Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking back.... A year in Review

Looking Back... 

Wow, I've come so far this year in my birding interests. To go from 80 birds in my first year, to 215 in my second calendar year is awesome. Its funny though... why is it taking me this long ??? Some people get 100 birds easily in the month of May on a typical day. There is a young birder in Ontario that is in his teens that has 300+ birds this year! (Travelling allot doesn't hurt when you get past the 200 mark!)

This posting  contains several short blobs that I have worked on during the month of December. Each blob is of course, separated with a short length of tildes (~).               

Topic Summary:

Blogging... is it worth it?
Best Lifers this year... by month!
New Blog Name?
Trips for 2011?
Birds I missed this year
IBWO Video ... a must-see for any bird lovers!


Blogging... is it worth it?

I've spent alot of time thinking if Blogging is a good thing to do. Also, why do I blog?  ... After much contemplation, I realize blogging is really a positive experience. It boils down to "Knowledge Networks". Having a blog and reading many excellent blogs from the region (and beyond) vastly increases ones knowledge on so many fronts. Blogging and reading blogs increases my awareness in different ways than books can raise my awareness. It's in real time, its seasonal, its local ... its awesome. Blogging makes Ontario a smaller place. And, I get to share my observations (both exciting and bland) with a small group of people that love birding. My small personal family and friend network is not really interested when I tell them that I saw a Northern Shrike. But my birding circle would be more likely to appreciate these achievements. Blogging, along with, Ontbirds email listserve, the OFO website,  and a few personal contacts that I've made has made learning about birding a fun, dynamic process.


Best Lifers this year... by month!

Jan - Hooded Merganser, Eastern Bluebird
Feb-Red Breasted Nuthatch, Lapland Longspur
March - Loggerhead Shrike, Snowy Egret (Florida)
April - White Faced Ibis, Carolina Wren, Red Breasted Merganser
May - Red Headed Woodpecker, Canada Warbler (all the warblers really!)
June - Pileated Woodpecker, Black Bellied Plover
July - Short Billed Dowitcher, Least Bittern
August - Marsh Wren, Bobolink
Sep- Buff breasted Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit
Oct - Winter Wren, Northern Pintail
Nov -Golden Eagle, Northern Shrike
Dec- Rough legged Hawk-(my only lifer in December really)


New Blog Name?
I was wondering if I should change the name of my blog to a better, more mature name. Does Nerdy for Birdy come off as silly? Some names I thought of were...

*Birding in Essex Co. (Birding in and around Essex County)
*Monoculture Birder (Birding in a ravaged ecosystem that is Essex County)

or... should I just stay with what I have already?


Trips for 2011?  My new-years resolution is to travel more. My birding resolution involves trying to start identifying gulls. Over the last year, I have read about so many great locations in Ontario and beyond that I would love to see. Some are:

Long Point, ON
Algonquin Provincial Park
Napanee & Carden Alvar, ON
Luther Marsh, ON
Rainy River, ON
British Columbia
Churchill Manitoba
Texas & Southwestern US


Birds I missed this year:
Warblers: Prothnotary, Cerulean, Kentucky, Worm-eating, Yellow Breasted Chat
Rails: All of them (other than Sora)
American Bittern
Sedge Wren
Shorebirds in Breeding Plumage (All of them)
Meadowlarks in Ontario
Bobolinks in breeding plumage
.... and about 160 others that I can't think of right now!


IBWO Video

I end off my last blog entry for 2010 with a video I posted on my first blog posting back in Jan 2010. If you love birding and nature, this is an excellent video. Its about the extinct Ivory Billed Woodpecker, but really, its about so much more. Its about the importance of preserving habitat, and gives a person some insight on how Ornithologists analyze bird related issues scientifically and objectively. I was quickly reminded by IBWO readers that this video is over 5-6 years old, and that sadly, no concrete evidence has been brought forward even with huge financial rewards on the existence of this incredible bird. On the other hand, I have unsubstantiated & heard second hand stories of Ornithology students who believe there may be some remaining.

A special thanks to anyone reading this! Anyone that links to this blog (Blake, Paul & Stuart) anyone that follows the site (both formally and informally). Thanks for the anyone that comments as well! I'm looking forward to continuing and improving in 2011!

Good Birding & Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Birding

I've made a few attempts to go birding in Windsor over the last few days, but really... nothing too special to report! A typical walk at Malden Park or the Ojibway Prairie Reserve resulted in a typical list of birds... American Tree Sparrows, Two Blue Jays, a few Cardinals, Am Goldfinch, Morning Doves, and a White Breasted Nuthatch. Earlier in December, I noted several American Kestrels at Malden Park, but not so much in the last week or so.

I've even stopped by Lakeview Marina and some of the small inlets along the Detroit River in East Windsor to find them poorly populated... due probably to lack of open water! Lakeview Marina is across from Peche Island and gives nice views to at least a few species of ducks.
Scaup, Tundra & Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser,Canvasback along with some gulls are easily found where Lake St Clair turns into the Detroit River. Last year, scanning these flotillas would give Great Blue Herons & Hooded Mergansers as well.

I stopped my my parent's house today and noticed that the feeder activity was pretty good. Dark eyed Juncos, House Sparrows, Doves, BC Chickadees, Blue Jays, Cardinals... nothing too exciting. Actually one nice surprise today was a female Red Breasted Nuthatch! A Red Tailed Hawk flew by at one point. On the way home, a small kettle of 3-4 Red Tailed Hawks flew over my car in central/west Windsor. Red Tailed Hawks are so common in Essex at this time of year. I noted on a recent trip to Leamington (along highway 3) that there were 4-5 perched evenly along the highway if you look at the trees along the road.

Red Breasted Nuthatch from Feb 2010... could it be the same one as the one seen today?

Good birding and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Post PPNP CBC Visit

*** This is a posting that I started on Dec 21 but did not complete till today***

On Dec 21st (one day after the PPNP CBC), I returned to PPNP because I thought I had lost my ipod in the parking lot.  It turns out upon arriving, I found it in the door of my car... it wasn't lost at all... So I did a quick walk down Tildens Trail... I was there anyway!

 About 6-10 Yellow Rumped Warblers flew into a tree along the Tilden's trail that extends towards east beach at Point Pelee. There are trees near the bridge on Tilden's Trail with huge poison ivy vines running up their length. I noticed the vines extended out into the branches of the trees and had small bundles of berries that the warblers were eating.
 This warbler hints at having a yellowish throat but I would not be so bold to label it an Audubon's Warbler. I'm pretty sure its the Eastern Myrtle variety.
I got several nice photos of this co-operative Hermit Thrush. I have heard some photographers say cloudy weather is good to photograph in because of the defused light. Snow from the trail even bounced light up beneath this bird to make for a great exposure. This was one of those shots that I had my camera ready, the white balance properly set and a bird that responded to my trilled-whistle Screech Owl impression.

This bird above is  a perched dark-morph Rough Legged Hawk! (This site hints that it is indeed a rough legged) I've noticed that if you drive slowly along Sanctuary pond, you will see a hawk or an eagle perched in trees looking out to sanctuary pond. I wonder if they are looking for Rodents that might cross out onto the ice. I've seen several raptors perched here during my last few PPNP visits. 

There were 15 wild turkeys in the fields right where you make a dramatic right turn towards Point Pelee.

I'm really looking forward to seeing a Common Redpoll. They aren't so common in my experience!

Good Birding!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Point Pelee CBC

Well... This is my 100th posting on my blog! In a way, I feel there should be a small party with balloons or something! I've been really busy this month, hence my short hiatus from my regular blogging output/ production.

I participated in the Point Pelee CBC today and really enjoyed spending the day with several great birders. Our small group of 5 birders was led by Anna Marie (sp?) who was an excellent birder! I arrived at the park at about 7:15 am and looked for some Owls before our meeting time of about 8am. I had no luck in the morning with owls. Our birding group birded 'area 2' which was from the visitor center north to the delaurier trail area. Most of our walking was on the East of the roadway.

Hermit Thrush looking past a Chinquapin Oak Tree

My personal list of birds seen today are:

Common Merganser
Lesser Scaup
Black Ducks

Bald Eagle
Sharp Shinned Hawk
Northern Harrier
Rough Legged Hawk (lifer! #215)

Snow Buntings
American Goldfinch
Hermit Thrush
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Carolina Wren (heard twice)
Purple Finch
Northern Cardinal
Black Capped Chickadee
Golden Crowned Kinglet
Blue Jays
American Robins
European Starlings
Common Grackle

Tree Sparrows
White Throated Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark eyed Junco

Various Gulls

Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker
Red Bellied Woodpecker

Wild Turkey
Eastern Screech Owl

Wow - 30 birds... I'm probably missing 5-10 other species. This list is off the top of my head. I really look forward to reading the final compiled list!

 17,000 Scaup??? Plus, four more flew in moments after this photo... :-)

 Lifer... #215 Rough Legged Hawk.... Horrible shot, but I think its at least diagnostic.

 My first warbler in a while!
 Distant Eagle on the eastern edge of Delaurier / Anders Path/ Old maintenance grounds...
On the way out of the park, I drove slowly and looked at some tree holes. This one was near sanctuary lookout and was facing the road. I actually shot this sitting in the drivers seat of my car! I tried to get out of my car to get a better shot, but I think it retreated to a deeper spot in this tree as I attempted a better vantage point. This is a different screech owl than the one I photographed earlier in December. This one is grey/white as opposed to the dark/rufous morph from Dec 5th. Of course, no flash was used in any of my photography... hence the blur!

Wow, I'm really tired after walking on all that icy, snowy uneven ground! No major surprises but some good looks at what would be expected to be seen. A great time overall!

Good birding!

PS: Happy Solstice! As I drove back to Windsor last night, there was a gorgeous full moon. I heard on the news that the cloud cover would hinder views of last nights eclipse.  I made the image below from a recent eclipse by taking several moon exposures and putting them into one image.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sshhhh... The Owl is Sleeping!

I stopped by Point Pelee National Park this morning for a brisk birding walk with my good birding friend from Leamington, Rick. During the first 10 minutes of arriving at the park, I was lucky enough to see a pair of perched bald eagles to the left of the road past the park entrance. The mature Eagle took off (he got away on me again!!! The white headed adult was two feet above and three feet to the right of this juvenile, while I fumbled with my camera ....) while the juvenile gave me a few seconds to take a quick photo. Rick pointed out this beautiful Screech Owl that was sleeping close to the Sanctuary Pond lookout.

The park was quite quiet otherwise at least in the areas we visited.

Good birding!

Post Script: I was looking at this Owl this afternoon and I noticed an interesting observation. Its obvious it has its eyes closed ... but look about 1" below the closed eyes, there are dark feathers that might be mimicking "open eyes" even when he is sleeping with his eyes shut out in the open. I have looked through my field guides for any comments on this feather colouration... but nothing was found. Have I made an ornithological discovery here? LOL :-)  Either way... nature is absolutely awesome isn't it?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Backyard Kestrel

 I have checked Malden Park a few times since last weekend for another look at the Shrike with no luck. I did not scour the grounds, but rather did a quick 20 minute walk along the Northwestern Quadrant of the hill where I originally saw it. Today's walk just had the regulars BCCs and a few Downy Woodpeckers. The one above looks like he was in the midst of making a duplex.

While working in my backyard today, I was shocked today to see a raptor like bird glide across the sky and land in a neighbor's tree about 5 houses down the road. I could not tell what type of raptor is was, but I knew it was a raptor because I noticed large talon reach out to the branch as it landed. I grabbed my camera and walked down the road to discover a beautifully perched American Kestrel!
Av / F11/ ISO 200
Av/ F9.5 / ISO 400

I've been wanting to talk about 'Digital Workflow' for a while now. Basically I 'm trying to find the sweet spot for my lens to get as much detail as I can when I photograph a bird. I use Aperture Priority when I shot and typically set the ISO to 800. Lately, I have been realizing that maybe I should set my ISO to 400 or 200. When I see a cool bird though, I don't really have the mindset to try different settings and look at what gives the best outcome.

Has anyone ever experimented with the similar birds in similar lighting conditions and changing the ISO settings and Aperture settings?

I've been running with ISO 800 and F/9 as my typical starting point (in Av mode). If the lighting is low, I might open up the aperture to F5.6 and move ISO to 1600. Do any readers mess around with manual settings on their cameras? Or are you in a simple Portrait or Automatic mode?

This site discusses this discussion much better than I am doing ( and section 6.1 is really where this is touched on. My problem is that I feel like the settings I've been running with are not the most wisely selected.

Any thoughts?

Good birding,

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The one that got away...

Just a short posting today. I went out to Holiday Beach for one last attempt at a Rough legged Hawk with no luck at seeing it. On the way to Holiday Beach though, I stopped near a farmers field because many birds flying low over the roadway caught my attention. There were many Horned Larks around. I photographed the one above but many of my other photos did not really turn out very well, I think my lens fogged up a little. It's funny, Horned Larks are supposed to be common in Essex County, but this is only the third time seeing one.

 As I entered Holiday Beach, I noticed a Northern Flicker was flushed from beside the road and flew into a nearby tree. I had great looks at it but every time I grabbed my camera, it flew away further. A (late?) Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Downy Woodpecker and a Tree Sparrow were hanging around as well.

On the tower, I was happy to see Jim P this morning and we talked about birding while watching distant Eagles around the marsh. I was complaining to Jim I've never really gotten a good photo of a mature Bald Eagle. I've even gotten nice photos of Golden Eagle but no luck with the resident Bald Eagles. As we were scoping distant eagles, I saw something dark over my head 15m above the tower... Mature Bald Eagle...  By the time I got focused on him, he was well past the tower. (hence the photo above of this Eagle flying away from me). He's the one that got away. Poppycock! ...Balderdash!....& Horsefeathers!

Good birding!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Northern Shrike at Malden Park

Click for larger view

Wow, what an exciting lifer! This beautiful bird is #214 on my life list.... spotted after 1.5 years of birding. I almost dropped my camera when I realized what I was looking at!

I learned about this bird during a Mid-Summer walk that I took with the Essex Field Naturalists group in 2009. The group leader (his name escapes me) told us that Northern Shrikes could be heard singing at Malden Park during the Winter if they 'erupt'. A local birder posted a sighting about 1-2 weeks ago and this encouraged me to come out and find it for myself.

This morning was relatively quiet at Malden Park. I saw the usual suspects: American Goldfinch, Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpeckers and Dark eyed Juncos. I was on my way out of the park and figured I would check a small stand of evergreens for a Saw Whet Owl. Then I heard a warbling bird call I've never heard before so I checked out a 'lump' in a nearby tree with my binoculars. Sure enough, this masked northern- butcher-watchman was perched about 50 ft from me! These are the moments that birders cherish. I'm new to birding but this just seems like a very rare bird in Windsor. How exciting!

Anyway, I used a nearby evergreen as a blind and took a bunch of photos and left him alone to continue hunting for food. Hopefully this bird overwinters here! More info on the Northern Shrike can be found here: (right click, open in new tab)

Good birding!

PS: If you stand at the top of Malden Park's hill in West Windsor and look due West, you will see "Zug Island" which is a steel refinery on the American side of the Detroit River. This along with chemical plants and Oil refineries are within 5KM of west Windsor. It dawned on me only in my 20's that these plants were positioned so that the downwind communities were Windsorites that (I'm guessing) had little input on the location of these plants. Brighton Beach is the white box in the left-bottom of this photo. The new DRIC Bridge crossing will be just to the left of Brighton Beach Power Generation offering nice views to international travellers.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Last trip to Holiday Beach?

I stopped by Holiday Beach this morning, even though I knew the wind and fog conditions were not condusive to good raptor flights.

It was a slow morning as I anticipated, but it was really beautiful out. It was a wonderful morning to behold. Some noteworthy birds seen were Winter Wren (with banding), Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle (Mature and immature), several duck species including Ruddy Duck, Red tailed Hawks, Carolina Wren (heard), along with the regulars at this time of year, a generous assortment of sparrows were seen as well, including American Tree and Swampies.

I guess with the lul in good winds, that the next strong northerly wind might bring many raptors, but that will probably be a weekday that I will surely be working. I really wanted to see a Rough-legged Hawk and a Northern Goshawk, but I don't know if that will happen this year.

Good birding!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mid November Birding

A short walk at Malden today turned up an American Kestrel. The plumage on this falcon is awesome isn't it? It's got a chestnut coloured back, slate-grey sides, and a buffy breast, all covered with diamond-plate markings. This guy is pretty common at Malden Park during certain winters.

The photo below shows a female Red bellied Woodpecker taking some nuts from a tree (I wish I knew the tree species... Pignut Hickory?), and then cracking them in a particular hollowed out branch. Could the Red bellied Woodpecker below be using a specially carved tree trunk as a tool to help it shell nuts? I noted this woodpecker behavior at Ojibway Prarie Reserve. White breasted Nuthatch were really abundant as well tonight.

Thursday evening, I stopped by Holiday Beach ... only to be a little disappointed at how quiet it was. I hardly saw any birds! The gate was locked so I had to walk to the tower. When I got there... nobody was there! Anyway, I did see a Brown Creeper, lots of vocal BC Chickadees. I also saw a pair of Hermit Thrushes, which I thought were late, but later realized they are common in November (at least according to Ebird). Red bellied Woodpeckers were seen as well.

On the way back to my car, I heard loud woodpecker drumming. I couldn't help but follow the sound. I later discovered a squeaking, drumming, agitated Hairy Woodpecker ( In Audubon's time, they called it a Canadian Woodpecker ... a better name IMHO).
 What was agitating it? Possibly this Cooper's Hawk that was perched 20m away from this tree.

Good birding!

PS: Have you ever heard about apparitions of certain figures in people's cinnibuns, french toast etc? My wife called me over after dinner on Wednesday night claiming there was a bird in a piece of chicken that had fallen under my son as he was eating in booster chair.  Do you see a bird? Possibly a Pileated Woodpecker or a Blue Jay??? LOL

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hindsight is 20/20 ...

Two lifers in Hindsight....It dawned on me recently that I have photographed a Purple Finch (PUFI) at Ojibway. I was really unsure if indeed they were PUFI's, but the female PUFI's are what have me sold. Seeing these were anti-climatic. They are not as pretty as I imagine they might be in the spring in mating plumage. A recent FLICKR photo that I was looking at convinced me that these were more than just House Finches. These were photographed Oct 30th 2010.

Another bird that I realized I had lifered last year at this time was a Snow Bunting at Malden Park. At the time, I thought it was a Lapland Longspur but now I realize it is indeed a Snow Bunting. When I photographed it, my white balance was set to incandescent lighting, creating a bad colour cast on this bird. I still remember this bird hopping along the ground 10m in front of me, almost refusing not to take flight.

Snow Bunting Lifer #212
Purple Finch #213

Malden Park can have some nice birds. Last November (2009), I photographed this American Kestrel (as well as the Snow Bunting above). I will be looking for these as well as Northern Shrike over the next few months.

Looking back at my "Photo life list" of 80 birds just back in January, I've come a long way. Next year, I might have to delve a little deeper into identifying gulls. I'm also considering some early summer trips to various birding hotspots in Ontario and possibly out west.

Good birding!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Good looks at a Golden Eagle & a surprise lifer!!!

This morning, I headed out to Holiday Beach to join the Ojibway Birding group led by Paul Pratt. I showed up late and caught up with the group as they walked into the park. The park gate was locked so we enjoyed a nice walk to the hawk viewing tower.

Some birds seen today are:
BC Chickadee
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker
Red Bellied Woodpecker
Great Egret
American Coot
Wood ducks & Various ducks
Common Moorhen
Sora Rail
Wilson's Snipe (Lifer!!! #211)
Golden Eagle
Bald Eagle
Red Tailed Hawk
Great Blue Heron
Rusty Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Various other blackbirds

I really enjoy birding with other people. More eyes see more things. At one point, we were standing on the turtle crossing bridge, and looked out to see some American Coot ducks. Over the next 15 minutes, the group called out bird after bird that showed up or made themselves known. Paul reminded me that there were many Pine Siskin in the evergreens where we parked our cars (stay tuned at the end of this posting for more on that).

Regarding the Golden Eagle shot above, I took that in a fleeting moment that took place as we were still walking to the tower. Paul saw this way from the far right periphery, and it slowly glided (at tree-top height) from left to right. For about 15 seconds, we had nice clear views and then of course, obscured views by the trees. I have about 20 photos of this bird, but this was one of the best. You can really see the copper coloured feathers on its nape, as well as a growth or feather tuft near its beak. I hope its ok!!!

This Wilson's Snipe is an exciting lifer. Through the scope, you could see the cryptic plumage on this bird. Also, you could watch is do its eating dance, where it bounces and waddles to disturb the mud and bugs in the mud just below the surface. I could barely even see this bird with my binoculars, that is how hard it is to see. Props to Paul for even seeing it!

Bald Eagles are resident at the park and are almost easily seen, although this photo shows a nice, close flyby. 
As I left the park, I noticed several pairs of Red-bellied and Northern Flicker woodpeckers. Very cool!

 Sure enough, several hours later when I arrived at my car, I took a good look at the evergreens in front of my car (as Paul had suggested earlier) and wham... Pine Siskin. Paul... you are good!!!

Good birding!


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