Thursday, 23 February 2012

Ask and ye shall receive

A few weeks ago I mentioned to Erica that I was a little annoyed we hadn't had a Barred Owl at our place yet this winter...well, sure enough when I pulled into the driveway today there was one sitting not far from the feeders!

It was a bit too dark to get really great pics of this one, but a couple winters ago this one was on the feeders when I got home from work in a bit better light.  The crazy thing is, guess what date this was? February 24, 2010, almost 2 years ago exactly!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Just crows...

Yesterday was nice and sunny and warm, with a light SW wind.  Perfect weather for bird migration!  I was only out briefly (still a bit sick) but I saw my first migrant American Crow going north over our house (I haven't seen a crow at my house since October 13)!  On a trip to the dump I saw another American Crow, but this one had been in that general area all winter.  At the dump there was my third American Crow for the day, this one also likely a new migrant (haven't seen any there all winter).

So how does that compared to normal?  Well, I checked the eBird bar charts and came up with this:
You can see that they usually make their big push into the southern shield (Haliburton, Lanark, Muskoka, Nipissing, Parry Sound, Renfrew) at the end of February and by the first week of March should be pretty widespread.

I thought I'd check how these dates compared with the other winter I spent here (2009/2010). That year my last fall sighting was October 15 (2 days later), and first spring sighting was March 3 (11 days later).

The next couple weeks should see a bunch of species starting to arrived back, which is always exciting.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Another day, another beaver!

I was sitting at home most of the day a little bit sick so no really exciting adventures to report but I did happen to drive by my secret beaver spot and sure enough there was still a beaver there in the same spot as a couple weeks ago.  This time there was also a second beaver doing the same thing.  They seem a bit small so I am guessing they were perhaps born in 2011.  Anyways, they seem to be pretty comfortable at the spot, mostly stripping Balsam Fir twigs.  Here are a few new shots:

You can see lots of beaver evidence in this photo

I wanted to thank everyone for all the shout-outs congratulating me on being the "eBirder of the month"...for those of you who haven't checked out the article yet, you can read it here.  I made sure to get in a jab at all of the holdouts still out there :)

Speaking of eBird, I've been thrilled to see that Ontario is finally starting to pull its weight as far as checklist submissions.  So far in February Ontario has submitted 4177 checklists, good enough for sixth place amongst all states/provinces, and that's behind juggernauts like California, Texas, and Florida....Good work Ontario eBirders! Looks like 2012 should be the year we finally pass BC for the lead in total number of checklists...Imagine where we will be once the 40+ crowd really starts contributing! The site lists the number of checklists per month/per state/province and the site lists the total number of checklists all time per province.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Band-tailed Pigeon and a friendly beaver!

Yesterday Al Sinclair had the good fortune to find a Band-tailed Pigeon at his feeders outside of Bracebridge so, naturally I decided to give it a try this morning.  Lucky for me, it wasn't too far from our place and I got to enjoy counting ravens and Blue Jays along hwy 118.  I also had a flock of 22 Bohemian Waxwings en route just outside of Cardiff.  When I arrived, Kevin Seymour and Greg Stuart were waiting outside and informed me that, as usual, "it was just here".  Apparently they had just missed it too...After waiting about half an hour I spotted it fly into a stand of hemlocks where we watched it for the next half hour mostly eating snow.  More details about the bird and other birds at the Sinclair's are on my ebird checklist.

Here are some of my photos which I phonescoped.  Al got a great shot of the bird yesterday which you should have a look at here. Josh Vandermeulen has also posted some photos.

For those of you who are probably wondering why I would drive to Bracebridge to see a pigeon, here's the ebird range map for Band-tailed Pigeon, which should explain it.

This is the first twitchable Band-tailed Pigeon since one over-wintered in London during 2003/2004.  That one almost didn't make it through the winter because it hit a window while being chased by a Cooper's Hawk! After some rehab it was released and was last seen in April 2004.  Here are the other Band-tailed Pigeon records for Ontario (accepted by the OBRC):
12-27 October, 1978 - Dorion, Thunder Bay District - unknown finder
18 December 1979 - Presqu'ile Provincial Park - found by Doug McRae
30 August 1980 - Long Point - found by Jeff Skevington, P. Hogenbirk, and J. Thompson
26 October - 5 November 1988 - Wabigoon, Kenora District - found by Janette and Herman Johnson
16-17 September 1994 - Dillon Cove, Parry Sound District - found by Jean and Eric Niskanen
25 April 1995 - Kenora - found by Eva Baier
26 May - 1 June 2000 - Moosonee - found by John Walker, Andrew Jano, and Ken Ross
6 - 26 November 2000 - Kingfisher Lake, Thunder Bay District - found by Jody Allair
13-16 September 2001 - Rock Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park - found by Eric and Linda Moss
26 September - 2 October 2003 - Westree, Sudbury District - found by Al and Frances Brethour
27 November - 7 December 2003 - London - found by Gerry Meacham (released 21 December and last seen 10 April, but these dates the bird no longer "countable")

Anyways, it was nice to finally get one in Ontario! Thanks to the Sinclairs for being gracious hosts.  If anyone is in the market for a Black or Yellow Lab, the Sinclairs may be able to help you out, they had lots of cute puppies!

On my way home I noticed a beaver sitting beside the road, just west of Cardiff.  I turned around and managed to get a few pics of the little guy nibblin' on a stick :)

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Morning birding in Algonquin

Erica and I met up with some friends to spend  the morning doing some casual birding in Algonquin Park.  My excuse was that I needed to stop by to pick up a damselfly specimen that I collected in 2006 with Brandon Holden so that I could get some other people to look at it. Regardless, it was a nice excuse to spend a few hours birding in the park, which now has considerably more bird activity then it did a month or so ago

We started the morning at Spruce Bog Boardwalk where we were greeted by some friendly Gray Jays and Pine Siskins, White-winged Crossbills, and Common Redpolls.  We walked the trail but didn't have too much else until about half-way when we had a flock of 4 Red Crossbills fly over calling.  Near the end of the trail we heard a few Evening Grosbeaks flying over - likely headed for the Visitor Centre feeders.  Here's a link to our full ebird checklist.  The sun was out and I got some shots of some of the Gray Jays:
Gray Jay at Spruce Bog Boardwalk - February 4, 2012

Gray Jay at Spruce Bog Boardwalk - February 4, 2012

Gray Jay at Spruce Bog Boardwalk - February 4, 2012

The next stop was the Visitor Centre, where we had our only Purple Finches of the morning on the driveway up.  The feeders were covered with Evening Grosbeaks, some great-looking birds!  On the way back down the driveway there was a male Ruffed Grouse displaying to at least 5 other Ruffed Grouse.  Here's our ebird checklist for the VC.
female Evening Grosbeak at VC - February 4, 2012

male Evening Grosbeak at VC - February 4, 2012
male Ruffed Grouse displaying. Check out those ruffs! VC driveway February 4, 2012

Our last stop was Opeongo Road.  We parked at Cameron Lake Logging Road where we again had Gray Jays and Evening Grosbeak as soon as we got out of the car.  For those who haven't experienced Gray Jays before, they are quite tame and today we fed a lot of food to them!  They got to enjoy crackers, bread, cheese, and summer sausage!  The reason we stopped here was to get Boreal Chickadee, and one faithfully put in an appearance just north of the logging road.  Here's the checklist for this location.
Gray Jay with a tasty treat. Spruce Bog - February 4, 2012

an awesome picture of a Boreal Chickadee! Opeongo Road - February 4, 2012

All in all, a very enjoyable morning, even if we didn't get all of the "Algonquin specialties"

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

latest Ontario ebird stats

Just a short post.  Thanks to Chris Wood at ebird I got some updated Ontario-specific ebird stats that I thought I'd share in some figures.  This corrects the earlier post where I showed the number of ebird observations by year, which didn't truly reflect the growth of ebird since the data wasn't by submission date, which this new data is.  The breaking news is that January 2012 was the 3rd busiest month ever for ebird submissions in Ontario (and probably the busiest if you exclude months when databases from KWFN and TOC were uploaded)!

 Nothing like a little shameless bragging, I'm pretty sure that first peak was at least partially me entering my old data into ebird when I first started.  The latest two peaks are definitely thanks to Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists and Toronto Ornithological Club submitting their databases.
 You can see that 2011 really saw tremendous growth, and if January 2012 is any indication 2012 should also see big growth.
 In this figure I calculated an estimated number of bird observations per year using the mean number of observations per checklist that I calculated with some earlier ebird data.
This last one's probably the most reflective of ebird growth in Ontario since May is a time when most birders should be out birding, not entering their old lists.