Wednesday, April 27, 2011


This is so heartbreaking and important.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

island adventures ii (134-136) long weekend

If you missed the first half of this post about my day on the island, start there!

You can usually get some good looks at ducks on the south shore, sometimes nice and close. There were lots farther out, but looking at things so far away is just not very satisfying to me. So I focused on the nearer familiar ones. 

A red-breasted merganser was splish splashing everywhere...having a bath! I love that my dad calls them "mergies."

These bufflehead were really close to shore! Look at the flies though...

As usual for this time of year, there were tons of tree swallows along the edge of the KFN property.
Three amigos.
 I made a gif! lol

We tried getting down to the water but didn't realize you can't from the northern entrance. So we didn't really see much else around KFN, except another osprey nesting, sparrows, and a couple of snipe-type things doing the mating thing! (woo woo woo woo woo). I didn't feel like going all the way back around (you know Jenna's getting tired out when she says "I don't care.") to look for shorebirds.

On Friday, Mud Lake had been swarming with people with the day off. It was at this point that I realized NOBODY else was around on this "holiday" and I thought this a little strange. I had a moment of "am I supposed to be at work today???" My boss has a penchant for April Fool's jokes and missed me this year...I was wondering if she was getting me after all, with "April Fool's, I got you on a day other than April Fools" because she had emphasized that I had today off. Well, I quickly logged into my work email and was very releived that none of my colleagues or my manager had sent me an email saying, "where are you?...."

Around the bend on the north shore were a couple of mute swans and a brown thrasher making a racket on top of a tree until a red-winged blackbird de-throned him. No indication of this flock of Bonaparte's I heard about..somehow I missed that entirely.

Ok wait, I just realized...I could swear I'd seen Brown Thrasher...I recognized its sound immediately so surely I must have...but it isn't on my know what!

#134: Brown Thrasher; Amherst Island; April 25, 2011

Speaking of, I'm just awful at identifying birds by their calls. It's one of those things I keep saying I'm going to do...but never do. I don't know how I'm going to motivate myself. I don't know, I'm thinking every time I get a life bird I should make a point of remembering its call? Like when you're learning French and they tell you to learn the gender when you learn the noun? Ya...I never did that anyway. Plus then you only recognize what you've seen and not what you COULD be seeing...

Back towards dad's to drop him off and we saw a partially leucistic robin on someone's lawn.

Also saw some yellowlegs along the main road before the church. There were 3, one doing the bobbing thing. I've kind of agonized over these but am quite sure at least one of them (especially this first one) is a greater yellowlegs: bill-to-head ration, upturn of bill, heavy bars on flanks, "adam's apple." Although I do wish something else was around for scale...

#135: Greater Yellowlegs; Amherst Island; April 25, 2011

On the way out, saw 2 belted kingfishers really close up and posing nicely.....argh...but the race for the 3:00 boat was pretty tight, so we couldn't stick around to try and catch them!

At the ferry slip, i saw this swallow that looked a little different than the others on the island. All day I had been looking for one that could be a swallow other than tree or barn...and there he was, giving me a nice farewell from the island. I thought it would be harder to tell, but the "duskiness" and the grey wash on the throat was unmistakable. Well, how about one more lifer to round out the day!

#136: Northern Rough-Winged Swallow; Amherst Island, April 25, 2011

I've been eagerly compiling a 2011 list, and I'm going to blast my 2010 list to smithereens at the rate I'm going!

Well this is the time I would like to thank you for your patience if you are still reading this very long couple of posts. As spring is arriving, it's getting exciting!

island adventures (131-133) long weekend

Easter took us to Kingston, and of course I jump at any opportunity to bird the island these days.
I promised my dad I would catch the 8:30 boat, but the 7:30 alarm hit me like a sack of potatoes. I really just wanted to stay in that blissful state of lying in bed and dreaming of wonderful things (including but not limited to birds). I dunno, maybe I should rename this blog "the afternoon birder" or something because I just hate getting up early (the other option was "the naked birdwatcher," a la jamie oliver*). Well, I always keep my word, so off to the ferry it was. There was a common loon a ways out from the ferry docks, and a great blue heron cruising over the water along Bath Road on the way there.

*Side note: No lie, Jamie Oliver named his kids Poppy Honey Rosie Oliver, Daisy Boo Pamela Oliver, Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver and Buddy Bear Maurice Oliver.*

So, right off the bat, we get off the boat and it's bird overload (joking! we all know bird overload isn't possible, unless we're talking starlings). I'm beginning to think maybe it really is worth getting up earlier because it did seem much more active than usual. But I would only get up early for the next little while because once the sun starts rising ridiculously early, you can fuhgetaboutit.

The intention was to head to dad's, but right on the 40-foot there was a little birdie singing away close to the road. I had my hopes up for an eastern meadowlark because I know there are lots on the island and I've somehow managed to miss them up until this point. Not a meadowlark, but a bird with some yellow...Savannah Sparrow. Saw lots of these throughout the day.

From there, we noticed across the field two osprey nesting at the school, so turned around to get to Front Road. How they are okay with a yard full of screaming kids is beyond me...!!!
There were also lots of swallows flitting about and I found these neat nests built into the school wall/roof.

AND THEN....dun dun dun dun....I saw something, something a little different, something with a flash of yellow....I followed it to where it went, but darn, it was so far off. Looked through the mini-bins that mom gave me for my birthday (thanks mom!) and YES! I caught sight of his yellow belly and black bib. But so far away....

So at this point I was really having a hard time with a birding dilemma...being that I hate to stop when the going is so good, but I knew that dad was missing out on this wonderful adventure and would be wondering how I managed to stretch a 10-minute drive into an hour on a 4 km-wide island. So we slowly tried to at least head in the right direction.

HOWEVER, next thing we know, there is this wicked fox running in the field, so of course Mr. Pursue The Animals At All Costs What Do You Mean It's Private Property Adventure Man in the driver's seat sets off to pursue it...while Ms. Leave the Poor Wildlife Alone yells in the passenger seat "Leave the poor thing alone!!" Well, this fox goes from the field to the road and is just running down the road--whether away from us or in pursuit of something I'm not sure. Then, there's a flash of white above it, and we realize there is a very interesting episode of Hey-that-fox-is-chasing-a-hawk-isn't-he-silly-wait-maybe-that-hawk-is-hunting-that-fox-but-actually-maybe-they-are-chasing-not-after-each-other-but-something-else-entirely-like-perhaps-a-juicy-mouse? Well, it was all very entertaining until finally Mr. Fox took off out of sight and we left him alone much to Ms. Leave the Poor Wildlife Alone's content.

Further up the forty footer (btw, where the heck they came up with that name is beyond me; the last time I checked 4km 40ft), a hawk was cruising along the road...Adventure Man just kept driving at the same speed as the raptor and it really felt like we were shooting an action hanging out the window trying to keep that sucker of a camera in focus and Mr. Stunt Driver trying to stay on the road. To be honest, I hate shooting in a moving vehicle and kept shouting STOP!!! But I can't say I'm not pleased with the results....and Mr. Hawk did his part to make the action film analogy work by catching a nice tasty something in the field as this all went down. No big deal...he likes an audience.

Finally we arrive at dad's and witnessed a brown creeper while eating breakfast. Funny, I've had such a hard time finding them but saw 4 this weekend: one at Mud Lake on Friday, one on the island and 2 (ok, the same one twice) at Mary's. And yet I didn't get a photo of any of them!

So, we decide to take the silver bullet (ford focus wagon) instead of dad's red dragon (chrysler minivan), despite the bullet being packed to the hilt with stuff, since going in the van means (for me) sitting on the floor with no seatbelt and barreling along with the doors open on both sides so I can get full views of everything. So we set to re-organizing the whole car and are finally on our way.

What do you know, not too far up the South Shore, a meadowlark is sitting on a wire.  I didn't expect this, but from a distance you could easily confuse it with a mourning dove (about that size, and the way it sits). So this is how I spent a good part of the day: Spot meadowlark, pull up as far as possible with caution, exit vehicle, approach, get just within a fair shooting distance and watch bird fly off before focusing/ensuring accurate height on monopod/pushing shutter button, REPEAT.

Let me take a moment now to tell you about a little thing that all islanders lament. Since plunging into the wild world of birding, dad has been much more observant of birds/birdwatchers on the island. He and the other islanders have expressed their frustration that visiting birdwatchers on Amherst
  1. stop in the middle of the road
  2. get out of their cars while their car is in the middle of the road
  3. are nowhere to be found (are traipsing through fields) while their car is in the middle of the road and they have taken their keys with them.
On a more serious note, I should mention that I heard some rumours about the owl woods and they are not good...

Across from the farm at the bottom of the 40-foot, there is a little pond and I noticed some small ducks. Blue-winged teals! They are so beautiful. Oh, and that's a LIFER!

#131: Blue-winged Teal; Amherst Island, April 25, 2011.
Right beside that pond there was bird that looked kind of like a robin, so I tried to get a better look. It was very quiet, and being very sneaky, but I did get a good enough look to tell that it was a Hermit Thrush. Lifer!
#132: Hermit Thrush; Amherst Island, April 25, 2011.

Then, I finally got a meadowlark. Facing the wrong way. Hey, another lifer!
#133: Eastern Meadowlark; Amherst Island; April 25, 2011.

Ok, I'm a little peeved that blogger will only give me 200 characters in the tags. So, I'm going to split this entry in two to get them all me after the jump!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day - Easter long weekend, day 1

Couple of items of business today.

Matt and I checked out Mud was so nice outside, and I even got a little sunburn. It was really busy with everyone having the day off and the sun shining. What attracted me there was the gold crowned kinglets, but of course I didn't find one. The first thing we saw were lots of swallows zipping around. I didn't look too carefully but definitely saw barn and tree.
Witnessed something of a kerfluffle between two tree swallows.
Love the forked tail on the barn swallow.
Not far off, we saw this bird, and it looked like it was all wet or something, and maybe trying to dry off. It kept fanning out its tail, and a chickadee was really playing with fire by hopping around really close. Soon after, some gulls came by to harass it until it finally flew off. A few other birders that were there and I concluded that we thought it was a merlin.
Horribly backlit...what can you do?

On the ridge, a yellow-rumped warbler was hanging around and singing loudly.

Lastly, just before leaving, we caught a black-crowned night heron. Such great birds!
I missed this when it originally aired, so I was happy that they were reshowing Saving Pelican 895, an HBO documentary about the rescue response for birds after the oil rig explosion off the gulf of Louisiana (it's on again May 1 and 15 if you missed it). Also, here's the trailer to check out. I was watering up within 60 seconds...I'm so soft. While the story tried to focus on the positive and really focused on the birds, the whole situation makes me so ANGRY. Everyone is complaining about gas prices, but I have no problem with them at all because I hope that MAYBE it will finally force people start looking at the problems with the system and start seriously looking at viable alternatives. Ok, happy Earth Day!
Some stats from the movie:
  • 3400 oil rigs off the gulf coast of Louisiana
  • 7000 birds dead (seriously...does this not make you feel dead inside?)
  • 1200 birds rehabilitated and released into the wild
You may also want to check out this short Cornell video on Youtube: Deepwater Horizon: One Year Later.

Another amazing rehabilitation item: I was amazed, inspired and incredibly jealous to find out that a childhood friend of mine is now working with Kakapo in New Zealand. If you don't know about Kakapo, just watch the first disk of David Attenborough's Life of Birds. They are a flightless parrot and there are only 120 left. Anyways, this girl does seriously cool stuff...she also worked with wolves in Texas. She even has some pics of wolves licking her face.
Basically what I'm trying to say is that I'm seriously questioning my career choice and wishing I was doing something meaningful/wonderful like that. Should have studied biology....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

hellloooo long weekend!

I wanted to get some birding in after work today...was hoping for the surf scoter that was reported a few days, but didn't realistically think I would catch it. Anyways, didn't go too far--just to Shirleys Bay. All I saw in terms of ducks were some scaup at the boat lunch (or as my dad calls them, "blue bills"; dad and I have conflicting duck terminology!). Also a male turkey showing off. At the corner of Rifle and Lois I made a new friend... Actually he kind of ran away from me. Was it something I said?

There were lots of birds at the birds at the feeders...and a few other forest friends. Five deer to be exact, cautiously deciding if it was ok to approach and eat the seed....
Then it was off to March Valley and saw green-winged teals the same place as before...much closer to the road this time, and less skittish too.
I'm thoroughly looking forward to the long weekend. Being able to bird all day on a Friday just seems downright luxurious. I may even be able to get some island birding in too. Hoping to get a few spring migrants, and hoping the weather will warm up. It was so chilly today! Hopefully I'll have lots to report after the break. Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

come on, get happy! #130

It's always exciting when I do a mid-week post because it usually means something exciting and unexpected has happened. I saw that some gray partridge were reported yesterday in my area, so I since I was off today anyway, I took some time in between laying tiles to see what I could find! Dad and I checked out Brownlee Road with no luck, but we decided to try Rushmore just in case. There they were, not far off Eagleson. I saw two, and one kept craning its neck back and to the side...I just didn't look right. I don't know much about these birds, but it didn't seem like normal behaviour. Anyways, they are actually a Eurasian species that was introduced a long time ago, and are also known as Hungarian Partridge. They have this really cool belly patch. I've looked for these birds before with no luck, and they have a pretty limited range in North America (plus they are declining, which is pretty sad).  So I wasn't expecting this!

#130: Gray Partridge; Kanata, Ontario; April 12, 2011
Doing the weird neck thing. There were two, but one was doing a better job of hiding than the other. Despite my incredible sneakiness, they took off after a few minutes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

birds came to me this weekend

I was buried in home renos this weekend so I didn't make it out, even though the weather was pretty awesome (barring Sunday night...we came pretty close to a flash flood here...). On Saturday though, we had a very loud drummer behind the house...a pileated was hanging out in a tree just outside the yard. It took off but was back again today...I'm hoping it sticks around!

I'm also almost positive that I saw a small hawk in my neighbours yard, but I scared it off. It wouldn't surprise me with all the critters that visit my feeders! So it's been pretty exciting around here.

A neighbour of mine built a bird house and had residents (chickadees) for the first time last year (again, probably a result of my feeding them a few doors down). I mentioned to him that he should remove the old nesting material so birds won't think it is already "claimed" when they arrive in spring and so that it's nice and clean for them. So he actually took it out and saved it to show me. There was one teeny tiny unhatched egg. I mean, you see robin eggs and have an idea of those, but chickadees are obviously much smaller and so are their eggs! Also the nest is kind of interesting because it's completely flat--it basically just lined the bottom of the house. I took some pics. Including one with a dime for scale!

I've been keeping an eye on this map that follows the hummingbird migration. This is an awesome idea! Won't be much longer!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gatineau and OFO trip #127-129

Nadia, Matt and I went to Gatineau Park for a hike. The highlight for me was when we went to the visitor centre where they have some huge feeders. There were tons of little birds--redpolls and finches and chickadees--so I set about seeing if I could find a siskin or something. They were all pretty fidgety, so when they all took off I thought it was because I moved. Then this bigger bird came swooping through, and I thought it was a dove. But it snatched one of the birds and perched right in front of me with its was a hawk! It all happened very fast and I'm not completely sure what it was--it was pretty much all grey, with a banded tail with white at the tip, and was between the size of a dove or a small pigeon, so I thought maybe a sharp-shinned. I went running into the visitor centre with my story to tell everyone what they missed!

We did Laurieault Trail. What type of woodpecker pecks exclamation marks? Clearly a very excited one....
I convinced Sandy to take me on the OFO trip with him. This is really not the birding I'm used to for two main reasons:
1) I never get up that early. (Meet at 7:30?!?!)
2) We were looking at birds that only superman could see with his naked eye. A lot of scoping. I'm still not sure how they find them in the first place...just stop and hope I guess. Normally I just drive along and stop when I see something.
Anyways, it was good to have all those eyes and expertise since I probably wouldn't have seen any of the stuff. Plus I didn't have to look anything up because they'd all named it before I even got my eyes on the thing. 

So we started out looking for sandhill cranes. I never actually saw the things but I wasn't too worried about it. I was more worried about how damn cold and windy it was. Some snow geese and Canada geese were on the other side of the road, but soon took off after the cars all pulled over. There were a few blue morphs.
To be honest I'm not sure exactly where we were because my sense of direction is so awesome, but we saw northern pintails at several points during the day. This was really exciting because a) they are GORGEOUS and b) they're a lifer for me! And not the first lifer of the day :)

#127: Northern Pintail; East of Ottawa; April 3, 2011. They were pretty well camouflaged!
Here are 2 with their tails up.
We made another stop at a pond with a bunch Canada Geese. I think everyone but Sandy and me saw a cackling goose and wood duck. The wind was getting stronger and the temperature seemed to be headed in the wrong direction. The scope was becoming useless with the puddles forming over my eyes and tears forming at the corners.

There was also a redhead that I got a look at through the leader's scope. As we were about to head out, in came a flock of Canada geese, and everyone noticed that there was a greater white-fronted goose among them! Finally, my chance! After many agonizing and frustrating minutes of searching for it, I found it in the scope and also managed to grab a shot before it went back out of sight. Not the photo I was expecting, but I'm very happy I finally saw one!

#128: Greater White-Fronted Goose; East of Ottawa; April 3, 201. Can you pick it out?
Next was a stop at Larose Forest where everyone listened for evening grosbeaks and did find one. Can you find it? It sat perched right in a nice little opening.

#129: Evening Grosbeak; Edge of Larose Forest,East of Ottawa; April 3, 2011

Finally, we stopped at St-Albert and picked up some yummy cheese but didn't find any birds there. Orange cheddar is dyed.

I'm waiting to take the jump and buy a birding app for my brand spankin' new awesome iPhone. This thing is going to be a great birding tool (ontbirds always updating at my fingertips, maps, birding guides....awesome!). But $30 for the big birding apps...ouch!