Friday, May 29, 2015

THE GREAT CANADIAN BIRD-A-THON

Getting some much needed food & coffee at Cora's after birding almost 5hrs straight. 
Rob and I did The Great Canadian Bird-a-thon on Tuesday, May 18th. We had just started our 2 week "stay-cation" and knew we had already missed a lot of the migrating birds. We decided to stay local for our bird-a-thon for two reasons; 1. It stayed with our stay-cation theme.  2. We were curious how many species we could get staying local.

Our day started at 5am and we did most of our birding at Colonel Samuel Smith Park, which is less then 8km from our home. After we left there we refueled at Cora's and hit a few green spaces within walking distance of our house. We set a modest goal of 50 species for ourselves, and were pleasantly surprised to end the day with 66 species. Remember, we didn't travel far from our west end Toronto home. We could of easily hit the 70 mark if some of the birds we were expecting to see had of shown themselves; Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Great Blue Heron, Cedar Waxwing and our local Eastern Screech Owl. We hit our 50 species goal at our first stop, Colonel Samuel Smith Park, after birding close to 5hrs straight. 

Our first bird of the day was a Red-winged Blackbird, and our last birds of the day were Wood Ducks. My highlight bird of the day was a Canada Warbler because I had not seen one in a few years and I got great looks at him. Rob's highlight birds were Great Crested Flycatcher and Indigo Bunting, simple because they were seen within easy walking distance of our house, and it gave him hope that he would one day be able to add them to our "Backyard Bird List".  

Please see species count list below and enjoy a few pics from our day. Click on the pics to enlarge.

 1. Red-winged Blackbird
 2. American Robin
 3. Tree Swallow
 4. Ring-billed Gull
 5. Mourning Dove
 6. Chickadee
 7. Yellow Warbler
 8. Grackle
 9. Brown-headed Cowbird
10. Warbling Vireo
11. Baltimore Oriole
12. Chestnut-sided Warbler
13. Downy Woodpecker
14. Hairy Woodpecker
15. Redstart
16. Gray Catbird
17. Canada Warbler
18. Black-and-white Warbler
19. Philadelphia Warbler
20. Northern Parula
21. American Crow
22. Veery

Female Redstart
Baltimore Oriole
Yellow Warbler
Tree Swallow
  
23. Least Flycatcher
24. Wilson's Warbler
25. Willow Flycatcher
26. Magnolia Warbler
27. Cormorant
28. Northern Cardinal
29. Great Crested Flycatcher
30. Canada Goose
31. Yellow-rumped Warbler
32. Blackburnian Warbler
33. Swainson's Thrush
34. European Starling
35. Blue Jay
36. Chipping Sparrow
37. House Sparrow
38. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
39. Song Sparrow
40. Mute Swan
41. Common Tern
42. Eastern Kingbird
43. Orchard Oriole
44. Barn Swallow

Magnolia Warbler
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
45. Red-necked Grebe
46. Eastern Wood-Pewee
47. American Goldfinch
48. Coopers Hawk
49. Mallard Duck
50. Common Yellowthroat
51. Chimney Swift
52. Turkey Vulture
53. Peregrine Falcon
54. Killdeer
55. Northern Flicker
56. Red-tailed Hawk
57. Northern Mockingbird
58. Kingfisher
59. Indigo Bunting
60. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
61. Rock Pigeon
62. House Finch
63. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
64. Red-eyed Vireo
65. Purple Finch
66. Wood Duck
Red-necked Grebe
Peregrine Falcon at our local nest site, they have 4 chicks this year.
Wood Ducks, for "Wood Duck Alfie!"
Alas, no Eastern Bluebirds on our species list, but we weren't expecting to have one. But, the real point of the bird-a-thon is to raise money for Bird Studies Canada, and we did! Thanks to you we raised over $1000!!! And a quarter of the funds raised will go directly to the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society. 

Thanks again for helping us, help the birds.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

CAPE MAY CAME TO US!

Cape May Warbler - May 14th, 2015
We've often wondered what critters and birds visit our yard when we're not at home. And after Rob spotted a Nashville Warbler in the backyard last May, we really got curious about what birds we miss stopping in during Spring Migration. I missed the Nashville Warbler last year, but tonight I lucked out!

Nashville Warbler in our backyard, May 2014.
 Rob and I are on the same shift this week, first time in years! And we've been enjoying the backyard after work when the weather was good, like today. There was lots going on the yard, our regular birds, our Baltimore Orioles have returned, Squirrels running around and Rob's flock of Pigeons.

I was sitting up on the deck when I heard a different call, and after hearing it for a minute or two I got up to investigate. Rob had been down in the yard, but he had heard it too, and after seeing me get up to look, he started looking too. He spotted it at the top of one of the two pine trees that are right in front of our deck. A Cape May Warbler! Luckily he had his camera on him, and he started clicking away. He was pretty excited, as was I, but he exclaimed at one point, "I hope I get one good shot, I have no idea what my settings are!". This is a new yard bird for us, and only our second warbler. We haven't seen many Cape May Warblers, and this was probably the best look we ever had of one. I always have my bins with me in the backyard and he enjoyed bouncing around in our pine tree for quite awhile.

The Cape May caused lots of excitement for us tonight!
We are thrilled that our Baltimore Orioles are back for another season, we are patiently waiting for the Hummingbirds, we love all our regulars, but this little beauty caused a whole lot of excitement for us. Our neighbors must think we're looney. 

This time last year we were in Cape May, New Jersey on a birding trip, tonight a little Cape May came to us.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

LIFER ON INTERNATIONAL MIGRATORY BIRD DAY!

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The elusive Kentucky Warbler.
Saturday, May 9th was "International Migratory Bird Day". It was also the first real opportunity Rob and I had to get out and see some of the returning beautiful songbirds that make Ontario their home for a few months of the year.

We already knew we were going to hit one of our local parks, Colonel Samuel Smith Park, aka Sam Smith, and we arrived just before 8am. My adrenalin started pumping as soon as I opened the truck door and heard the chorus of many different songbirds. It's always exciting to see the firsts of the season once again.

We were having a great morning with many different sightings of birds and people we hadn't seen in almost a year, when a couple let us know that a Kentucky Warbler was on the other side of the field. Now, I knew we hadn't seen a Kentucky Warbler before, and it would be a "lifer" (first time seeing a bird) for both of us, but I didn't realize it was a rather rare bird to see in our area. And I didn't realize until later in the day that the fantastic and long view that we did have of it was even more rare.

Isn't he a beauty!?!
We stood and watched this bird and chatted to people for probably close to an hour while it walked up and down the bank foraging in the leaf bed. The shrubs on the creek bank are not in full bloom yet, so all who made their way to the park to see it were given excellent views.

In the little warbler guide I was carrying in my pocket, it referred to this bird as having "Elvis" sideburns. I thought that a great way to describe his markings!

Back to the park we were again Sunday morning, arriving just before 6am, which was planned before the celebrity Kentucky Warbler sighting, and again we saw many firsts of the season, birds and people! We did make our way to where the warbler was still being seen, and today we just didn't get a great view, but we also got to see and hear him belting out his song!

"Ain't nothing but a hound dog, crying all the time....." Sorry, couldn't help myself.
 When we arrived at the park Sunday, we had expected many more birders to be there when we arrived, but we were only joined by a couple others, but more and more people came to see him as the morning went on. We didn't stay in that area of the park very long on Sunday, but we were both thrilled that we heard him sing, something he wasn't doing the day before.

Posing for the many photographers.
 Who knows how long it will be before we see one of these again. He sure made one of our first real Spring outings of 2015 a memorable one and will probably be the highlight of the season. It's pretty sweet to get a lifer at any time, but having it happen on International Migratory Bird Day made it extra special.