Friday, January 29, 2016

Bird-A-Day: A Week In Review

January 9

The second weekend of my challenge and we birded the area above the Falls from the Engineerium to the Control Gates. Gulls and waterfowl abound along this section of the Niagara River and there are times where you will run into birders you know, which happened at the Control Gates. I was not planning to stop at the overlook near the Hydro control structure but I'm glad I did. Observing the gulls standing on a shoal in the middle of the river was Henrique, his mum Deb and James. Henrique got on some gulls he observed before our arrival. Thanks to the young OFO birder, Lesser Black-backed Gull (#51) and Glaucous Gull (#52) were added to the year list. Glaucous Gull is absent from our 2015 lists and seemed an obvious pick for the bird of the day.

January 10

Jean and I assisted with the annual MNRF waterfowl count. This year our group covered the Lake Ontario shoreline from Fifty Point Rd in Grimsby to Vineland. Rain and mist certainly made it difficult to observe and count ducks. Nine species of waterfowl and one Donald Trump sign were observed but the species chosen for this day was Horned Grebe.

Long-tailed Duck, Niagara, January 10, 2016 

January 11

The start of another work week and another short drive to Lake Moodie at the end of the day. A much smaller number of waterfowl on the lake but I was happy walking away with the observation of a Redhead.

January 12

Choices were limited during a quick stop at the marina in Port Dalhousie. Bufflehead added to the list.




January 13

For the next two days I had no time to search for a bird after work. My mom's birthday was on Thursday and we celebrated with dinner Wednesday evening. A Northern Cardinal spotted at the backyard feeder in the morning was ticked as the bird of the day.

January 14

Yes, it was the 54-40 Unplugged concert Thursday evening that had us go out for the birthday dinner the day before and also left me burning Ring-billed Gull sooner than expected.

January 15
  
A nice find on Friday. While tossing some garbage in the bin at work, I observed a Northern Mockingbird pop up from the regional drainage ditch near the building and perch itself on a tree branch. Thanks for that but the species remains off the year list until both Jean and I see one. We listers are a weird bunch.

January 16

A drive down the QEW to search for a Fish Crow amongst many almost identical American Crows in Fort Erie. Over one hundred of them! Jean and I sat in our car listening intently for a nasal caw from the crows in the field to our left and the crows in the trees to our right. We heard two and one was perched in a nearby tree. Hairy Woodpecker and Tundra Swan were also added to the Niagara year list but Fish Crow was the bird of the day.


Fish Crow, January 16, #57 for Niagara

January 17

Saturday evening I received a tip of a Common Raven and Rough-legged Hawk sighting in Wainfleet. Both species along with two Northern Harriers were observed along the same stretch of
road just east of the section we cover for the Port Colborne CBC. Jean and I knew the area well and while searching for another corvid for my Bird-A-Day list, we could scout out the Wainfleet Bog and nearby fields for an owl prowl we will be leading in late February.

No owls and and we dipped on the tip species. Blowing snow may have contributed to the lack of bird activity. While scanning the fields, we found a flock of Horned Larks.




But a better bird for this day was the Great Blue Heron spotted in the open water of a ditch along the side of the road.


Great Blue Heron, January 17, #61 for Niagara


With the weekend concluded,  I had to give some thought to my birding spots over the next few days.








Friday, January 8, 2016

Bird-A-Day: The First Work Week

January 3

On the Sunday of the New Year's Day weekend, Jean and I birded Port Weller East and West. The small marina nestled between the birding hot spots of Jones Beach and the East Spit is a hot spot itself. There were a few species of waterfowl found. Canvasback (1), Redhead (1), Common Goldeneye (1) and Red-breasted Merganser (14) seen during the Niagara Falls CBC were possible choices but it was the Common Loon that stood out this day.

Common Loon, January 3, #41 Niagara 2016


January 4

Working 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM during the work week is always a challenge. There is little light in the morning and late afternoon. The nearby 5th Avenue fields were promising. Snowy Owl and Short-eared Owls had been observed in this area recently. No Snowy Owl Monday evening but Jean and I observed one Short-eared Owl in flight.

January 5

Immediately after work, I returned to the 5th Avenue fields for a Snowy Owl tick. There were eight cars parked along the road in west St. Catharines. A good sign that something was there. A male Snowy Owl, sitting on top of a clump of earth, was easily spotted in the ploughed field.

Snowy Owl, January 2, #36 Niagara 2016

January 6

The plan was to go to Lake Moodie in Thorold to find one of the species observed by our friend John Black the day before. Traffic along the road had me bypass the lake and use the Decew Heritage House parking area as turnaround. No need to to go back. An adult Bald Eagle flying from Lake Gibson and up the hydro channel, right in front of me, was an easy tick. I did not even have to get out of the car.

January 7

Jean needed the car on Thursday so she picked me up at the end of the work day and we headed to Lake Moodie with our spotting scope. Ignoring Mallard and Canada Goose, my selection was not limited. Hooded Merganser, Redhead, American Wigeon (1), Canvasback, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, American Black Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Gadwall and Common Merganser were present on the hydro reservoir. The lone male American Wigeon was the bird of the day with an American Coot being a close second.

January 8

I returned to Lake Moodie by myself at the end of the work week. If there was any new species, they would have to stay off the year list until Jean saw them. I scanned the ducks until I found my quarry. Ring-necked Duck for the eighth day of the challenge.

The weekend is promising. No rush on Saturday and Sunday is the annual MNR Waterfowl Count.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Bird-A-Day 2016

It has been a few years since I attempted the Bird-A-Day challenge. The object is to see how many days in a row you can see or hear a different species. In a previous attempt, I was able to reach the end of February. Just reaching the end of February this year will be a personal best. It's a leap year.

January 1

Travelling along the Niagara River from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Dufferin Islands above the Falls produced 28 species on New Year's Day. Of these, a Brown Creeper spotted at our last stop seemed a worthy bird to start off the challenge.

January 2

On the Saturday of our three day weekend, Jean and I participated in the Port Colborne CBC. Our friend and fellow PFN Board member Lynn joined us for a day of counting in the Township of Wainfleet. The species for this day was not observed during our 80 kilometres of driving along rural roads. We had a hot tip and after the count, we went to the south-west of Welland to search for two Sandhill Cranes extending their stay in the Niagara Region. Though they were some distance from the road, we had some good views of the #2 species through our scope. The Snowy Owl observed in St. Catharines later in the afternoon was pocketed for a future date.




January 2:  Sandhill Crane
January 1:  Brown Creeper









Monday, November 30, 2015

Yeah, I'm Still Birding.

Cycling is not high on my list of activities. Not sure it would even make the long list these days. Watching the Tour de France while drinking a morning cup of coffee is the closest I have come to riding a bike this year.




I'm still birding though and I'll soon start sharing tales again. Stay tuned.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lifer Below the Falls #450

In my home province of Ontario, Jean and I still have a few species to add to our provincial list. 201 to be exact unless additional species are accepted by the OBRC. When one is a lifer and it happens to be in Niagara, well I get three lists taken care of all at once.

On November 15 last year, we observed our lifer Sabine's Gull from a vantage point 57 metres above the Niagara River. Table Rock is an excellent location for viewing gulls flying below the Falls and after 15 minutes of scanning the Niagara River while elbow to elbow with tourists, we spotted the striking wing pattern of the reported juvenile Sabine's Gull.




A prediction for the next addition to my lists? Using eBird's Target Species application indicates the top five for my Niagara list based on frequency are Black Scoter, Black-headed Gull, American Pipit, Vesper Sparrow and Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Jean and I have not observed a Black-headed Gull and the remaining four species have been observed outside of the Niagara Region. Our lifer Saw-whet Owl was viewed on the region's front door step at the Hamilton managed Fifty Point Conservation Area and when I submitted my checklist to eBird, the conservation area had one hot spot at that location. A year or two later, the location was split into Fifty Point CA (Hamilton side) and Fifty Point CA (Niagara side). The conservation area is divided by Fifty Mile Creek a natural border between the regions of Hamilton and Niagara. I can recall that we were on the Niagara side of the creek but I've decided to leave the lists unchanged.

So, next species then? Black Scoter and I will keep you posted.












Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year's Day 2015


Listers. We are a predictable bunch. Our eBird year lists reset to zero and we dash out the door to tick species we observe every day or that unique one that is far away from home. That was my plan the morning of January 1.

First stop was a municipal park along the Lake Ontario shoreline. During the St. Catharines CBC on December 14, a Harris's Sparrow was observed in a flock of House Sparrows by two well-known birders from Hamilton so Jean and I returned the morning of the 18th with hope of finding our next lifer on the Waterfront Trail in Cherie Road Park. No lifer that day but we left with a new spot to go birding in the Garden City.

The first species observed by Jean and I on January 1 was a Red-bellied Woodpecker at a feeder near an entrance to the trail. Yeah, I ignored looking at hydro lines and front yard feeders while en route to the north end. Other species observed while in the park included, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Ring-billed Gull, Downy Woodpecker, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, House Finch and American Goldfinch.




Our next stop was a hot spot further east along the shoreline which produced good results for our group during the Niagara Falls CBC on December 28. A much needed Red-breasted Nuthatch was added to our Niagara 2014 list but below freezing temperatures a few days later caused the creepers, wrens and nuthatches to remain hidden from sight. After 30 minutes of exploring the wooded area of Happy Rolph's, we found only three species and left with just Canada Goose and Black-capped Chickadee added to the Niagara list.

On to Niagara-on-the-Lake to observe waterfowl on the river and to attempt a 2015 observation of a lifer we observed in late November last year. A long distance drive to St. Louis, Missouri for Jean and I is no longer required after viewing the reported Eurasian Tree Sparrow. It was first observed by a homeowner on the Niagara Parkway and since then, many birders have travelled to the north-east corner of the Niagara Region to catch a glimpse of an Old World species introduced to North America in 1870. No repeat for us or for anyone in 2015. Last reported sighting occurred on December 28, 2014. During our Eurasian Tree Sparrow stakeout, we added Blue Jay, European Starling and House Sparrow to the Niagara list.

We then ran into some birding friends at Nelson Park on the Niagara River and took in some great views of a Common Loon with 4 Red-throated Loons.  It's always good to have similar looking species side by side for comparison. Waterfowl seen included Redhead, Red-breasted Merganser and Mallard.  We could not find the Glaucous Gull spotted by our friends near the Queen's Royal Park gazebo earlier in the day.



Near Fort George, Jean and I stopped at a spot where seed was left on the ground. Knowing we had observed Tufted Titmouse here in the past, we waited for a few minutes and added another tick for the day. We were now heading home but along a planned route that might produce the Ring-necked Pheasant observed late last year and a Snowy Owl found at the Niagara District Airport by our friends.

No pheasant for us but I was glad to hear our friends had found three in the same field. The Snowy Owl could not be located either. We settled for Red-tailed Hawk, Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon on the regional roads near the airport. Last species observed on the first day of 2015 was a Northern Harrier at the Snowy Owl stakeout in west St. Catharines.

It was a start. 364 days left to obtain 200+ species for the Niagara year list. Covering our section for the Port Colborne CBC on January 4 could produce some interesting species. I was hoping the weather would cooperate.





Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year

Happy New Year!

It's been approximately 21 months since my last posting. The over extended sabbatical is over and the tales have returned. There's no shortage of birding adventures. Birding in Belize, 2014 lifers and the chase to tick as many species for the Niagara 2015 list is underway.

Jean and I had a personal best for the Niagara Region last year. During the months of November and December there were some unexpected ticks.........






......and then some misses when searching for species observed by others during the St. Catharines Christmas Bird Count.




The last species for 2014 is a bird that is becoming more and more difficult to find in Niagara. After we finished the Niagara Falls Christmas Bird Count, Jean spotted a Ring-necked Pheasant standing in an open field. Best of all, it was in the circle and was added to this year's count.



 
 

What will be the first species and last species in Niagara and beyond for 2015? Time will tell.