Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pelee Island Bird Photography - May 16, 2016

A cold morning at Lighthouse Point. Was happy to get some sunlight for photography... Didn't get anything I was super happy with, but these were ok:

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I'm surprised it took this long...

To find a bird that has some traits of Pacific Golden Plover... Today at Hillman Marsh shorebird cell:

Definitely a plover

Definitely golden

Lots of white on the sides

Mostly white undertail coverts? 

Seems to be a bit patchy still - I know PGPL molts earlier, but AGPL should be done by now, no? 

Seemed a bit "wingy" at times... 

It was never close... Great day (morning?) to be out... Had a chance to tie it in with some work, and I couldn't say no after looking at the weather maps... Tried to tweet a pic of the huge Black-bellied Plover flock present at the same time, but I'm not sure if it does it justice...

All photos (above) taken with the iphone/scope combo... Below is a "pano-mode" Iphone + Scope combo (panning with the scope)... Can't believe it worked as well as it did. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Crazy birding - May 11th, 2016 - Pelee Island

9 male Scarlet Tanagers within 50ft of me... Taken with my cell phone...

May 11th, 2016 was an absolute spectacle at Pelee Island. We casually strolled around Fish Point, on-and-off throughout the day... Not sure what it was like elsewhere on the island, but we didn't really care. Amazing numbers of warblers and other neotropic migrants were present. It's nearly impossible to document an event like this through photographs, but I've done my best to show off some views of Kingbirds and Scarlet Tanagers that were littering the point... 

Check them out below! And also check out the guess ebird checklist for Fish Point - for some rough tallies... Insane!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hybrid Carolina X Black-capped Chickadee - Pelee Island

Had this funky Chickadee at Fish Point during my recent stay to the island. There were large numbers of Chickadee's around, and I'd guess I had 100-150 individuals during my visit. Two or three individuals stood out as having a number of Carolina-features, but not measuring up in all areas. Check it out:

Pro-Carolina features... Clockwise from lower left:

Grayish breast contrasts with white cheek
Relatively small and well defined bib
Relatively stubby/small bill
Low contrast flight features
Limited white edging on the tail
Overall grayscale colouration with limited/absent peach on sides

Some critical marks just didn't line up though.. Left to right:

Head often lacked the "circular/rounded" look
Greater coverts contrasting with back

This bird looked somewhat spot-on to "hybrid" Chickadees I found online after some rather extensive searching... The contrasting greater coverts seems like a particular key feature in separating these species and does seem quite intermediate in possible hybrids.
(Interestingly, the Long Point Carolina Chickadee is a little outside my comfort zone, but lets not go there)

Of my 2 or 3 observations, this one really jumped out at me. Interestingly, each one seemed to be a female... Something I can't really confirm with the bird shown in the photos here... But one sighting (also at Fish Point) involved a "normal" Black-capped feeding the suspected "hybrid" - so quite likely a female was involved... I didn't get any photos of that bird, and didn't get quite the same looks to really feel confident about anything - BUT - I was able to record some limited calling with my cell phone. Check it out:

Does it tell us much? I don't really know - I did some listening but it seems like they're capable of any range of calls/dee's/noises... I also worked a fair bit to get these calls out of a reluctant bird, so perhaps it's not an accurate representation of what it would normally do... 

Overall quite a bit of fun though! I'll finish this off with a few more looks at the original bird from Fish Point

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pelee Island, May 6-17th, 2016

Fish Point - wrecked by storms in 2015... 

Had a ball at Pelee Island from the 6th to 17th of May... Overall, it wasn't the most memorable for "weather" (the source of all good birding or general enjoyment of the outdoors) - but it was freakin PELEE ISLAND - so of course an excellent time was had by all.

Possibly most notable were some of the things we DIDN'T see:

E. Fox Snake
Blue-spotted/Smallmouth Salamander
Blue Racer (ok, I guess some of these are to be expected)...
Gray Fox
Most butterflies
Most ducks
Many "semi-expected" rarities or even "rare/uncommon" birds. (eg,/ missed all southern overshoots, Cerulean, White-eyed Vireo, Clay-coloured Sparrow etc etc etc)

In fact, the bird checklist for the entire trip topped out at ~155 species... A nice total, but I also had 150 species IN A DAY in May 2014, without trying to max-out on species... Just a little context I guess...

Lake Erie Water Snake

Huge Red(?) Mul Berry 

Some highlights:

Select #'s of migrant butterflies (ladies, admirals)
Black Saddlebags (1)
Map Turtle
Blanding's Turtles
Lake Erie Watersnakes (sev)
"Melanistic" Gartersnakes (sev)

Botany was great/fun - but I don't know enough to say what they all were - but lots of great plants/trees....

7 American Avocets
White Pelicans on 4-5 different days (including one from our cottage)
2-3 observations of Neotropic Cormorant
1 "possible/distant" Pacific Loon
1-2-3 observations of possible Black-capped X Carolina Chickadee hybrids (photos to come).
26 Warbler species
1 Dickcissel
Thayer's & Lesser Black-backed Gulls
Whimbrel (2 days, first three on May 12th)
A presumed "Florida" Bald Eagle

"Southern" Baldie 

Cott Age Will Ets



One thing we did really quite well with was some very memorable birds/birding/moments - with May 11th standing out as being particularly insane. We casually birded Fish Point (only) throughout the day, and ended up with HUGE numbers and excellent looks at the neotropic migrants (est 2000+ warblers, 60+ Scarlet Tanagers, 200+ Kingbirds etc). Other days had some really great days/views/encounters with obscene numbers of Blue Jays, cooperative shorebirds, Swallow congregations etc. Even managed a dash of photography here and there...

So yeah! Overall, not the most action-packed rarity/busy/intense May of birding I've ever seen, but thankfully we had an A+ time --- keeping the excitement alive for 2017 where hopefully the weather is a bit warmer and more variety and big days occur!


I'll probably pull another blog post or three out of some additional Pelee pics/events. Stay tuned. Or don't. Doesn't really matter. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

PEAK of May Birding Forecast

No one has any idea... NONE! But i'll guess anyways....


We've been under the influence of a number of short wave troughs, semi-regular blocking patterns, an upper low to our NE and even some cutoff-looking lows... It's chaos in the weather world - and not totally in the "good" kinda way. Each small feature influences all of the other small features around it - and therefore affects how subsequent features in the days to come will be affecting or affected by all of the other small features... This is why the forecast is always changing and each model run is different from the next. Slight variations in the timing, intensity, direction etc have a compounding effect on the events that follow. Crazy!

Above and below - same time - GFS vs Euro.. One says "yeah, it'll be warm and good for migraiton" - the other says "yeah, it'll probably be a pretty cold morning. Good luck" 

The common theme with these model runs seems to be regular intrusions of cold air into the southern Great Lakes... So here's my birding guess:

--- Any day now, we're going to see an influx of migrants that contains the more "northerly" breeders. In spring, they want to go north... I'm a bit worried that large numbers of boreal breeding songbirds will take a more "westerly" route - away from Lake Erie - and we'll "miss" a lot of birds - but some will still fly overhead...

--- When they finally arrive, if they hit regular waves of cool/cold air and precip - they'll be grounded... Hopefully on the right side of the Lake (hard to say though, recent waves seem to be pushing them back to Ohio)...

--- Sporadic warm air seems to *not* be coming in from the due south so far - but more of a WSW to W flow. What does this mean? Well normally I'd expect to see birds coming from SE Texas or the gulf coast - even the SE states - when warm blasts come racing in.... With a WSW to W direction - maybe we'll get some vagrants from places we aren't used to seeing as often? The "vagrant weather" doesn't look amazing in the model runs, but it does only take "one bird" as they say... And I perhaps this is how it will play out, as we've clearly seen a few vagrants in Ontario already this spring that are are NOT used to hearing about...

6-10 day temp forecast/guess

8-14 day temp forecast/guess

SO, in summary:

I'm hoping/guessing there will be several very enjoyable days of birding - with decent drops of migrants, perhaps many low and close if the weather gets cool - and an ever changing/roller coaster ride of weather that should keep things fresh on a daily basis - and hopefully with a few fun vagrants mixed in to keep us on our toes. My hopes are high for a very fun few weeks of May birding!!!

(and we'll see how the later-in-May weather is looking in 7-10 days as we get closer to that time)

8-14 day rain forecast (looks very similar to the 6-10 day)... Not what we normally see this time of year.. Freakin El nino. 

Oh - and for the record - the models/forecasts are saying SATURDAY and TUESDAY could be the next migration waves/pulses/surges (!!!)