What's This Bird Wednesday

 Last weeks answers;

#1 - Parasitic Jaeger and Long-tailed Jaeger

#2 - Rough-legged Hawk and Northern Goshawk 

#3 - I was mean... #3 is actually a Brewer's Sparrow! (Taken in AZ)

Now for this weeks quiz!










#10 For bonus points... nest quiz!

Guess in comments..

The Reluctant Twitcher

The title of Richard Pope’s Ontario big year book, and also a description about my mentality on twitching...

Yes, a big year requires a lot of chasing, so obviously this year I’ll have to twitch some birds. But in the past I’ve been fairly reluctant about chasing. Fair, I didn’t have a licence before last year, but my parents have always been supportive of my birding and probably would have taken me to see some birds if I were more insistent. Sure, I chased rarities in Bruce County of course, I’m an avid county lister and seldom miss a chaseable bird in Bruce. I’m talking about Ontario chasing ~ driving from Bruce, to say Pelee to see a rarity. I have always preferred self finding birds, so I think part of my twitching-aversion is due the the fact that I have to drive by some prime birding locations along the way... And if I DO chase a bird I like spending some time with it, not just seeing it, “ticking it” and leaving... anyway I digress. 

I think the point I’m trying to get to (if there is one) is that there are some big holes in my Ontario list. Birds I could easily have, but never bothered chasing. Below is a list of birds I have gone over 2 hours specifically for;

- Barnacle Goose

- Tufted Duck

- Swallow-tailed Kite

- Calliope Hummingbird

- Great Kiskadee

Pretty short eh? The “mentality” I’ve been using is to chase the birds I might have a hard time with later on, the rarest of the rare. I figured I would self-find or be close enough to easily get the common stuff later on. Now for comparison check out my top 20 “Ontario Needs” from my eBird targets with Codes beside them. Remember code 2 species are basically guaranteed and I *should* see most code 3s.

- Long-eared Owl (!) (Code 2)

- Black-billed Magpie (Code 2)

- LeConte’s Sparrow (Code 2)

- Prairie Warbler (Code 2)

- Nelson’s Sparrow (Code 2)

- Marbled Godwit (Code 2)

- Fish Crow (Code 2)

- Great Grey Owl (Code 3)

- Acadian Flycatcher (Code 2)

- Willet (Code 2)

- Louisiana Waterthrush (Code 2)

- American Avocet (Code 3)

- Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Code 2)

- Kentucky Warbler (Code 3)

- Eurasian Wigeon (Code 3)

- Purple Sandpiper (Code 3)

- Yellow Rail (Code 3)

- Gray Partridge (Code 3)

- Western Meadowlark (Code 2)

Not terrible, but some pretty easy birds on there! As you may have noticed, there are 2 common categories: Northern and Carolinian birds.

I’ve never been birding in northwestern Ontario, so I’m missing the breeders up there like Black-billed Magpie, Great Grey Owl, LeConte’s Sparrow and Nelson’s Sparrow. Yes, the latter two can be found in southern Ontario during migration, but neither are common. Similarly I’m missing the Carolinian breeders, things like Acadian Flycatcher and Louisiana Waterthrush as I’ve never birded the right places at the right times. Same with Prairie Warbler, could have gone to some of the known breeding sites, but haven’t...

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, American Avocet, Eurasian Wigeon, Willet, Purple Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit and Western Meadowlark are all birds that I could easily chased (in the sense that I‘ve been within 2 hours of them and could have gone), but they aren’t "that rare" and I figured I would wait to self find them. 

Long-eared Owl is pretty embarrassing, I‘ll admit it.. and I really have no excuse not to have it. Honestly I thought one would show up in my yard one day and chasing birds like owls isn’t something I enjoy!

Another reason I decided to do a big year was to boost my Ontario list and see all of the birds mentioned above. If I see everything on the list there’s 20, but I think I can add at least 40 Ontario birds this year. If I had to guess at the next 20, here’s my list in rough order (again with codes beside them).

- American Three-toed Woodpecker (Code 3)

- Townsend’s Solitaire (Code 3)

- Yellow-throated Warbler (Code 3)

- King Rail (Code 3)

- Western Grebe (Code 4)

- Western Sandpiper (Code) 

- Chuck-wills-widow (Code 4)

- Kirtland’s Warbler (Code 3)

- Laughing Gull (Code 3)

- Henslow’s Sparrow (Code 3)

- Blue Grosbeak (Code 4)

- Varied Thrush (Code 3)

- Worm-eating Warbler (Code 3)

- Eurasian Collared-Dove (Code 3)

- Slaty-backed Gull (Code 4)

- California Gull (Code 4)

- Neotropic Cormorant (Code 4)

- Swainson’s Hawk (Code 4)

- Ruff (Code 4)

-Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Code 4)

Again, I *should* see most code 3s, but I‘ll likely miss a few. As for code 4s I will see some of them, but not all. There are usually 40+ records of code 4s a year, but it really varies what species are involved.

And that’s it for my rambling for today!

What's This Bird Wednesday

Bringing this back for some lockdown content...

3 photos this time around. ID all the birds and leave guesses in comments



my favourite places to bird in Bruce County - continued

My previous post "my top 10 favorite places to bird in Bruce" was pretty popular, so I decided to do a part 2 for some content..

#20 - Stokes Bay
A sheltered bay on the northwestern side of the peninsula, Stokes Bay is a good area to look for waterfowl. In early spring there is usaully a large aythya flock that is worth scoping. A few Canvasback (surprisingly rare in Bruce) have shown up here in the past few years. In October/November it"s one of the more reliable spots in Bruce to see all 3 scoters. There hasn’t been a mega duck here yet, but it seems like as good of spot as any for Tufted Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye or Smew!

#19 - Chalmers Pond 
Chalmers Pond isn’t much to look at, just a small pond in a farm field, often with some cows hanging around it.. But it does have an impressive ability to attract rare shorebirds and waterfowl! For example here are some good birds that have been seen there in the last few years alone;  Brant, Greater White-fronted Goose, Canvasback, Red Knot, Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes, Baird’s Sandpiper, Franklin’s Gull and Cattle Egret.
Not bad for a little pond! The Kincardine birders check this spot almost every day in migration season, so that certainly helps.

#18 - Southampton Dump
Yep, another dump! Because why not? Dumps are awesome places to look for some of my favourite birds... gulls. There’s never been a rare gull here, but I think it definitely has potential for something cool. Regardless, it’s a reliable spot for decent numbers of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls...

#17 - Malcolm Bluff Shores Nature Reserve 
Malcolm Bluff Reserve is a large tract of mature hardwood forest just north of Wiarton. Unlike a lot of spots on my list, it’s not a rarity trap. The thing I love about this location is the spectacular view and cool breeding species. If you take the trail off Wright’s Crescent and walk a few hundred meters, you’ll meet the Bruce Trail and will get an amazing view across Georgian Bay...
Hooded Warblers and Cerulean Warblers have set up territories here before...  This is actually where I got my lifer hoodie.

#16 - Sauble Beach
I really enjoy birding Sauble, but the massive crowds are certainly a turnoff. In the off seaons (early spring and Oct-Dec) it can be nice here though and I often walk the beach then looking for  shorebirds. And of course I can’t mention Sauble Beach without talking about the Piping Plovers. They abandoned ship in early June this year (maybe the resident  Merlins had something to so with it), but for the last few years they’ve nested successfully.. so that’s a big point in the beach’s favour. There are also a few good records from the beach including;  Snowy Egret, Pacific Loon and Sage Thrasher.
There’s also the river mouth at Sauble, which can be a good spot to look for rare waterfowl in fall/winter. I have tried to do a few morning flight watches along the beach, but so far it’s been pretty bad.. 

#15 - Cabot Head
Home of the Bruce Peninsula Banding Station, Cabot Head is located at the extreme northeastern part of Bruce. Its location acts as a trap for vagrants and they’ve had quite a few great birds over the years.. Sage Thrasher, Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, Black Vulture, Carolina Wren, Townsend’s Solitaire, White-eyed Vireo, Hermit Warbler, Prairie Warbler and Worm-eating Warbler to name a few. There is also an elevated cliff beside the observatory that’s a great spot for lakewatching. There really aren’t many places that I like lakewatching on Georgian Bay, but this is one of them. It’s also a great spot to see large numbers of staging Red-necked Grebes.

#14 - Tobermory Sewage Lagoons 
Michael Bulter’s turf. Tub Lagoons have a nice mix of forest edge habitat and lovely sewage lagoons. Nothing insanely rare has been found here, but it has had some good birds including Northern Mockingbird and Summer Tanager. Also got my Bruce lifer Common Gallinule here (random fact)

#13 - Crane Lake Road
There is s a huge alvar on Crane Lake Road which attracts some rare breeders like Upland Sandpiper, Grasshopper and Clay-colored Sparrows and Golden-winged Warbler. Also a good spot to look for Short-eared Owls. Not really a spot for rarities, but it’s a really fun place to bird!

#12 - Southampton Harbour
One of those spots I always check if I’m driving by, just in case something unusual is there. There have been some good birds here in the past including;  King Eider, American White Pelican and Black-legged Kittiwake. 

#11 - Ferndale Flats
A very hit or miss location, it’s either popping or totally dead. In the spring some of the fields usually flood, creating some of the best shorebird habitat on the peninsula. No rare shorebirds yet, but sometimes there are nice concentrations of yellowlegs, peeps etc. The fields around the flats are good spots to search for rarities that like open areas.. Western Meadowlark, Loggerhead Shrike, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.. there’s one spot that I really like for rare flycatchers and check it whenever I drive by. 

That’s all I’ve got in the way of random content  for now! 

New Year ~ new look for the blog!

 Trying a different theme/style out.. I personally like it better. Also since I'm birding Ontario this year.. new name for the blog! (New web address too).

 In other news, I got my first Hoary Redpoll of the year just outside of Paris a   few days ago.. also some nice cooperative commons. Will write a post on that soon.

2020 Yardbirding review

 It hit me that while I did do a Facebook post about my 2020 yardbirding, I never did a review post up for the blog. So here goes nothing.

Since my last yardbirding post on November 10th, I added a grand total of 0 birds. It’s not like I stopped trying either, I was out most days watching the sky.. it was just quiet. This is fairly typical for Bruce in late fall/early winter though, birds in general are few and far between, especially in the forests. 

What was the highlight of the year you may ask? Honestly, just birding the yard was the highlight, over any of my cool sightings. It was fun being in one spot and experiencing the day-to-day changes in avian diversity, getting an intimate view of bird migration over the course of a year. I’m very fortunate to live in place where it was possible to do that, to "press pause" during the pandemic, while continuing to experience epic bird migration.  In the past I was all over the place in May, so I had brief glimpses of the birds that occur in my yard, but I was missing the whole picture. In the past morning flight seemed random at my place, decent some days with good numbers, but other days completely absent of birds. Over the year I learned a lot about which conditions were conducive to flights in my area (morning flight and hawkwatching), which I’ll likely write about in a separate post sometime soon. Yes, I definitely found less birds than I would have if I’d been birding elsewhere, but it was an enjoyable experience and a nice change of pace. 

Since my dad also had more free time during the spring/summer, we decided to tackle a project that we had talked about for years.. an observation tower. We started in July, cutting trees from our  property and buying some supplies. It took a lot of work, but 5 weeks later it was complete. Standing 16ft (so over 20ft if I was standing on top) above the ground, this gave me an eye level view of songbirds foraging in the forest canopy and gave me a better view of birds flying overhead. 

My observation tower. I spent countless hours up there in 2020.

Another big highlight was witnessing the massive finch flight during the fall. I had multiple days with counts in the hundreds for Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, Evening Grosbeak and Common Redpoll. Smaller groups of the less common finches passed over too, but it was the overwhelming numbers that made it spectacular.
- Pine Siskins

- Evening Grosbeaks

So.. what was my final number? On eBird it shows up as 179, which, for all intents and purposes was my final tally. 

The one thing that could change that is a bird that I saw back in August.. a dreaded "peep sp". I was out in the yard one warm August day doing some chores and was without my binoculars (the horror), when I spotted a small shorebird flying overhead. It was fairly close, so I was able to see that it was a Calidris sandpiper, but it was silent and I couldn’t make out any useful details. It felt like one of the larger Calidris to me and my best guess is pectoral, which would have been an awesome yardbird. Anyway, I digress. According to ABA listing rules, if you see an unidentified jaeger during the year, but don’t see any of the three jaeger species again that year, you can count "Jaeger sp" on your yearlist and add a bird. 

Sooo, since that was my only "peep" of the year, it seems fair that I count it on my yearlist for a grand total of 180 species.. 

Some of you may recall the goal I made last spring, but I’ll paste it below anyway.

" I am participating in a few challenges for yard/patch birding already, so I decided I\"m going to attempt a yard/5MR big year. For now anyway, this will be much easier to accomplish than my seemingly annual Bruce Big Year. My goal is to tie or pass my current all time yard/5MR lists, which sit at 171 and 210 respectively.. before next year (2021)."

When I wrote that I wasn’t honestly expecting to beat my goal, predicting I would end up around 160 species. I’m thrilled with my 180, I feel like that number could have been much higher. With the right year and a bit of luck 200 seems attainable. I missed some surprising stuff in 2020, including;

Cackling Goose

Blue-winged teal

The whole diving duck group (scaup, scoters.. LTDU)

Green Heron (my yard nemesis)

Literally any non Tringa shorebird

Willow Flycatcher

Alder Flycatcher

Grey-cheecked Thrush

Blue-winged Warbler

Clay-colored Sparrow

The are a few more unlikely possibilities that come to mind, but those were the worst misses.

Now for the highlights (by date):

Gyrfalcon (Jan 22) - 2nd yard record and one of my favorite birds of the year

Boreal Owl (Feb 18) - A full out lifer for me, found roosting beside my driveway

Northern Goshawk (Mar 6) - Always a highlight, I had a total of 11 Goshawks in 2020

Great Black-backed Gull (Mar 29) - Yard lifer

American Wigeon (Apr 6) - 2nd yard record

Gadwall (Apr 6) - Yard lifer 

Northern Pintail (Apr 28) - 4th yard record

Eastern Meadowlark (Apr 30) - 4th yard record. I ended up seeing them on 3 days.. all morning flight

Caspian Tern (May 2) - 2nd yard record

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (May 5) - Yard lifer

Orchard Oriole (May 13) - Yard lifer

Red-headed Woodpecker (May 14) - 2nd yard record

Savannah Sparrow (May 14) - 2nd yard record

Vesper Sparrow (May 16) - 2nd yard record

Cliff Swallow (May 16) - Yard lifer

Yellow-throated Vireo (May 17) - Yard lifer

Virginia Rail (May 19) - Yard lifer.. One of the biggest surprises of the year.

Golden-winged Warbler (May 20) - yard lifer. Singing bird in morning flight

Chimney Swift (May 21) - Yard lifer

Mississippi Kite (May 21) - My rarest bird of the year and a lifer. Seen on my yard Big Sit.

Northern Waterthrush (May 21) - Yard lifer. bird picked out in Morning flight

Field Sparrow (May 23) - 2nd yard record

Purple Martin (May 28) - Yard lifer

Black-crowned Night-heron (Jun 28) - 3rd yard record

Solitary Sandpiper (Aug 13) - 2nd yard lifer

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Aug 14) - Yard lifer

Snow Goose (Sep 23) - 2nd yard lifer

Northern Shrike (Oct 20) - 8th yard record.. Just a cool bird

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Oct 20) - 4th yard record

Ross’s Goose (Oct 24) - Yard lifer

Bohemian Waxwing (Oct 27) - 3rd yard lifer

Golden Eagle (Oct 30) - 12th yard record.. Just a cool bird

House Finch (Nov 10) - yard lifer

Hoary Redpoll (Nov 10) - 4th yard record

And those were my best yardbirds of 2020! I wanted to include more, but I had to draw the line somewhere. Some photos of my highlight birds below.. in no real order..

I love watching weather, so I’ll include some cool shots from 2020.

A nice November sunset from the yard to end the post

My 2022 Big Year From a Stats perspective

  I'm going to write several wrap up posts about my big year, I just have so much that I want to talk about! First off I want to talk ab...