and end up in North America (presumably migrating "north" as they would have from Africa into Europe).

The story is spectacular, until you look into the details. The Little Egret really doesn't look that different from our Snowy Egret. Don't get me wrong, Ben's photos are some of the best rarity photos ever taken of a truly beautiful bird - but now that it has lost it's distinctive head plumes and the skin colours fade - well... It starts to look more and more like a Snowy Egret...

Things turn comical (for me personally) when a Snowy Egret was found by Cheryl Edgecombe at Windemere Basin in Hamilton barely five minutes from my house. 5 min, 5km for the Snowy or 10 hours and 1000km for the Little Egret. If I blur my eyes, I could probably just pretend the Snowy was the Little and be done with it!

So I ask myself, what (truly) is the difference between the Snowy Egret and the Little Egret at this point? Some initial thoughts are: first provincial record, life bird, not a North American species... But none of those points affect me personally. I didn't find it (so not "my" first/second/third record), I don't keep a life list, and I would prefer to see all birds in their proper range for the first time. Vagrants for me are the excitement of the unknown. I can go to Van Wagner's Beach 1000 times and not see a Leach's Storm-Petrel, but when I do - it's MORE exciting because I HAVE been there 1000 times before.

Most of this is subjective due to my personal interests and where I live, and in no way am I trying to deter from the excitement of the observation or those who have traveled to see it. I know I won't be going to see it anytime soon, and I know there will come a point  in the future where I say "dang, I wish I could have seen that Little Egret - what a spectacular bird".




A quick summary of twitching factors for me:

- Distance

- Beauty 

- Rarity

- Can I learn anything by going?

- Time of year


Any reasons for twitching/not twitching rare birds that apply to you that I haven't mentioned? Or that you feel differently about?

Quiz answers soon!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

PeregrinePrints highly irregular quiz - birds in flight (May 2015 edition) #2



You know the drill - leave a comment, don't leave a comment, don't cheat, cheat - play along however you like... If any photos in particular are overly challenging, I'll highlight them and provide some additional chances to get it (otherwise, I'll just post the answers at some point!)

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sample OBRC report - Eurasian Tree Sparrow


This is what I sent in for senior review.

----








OBRC Report – Eurasian Tree Sparrow

1
Point Pelee National Park - Tip
8 May 2015 - ~7:55am
Optics:  Vortex 8x42 DSLR Binoculars. Canon 1DX DSLR, 600mm F4 lens

Circumstances: was watching a steady (but light/moderate) reverse migration at the tip of Point Pelee with my Dad (Eric Holden) and other assorted birders. A small group of blackbirds was approaching the tip, with one noticeably smaller bird approaching on the same flight path. I put my binoculars on it and saw a clean-bellied passerine (white/gray) with black markings on the head/face. I knew the GISS was totally wrong for Harris’s Sparrow and the features were wrong for House Sparrow ASAP. Based on past reverse-migration experience with House Sparrow and vagrant occurrences of Eurasian Tree Sparrow at Long Point (in May), I had this species on my radar for this type of situation and the lightbulbs started going off. I felt reasonably confident that a report (in this manner) without photographs was likely to get rejected, so I yelled out “get on this bird” to those standing nearby and took a dive for my camera. Due to the lead time, I was able to secure a number of images as the bird passed overhead and flew south off the tip. In the excitement, it was hard to say just how much the bird was associating with blackbirds - or if it was just a line-of-site association when I first picked it out.

I reviewed the images and was (needless to say) pleased to see a Eurasian Tree Sparrow looking back at me. The exact details are hard to piece together (not that they’re all that useful, regardless) but others had picked the bird out and were not sure of the ID (and came over to ask - I did hear someone suspected a Clay-coloured Sparrow) and I formally let the cat out of the bag.

Maybe 2-5 minutes later the bird was suddenly perched in a tree maybe 25m N of the tip (I could hear someone yelling “there’s a Sparrow right here!”) and I passed along the ETSP southwards to others. It sat there for maybe 30-60 seconds, then flew north. As far as I’m aware, it wasn’t seen again - although we did have a male and female House Sparrow do several flights around the tip maybe 1-2 hours later - that caused a lot of excitement for some who were still hoping to see the ETSP (I left soon after).

Description: photos tell the tale better than I can

Similar Species: Photos clearly indicate a ETSP. The HOSP later in the morning were confirmed by the males extensive black breast - something I hadn’t noticed as a difference prior to needed to separate the species in this circumstance

Experience with species: this was the first I have seen in North America.

Notes: I did not do much research, but I noticed a record in northern ON earlier in 2015 and the first record for SK occurred not long after. This species is on the move. Other reverse migrants that morning included a Clay-coloured Sparrow and a Prothonotary Warbler.

Ebird: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S23314079

Weather:






Decent vagrant setup



Brandon Holden
Contact info...



===================





Quiz answers - 

Yellow Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Scarlet Tanager
Tennessee Warbler
Baltimore Oriole
Crow sp (not sure personally - FICR got the most votes)
Eastern Kingbird
Blue-headed Vireo
Osprey


Thanks to those who played along! More will appear 



Thursday, May 28, 2015

PeregrinePrints highly irregular quiz - birds in flight (May 2015 edition) #1


You know the drill - leave a comment, don't leave a comment, don't cheat, cheat - play along however you like... If any photos in particular are overly challenging, I'll highlight them and provide some additional chances to get it (otherwise, I'll just post the answers at some point!) 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sample OBRC report - White-faced Ibis



A decent example where a short observation + photos = a short report. I still think I've covered the bases and included the relevant information! Don't shy away from sending in your reports/photos! obrc@ofo.ca !!

--------




OBRC Report - White-faced Ibis
1 - adult
Point Pelee National Park (Tip)
May 11, 2015 at ~8:35am

Optics: Vortex 8x42 Razor Binoculars. Canon 1DX DSLR, 600mm F4 lens. !
Circumstances: Birding at the ,p of Point Pelee during a light (to very light) reverse migra,on when I suddenly spotted a dark ibis barreling in off the Lake and heading north directly over the point. I yelled out “IBIS!” and took a dive towards my camera. I secured a number of images as it passed reasonably close overhead and vanished from view. The photos leave no doubt as a White-faced Ibis. I was standing next to Tim Lucas who said he couldn’t really tell/hear what I had blurted out, but presumed it was Ibis when he saw the bird ;)

Descripton: See photos. Superficially like a DCCO with long legs and an excep,onally long decurved bill. White feathering on face with pink facial skin nails the ID

Similar Species: Glossy Ibis clearly eliminated on facial details

Experience with species: First time I’ve “found” one in Ontario. One previous bird observed in Hamilton October 2006(?) I believe? That had been found by Dave Donn at the Dundas Hydro Pond (basic adult).

Notes: It is my understanding that the same bird was observed that afternoon/evening at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons by the Burrell family, but they should make the call on the same/ different bird issue.

Weather: Graphics added at the end of this report !

Brandon Holden

contact yada




Sunday, May 24, 2015

One last kick at the 2015 rarity can



Summer Tan at the tip of Pelee - May 11 (I think). Picked out by Ken Burrell

---

Who doesn't like unusual birds? This year has seen a steady progression of decent to good rarity weather throughout the month of May, and it looks like the bird gods will give us yet another dose before the calendar shifts to June. Check out the surface forecast for tomorrow (Monday) morning - 


Another front pushing in from the south (even though the subtropical jet gets weaker as we go along) - we will still feel the effects of it in terms of rapid bird migrations. Check out the 850mb wind model run/guess from the NAM:



And then things keep on ripping straight through to Tuesday morning as well:


Things could remain interesting (less so, but interesting) on Wednesday as well (see below), and I don't really see anything "bad" on the forecast right through to the end of the month. We may not see enough precipitation to knock down the birds (maybe next weekend?) - but it's great for the birds themselves.



Here's hoping for a few more spectacular birds in the province this week - and we'll see what things are looking like for next weekend. The weather network seems to think we will have a massive cold front + rain (which would be an excellent grounding of late migrants headed to the arctic) - but I also don't really believe them at times. For now - Monday-Tuesday and maybe Wednesday for rares!