Saturday, November 28, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Days grow shorter and the nights are getting long
Rik Emmett, Mike Levine, Gil Moore
Fight The Good Fight
The nights, they are getting longer, limiting birding to the weekends. So, Jean and I fill the void with other activities. Last week was the Heart of Niagara Fall Reading Series (at the Pelham Library) with Nino Ricci. He read from his latest novel "the Origin of Species" and answered questions from the audience. Afterwards, we had him sign copies of "the Origin of Species" and "In a Glass House" (the second novel of the "Lives of the Saints" trilogy). He seems to be a very down-to-earth individual. We briefly discussed biology and birding in Leamington as well as dog/human behaviour when he discovered Jean is a SPCA agent.
Wednesday evening we attended the Ron Sexsmith concert at the Sean O'Sullivan Theatre on the campus of Brock University. We always make an effort to see his performances when his tour brings him to Niagara. Included among his many fans are Elton John, Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello.
The opening act was the folk duo Dala and as the so called hunter out west proclaimed at a Tom Cochrane concert, Amanda and Sheila "Rock!". Dala will be appearing at the Mountain Stage, Cultural Center Theatre in Charleston, WV on November 22 and at the Kentucky Theatre in Lexington, Kentucky on the 23rd. I highly recommend you check their show out if you live by either of these venues.
On previous occasions Ron has been backed by four musicians but this evening there was just a trio. Ron on his acoustic, Don Kerr on drums and Jason Mercer on bass.
Ron Sexsmith has so many brilliantly written songs its hard to choose just one. The selection on YouTube was limited but I thought you all might enjoy this one.
Until the arrival of spring it looks like we will be weekend birders (the name of my fantasy football team) for now. Where we will bird this weekend has yet to be decided but I'm sure we can find a location with some avian activity.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I never grow tired of looking at the exposed layers of rock on the Niagara Escarpment.
Arriving at the Wetland Ridge we walked along the south end of the lagoons. No waterfowl in the south lagoon.
Walking on the path between the two lagoons revealed that all the waterfowl were in the north lagoon. Over 30 Bufflehead and a pair of Northern Pintail were found.
Though the colours have fallen from the majority of the trees on the escarpment it was a great day for a November hike.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The quiet residential neighbourhood has been very accommodating to the visiting birders. The resident that first spotted bird even set up a stand with free coffee and cookies. It has been suggested that an OFO certificate be offered for putting up with the visiting birders. I could not agree more with this suggestion.
When the Phainopepla was first reported, all were informed to respect the privacy and property of the residents. Sunday evening I was in utter disbelief upon discovering one ignorant birder disregarded the request. I believe the sequence of events described on the Ontbirds report occurred shortly after Jean and I left the neighbourhood.
We last observed the Phainopepla disappear into a Yew, in the front yard of a home. Apparently there it lingered because the ignorant birder trespassed onto the front yard and shook the bush to flush the bird. Both the homeowner and a neighbour witnessed this inappropriate behaviour. Obviously, they were not pleased. Birders that observed the unbelievable act were shocked. What was this guy thinking? Is he not aware of the OFO Code of Ethics or does he lack any regard for his surroundings? This birder had previously trespassed on another property without permission.
Let's hope the ignorant birder has read the posting on Ontbirds and realizes he made a huge mistake. Not only did he trespass, he also jeopardized the safety of the rare visitor. The Phainopepla could have been startled and in a panic, flown into a window, resulting in grave consequences.
In order for Ontario birders to continue to observe reported birds (as well post their observations without apprehension) in residential neighbourhoods or any where else for that matter, I believe an apology to the homeowner is required as well as a written apology on Ontbirds (with the permission of the coordinator of course). It would be the right thing to do.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
There was no way Jean and I could let the opportunity slide by without trying to observe it. I demonstrated great restraint the previous day. On Friday I passed by the exit for the bird (Dixie Road) while travelling on the 407 to attend the Science Teachers Association of Ontario annual conference being held at the Double Tree International Plaza on Dixon Road. I was working a booth for my employer, a science education supply company, and the Phainopepla was within reach (mere kilometres). But without Jean I could not tick this as a lifer bird. Other birders we talked to today would not have been as kind.
Travelling time was a little more than an hour and we arrived in the neighbourhood at 11:30 AM (last reported sighting was at 8:35 AM). We found a small group of birders in search of the Phainopepla. No where near as many that flocked to observe an Eastern Crowned Warbler in the northeast of England 3 weeks ago. We picked the right time to arrive. When exiting our car, birders down the street ran in the opposite direction. They had seen it! Upon joining the group we were told of the bird's location. From the sidewalk and boulevard, all (24 birders and some local residents) could see the Phainopepla in a back yard tree. Moments later the bird flew to the front yard of a neighbouring residence where we were all treated to some great views as it moved between the trees and bushes.
Before it moved up the street (across from our parked car) Jean was able to capture some digiscoped images.
Lifer #288 and #191 for the Ontario year list, Phainopepla nitens. Only the second record in Ontario.
Jean and I were able to observe the Phainopepla for approximately 40 minutes before it disappeared into a bush. Satisfied with our observations we left the bird (as it remained hidden) to charm any additional birders arriving in the afternoon.
Looking at the Top 100 eBirders in Ontario (for 2009), 8 birders including myself, have the Phainopepla listed as their most recent addition. I'm currently tied for 15th with a birding friend Jean and I car pooled with on the Long Point OFO trip. She will most likely be attending the Niagara River Gull Watch so I predict the tie will remain by the end of the year. Right Anne?
It's been an interesting week in Ontario. In a matter of days, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher and the Phainopepla were reported on Ontbirds. The Ash-throated Flycatcher was found at Point Pelee NP in southwestern ON. The Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher flew into a window of a residence in Oakville and was taken to the Toronto Wildlife Centre. Sadly, it died two days later and was delivered to the Royal Ontario Museum. A more respectable way of collecting specimens. The warm front experienced earlier in the week most likely brought these birds (and possibly others) to southern Ontario. Here's hoping for a couple more. Sightings in the Niagara Region would be preferred.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
We are the Dead. Short days ago
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
With the weather as appealing as it was Saturday, there was no way Jean and I could pass on a chance to hike one of the many trails in the region. We returned to Port Weller in St. Catharines to walk along the Welland Canal. Since our last hike, the trail was officially opened and named after the late George Nicholson.
Before starting our hike we checked out the area surrounding Jones Beach (the start of the trail). Unlike last time, we found a Brant feeding from the grass with a mixed flock of Canada Geese and geese hybrids. The lone Brant was #189 for the year.
From the beach we could see many waterfowl out on the lake near the viewing area at the base of a lighthouse, our destination using the Welland Canals Trail. Upon reaching the Lake Ontario entrance of the Welland Canal, the trail turns east (running along a break wall) towards the stone seating area.
Along this section of the trail we observed over 100 Common Merganser.
A pair of Bufflehead were south of the spit.
The highlight while we scanned the waters on either side of the break wall was 3 loons. For comparison, it is always helpful sighting two different species within moments of each other. One loon had a thick beak and a faint pale collar on the neck. A Common Loon. The other two were of the same species and had a small and thin beak (appearing slightly upturned) and an extensive amount of white on the neck. These two were Red-throated Loons, a lifer bird (#287) for Jean and I. We now have 190 species for the year!
Other species observed while walking the trail included, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet (2), Northern Cardinal (3), Long-tailed Duck (5), White-winged Scoter (2), American Kestrel, Ring-billed Gull and a few stubborn Double-crested Cormorant. Someone should tell them that winter is just around the corner.
Returning to Jones Beach we found the Brant still hanging with the much larger geese.
All and all, a great hike on Saturday afternoon. A Brant was added to the year list, Red-throated Loon added to the life list, topped with some amazing weather. I had feared we would have to stand in below freezing temperatures to observe our lifer Red-throated Loon. Just thinking of those ice flows on the Niagara River and Lake Ontario gives me the chills. There's no rush to get back to the car when it's +16 degrees Celsius. Here's to the unseasonably warm weather lasting for the Niagara River Gull Watch at the end of the month.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Image by Jill Hampson
Day Two, a total of 5 lifers. Without leaving the grounds of the Tara Shanti we were able to tick Rufous Humming Bird and MacGillivray's Warbler. While waiting for the ferry in Kootenay Bay, Violet-green Swallows were seen. On the west side of Kootenay Lake we found Varied Thrush and a Barrow's Golden Eye while visiting Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.
Day Three, a resplendent male Lazuli Bunting was heard singing and spotted with our bins while exploring the shops on the Artisan Way in Crawford Bay. After digiscoping Bald Eagles at the Crawford Bay Wetlands we returned to the Tara Shanti and ticked a Chestnut-backed Chickadee.
Day Four, before crossing Kootenay Lake for a day in Nelson, we ticked our lifer Cassin's Vireo.
Day Five would be our biggest day for lifers. A total of six. During the four hours we visited the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, we ticked Say's Phoebe, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Kingbird and Cinnamon Teal.
In the afternoon, Jean and I were rewarded with a lifer Pine Grosbeak (male) while hiking a trail at the Kootenay Pass.
Day Six we visited Greg and Keith and while birding on their property we ticked Vaux's Swift and Western Tanager.
On Day Seven, we would add Hammond's Flycatcher to the life list before leaving the Kootenay's behind.
Arriving in Lake Louise, we ticked a lifer Clark's Nutcracker on Day Eight.
Our last day out west would yield one more lifer, Mountain Bluebird.
A total of 22 lifers added over 9 days. My favourite lifer observed during our trip to British Columbia was the Western Tanager pair observed on Greg and Keith's property, The Summit. Jean spotted the female first and a moment or two later, the male responded to my pishing. What colours on this bird! This was one of the species on our target list.
Other target birds observed included, Clark's Nutcracker (much easier than I thought it would be), Rufous Hummingbird and Mountain Bluebird.
A target species that eluded Jean and I was a bird we thought for sure we would find. Keith and Greg had informed us that the bird visited their kitchen on a daily basis last year. Unfortunately we would only see this bird on a banner while visiting the town of Kaslo.
Yes, a Stellar's Jay was not seen during our trip out west.
The number of species observed in B.C. was 78. The newly added provincial list shares second spot with New York on my State/Provincial lists. Alberta sits in ninth (22 species) behind the state lists of Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio and South Carolina. I don't see any changes occurring too soon with the majority of these lists but a simple crossing to Niagara Falls, New York could easily put the state list back into second spot on its own.
At this time, we have no plans to travel outside of Ontario in 2010. While the life birds observed in B.C. and Alberta will be forever etched in my memory, it's back to local birding and monitoring the Ontbirds report in order to add species to the life list.