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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ice, ice, phoebes!

Everyone (bloggers?) had their chance to share their little moment last week where birds were dealing with the cold/snow... Mine was watching a group of Phoebes "flycatch" off the surface of a frozen swamp.. Phoebes and Ice!

On the brightside, all extreme/severe weather outbreaks for the next 6 weeks will bring us insane vagrants - instead of "just" snow and cold!


I updated the blog header to a new "pelee edition" a bit early, but thought it would counter balance this icy post!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Condo Birding Update - April 10th to 13th (AWESOME)

April 10th - HUGE blast of southerly winds. SOO warm. I was up at 7am and at the window. I "worked from home" for the day, and kept tabs on what was happening. Interestingly, the morning flight was slow but exciting. The afternoon was downright dull at times, until the evening where I had a few more cool birds...

Some morning highlights:

(see below)

2 LITTLE GULLS (different adults) - a superb bird for Hamilton. (see above)
~150 Bonaparte's Gulls
1 Glaucous Gull
2 Great Black-backed Gulls

3 Common Loons
2 Great Blue Herons
2 Belted Kingfishers
1 American Kestrel

3 KING EIDERS (flyby flock!)
10 Tundra Swans (late?)
7 Wood Ducks
All 3 Scoter species (still numerous)

Eastern Bluebird - 4
~40 Tree Swallows
Northern Flicker - 3
Rusty Blackbird !!! - 1 --- this is a NEW condo/patch bird. I have probably seen hundreds, but this is the first time i've been totally confident to ID one flying past...

Two snaps of the King Eider "flock"

Throughout the day, I had high hopes for a hawk migration along the shore in the strong SW winds. It didn't happen... (The afternoon shift) -

1 Northern Harrier
2 American Kestrel
1 Rough-legged Hawk (light ad male)
1 Osprey
2 Red-tailed Hawk
5 Sharp-shinned Hawk

1 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
2 Blue-winged Teal - NEW condo BIRD(s)!!! Overdue, but I'll take it!
1 Wood Duck
2 Great Blue Herons
1 Common Tern (!!!) - this is EARLY

Thankfully I had another pulse (mainly the non-raptors above) of activity in the late afternoon...

April 11th - I wasn't home! Although I did hear a Woodcock in the dark....

April 12th - calm winds! Warm temps! It was awesome! I did a solid morning watch and was thoroughly rewarded... First up, I might as well cover the "sketchy" bird sighting of the day:


I picked up on these two small geese - flying waay out over Lake Ontario (going east)... I snapped three photos (shown above) and looked at them in my scope. Only one problem - they just looked dark in the crummy light! I could tell they weren't Canada's - and didn't look great for Cackling either... After a very limited amount of research, I figured they weren't Cackling or Brant due to their long necks (both species have very short necks)... A bit of a stretch I guess, but what the heck - it's just my patch list.


CACKLING GOOSE - 2 (above photo) - flew past close to shore with a decent flock of Canada's mid-morning...

KING EIDERs - 6! (yes six) in a single flock feeding offshore of LP Sayer's park. 2 young males, 4 females!

Tundra Swan - 15

Great Egret - 1 !

Peregrine Falcon - 1 beauty of a juv female (unbanded) spent over an hour hanging around the buildings. Some remarkably good/close looks (down to 20 feet!)

Purple Martin - 3

Barn Swallow - sev

Northern Rough-winged Swallow - sev

Northern Flicker - 100+ !!!!!!!

Northern Mockingbird - 1 (flying 150 ft in the air, going west, during the "morning flight" !!!!!!!!!!)

Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1 (same as the NOMO! Fresh migrant male!!!)

Rusty Blackbird - several!

Other migrants that were "new" a week ago were downright common - Caspian Terns, Tree Swallows, etc. Still huge numbers of blackbirds and Robins on the go... Some photos from the morning:

Nothing like a morning with a Peregrine "hangin out" - we could see it during breakfast from the table! This guy shown had no idea what was above him... 

Another highlight (per say) was this Pigeon! It was up high with a mixed flock of migrants - moving steadily westwards along the Lakeshore. It looked too "slim" to be a Rock Pigeon at first, and I snapped photos. I think I can see a band on the leg, and it looks like something tried to take a chunk out of its belly... I can only assume it is someones "pet" pigeon (racing/homing or something)... I could really tell the difference from the "local" pigeons - and sure got my hopes up (briefly) for a rarity...

April 13th !!!

I was expecting a blast of warm air in the morning, but it was COLD with gentle NE winds... I also woke up an hour later than the previous day, so I can only assume I missed something... The highlights:

FORSTER'S TERN - 1 !!!!! New condo bird!!!!!

LITTLE GULL - 1 (adult!)

Peregrine Falcon - 1 un-aged female flew due east. (Same bird as yest? who knows?)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 3 (flybys - down low - from the condo!)

Fox Sparrow - 1 (same as the sapsuckers)

E. Phoebe - landed on the roof of the next condo building!

Bank Swallow - 1

Northern Flicker - hundreds... I would guess they were averaging 1.5-2 per minute, for 4-5 hours straight in the morning... That's easily over 300 birds! 400 wouldn't be crazy, based on the numbers - but I had no desire to sit and count flickers all morning! They are awesome to watch though - so colourful!

Once again, species that were notable just days ago (Barn Swallow, Common Tern etc) - were like an afterthought today... I listed species above like the Sapsuckers and Fox Sparrow - not because they're unusual - it was just unusual to see them flying past while inside my condo. Pretty fun! I could only imagine the nearby woodlots had a lot of birds! I also stopped keeping track of the ducks.. I had species like Scaup (big flocks) Pintail, Wigeon etc... My desire to check the woods panned out in the afternoon.

Walking from my condo down Van Wagner's Beach was the destination. Highlights were the migrants - Field Sparrow, Chipping Sparrows, Savannah Sparrow, White-throats, Towhees, Sapsuckers, Hermit Thrush, Swallows - and this beautiful Pine Warbler!

This was uber exciting on the 13th! I'm a little behind schedule with my reporting here, so a week later, it doesn't seem quite as exciting - but he sure was a beauty.

That evening I had another Forster's Tern do a few flybys - along with a few more migrants... It's almost "that" time of year!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Dall's Porpoise photoshoot

Had the chance to enjoy these lil fella's (and fellettes) while in BC this past March. I didn't have the right gear for the job but i was happy to get some of these photos anyways -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Here comes the boom?!!!!!!!!!!!

Back on April 15th, this is what the CPC 8-14 day temperature outlook showed.. (above)

Then on April 16th, the map suddenly changed to this!!! (for April 24-30th)...

The 6-10 day really got warm as well!!!!!!!!

6-10 day outlook for Apr 22-26th....

Is this it?! Is this the beginning of the warblers and rarities!?

A check of the GFS forecasts didn't really show any weather I would typically get excited about - although this storm looked pretty neat -

(Apr 26th)

Coming soon!?!

Watch this space!!!

Update -

Ok I take it back - a 983mb low nearing the Great Lakes on April 25th looks pretty dang exciting!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dark (ish) Male American Robin (ish)

I always enjoy seeing migrant flocks of robins in the spring. Typically there are some really sharp looking males in the bunch - contrasting plumage with rich colour. Recently though, this male caught my eye. Overall it was quite dark!

I actually had my point-and-shoot camera in my hand, so I decided to snap some photos. I made sure I got a few of the back, given that "atlantic" birds are typically described as being darker (Black-backed subspecies or something?!)

Not that I actually thought I was dealing with anything too funky - but it did strike me as odd. I can only imagine that we (as birders) often see common species from the "wrong" area - (eg,/ an "overshoot" Chipping Sparrow that typically hangs out in Ohio that ends up at Pelee this May - we'd never know the difference). 

Could that be the case with this fella? Who knows! Sibley has a post online talking about how it is likely little more than variation - that is more common in the NE: http://www.sibleyguides.com/bird-info/american-robin/

As per usual, different light/camera angles tended to change the appearance at times, but overall I was confident that this wasn't a "run of the mill" bird, even if he's a local... The throat was quite dark, and the few times I saw it fly - there was little white in the tail. 

Just a little fun! Only 3 weeks until the reallly crazy vagrants are around (if not sooner!) Thursday and Sunday will be our first blasts of SW winds. Maybe something like an Avocet will be found? 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Beamer and Area - April 12th

My lovely ladyfriend and I spent the day at Beamer on April 12th... I had high hopes for a decent flight - and apparently I was the only one - as few hawkwatchers arrived... Heck, few birds arrived!

I didn't keep an exact count - but while in the parking lot we saw:

~25 Vultures
~20 Red-tails
~ 40 Sharp-shins
~ 2 Coop's
1 Red-shouldered Hawk
1 Rough-legged Hawk
1 Bald Eagle
1 American Kestrel
1 Merlin

The rough-legg - light morph adult female. 

The Eagle - a subadult bald

Other migrants were around, although not in great numbers... Caspian Tern, lots of Cormorants, Barn swallow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, kinglets/creepers etc.

We decided to walk into Grimsby (downtown) for lunch, and enjoyed the sights along the way:

Several Mourning Cloaks were around! My first leps of the year!!!

A few dozen of these beauties also! First snakes of the year!!!

Overall, it's a pretty nice walk down into Grimsby... (see above)... I rarely do it, due to my constant distraction via hawks - but I had a lot of fun!

On a related note, what the heck is with this sign? 


Monday, April 14, 2014

Total Lunar Eclipse this Tuesday!! (April 15th)

In just a few days, the first total eclipse of the moon to be visible across the whole of North America since December of 2010 will occur. But to make the most of your moon-watching experience, there are some tips to keep in mind.

The first total lunar eclipse of 2014 will occur in the overnight hours next Monday and Tuesday (April 14 and 15), peaking at about 3 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) on Tuesday. Weather permitting, the moon event could be a striking lunar sight.

Check out the article above...

Below are my feeble attempts at photographing a lunar eclipse back in 2008... It isn't easy! The moon has most of its light blocked by earth, so it's really dull... If you slow down your shutter speed - you end up with a blurry moon!

My camera has much greater abilities in low light than my version in 2008, so I may have to give this one another try. Here's hoping for clear skies!!!