Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Birthday Tweet

Not that long ago, it was our nephew's birthday and we had asked him what he would like to do when we took him out for the day.

"What I would like to do is go on a birding trip." 

We had plans to take him to a comic book store in the Falls but upon hearing his request, birding at Dufferin Islands was added to the day's itinerary.

We took our nephew for lunch to the Flying Saucer and he used the back of the place mat to create this drawing of him birding with his Auntie Jean and Uncle Bob. If this was not an indication we had a budding birder in our midst, the next hint certainly confirmed it.

When our nephew finished his grilled cheese and fries, we asked him what he would like to do first.

Comics? Birding?

Yes, my avian-chasing friends. Our nephew chose to go birding. The likes of Spiderman, Batman and The Transformers would have to wait until our nephew scored another lifer.

It was during a family vacation in 2008 when I first suspected our nephew may enjoy birding more than the next kid. We were on a organized hike with a naturalist from Algonquin Provincial Park. When our nephew was looking at Cedar Waxwing through a scope, the naturalist asked him if he could see the red tip of the wing feathers. He replied, "Yes and I see yellow on the tail too." Whoa! Our nephew identified a field marking without any coaching from the adults in the group. Four years and a few introductory birding trips later, my brother-in-law's eldest still shows a keen interest to look for birds with his aunt and uncle.

Dufferin Islands is an ideal place for a beginning birder. At 16 hectares, it's not a large area but a number of species can be found while exploring the small ponds and forest. A perfect break for a birder visiting the Falls.

View Larger Map

Upon crossing a foot-bridge, we spotted a Downy Woodpecker at a feeder. Though it was not a lifer for our nephew, he had some great views of the male woodpecker as it moved up the branches of a tree.

We headed towards the pond to look for waterfowl.

At first, all we found were the usual gaggle of Canada Geese and dabbling Mallards but as the three of us rounded the corner of the gravel path, we came across a different species of waterfowl. One that I was certain would be a lifer for our nephew. Floating close to the edge of the pond was a pair of Gadwalls. I pointed out the gray and brown body with a hint of white as well as the black tail. Identifying features with words like coverts, scapulars and speculum can wait for now.

Mission accomplished. A new species for our nephew's list. Though it was more about spending the day with him.

After hand-feeding some chickadees, we continued our walk along a forested path.

Another lifer was moving through the branches of a conifer. Tick, Golden-crowned Kinglet. A tiny bird that is constantly on the move but luckily it was slow enough for our nephew to see the brightly-coloured crown.

And after some birding on a beautiful Spring day,

picking out some comics and having your picture taken with Han Solo has you declare to your dad, "Best day ever!"

Not sure how Jean and I can top this day but we just might have something up our sleeves.

Friday, June 1, 2012

I'm Still Here

Yes. It has been while since my last post. A little prodding seems to have done the trick and I have awoken from my slumber.

A few birds were added to the year list since posting my last tale, including a lifer on April 7. For now it's best to inform you all of a recent addition (prior to the OFO Carden Alvar trip) to the year list since it is still fresh in my memory. Though I don't think the 2012 lifers have faded just yet. Do any of them?

It was Victoria Day and it was a perfect day to go chasing a reported bird. A Snowy Egret was observed near the Grand River on the Saturday and any wish we had to add this bird to the Ontario list would have to wait until the holiday Monday. So after a long day of counting birds for the BOS May count, I checked the reports Sunday evening. The egret was still hunting in the same small pond in Dunnville.

Jean and I have birded this pond a few times so there were no worries we would not find its location. It is one of the stops during the OFO Rock Point trip and you can usually find Great Egrets and herons wading in the shallow waters.

When we first arrived, we could not see any wading birds in the pond. No splash of white amongst the green reeds led me to believe that the egret had left the area. Jean and I stepped out of the car and crossed the road to scan the pond from behind the chain-link fence. The Snowy Egret was there. It was hidden on the north side of the pond and as we approached the fence, we flushed the egret from the reeds. Its trailing black legs with yellow feet were easily seen as it flew to the south side of the pond.

Views of the Snowy would have to be distant. We were without our spotting scope. Yes, no scope to get a closer look at #266 on our Ontario list. I'm relieved to say the glass is fine. The scope was sent to the U.S. for repairs to the mounting foot and we'll be without it for approximately 4 to 6 weeks. Ouch! "Scopeless in the Carden Alvar" sounds like a fine title for a future blog post.

We watched the Snowy Egret as it continued to hunt on the far side of the pond. The movement of a small rail-car at the nearby factory did not disturb the egret. I was hoping it would fly back to the south side and allow us a closer look.

A few friends arrived and the small egret was a lifer for one of them.

Before leaving the Dunnville area, we tried looking for a reported adult blue morph Snow Goose at the Mosaic ponds down the road. It was observed with a group of Canada Geese and though one of our friends had seen it the previous day, we could not find it.

Jean and I have visited the Mosaic ponds during OFO trips and we have observed our lifer Stilt Sand Piper and Marsh Wren at this Haldimand County hot spot.

View Larger Map

During the trips, the gates are opened by an employee of the company that owns the property and OFO members are allowed to explore a large area of the wetland. This day, our views were limited to a few spots along the roads, north and south of the ponds. If the Snow Goose was there, it was hidden.

No worries. I left Dunnville satisfied with the Snowy Egret tick. In a few days, Jean and I would be travelling to the Kawartha Lakes. Hopefully we would have a repeat of last year's observations while birding the Carden Alvar.