Friday, April 13, 2018

Mid April Birding at Black Oak Heritage Park in West Windsor

It seems that as of Wednesday this past week, the temperature got back to the regular temps - which are 8-10 C for this time of year.  I made an effort to walk at West Windsor's Black Oak Heritage Park, which features one of the world's rarest habitats... Black Oak Savannah.

Having just finished my night school commitments (I was taking two night courses for the last 3-4 months) it was a such a relief just to go outside and enjoy warm temperatures and observe some mid-April migrants and breeders.  This particular "end of school" feeling is particularly exciting for me. I finally completed the requirements for a Bachelor of Commerce - a business degree that I've been working on for the last... seven years. Those that read this blog for a while might be familiar with my challenges of balancing school, life, work, parenthood with one of my passions and hobbies - birding!

Anyway, some great birds seen in the last two evenings were:

Female Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
Eastern Phoebe
Yellow rumped Warbler
Golden crown Kinglet
Ruby crowned Kinglet
Yellow bellied Sapsucker
Red bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker

Anyway - its exciting to see the season finally turn to Spring and to see these annual migrants start to trickle through. I will try to head out to Point Pelee this weekend and see if I can get put a few KM's on the old step-counter, and a couple of bird species on the year list. 

It would be nice to pick up a Louisiana Waterthrush and see some other migrants that should be around such as Swallows, Winter & House Wrens , Terns, Rails and whatever else is around. 

Good Birding!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Point Pelee's Conundrum + Hillman Northern Shrike

Pelee Tip - June 1952 ... there was sand on the west side!
I think one of my best blog postings out of the 400 or so that I've written was this one here:  (back in 2012!). This posting was about the history of Point Pelee which I had started to understand as I become a more serious birder.

One of the main points of that posting was that human development in Southwestern Ontario completely ravaged the natural spaces that covered Essex County, and that all that was left was some delicate fragments of habitat. Pelee's management had to make a decision as to whether the parks purpose or essence was as a place for leisure or a place for preservation. It seemed that back in the 1900's, the "preservation" side of things was taking hold as many of the private cottages and businesses were bought out the Point Pelee was turned into a National Park.

Even roads were removed and returned back to nature, which be dramatically seen if you walk along the west side of the Tilden's Woods Path.

But it seems that Point Pelee's management (who is continually changing) seems to be continually faced with the same challenge that earlier visionaries had: which is: "Should Point Pelee be used as a leisure destination or as a nature preserve?"

July 15th, 2015: (Pelee gets $11 Million for infrastructure)

March 26, 2018 (Pelee gets $5.5 Million)

One of my biggest problems with the recent developments was the fact that they built a little cottage village in the deepest part of the flooded forest habitat near Tilden's Trail. Interior forest habitat with distances of 100m from the edge to the center are very rare in southern ontario and of course, management decided to build a bunch of cottages in the middle of this ultra rare habitat. It seems the decision makers didn't really consider the ecological impact of that particular location.

A woman that I know named Ellen also ranted to me last year about the giant parking lot they built at Northwest Beach. It could easily be seen from space. It paved over loads of Cedar Scrub habitat that is another beautiful habitat that is so rare in Essex. I also recall walking with the late Alan Wormington along West Beach and he was infuriated with the development projects the park was implementing.

Last year, Parks Canada made admission into Point Pelee free - which of course has many positive benefits (getting more people to appreciate nature) but of course - the park got "beat up" with footprints from tens of thousands of tourists. I recall one day that some visitors were walking up to the tram with plastic bags filled with plants they had pulled out along east beach. Dog Walkers littered the trails with plastic dog-poop bags, motorcycle gangs, locals you name it... they visited.

Two years ago, I went to Ohio's version of Pelee Island called "Put-in Bay". They built a giant cement tower in the middle of the island to commemorate the battle of lake erie that took place near that island. I guess during migration, hundreds of birds crash into that tower and are found dead on the ground below. Will a tip tower near the tip parking lot have a similar effect to migrating birds?

Anyway, I guess I am stunned by a recent headline that states $5.5 million for Point Pelee. In a way, one might accuse me of being hypocritical since I will clearly benifit from some of the infrastructure improvements at the park.

It must be said though...  $16.5 MILLION over the last 3 years? The park is only 10 km long! The park is awash with cash. Management is clearly needing to do something with this windfall of cash!!!! So here in-lies the conundrum they face... Is Point Pelee a place that is meant for environmental preservation or a place for leisure activities? (My suggestion to put that money to good use would be for land buy back between Point Pelee and Wheatly Provincial Park.) Perhaps some of that money could buy land slotted for development at west Windsor's Ojibway Complex... But that would never happen.

On a lighter note, I had relatives visitign this weekend and we took the kids to Colasanties in Leamington. I insisted to my wife that we stop by Hillman for 15 minutes to see if I could see some shorebirds that have been reported as of late.

To my amazement I picked up the long staying Northern Shrike showing generously along the path as you exit the Fred Cada. Memorial Forest on your way to the shorebird cell. Amazingly, there was just a prescribed burn which one might assume would scare this northbound bird away!

Good birding!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018 Goals, FOS American Woodcocks + B250X

Just a short posting today. I had some noteworthy sightings (hearings?) lately that include a first of year American Woodcock peenting and timberdoodling in my back field. I guess they were seen a month ago in various Ontario hotspots- so I guess I'm not breaking any early sightings records with this observation.  I also heard my first Song Sparrow songs yesterday on March 17th.  I could swear I heard a mimid yesterday (Brown Thrasher or Northern Mockingbird?) but I couldn't locate it!

Some of my goals this year are to travel more during the summer. I want to make some ambitious travel plans this summer that might give me a sighting of a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher or perhaps some new southern butterfly species. Below is a list of places that I would like to go but of course, I will not be able to go see them all.

Some places I would like to go are:

  • Thunder Bay area
  • New Brunswick again (with my own car this time)
  • Gulf States, Texas / Southwestern US
  • Tobermory (orchids)
  • Ottawa/Gatineau Area
  • Walpole Island (Prairie tour?)
I want to incorporate my biking into my naturalist appreciation efforts. I would like to bike to Point Pelee from Windsor using the Chrysler Greenway (an abandoned railway corridor that has been converted to a county wide biking/hiking pathway). 

One final challenge that I want to do is something that I affectionately call: "B250X" ! I want to make an effort to identify and photograph 250 species of plants this year. I would love to somehow involve more people into this challenge in an effort to raise awareness of Botany and biodiversity.  I wonder if there is a way to use in such an effort. 

Anyway, it seems to be an exciting time of year for birders. Spring is just around the corner!
Good birding!


Sunday, February 25, 2018

What might a Canadian Eagle say?

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that I'm a sucker for a good pun... and this one was a beauty. I couldn't help but share...Whoever came up with this must be very "talon-ted"...

I've been super busy lately with work and night school commitments, but I am definitely feeling the change of season. I heard my first Killdeer yesterday while leaving Lasalles' Vollmer Ice Rink. Hearing your FOY Killdeer always induces a smile. I've also seen Robins along the roadside in Lasalle as well.

I can't help but reminisce about the early Woodcock's I had in my back yard at this time last year [link]. Someone near long Point had them just recently as well so they are just starting to migrate into the province. 

March break and the Easter long weekend are just around the corner! Birding time and blogging efforts to ramp up very soon.

Also, I am thinking about a naturalist challenge to the blogging community called "B250X". Its a challenge for all my blog readers to keep a plant list starting in early spring - and to have a friendly competition to who can hit 250 plants first. 

I also have a couple of postings that highlight some of the birds, butterflies, and botany of Ojibway park here in Windsor. Stay tuned for that series!

Good birding!


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