Thursday, June 16, 2011

First Loon Count of the season - Cedar Lake Québec

June 12, 8:30 am

Two weeks earlier, I had seen a Common Loon on a nest at Seagull Rocks.  But, this nesting attempt was abandoned, and we saw no more nests.

However, we did see 20 adult Common Loons, including about 6 that were paired up.  Time will tell if these nest or not.  An unusual sighting was an adult Common Loon in complete non-breeding plumage - a rare sight for mid June!
Another rare sight was a double-crested Cormorant.  We are hoping that they don't establish a colony on our lake.

Marbled Godwit on Greenbank Road field

June 10, 10:00 am

This large and uncommon shorebird was reported on ONTBIRDS.  Being only 5 minutes from my house, I had to follow up.

There was a fairly large pond (puddle) which was easy to scope.  It seemed to be full of Mallards, then I saw the lone Brant.  It took another birder to alert me that there was a much smaller pond in front, almost totally obscured by long grass.  Sure enough, the Marbled Godwit was there along with two Black-bellied Plovers in breeding plumage, a Dunlin and some Semi-palmated Sandpipers.

I needed to get up higher, so returned home to come back with a step ladder.  This worked to give better views, but I was not able to use the scope effectively.

Wildlife Photography - Jack Pine Trail with Tony Beck

Thursday June 9, 7:30 am

There was a large group today for the last session of the current cycle - Tony, Nina, Michael, Lorraine, Paula, Bob, Heather, Ron, Roger and me.  Lorraine and Paula were new to me, but were obviously experienced, having birded in the tropics, Florida, etc.
Starting down the trail, we heard Blue Jays and a Pine Warbler calling.  Tony called the latter in for a brief view.  We photographed the squirrels and chipmunks in the relatively low light using high ISO - the results were not spectacular.   We also tried to photograph some silhouetted leaves with a sunny background on a tree trunk ; it's a lot tougher than it looks.
We heard some Common Ravens and Ovenbirds, but did not see them.  We saw a perched corvid, which turned out to be an American Crow.  A Killdeer flew over calling it's name.  Nina also heard a Swamp Sparrow and spotted it perched nicely for us on a dead snag.  We also saw a male Common Yellowthroat.

We heard a Virginia Rail from the boardwalk, so Tony played the call.  Two or three of them responded and came in close.

Heather was delighted by the dragonflies and damselflies.  We photographed a beautiful Ebony Jewelwing.  We had some Mourning Doves, then a Killdeer at the next stretch of boardwalk.  A sharp-shinned Hawk flew over very high up.

We carried on to the back of the trail.  I heard a Field Sparrow right away, but we only got distant sightings.  A White-throated Sparrow was more cooperative. 
A Great Blue Heron flew past, and in the distance, we saw a Broad-winged Hawk and a Common Raven.  We spent quite a bit of time photographing the wild flowers including an Ox-eye Daisy with  spider on it.  At the back of the trail, we saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched in a dead tree and several Northern Leopard Frogs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mer Bleue - Rare Nesters of Eastern Ontario with Tony Beck

Tuesday June 7, 7:30 am

We met at Doman Ridge Road parking area because our main area of interest at the Mer Bleue boardwalk was gated until 8:00 am.  Today there was Peter, Tony, Nina, Heather, Russell, Al, Rick, Margaret, Josh and me.  The latter two were new to me, but had been out on weekends.

So we went for a stroll past the gate.  We got Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers and a cooperative Great-crested Flycatcher.  We could hear, but not see well, Common Yellowthroats.  A Chestnut-sided Warbler joined the Great-crested Flycatcher on the wire.

A Pileated Woodpecker flew up the road right over us.  We saw one of the Common Yellowthroats, then an Indigo Bunting.  We heard a Black and White Warbler.

Two different vehicles came and unlocked the gate and drove past.  Tony spoke to the driver of the second one, a young lady post doc from McGill who explained that they had a research project at the end of the road.  Though not a birder, she was interested and invited us to visit their site (on foot, about 3km away).  Tony was interested for another time, because of the chance to see rare breeders - Palm Warbler, Lincoln's Sparrow and Sandhill Cranes.  She thought that the latter were nesting close to their site.  This news caused Tony to get really excited.

But today, we were planning to visit the Mer Bleue boardwalk on Ridge Road and spend the day there looking for these very species.  It's a short drive, so we all took our own vehicles.

We were greeted at the parking lot by an Eastern Kingbird.  The outhouse, which was closed, had a nest with young under the eaves- probably Eastern Phoebes.  A tick-infested Snowshoe Hare was nearby.  We heard a Veery and a Northern Flicker.

We started down the trail and got Mourning Dove, American Goldfinch and Black and White Warbler in the first few feet.  We heard the Veery again and a Gray Catbird.  We admired the pink Lady Slippers and the Pitcher Plants ad other bog specialties, like Labrador Tea. 

At the back end of the boardwalk, we heard a Palm Warbler.  We did get glimpses, but not great views.  White-throated Sparrows did not disappoint.  We also got quick views of a Lincoln's Sparrow, and Tony saw a Hermit Thrush, which some of us got on before it melted away.
A Swamp Sparrow sang for us.  We saw an Alder Flycatcher, but were pleasantly distracted when a pair of Sandhill Cranes flew over the bog.  An Eastern Kingbird perched on the railing for Josh.  An American Bittern also did a fly past for us.

Heather photographed several types of dragon flies.  A Virginia Rail called, so Tony played the tape to draw it out.  It responded and came close, but only offered us a glimpse.

We moved to the pine forest at the end of the boardwalk.  We got another Chestnut-sided Warbler, a Black and White Warbler and a Yellow Warbler.  A few people saw a Nashville Warbler that came out briefly.  Another Veery skulked in the back.  We saw an Eastern Wood Pewee to cp of another great day.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cerulean Warblers and other Carolinian Species at Chaffeys' Locks with Tony Beck

Thursday, May 26, 2011 6:00 am

We had an early start.  Showers were in the forecast, but we still had a good turnout, including several we had never met before.  Barbara came with us today.

We took Hwy 417 to Hwy 15, then through Smith's Falls to Portland and the turn-off for Chaffey's.  On the way, I noticed an American Bittern flying over top of a swamp.  We stopped briefly at Portland, and got a Warbling Vireo and heard a Common Yellowthroat.  Tony was hoping for some large white birds (Trumpeter Swans), but they did not materialize.

We saw huge Osprey nests on the hydro pylons, one of them occupied.  We parked at Indian Lake Road where the Cataraqui Trail crosses, and hike west down the trail a piece to a large swamp.  We saw an Eastern Kingbird and an Indigo Bunting right away.  As we moved along, we kept hearing Red-eyed Vireos, White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-throated Green and Black and White Warblers.  We soon saw the latter as we heard a Common loon yodelling in the distance on Opinicon Lake.
Tony played the tape and we got a Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch and Black and white Warbler to come in.  We got fleeting views of Black-throated Green Warbler and Black-throated Blue Warbler, and good looks at a Great Crested Flycatcher.  Nina saw a Turkey Vulture, and Tony heard a Rose-breasted Grosbeak that refused to show.

Tony heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, so played the song.  It showed itself several times, as it flew back and forth across the trail.  But it never did sit still for a photo.  We had to stop, as we were obviously perturbing it.  But it was a lifer for us and many others.
We carried on hearing but not seeing many Ovenbirds.  Tony got a glimpse of a Swainson's Thrush.  We heard a Ruffed Grouse.

When we reached the swamp, we saw a male Hooded Merganser barrelling across the water at high speed.  A Cooper Hawk flew overhead, and Tony heard an Eastern Towhee.  We saw a Swamp Sparrow perched on one of the dead trees.  Incredibly, one of the ladies spotted a scarlet blob about 1 km away.  Tony scoped it, and it turned out to be a male Scarlet Tanager.  Even more amazing, it flew across and perched quite close to us.
On the return walk, we saw a Yellow-throated Vireo. 
We retreated to Chaffey's Locks to use the facilities, then went down past the Queen's University Biological Station to where the road touched the lake.  Here we saw Map Turtles and an Eastern Wood Pewee.  We hiked down one of the trails away from the lake to a Queen's Tree Swallow test area, hoping for a Golden-winged Warbler - no luck, but we did see an American Redstart.
Returning to the cars, we saw a Broad-winged Hawk, apparently at a nest!  Heather saw another Indigo Bunting, and also a female.  Tony played the Cerulean Warbler tape, and one did show up briefly in the tree tops.

We tried another trail, but it was very muddy.  We tiptoed through the mud with Al lending a helping hand.  He came prepared with rubber boots!  We saw many Red-eyed Vireos and a few American Redstarts for our trouble.  We did see a large morel mushroom.

Back on the road, we saw a Yellow Warbler and a cooperative Wilson's Snipe.  Then we saw an Eastern Bluebird, and finally, a Golden-winged Warbler (spotted by Barbara).

Driving back along Opinicon Road, Tony pointed out a Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched on a wire.