Friday, July 23, 2010

A "Chromey" Tick

Normally, Jean and I visit Port Dalhousie during the winter months when waterfowl congregate on the open waters of the marina and the parking lot is completely empty. On Thursday, the city lot was full and the majority of the visitors were sunning themselves on the beach of the municipal park immortalized in the Rush song Lakeside Park.

The reason for this visit was Neil Peart's 1974-chrome Slingerland kit. A drum set now owned by Dean Bobisud, a Chicago restaurateur.

The owner now tours the kit raising funds for charity. The "Chromey" was on display Thursday afternoon and after appearing at RushCon this weekend it will return to Lakeside Park for a second public viewing on Saturday.

For a donation of $20 (proceeds to Friends of the Carousel), drooling fans, with or without drumming skills, could play the kit used by Neil Peart during the recording of Fly by Night, Caress of Steel, 2112 and the live album All the World's a Stage.

Still only a nickel a ride!

From 1974-1977, Neil used the kit on 5 North American tours.

In addition to the Slingerland, an assortment of Rush memorabilia was on display.

An Alex Lifeson autographed Les Paul.

I'll have to say, it was pretty cool to see this kit used by Neil Peart. I have no skills what-so-ever but I was still in awe of the kit used by a birder. Yes, Neil Peart is not only a birder but also a cyclist. Earlier this year, a fellow blogger informed me that this former St. Catharines native enjoys chasing after birds from time to time.

I believe this live Rush clip found on YouTube is quite fitting for ending this post. Not only is Rush performing Lakeside Park in a 1976 performance, Neil is actually playing the drums pictured above.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Welcomed Tick

July 10

Only one eastern swallow species was left for this year's provincial list so with the VCR taping the last hour of the Tour's Stage 7, Jean and I headed to Fort Erie to tick Purple Martin.

There was no shortage of Purple Martins (#164). Males and females were busy feeding their young in the martin houses along the shores of Lake Erie.

The mate of this female only returned once while we monitored the martin house.

With Jean at the scope and camera readied, I watched the skies to let her know when a male was approaching. Well, males arrived at other nesting holes, 3-4 times, but the male we were waiting for never did feed his young again while we were there. Not sure where he had gone to obtain his kids' next meal. The female martin made up for his absence. He had best bring flowers as well when he returns.

After ticking Purple Martin, we checked the shoreline for shorebirds. Along with Spotted Sandpiper and Killdeer, we found 5 Least Sandpipers (#165) foraging in the algae and mud. I don't think we'll ever top the Curlew Sandpiper we observed in 2008 but this spot is worthy of repeat visits during shorebird migration.

On to a few more spots along the shoreline. At a public park, we took a lunch break at a table overlooking the beach. On the small section of sandy shoreline we found a Great Egret and 3 Spotted Sandpipers.

Unbeknownst to us, we were sitting under the nesting hole of the best bird of the day.

The plan was to walk eastward along the shoreline after our lunch but a bird spotted by Jean while I was elsewhere had us staying in the park. It was a bird we needed for the year list and it only took a few minutes for it to return and a few more for us to discover that we had come across not just one but a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers (#166). No more searching through all the trees along 12 Mile Creek for this species of woodpecker. This was a much easier tick. The pair returned to these small trees repeatedly while we stood nearby.

They even stayed still long enough for Jean to capture a few photos.

I followed one of the Red-headed Woodpeckers as it flew to some larger trees. The bird revealed its nesting hole. Right above the table where we had our picnic lunch!

Unfortunately, the camera chose to focus on the leaves of another tree rather than the woodpecker outside of the nesting hole when I captured this image. Jean did a much better job with the images of the woodpeckers.

We checked a few more public accesses along the the lake and found that the Spotted Sandpiper was the shorebird of the day. With the exception of Least Sandpiper, it's still a little early for migrating shorebirds.

Heading home and listening to my World Cup fix (Uruguay versus Germany) on CBC radio, a third Red-Headed Woodpecker flew across the road in front of our car. That settles it! When looking for this species of woodpecker next year, I'm heading for Fort Erie.

Getting closer to 200. Though it's possible, ticking 34 species between now and the end of the year will not be easy. Last year we ticked 39 species from late July to the end of December but we have seen nearly half of these species already. Still need Ruddy Duck, Orchard Oriole and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Future OFO trips should help but it's still going to take some effort. Missing that Boreal Chickadee in Algonquin is going to haunt me. I just know it!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Beautiful Day

It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
Beautiful Day

During the week of June 30, the nation's birthday shortened the work-week on Thursday July 1 and when there is day off, Jean and I usually spend part of that day birding.

On June 30, the Ontario year list stood at 163 species. The last 2 additions were incidentals and they are described on eBird Canada as "observations made when birding was not your primary purpose." We spotted a Great Egret in flight as we headed for the Canada-U.S. border for a day at the Buffalo Zoo with our niece and nephew. Though it was not a birding trip, I started a New York list with some usual suspects. A Peregrine Falcon was #163 and it could not have been an easier tick. Jean and I were sitting on the back steps after a day's work when a bird flew towards us from the east. For a brief moment I thought the bird was very large for a dove but as it past over our position and then our house, there was no doubt that we had seen a Peregrine Falcon.

OK. So we knew we would be birding on Dominion Day but the question was where? An e-mail settled the dilemma quite easily. The weekly Hamilton Naturalists Club birding report came through on Ontbirds and informed all that some good birds were seen in the fields surrounding the Dofasco Trail on 10th Road East near Hamilton. Birds needed for the year list included, Willow Flycatcher, Field Sparrow and Black-billed Cuckoo. So off to Saltfleet we went.

Prior to this latest visit, Jean and I have birded the area surrounding 10th Road East a handful of times. All due to reports on Ontbirds.

In July of 2007, we observed a lifer Eurasian Collared-Dove at the intersection of Ridge Road and Fifty Road (east of 10th Road E). The dove was the second record for the Hamilton area and fourth for the province of Ontario. Later that year, we returned to the area on Boxing Day to view a Northern Hawk Owl (lifer #227). The owl stayed in the area for quite some time and we ticked it again in late January for the 2008 year list.

July 1 was the first time we hiked along the Dofasco Trail. The trail is used for cycling,walking and cross-country skiing and provides good vantage points for observing shorebirds resting in the flooded fields in the spring. From the 10th Rd parking area, we walked east along the trail.

American Goldfinches were plentiful.

No Field Sparrow along this section of the trail but a Savannah Sparrow sat still long enough for a digiscoped image.

Many Song Sparrows were observed as well.

After a short break and an exchange of lifers seen over the past year with another birding couple, Jean and I walked along the trail west of 10th Road.

Still no Field Sparrow. More Eastern Kingbirds and quite a few more Song Sparrows.

We decided to turn around before reaching 8th Road East. West of 8th Rd. the trail continues, cutting through Vinemount Swamp and eventually reaching the Devil's Punch Bowl. We thought it best be left for another day, when we are more prepared for a mosquito infested environment. On the way back to the car, Eastern Meadowlark and Bobolink were observed in the field north of the trail. The best bird of the day was right on the trail. A Brown Thrasher!

For all of 2009, we went without observing this species. "Bummer.", another birder I recognized from OFO trips replied upon hearing of my thrasher woes. Though we had ticked a thrasher during the Carden Alvar trip, I was thrilled to get a closer look at this bird as it strolled along the gravel path.

No additions to the year list on this hike. Field Sparrow and Black-billed Cuckoo remain to be ticked. But as it was Canada Day, it still turned out to be a beautiful day. Happy Canada Day José! Wherever you are.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Niagara Digiscoping

Gray Catbird, Dumetella carolinensis
Short Hills Provincial Park

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day

A few years ago, a neighbour from up the street exclaimed to me, "Today is a beautiful day!". I could not have agreed more with José. The sun was shining and the temperature was perfect. It truly was a beautiful day. José would inform me once again that it was a beautiful day, not due to the weather but because it was Canada Day!

Jose (an immigrant from Peru) has since moved to another residence with his young family and not a year goes by that I don't think of that Canada Day when he stood on the sidewalk in front of my house and joyously pronounced it was a beautiful day.

So today, while Jean and I are birding, I'll take great pride in knowing it truly is a beautiful day, even if we are unsuccessful in ticking the much needed Black-billed Cuckoo and Field Sparrow that were recently reported on Ontbirds.