Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Odd Ruby-throated Hummer (late juv?)

We watched a rather lackluster showdown between two Hummingbirds on Sept 25 --- where a seemingly normal Ruby-throated Hummingbird took a few swipes at another hummer with dingy/dusky sides and an obviously shorter bill... Olde short-bill seemed rather disinterested in the whole affair, not really fleeing or doing much of anything... 

It them proceeded to feed for quite some time, (after RTHU #1 left the scene, seemingly perplexed at its inability to defend the feeder) and then landed in a nearby Mulberry tree... Soon thereafter we heard a series of high pitched calls, that were (at least to me) unfamiliar as Ruby-throated... 

So with the combination of odd shape + odd calls, it was time to break out the camera gear. I was able to record a few of the calls (which it did constantly, the video is just short) with my point and shoot - which you can watch (or listen to) below:

High pitched calls... 

I then broke out the "stills" gear - and fired off a series. As best I can tell, this is a Ruby-throated... But I'd be happy to be wrong... I can't find much on the calls, but suspect it may be some sort of juvenile/begging type noise? Or perhaps it's just a bit under the weather and has a head cold?? 

Leave a comment if you please! 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Living Fish ID

Over two years ago, when I was (really) lucky to see some Spotted Gar at Point Pelee - Tyler laid down the challenge of finding a Warmouth... Since then, I've kept my eyes peeled to little avail - until now!!!

I am no fish expert (nor adroit, adept, proficient, skilled, skillful, deft or trained) - but I thought these had promise... Now that I'm home, I'm just confused on how these slippery fish can look so similar... Once again, I find myself posting on the blog for public comment!

How does one tell a Crappie from a Sunfish from a Bass (warmouth)? Especially from terrible photos taken with my point-and-shoot camera?!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

3rd annual Monarch Trip to Point Pelee

Spent ~ a week at Pelee searching for butterflies and other goodies... It was HOT every single day! Excessive sunshine and often accompanied by light winds... Here are some highlights/rundowns:


Silver-spotted Skipper - abundant... possibly more so than any previous trip to the park

Horace's Duskywing - 2 females near the tip on Wednesday

Wild Indigo Duskywing - irregular sightings... as expected, much more common outside the park

Common Checkered Skipper - 5+ obs inside the park... regular observations outside the park

Least Skipper

Fiery Skipper - regular observations both inside and outside the park (more common outside)

Black Swallowtail - a few inside the park

Giant Swallowtail - frequent observations. Some very fresh, some very worn. What generation are these???

Spicebush Swallowtail - frequent observations. More than I would have expected.

Cabbage White

Clouded Sulphur - less than expected inside the park. One at the tip.

Orange Sulphur

Little Yellow - one mostly white female at NW beach. Unexpected/exciting!

Cloudless Sulphur - male at the very tip on Tuesday. My first for Ontario (overdue?) but very exciting!!!

Gray Hairstreak - frequent sightings. Max count of ~25 on Tuesday (!!) Some very fresh.

Bronze Copper - 2 obs inside the park

Eastern Tailed Blue - abundant inside the park. Many more than normal.

Azure sp.

Crescent sp.

Question Mark - very few observations

Eastern Comma - several obs

Mourning Cloak - few/irregular sightings

American Lady - few/irregular sightings

Painted Lady - one

Red Admiral - few/irregular sightings

Common Buckeye - regular observations both inside and outside the park

Red-spotted Purple - one (worn)


American Snout - 5-10 observations over the week (fresh)

Hackberry Emperor - several obs (worn)

Monarch - NO clusters. Regular observations of low numbers everywhere (foraging, migrating etc). A lack of suitable winds may explain it... Also somewhat low numbers this year (??) but I did have a few thousand at Wheatley waay back on the 14th, moving along the lakeshore...


Sporadic casual observations. The highlights/notable species:

Common Green Darner - abundant, but (perhaps?) far fewer than I would have expected.
Green-striped Darner - 1
Swamp Darner - ~5 obs.
Red Saddlebags - irregular but near-daily observations
Carolina Saddlebags - perhaps 50% more than Red, but surprisingly close numbers
Black Saddlebags - abundant
Wandering Glider - regular/abundant
Spot-winged Glider - Abundant

(no striped saddlebags)


Casual observation & notes:

Waterfowl: nothing unexpected. Sporadic observations from Blue-winged Teal to a (seemingly?) early Common Merganser

Loons/Grebes: A few Horned, but generally scarce. No loons??

Other waterbirds: A few Great Egrets and low-ish numbers of Cormorants around...

Raptor Migration: nothing spectacular but the point always had falcons, sharpies, osprey, harriers, eagles etc about... Often providing some excellent entertainment.

Shorebirds: limited habitat and observations. ~26-28 Sanderling at Wheatley Harbour, then later at the tip - were a nice bunch. 1 Am. Golden Plover flyby....

Gulls: 1 Great Black-backed x Herring hybrid and a max (daily) count of 10 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on our first day (Saturday). LBBG's were a daily occurrence. Small #'s of Bonies.

Owls: one day-calling E. Screech Owl near the tip, and one dusk-calling Great Horned Owl at the marsh tower were highlights.

Swifts/Hummingbirds - steady migration most days

Crow's/Jays - great views of the long-staying Fish Crow at the tip. Large Blue Jay migration underway, which seemingly started before Mid-Sept.

Passerine Migration: surprising numbers most days, given the seemingly poor conditions... Blackpoll Warblers outnumbered all other warblers combined. Careful observations would yield a steady selection of many families, but we often didn't put in the work to find them. A few days had sizable reorientation flights of Warblers, including a group of 100+ Blackpolls that left the tip together one morning... 1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher also did the "reverse migration" thing one morning.


Map Turtle - a few outside the park
Melanistic Garter Snake - only one
Fox Snake - one near the tip. Perhaps 2.5 to 3 feet long.
other expected species...


Nothing unexpected. Mink, bats, deer, etc.


One mystery dead fish at the tip...  (see earlier post)
Several mystery living fish at the marsh boardwalk while hunting for Species at Risk... (stay tuned!)

Other notes:

The stable flies at the tip on Wednesday were BY FAR - the WORST I have ever seen... They were covering 50-75% of exposed pant legs and getting up into your hair... Not only that, but they were covering everything else - signs, garbage cans, the tram, flowers etc. (!!!)

By Friday, the tip was (perhaps) the longest I have ever seen it!

Uber-tame Fish Crow!


I'll get some lep photos online next...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dead Fish ID

I sent these photos to some fish-experts that I'm lucky to work with, but rather than give them time to properly respond - I'm also posting them here... Partially because I'm really interested to see what species this dead thing is (which is hopefully possible to determine from the photos!)

It was big.. And taken at the tip of Point Pelee earlier this week... Watch this space!

Any takers??

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Great birding tomorrow and/or Thursday

8am today - Front with N winds leaving James Bay

8am tomorrow (Weds) - the same front has pushed to the southern Great Lakes - bringing N to NW winds... 

It seems as though there will be some rain to contend with in the morning - so perhaps waterbirds would be a worthy target first thing...

Or perhaps the rain will be just a bit too "delayed" and Thursday will be the first day of steller birding:

Thursday at 8am - clear skies, local NE to ENE winds... 

Could produce a few jaegers/sabine's... Passerines on the move... Or hawks too!


On Monday I had ~100 Broad-winged Hawks on my drive to work, randomly inland --- so I'd fear a little bit that they're leaving Ontario without concentrating at the hawkwatches - but just maybe there will be enough left for either day to bring a big flight

The rain early tomorrow is too hard to predict at a local scale in terms of dropping passerine migrants... Perhaps part of the beauty - is that there's an equal chance it will be a spectacular drop of birds, or completely block everything from dropping down into your area... Which will it be??? We know that huge numbers will be migrating through the night to Thursday morning --- but without the rain, there is also a much lower chance of mind-boggling numbers dropping down... 

In terms of waterbirds, I think Lake Huron would be a safe bet tomorrow morning... Otherwise Erie isn't a great deal on N winds, but you can be surprised.. Lake Ontario will also be hit or miss both days... Winds may be "too" NW for Van Wagner's - but perhaps Fifty Point or Port Wellar (or something) could produce some desired seabirds/shorebirds?? Thursday is perhaps safer with true NE winds, but you'll have the sun to deal with early at VWB (which is awful) and winds will be getting lighter throughout the day - so who knows what will be blowing by the afternoon watch...

Regardless - it should be a very enjoyable few days of birding - given that we are getting a nice little cold front right smack in the middle of September!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Possible Neotropic X Double-crested Cormorant Hybrid. Possibly not very interesting.

WAAY back on November 7, 2014 - I photographed an odd small cormorant fly past the condo in Stoney Creek... It was (presumably) a first-year bird, and did not match the characteristics I associated with first-year Neotropic, so I envisioned a future blog post on the "small non-neotropic cormorant"...

Two things happened:

1.) - I never wrote it...

2.) - I learned a fair bit more about first and second year Neotropic Cormorants... Check out the blog post on that - as I will chat a bit about it (!):


SO - the time has come - to put the fingers to the keyboard (pen to pad?) - so I can delete the photos to make space on my computer... Without further ado:

(disclaimer - they aren't great)

 Here are two additional pictures that sum up my thoughts:

Facial Features (using this post): 

1. - Yellow lore stripe = DCCO (bad for NECO)
2. - Yellowish bill = DCCO, uncommon for NECO (which is usually pinkish)
3. Yellow throat pouch obviously brighter than the rest of the face/skin (other than the lores) = more of a NECO trait, although I would expect NECO to be more contrasty than this (in typical individuals)
4. Non-pointy trailing edge of the facial skin = DCCO

and now,

1.) - long tail = NECO (not quite NECO long, but rather long for DCCO)
2.) - tiny "fingers" on the wing = more NECO (but very hard to accuratley asses, even with photos)
3.) - thin head and long neck, not unlike the tail = NECO
4.) - overall size was visibly smaller than the DCCO it was with


SO - the suite of overlapping features gives me that hybrid-feeling with this bird. Some features are flat out wrong for NECO, but I don't think anything in particular is a major strike against DCCO - so the hard-nosed keepers of the official record book won't be pleased with this post - but it's enough for me ! I have a metric ton of experience watching cormorants, and I've noticed that certain situations (eg,/ the 2nd bird in a travelling line) can make a bird "appear" smaller - but overall there is very little variation in the true body-size of DCCO's (especially discounting recently fledged/growing birds).