Saturday, January 14, 2017

Northern Saw Whet Owl

Last weekend, I got a text from Kit about a Northern Saw Whet Owl he found in east Windsor. It was seen on private property that he had permission to be on but essentially- he really wanted the location to not be disclosed - for the sake of the Owl and the property owner. What a beautiful owl! This is only the third time I've seen this owl in my six years of birding.

One thing I love about the photo above was that you can see its talons. This owl has zygodactyl feet which means it has four talons - two front facing and two rear facing which helps this species catch mice. Another note about this photo is that I took it from 15-20' away. It was 12 feet up in the tree and this was the only angle that I could see it. This photo is pretty heavily cropped.

Ken Kaufman recently wrote an excellent article about Northern saw whet Owls at the link below. I thinks its a great article because it mentions some of the history from Audubon's time to insights made on this species in the last 100 years. Point Pelee and Canadian ornithologist Percy Taverner are mentioned in this article as well as insights made by Great Lakes banding stations such as the one at HBMO. I recommend giving it a read!

Good Birding!

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Leucistic Field Sparrow

Happy New Year! I was looking out my back window yesterday and saw a lbj (little brown job) sparrow with a bright white tail. After grabbing my binoculars from my car - I noticed white eye-rings on this sparrow- a winter Field Sparrow? I didn't realize Field Sparrows sometimes winter in Southwestern Ontario --- but they do.  A quick glance at historic Ojibway Park CBC [link] data has 0-2 birds on most years. This ebird map [link] shows the occurrence of field sparrows in North America in Jan of 2017. Field Sparrows have been seen further north in Ontario over the last week at Rondeau and Long Point.  The map below shows the range map for this species from

Img Source:

A white tailed Field Sparrow (sorry about the bad white balance here).
It looks like primaries 6 & 7 are white as well as the central tail feathers are pure white.

Five species of sparrows in my back yard yesterday included:

House Sparrows -20
Song Sparrows -2
Trees Sparrows- 5
Dark eyed Juncos-15
Field Sparrow-1

This Sparrow is pretty unique and distinctive. It would be cool to see if it is seen elsewhere in the province or neighboring states this year. If you see it... let me know!

Good Birding!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Botany Highlights for 2016

This year was such a great year in my own quest to appreciate and learn more about botany. I figured I would do a little year-end summary.

Late April walks at Oakwood park will sometimes result in some early migrants such as Yellow bellied Sapsuckers and some good warblers, but this year, I happened to look down a little more.  I had noted amoungst the Trout Lilies a different flower that I had never seen before. I did not know what this was when I photographed it but later came to realize that it was Sharp lobed Hepatica! Notice the clover-shaped leaf in the bottom right of the image --- the "sharp lobed" in the name refers to the point at the tip of those leaves, not the flowers petals themselves.

Another decent discovery at Oakwood Prairie was this Pointed Blue eyed Grass.

This next sighting was perhaps my best natural sighting of the year - a Purple Twayblade Orchid at Provincial Tallgrass Prairie Reserve at Ojibway Park. Another great thing about this sighting was that I got the chance to meet a great naturalist - Allen Woodliffe. I think the best thing about the blogosphere is that it connects people with similar interests - and how great is it to meet up with the people you are reading from?

Purple Twayblade

While looking for the Purple Twayblade - I serendipitously discovered a different species - a Fen Twayblade (Liparis loeselii) at a fragment of Ojbiway's tallgrass prairie that extends into Lasalle. This prairie is now a forest - as prescibed burns have not taken place to combat natural succession.

Another respectable prairie plant that I had photographed at this Lasalle location was a Foxglove Beardtongue flower below. I did not know what it was when I photographed it but realized what it was later from Allen's blog.

A trip to Southern Ohio netted a few nice Orchid lifers. I had good luck at Cedar Bog [link] with two orchid species: Purple Fringed Orchid and Grass Pink Orchid. Whorled Milkweed & Indian Plantain were noted as well.

Another trip to the Bruce Peninsula gave looks at the carniverous Pitcher Plant as well as St John's Wort. I read at the Bruce Peninsula National Park visitor center that it hosts 30+ Orchid species!

Back at Ojibway - Round headed Bush Clover as well as Slender Bush Clover were discovered. The time window that these plants flower is very narrow and several visits were required to see these plants in flower. Spotted Wintergreen was found as well.

While looking for Fringed Gentian at Ojibway I found a really nice area that I had not really discovered until this fall. It had Fringed and Closed Gentian, Nodding ladies Tresses, and several types of Goldenrod, included Riddel's Goldenrod. False Yellow and Purple Foxglove plants were noted.

Ojibway Park is just a two minute drive from my house and I almost feel obligated to learn more about the biodiversity that it hosts. Ojibway Park's excellent website has three links to Spring, Mid-summer and late summer plants at Ojibway. There are hundreds of plants to discover - many of which are rare in Canada and Ontario. There are many plants that I've acknowledged this year that I didn't include on this page such as: Virginia Mountain Mint, Tall bellflower, Blue stemmed Goldenrod, White Lettuce, Cardinal Flower, Swampl Loostrife , Whorled Loostrife and Jimsonweed to name a few!

Spring  -
Summer -
Fall -

This is a pretty cool site for Ontario flowers as well:

One of my botany accomplishments this summer was to finally start a native wildflower garden. I think I have 20-30 native perennial plants that I hope will just "go wild" and attract summer butterflies and winter birds. I've also (ethicallly) collected seeds from plants such Prairie Dock, Iron weed, Joe Pye Weed, Asters, Goldenrods,  Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, Buttefly Milkweed, Wild Bergamot and hope to get a small area in my yard and some adjacent natural area property. I also bought three planters from Home Depot to give my garden a little "boost". The planter below was produced by the Canadian Wildlife Federation for their "Help the Monarchs" campaign [link]. I can't wait to have butterfly milkweed in my backyard!

Good Botanizing!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Butterfly Review for 2016

Its safe to say that butterfly watching for 2016 - at least in Ontario - is over. I figured I would try to go back and look at some butterfly watching highlights from 2016. At first, I had only considered an early sighting of a Red Admiral as my only highlight for the year, but going back a little through my blog and photo management software un-earths some other decent sightings.  This posting covers this years butterfly watching season which for me started March 16th and ended this past friday with the following sightings:

Late sightings: Friday Nov 19th: 3 Monarch, 1 Eastern Comma, 2 Clouded Sulphurs (Pelee). Thursday Nov 18th - Common Checkered Skipper (West Windsor).
Early Admiral - March 16, 2016 - Point Pelee - Photo by Rick Mayos ©
Earlier this year, on March 16th, I had a day off with my two boys and we decided to for a walk at Point Pelee before we visited Colasanti's. When we arrived at the Point Pelee gate, the woman at the gate told us that there was a scavenger hunt for kids - complete with a camp fire, marshmallow roasting and hot chocolate was taking place at White Pine. As luck would have it, I had been talking to Rick from Leamington and he joined us for the walk. As we walked along Ander's Footpath near the cemetary - Rick and I noted a butterfly flutter past us then land 20-30' ahead of us. I didn't have my camera - but I did have my binoculars and amazingly- an early admiral was noted with its bright orange wing bars. Rick had his camera and took some record photos. Later I posted that sighting to the Ontario Butterflies Google Group [link]. The late Alan Wormington - who maintained meticulous records of bird and butterfly sightings made the following note about that observation:

Alan Wormington (Mar 16 )

Just a follow-up on this observation.
It is a record-early sighting of Red Admiral for Point Pelee National Park; previous record-early was March 18, 1995 (Lorraine H. Foott).

Since the species is strictly an immigrant into Ontario (it does not overwinter in the province), this may be a sign that this year could be an active one for spring immigrants.

Alan Wormington,

Alan Wormington was a gifted birder, butterfly watcher and naturalist who passed away this summer. Josh Vandermeulen has a great tribute to Alan at this link:

In June this year, my family went for a trip to Shawnee State Park in Southern Ohio. Sadly, the trip was rained out but I did one brief opportunity to view some nice butterflies at the Edge of Appalachia - Lynx Prairie Trail [link] where I had seen Zebra Swallowtails, Variegated Fritillary, Pipevine Swallowtails and this little green Lepidopteric Gem -- a Juniper Hairstreak on Whorled Milkweed.

Mid July Sedge Search yielded looks at Dukes Skippers. This one particular location was suggested by Alan. It was a nice spot on the Northern edge of Wheatley Provincial Park.

Mid July also gave an opportunity to see some moth-watching at Ojibway. One of many great moths that I was able to see was this giant Carolina Sphinx moth.

A July trip to the Bruce Peninsula had me hoping to find a Lepitoperic lifer at Singing Sands Fen. An easy lifer was this stunning Dorcas Copper.

Dorcas Copper on Early Goldenrod at Singing Sands Fen

July 31st was a great day for butterfly watching this year. I had two rare butterflies - a variegated fritillary as well as a Common Ringlet - both in the Spring Garden area of Ojibway Park in Windsor. Seeing a fresh Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Dense Blazingstar flowers at Ojibway is a special treat - and capturing that scene with photography is always a pleasure.

Common Sootywing is mildly rare in Essex County and this summer, occasional yard visitors showed up. This is a cell phone photo of a flower planter in my driveway that had attracted a Common Sootywing.

Late summer rarities -

Steve Pike and Jeremy Bensette had some excellent rarities at Point Pelee the autumn season a Point Pelee. Cloudless Sulphurs were seen almost every weekend in Sparrow Field up to this past Friday Nov 18th! Also, a Canadian First - a Goatweed Butterfly was found by Jeremy Bensette as well. A once in a lifetime sighting!

I had some noteworthy observations of mildly rare butterflies. I had good looks at Fiery Skippers and Grey Hairstreaks. My previous sighting of Fiery Skippers goes all the way back to 2012!

NOT a Cloudless Sulphur

Butterfly watching has proven to be a very enjoyable hobby that can give some good identification challenges as well as helping you connect to nature.

My butterfly life list is at about 110 species. Some butterfly related goals for 2017 are:

  • Continue searching for Mulberry winged Skipper and Dion's Skipper
  • Try to find Artic Skipper and Eastern Pine Elphin (Carden Alvar in late May?)
  • Try for the Northern Oak Hairstreak near Wallaceburg.
  • IO Moth, Leopard Moth- both should be pretty easy at Ojibway Park in Windsor
  • Perhaps visit midwestern prairie habitat in search of Regal Fritillary ?

Good Lepping,


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