Friday 29 March 2013

Latest Ontario eBird stats

I recently received/calculated some of the most recent Ontario eBird stats, which many of you might find interesting. Most of these stats (unless mentioned otherwise) are as of the end of February 2013.

If you aren't using eBird yet, you might find this presentation I recently did helpful.

First up, the most interesting stat (in my opinion) is the number of checklists submitted per year. The growth of eBird in Ontario continues to be staggering:
Ontario eBird checklist submissions per year

And amazingly, we are already (as of March 29, 2013) up to 37,097 for this year! February and March 2013 have had the most checklist submissions yet! Viewing the same data, but per month reveals the not surprising trend through the year where birders are out most in spring and fall:
Ontario eBird checklist submissions per month

The geographic distribution of observations has stabilized a little bit now, with the only real surprises (in my opinion) being a) Northumberland at number 1 (although that is explained by about half of those are from the upload of the Northumberland County Bird Database); b) the relatively poor showing by Hamilton and Halton at spot 14 and 15; c) the strength of Peterborough; and d) the relatively poor showing by Middlesex at spot number 30. The full listing is in table 1:

Table 1. Total number of eBird observations submitted for each Ontario "county" all time, sorted from most to least observations.

County observations
Northumberland 315022
Essex 281163
Toronto 241902
Ottawa 190418
Norfolk 187778
Durham 133205
Peterborough 112312
Waterloo 106083
Niagara 98309
Peel 92268
Frontenac 89222
Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry 88317
Leeds and Grenville 87101
Hamilton 68451
Halton 67575
Wellington 66281
Chatham-Kent 63487
Nipissing 60775
Elgin 60589
Haldimand 53290
Perth 50552
Cochrane 50208
Bruce 48034
Algoma 46072
Kawartha Lakes 44594
Lambton 43062
Lennox and Addington 42393
Prince Edward 41914
Thunder Bay 38495
Middlesex 33599
Simcoe 31504
Rainy River 29984
Kenora 25639
Prescott and Russell 20951
Muskoka 20510
York 20413
Renfrew 17695
Hastings 17181
Oxford 15823
Timiskaming 14852
Manitoulin 14731
Huron 12293
Lanark 10603
Parry Sound 8838
Grey 8355
Brant 8169
Haliburton 8040
Dufferin 7330
Sudbury 6599
Greater Sudbury 5847

The Ontario eBird user base also continues to grow. To date we have received checklists from an impressive 5985 different users! I have ranked everyone by the number of observations (each species/checklist combination counts as an observation) - if you want to know where you fit on that list or your total number of eBird observations let me know! Personally, I've submitted just shy of 83,000 observations!
One of my most recent eBird observations: the Western Grebe in Toronto

And finally, eBird has records of 679 species, forms, spuhs and slashes (read this article to understand what that means!) in the public database.  The top 25 species reported are listed in Table 2:

Table 2: Top 25 species reported to eBird in Ontario.

Species Observations
Black-capped Chickadee 94424
American Crow 85632
Mourning Dove 75208
American Robin 73471
Blue Jay 71894
American Goldfinch 71810
Canada Goose 70413
Ring-billed Gull 68540
European Starling 66628
Mallard 65345
Northern Cardinal 61462
Red-winged Blackbird 57064
Song Sparrow 52600
Common Grackle 50402
Downy Woodpecker 49976
House Sparrow 46403
Dark-eyed Junco 41740
White-breasted Nuthatch 38884
Herring Gull 38345
Rock Pigeon 33748
Northern Flicker 30164
Red-tailed Hawk 29864
House Finch 29216
Great Blue Heron 29139

That's all for now!

Introduction to eBird

I've given a few "Introduction to eBird" presentations over the last couple years and I got around to recording one in March. I've put it up on YouTube.  You can watch it embedded or click on the video to open it in a new window.  It is just over 45 minutes long:

Also, be sure to check out the latest Ontario eBird stats here.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Turkeys Gone Wild: Spring Break 2013 edition!

On the weekend I was chasing a Snow Goose that had just flown over me with a flock of Canadas when I got sidetracked by some Wild Turkeys.  You see, I came over the crest of a hill and saw the familiar sight of a flock of Wild Turkeys, except this time there was a big Tom strutting his stuff in all his glory.  I pulled up parallel with him and parked my car and grabbed my camera.  I got quite a show over the next 30 minutes!

I initially thought I captured some mating on video, but after reviewing it it just looks like the Tom is awkwardly balancing on the hen's back....not sure if this is foreplay or equivalent to spooning...what do you think? :)

Monday 25 March 2013

Little Gull Bonanza

On St. Patrick's Day Ken, my Dad and I led our annual swan/waterfowl/early spring migrants trip to Long Point with the Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists Club.  It was a very successful outing despite the sometimes wintery weather (in stark contrast to last year's shorts weather!).  We managed 64 species for the day, which is about normal for the trip.

We always start the trip off at Aylmer Wildlife Management Area to have a look for Tundra Swans.  This year, thanks in part to the late spring, there were still a few thousand swans to be had.  From there we make a quick stop at the Aylmer Sewage Lagoons before heading east along the lake shore to Long Point.  The ducks this year at Long Point were really good.  There were about 10,000 ducks in the Inner Bay, mostly divers like Redhead, Scaup, and Canvasback.  Besides the large numbers of diving ducks a nice bonus were the two Greater White-fronted Geese at Lee Browns:

The Greater White-fronted Geese were a Long Point bird for me which made them extra nice. The real highlight of the day however was our last stop of the day at Turkey Point. Here, while scoping from the marina we saw some distant Little Gulls.  We drove down closer and had great looks at at least 25 Little Gulls. The whole group enjoyed great looks at these birds as a nice way to finish the day. 

Ontario birders often take Little Gulls for granted but we are pretty unique in North America to have such good numbers of these tiniest gulls in the world.  Just check out the map on eBird or notice the fact that the ABA ranks them as rare or Code 3 on the ABA Checklist. I managed to snap quite a few photos of 3 ages:

An adult (left) and second basic (right)

First (left), adult (centre) and second (right) basic Little Gulls

Friday 22 March 2013

Free online issue of North American Birds!

North American Birds, the excellent seasonal reports brought to you 4 times a year by the American Birding Association is going digital...

This is great news for a lot of reasons that I won't get into.  Anyways, as a way to encourage new subscribers the most recent issue (which includes last spring's Ontario seasonal summary by Alan Wormington) is being made available for free!!

So check it out and if you like what you see sign up for a membership! This is a great summary of each season in Ontario but also for all the other provinces and states and there are always some interesting articles about bird distribution in North America plus lots of great photos.

Note, there are apparently a few pages missing so be sure to check back tomorrow for the complete version.

Here's the link:

Thursday 21 March 2013

Barred Owl irruption

Tonight on my way home from work I saw a Barred Owl...this has been a pretty regular occurrence this year and I am already up to 17 observations! Last year with a similar length commute through similarly good Barred Owl territory I had 6 observations by this date.
Barred Owl in Prince Edward County on Feb 23, 2013

So why the difference?  It seems that Barred Owls are more conspicuous this year partly because they are very hungry, so they are out earlier in the evening, later in the morning and sometimes all day trying to find some food.  It seems that hunger has also pushed more further south this winter. Barred Owls showed up on several Christmas Bird Counts where they don't normally (like the Kitchener count, where 2 were found on count day). Just check out the eBird map for this January-March:
Barred Owls reported to eBird during January to March 21, 2013
 And compare that to last year's map for the same period:
Barred Owls reported to eBird during January to March 2012
It seems like a good guess that for the same reasons that pretty much every irruptive bird species left most of the northern forests this winter (lack of tree seed crops) that small mammal populations have also dropped off, leaving Barred Owls (and Great Grays, Northern Hawk and Boreal Owls) with no choice but to head south in search of better foraging grounds. It likely also helps that it seems like Barred Owls had a pretty good breeding season: the Ontario Nocturnal Owl Survey reported a record high count of Barred Owls last spring and most of the Barred Owls I have seen and photographed have been young (born in 2012) birds.

Barred Owls were likely once common in forested southern Ontario but they are surprisingly rare there, with only very scattered individual pairs south of Toronto- check out the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas maps to see what I mean. As forests mature in southern Ontario though maybe these big irruptions will help re-establish the species there.

Monday 11 March 2013


Lame title, eh? Well, I have a bunch of stuff so I figured I'd put it all into a single blog post.

Last weekend we were visiting Erica's parents and as has become quite normal recently, we found some Gray Partridges right near the farm.  Erica's parents have even seen them right up on their lawn this winter.  Anyways, I had my best looks ever at this species:

Note the black belly on the male

Last week while out at lunch with some colleagues, we noticed a huge emergence of stoneflies (Plecoptera).  This was happening all along the Otonabee River in Peterborough.  We grabbed a specimen and kept birding when we eventually noticed some Bohemian Waxwings enjoying the feast (fruit has become fairly scarce here).  I checked Birds of North America Online and found a specific reference to Bohemian Waxwings eating stoneflies- go figure!  Rob eventually ID'd our specimen as a species of Allocapnia (Plecoptera: Capniidae):

Small Winter Stonefly (Capniidae): Allocapnia spp

On the same outing we had nice looks at both male and female hybrid Mallard x American Black Duck:
male ABDU x MALL hybrid

female ABDU x MALL hybrid

And finally, Erica and I got to watch a Sharp-shinned Hawk make a kill (Common Redpoll) from our feeder area last week. I got some photos and video of it enjoying the snack:
In this photo you can see the dark red eye, a trait of (adult) male Sharp-shinned Hawks; although in real life the size made it instantly clear that this was a male.

Spring migration is a GO

Had a chance to get out and see some early spring migrants on the weekend in my (current) local case you're trying to keep up with where I currently call home, right now it is near Belleville (yes, I know the "about me" section still says Bancroft...).

On Saturday Erica and I checked out Bleasdell Boulder Conservation Area (one of our many local CA's).  It was a short walk through some cedar forest and then into more decidous trees, including some nice Shagbark Hickories.  The boulder itselft was pretty big, in fact it is apparently Ontario's largest glacial erratic.  Not too many birds around there but the sun was so nice it felt good to be outside.

Of course, we took the long way there (don't tell Erica!) along the Trent River and we were rewarded with a nice pair of Eastern Bluebirds and an adult Bald Eagle.  Despite the nice weather the wind still hadn't switched to the south, so no blackbirds were back yet (that we found).

Sunday was a different story, and I got up early (well, earlier then Ken at least) to see what had arrived overnight.  I decided to tour around Prince Edward County, a place I am still getting to know.  My first stop was in Rossmore, just after crossing the Bay of Quinte on the Bay Bridge. As I was crossing I was surprised to see a large patch of open water on the east side of the bridge so I pulled over to scope the waterfowl.  I was pleasantly surprised to see my first Wood Ducks and to hear a few Killdeer flying over.  See my full checklist.

give it a week or two and we'll amazingly be tired of seeing this!

The rest of the morning was spent travelling out the Waupoos Peninsula then over to Wellington.  The south shore of the Waupoos Peninsula had lots of open water and lots of ducks, but nothing unusual.  Wellington harbour was good as usual for ducks with a nice selection. See my full checklist.  Red-winged Blackbirds were common all over and American Robins and Common Grackles were also pretty widespread.  I also had a couple of singing Song Sparrows to really make it feel like spring might be here. All-in-all I picked up 41 species in the morning without working up a sweat...

Today was also good for newly arrived birds. I checked out Little Lake at lunch with a couple co-workers and had a nice selection of ducks, including my first Northern Pintail of the year.  No sign of Devin's Wood Ducks though. I was amazed to see how similar some of our counts were today to what I had 1 year ago on March 12 at the same location.

Anyways, it is always an exciting time of year for sure...even if we get more winter weather the blackbirds and ducks will keep on coming.  If you are like me, you'll like keeping an eye on some of these resources related to bird migration:

eBird maps - great for watching as species get closer and closer!
Birdcast - weekly migration forecasts!
Windmap - never leave home without it!
Nexrad - good for checking at night to see big bird movements
(and of course all the great blogs on the right of your screen)