Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Quick Update...

Not much bird watching this week....more like walking in birdy places.  On Monday, October 15, I went to HBMO after helping out at Wings Rehab (see picture below of the thrill of my day!)  to see if there were any hawks moving.  It was a slow day, but still saw some Sharpies, a Cooper's, and some Turkey Vultures.  There were also GBH's, Great Egrets and Pied-billed Grebes in the water, along with lots of other ducks I didn't pay much attention to.  While there, however, I asked Todd (the hawk counter on duty) about the swallow-like birds flying around and he informed me they were Chimney Shifts!  How exciting to see a life bird!  I couldn`t get a picture of them though..they are far to fast for my photography skills.
In my glories!  Holding a Sawhet Owl, preparing to return it to its enclosure.
While at the Hawk Tower, I showed Todd (who is also a songbird bander for HBMO) the pics of what I identified as a Nashville Warbler in the last post and he seems to think it is a Nashville as well.  The contrast on the birds back, the distinct eye-ring and yellow-white-yellow underside are markers for the Nashville...this bird has kept my attention for quite a while, trying to be sure I haven't posted an error.

On Tuesday, while in Blenheim, I went for a walk with Jen  to the C.M. Wilson Conservation area...another nice spot!  There were quite a few birds around, but with the crunching of fall leaves and talking to each other, I didn`t get goods looks at any birds but a Hermit Thrush (first time seeing one in the bird!) and lots of Golden-crowned Kinglets.  Here are a couple pictures from that walk...
Such cuties!

Hermit Thrush
On Thursday, while in Blenheim again, I went for a walk with Cheryl, another swim mom.  She happens to have a pass to enter Rondeau Park due to the fact she is a Monarch tagger.  So, off we headed to Rondeau!  I didn`t realize it was only 13 minutes from the pool!  I love Blenheim :)  Anyway, I hadn`t been there since my kids were really little and I took Cheryl`s suggestion to walk along the marsh.  The first thing we noticed were all the ducks in the water...and a couple odd balls hanging out with the mallards...
Look at the two in the middle...sorry about the reeds in the way...

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Possible Northern Pintails??
To me, they look like Northern Pintails, but they are missing the long tail feathers that the guide books show...any thoughts?  You can see the white neck and white strip up the back of the head if you zoom in really close.  There were a lot of birds and ducks around but we spent the whole time talking.  It was also fun to point out some birds now familiar to me that weren't to Cheryl :)

Another highlight of this week was spending time at the banding station today (Saturday)...although it was a slow day, I did manage a few successful extractions (complete with letting one go accidently) and banding another Hermit Thrush.  To get used to handling the smaller birds, Bob (the experienced bander I was "helping") gave me a little Ruby-crowned Kinglet to practice handling after he processed it.  Amazingly, I he didn't slip away from me as I went through the motions with him of "banding" him (pulling out his leg), aging and sexing him, and checking how fat he was.  There is nothing more thrilling than handling birds up close and personal.  Here is an awful picture of this experience...
Self taken with my point and shoot...horrible pic, but love the bird face peeking out :)
I have started a page, at the top of the blog, to track my bird banding experiences, if you are interested.  While leaving the banding station, I heard a bird call I didn't recognize and Bob pointed out the Kingfisher flying around the pond.  Only the second time I have seen one, but the first time I have heard them...what a racket!  While driving home, I saw a Bald Eagle flying above the intersection of Howard and #3.  Only the fourth time I have seen one...but second this week...I forgot to mention that I saw one flying overhead near my mother-in-law's, near Jefferson and South National, on Thursday!

Well, not a bad week, if you ask me :)  I am hoping to get out to Rondeau and the Blenheim Lagoons this week, weather permitting, while my daughter swims :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Point Pelee...again :)

I headed to Point Pelee on the morning of October 1st.  It was a bright, beautiful fall day.  I don`t work Monday`s and I figured the housework could wait :) I had read Dwayne's blog over the weekend and he had found Virginia Rail and Sora at the Marsh Boardwalk, so I thought I would give it try...I haven't seen either of these birds before.  I didn't see them, but I did see the following birds, all of which are life birds!!
Eastern Phoebe

Swamp Sparrow

Rusty Blackbird
 The next three pictures are of the same species, but from different angles.  After a lot of time analysing these photos and thumbing through numerous field guides, I have identified this bird as a Nashville Warbler...please correct me if I am wrong...
Nashville Warbler or Common Yellow-throat?

Nashville Warbler or Common Yellow-throat?

Nashville Warbler or Common Yellow-throat?
Another pic showing yellow under tail.

The next life bird was the only one not found on the Marsh was found on the Woodland Nature trail...

Winter Wren
To say this was a great birding day for me is a total understatement!  I was all by myself and enjoyed the quiet time spent in God's creation.  I saw a bunch of other birds too....I will list them for you (and include pics when I was able to capture them):
Great Blue Heron
Red-winged Blackbird
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Double-crested Cormorant
Blue Jay
Brown Creeper
Turkey Vultures...there are 17 in this picture.  There were about 50 moving over in total!
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Red-tailed Hawk
Downy Woodpecker
Dark-eyed Junco (there were a bunch on the Woodland Nature Trail entrance...I was surprised to see them so early)

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-throated Sparrow
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Well, at least those are the ones I remember seeing...there may have been more.  I wrote down what I remembered as soon as I got home.  Such a great day and very happy I decided to skip the housework!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Some Catch-up and a Couple Lifers :)

Now that it is swim season again, it means more visits to Blenheim and more walks.  Last year, I drove once a week, a friend drove once a week and so did my husband.  This year, I drive two days a week, so two outings a week, weather permitting.

On September 25, 2012, I walked with Jen, a friend from Blenheim, down the Erieau Marsh Trail. I didn`t see any new birds that day, but there was a rather large mixed flock of birds feeding on the ground.  The sound of the birds was almost deafening!  There were so many on the ground and in the surrounding trees, we were amazed!  We could make out Red-winged Blackbirds, Starlings and Brown-headed Cowbirds for sure.  Jen wanted to get close to see what had been spilled on the ground to attract so many birds, but when they took off and we got to look, it was evident they were just feeding on seeds from the grasses and weeds.  Here are a few pics to show the number of birds present....
Mixed flock on the ground.
The next sequence shows how fast the birds cleared the area into the shelter of nearby trees.  These pictures were taken one after the other very quickly...maybe a total of 10-15 seconds from start to finish!  There were way more on the ground than we even realized!  We were amazed!

On September 27, 2012, Jen and I went for a walk again, but this time, she took me to a new spot...W.D. MacIntosh Woodlot.  This wood lot is on school grounds, maintained with trails throughout it.  It is a beautiful little wood lot!  It isn`t very big and we walked around it several times before leaving because the mosquitoes were biting Jen a lot.  While in the woodlot, we saw some Turkey Vultures overhead, some Blue Jays, Robins and Golden-crowned Kinglet (life bird!).  Because it was getting dark, my attempts at pics of the GCKI didn`t turn out.

My other life bird this week was in my own backyard....I love when that happens!  I was outside on the patio on September 29 enjoying the wonderful fall weather when I saw a rather large woodpecker on the tree.  I grabbed my binoculars and at first could only see the head and bill.  By the bill alone, I thought I was finally getting my first glimpse of a Hairy Woodpecker, but I was wrong.  It was a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker...even better!
Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker!

I have one more outing to catch up on before the new week starts....I love all the time I have had for birding this fall!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hawk Festival at Holiday Beach (Sep 22-23, 2012)

This year, for Hawk Festival, we decided to camp at Holiday Beach as my husband was also running the Amherstburg Marathon that weekend.  It saved us lots of trips from the City to Amherstburg over the weekend!

If you haven`t been to Hawk Festival (or Festival of Hawks...I think that is the proper name), I will give you an idea of what it is all about.  There is a hawk observation tower at the marsh/creek where experienced hawk counters are posted for the duration of the raptor migration season.  They keep track of how many of each specie pass over each day.  They are there for the festival and call out the migrating species as they pass over.  Also, song birds and raptors are banded at Holiday Beach by volunteer licensed bird banders from the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO).  They regularly bring birds they have banded down to the hawk tower to show the birds up close to those around.  As a fundraiser, they allow those present to "adopt" the birds.  Adoption gives you the great pleasure of having the bird placed in your hand for release and you get a certificate of adoption that lists its band number and specie.  Should that bird be recaptured by another banding station, you will receive an update about where the bird was found.  Here are a couple pictures of birds I adopted this year:

A Black-throated Green Warbler,

and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird,

She sat in my hand for about 10 seconds before taking off...can you say heaven on earth?
There are also display booths set up around the area surrounding the hawk tower.  Pelee Wings brings out a selection of books, binoculars and other birding and naturalist wares.  HBMO has an information booth set up and this year there was a raffle for binoculars and gorgeous prints.  Local bird and nature photographer, Gerald Peltier had a booth with prints available of several different species.  The Canadian Peregrine Foundation was also there with some raptors on display and selling sweet corn...
A close up of a Great Horned Owl brought by the CPF.

Gwen of the CPF and the Cooper she you think was in heaven too?
Since we camped there, I got to do a little birding early Sunday morning, after dropping Mike off and seeing him start the marathon (I went back with my daughter and her friend to see him finish). On the boardwalk near the campground there were several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds enjoying the Jewel Weed along the boardwalk...
I learned this is a hatch-year Male..see the couple small red feathers?
There was also a Northern Harrier cruising the creek...

Tell-tale white rump patch makes for a quick ID.

Can you see the owl-like facial disks?  
I had such a good time this weekend!  Because we spent a lot of time down at the bridge watching the peregrines as volunteers with the CPF, it felt a bit like a family reunion.  Birders are such a warm and welcoming bunch....and they love to talk about birds!

If you are interested in getting up close and personal with birds, contact Holiday Beach Migration Observatory.  I am so excited to be volunteering with them with the plan of becoming a licensed bird bander!  This is something I have been wanting to do for a couple years and the connections made at the Hawk Festival have allowed this to happen...I did my first shift last Saturday :)