Sunday, October 15, 2017

Nelson's Sparrow! Plus Autumn Botanizing at Ojibway Park (V2)

Diagnostic Photo of Nelson's Sparrow

Last weekend, Kit had informed me that he found a Nelson's Sparrow in the Hillman Marsh area. In earnest fashion, I went the following morning - but dipped on finding it. I had shrugged off missing the bird to what I usually say: "Its OK Dwayne - just save it for retirement...".  I did have a great walk though. There was abundant Bronze Coppers and I flushed a Sora while searching for the Orange faced LBJ.

Nelson's Sparrow © Rick Mayos

Nelson's Sparrow © Rick Mayos

Nelson's Sparrow © Rick Mayos

Last night, Rick from Leamington sent me some photos that he took in the afternoon (Rick gave me permission to share some of his fantastic shots). I had to try again. We found it. If only for a moment. It was almost 7pm in mid October. Jeeze - these shorter days are killing my birding attempts! Thanks Rick for helping me get on this little orange-faced jem.

Bronze Copper on New England Aster

I'm amazed that I was able to pick up 9 new lifers this year. The first 8 were obtained by traveling though (4 in Algonquin Park, 4 in New Brunswick). I picked up about 7 new butterfly species this year as well (Pinery, Wallaceburg, Manitoulin Island). I've also racked up many new plant species this year as well. More on that later.

Some recent botany efforts of autumn wildflowers include: Nodding Ladies Tresses Orchid, Fringed Gentian, Willow-leaf Aster , Riddell's Goldenrod, among others.

Finally - I had read recently that Blake Mann has been blogging for 10 years. I must credit Blake for being a major influence on my birding efforts. I think when I found Blakes blog, I read many (ok - all) of his older postings and I couldn't help but be amazed at what he was seeing.  Thanks Blake for sharing your talents and knowledge. Congrats on 10 great years!

Good birding!

Lifer summary:
400- Gray Jay
401- Spruce Grouse
402- Ruffed Grouse
403- Pine Grosebeak
404- Northern Gannet
405- Common Eider
406- Razorbill
407- Black Gullimot
408- Nelson's Sparrow

Monday, October 2, 2017

Greyling Michigan to Lake Superior Provincial Park (part 2 of 2)

Greyling Michigan - Home of the Kirtland's Warbler

Back in July - I had a posting about Misery Bay Provincial Park (on Manitoulin Island) and really, that posting was only part 1 of a 2 part series. That trip involved a complete circuit around Lake Huron, with the first part of the trip going all the way up through Michigan. So without further adue, I finally have gotten around to hitting the publish button on the other part of that trip.

Greyling MI - We did a 2.5 hour canoe paddle on the AuSable River. It is an amazing ride because the river is very clear, shallow, and has a nice flow. One hardly needs to paddle. Huge White Pines line this river, and occasionally you can hear Pine Warblers singing.

In Grayling, there is a road / intersection called *M72 & S Staley Lake Rd. This road is gravel and winds through some open scrubby habitat as well as large tracts of Jack Pine habitat. Some birds seen include: Kirtlands Warbler, Upland Sandpiper, Brown Thrasher & Eastern Kingbird. It almost had that "Carden Alvar" feel as I drove along this road.

Also in Grayling, we visited Hartwick Pines State Park that features 300 Year old white pine trees that can reach up to 150 ft high. This park was saved from being logged back when everything was being logged. At the visitor center, I was shocked to see Evening Grosebeaks at the feeders! Rose breasted Grosebeak and some brief looks at warblers singing in the treetops.

Since we stayed in Grayling, we went out to Traverse city for a day and drove through Hanson State Forest. It is thousands of acres but the military has a land use lease. Still, as I drove by one open area, I noticed a Red headed woodpecker and an Eastern Bluebird on the same tree. Amazing.

Traverse City MI - Of course, on of our favorite locations in Michigan is Sleeping Bear Dunes. We also went to Platt Point - which boasts breeding Piping Plovers. But... I did not see any. We also drove out to Old Mission lighthouse - the drive is wonderful with Cherry orchards and roadside stands as well as Vineyards. We also stopped by Lake Skegemog Bog Boardwalk - which features a few miles of undisturbed natural, swampy shoreline. The signage hinted that Massasauga Rattlers and Spotted Turtles were present, but sadly, I did not see either of those rare species.

Traverse City Michigan

Mackinaw City Michigan - We stopped for a day in Mackinaw City Michigan and it was pretty nice. It was the 4th of July - and there where generous fireworks at our beachside hotel. One nature highlight was visiting the "Old Mill Creek State Park" which was surprisingly good. They had a working wood mill that was powered by falling water diverted from a dam. They generously showed how the whole system worked and they milled a board out of a red pine as part of their demo.  Birds seen here included: American Redstart, Black & white warbler, Northern Parula, Hermit Thrush, Winter Wren and Yellow bellied Sapsucker.

Upper Penninsula Michigan - In the upper penninsula of Michigan, I was shocked to drive by a field of Bison! We stopped at a place called Potholes WMA (UP MI) - Two birds that were seen earlier in the summer were Nelson's Sparrow and Sharp tailed grouse --- but I dipped on both when I was there for a brief visit. I did see Upland Sandpiper, Dickcissel and Bobolinks.

Sault St Marie ON - We stayed in Sault St Marie for a day and we were able to visit the

Agawa Canyon Train Tour. The highlight here was waterfalls, wild lupine, Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, & white admirals. The four-hour train-ride (each way) was a little bit long in my opinion, but the views along the way made it a little more bearable.

Lake Superior Provincial Park was our next stop. At Batchawana Bay we say Pileated Woodpecker, Bald Eagle while driving. We stopped at Agawa Pictograph Rock - where we saw Common Loon, and a Spring Peeper frog! Spring Peeper was in a part of the cliff-side rock that was eroded away that made a narrow corridor. This tiny frog had nowhere to go. I did not realize it was a Spring Peeper until later when I was able to ID it by the large X across its back. Its a lifer amphibian!

Lifer Frog! Photo taken with cell phone! 

Common Loon! Agawa Rock Pictographs

So, in conclusion, my summer trip which essentially circled Lake Huron made for some great nature viewing. The great lakes offer much to see for the nature enthusiast. As mentioned before, I had a second part of this posting which featured highlights from Manitoulin Island and Toberermory.  Whenever I hear of people heading to tropical locals during the summer - I can't help thinking that North is the way to go in the summer - but hey... To each their own!

Good Birding!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Yellow Crowned Night Heron - Eating Crayfish

A Yellow crowned night heron was recently photographed by an Amhurstburg woman who posted it on a facebook group wondering what it was. Amazingly, a few local birders caught wind of the photo and identified it as a  Juvie YC Night Heron.

To see it eating crayfish was pretty amazing. It would catch the fish, bring it over to the grass, rip off its two claws, then swallow the body whole. In one hour, it must have caught 5 crayfish. Amazing. Its hard to think that all those crayfish could fit in its abdomen!

A local photographer (Dennis Dupuis) has a gallery here on facebook featuring this bird catching and eating a spiny softshell turtle. Click here to see his facebook gallery.

Here are some photos taken recently. 
Good Birding!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Late August Botany Walk with the Essex County Field Naturalists' Club

This morning on Aug 26th, 2017 the Essex County Field Naturalists had two event offerings within the Ojibway Complex. One was a hummingbird banding demonstration at the visitor center, and the second option was to tour some of the botany features of the Chappus St. Ojibway Prairie fragment area (as well as the Spring Garden Study Area). I opted for the botany tour! Our tour leader was Russ Jones who is a botany expert that works in the natural areas surrounding the new DRIC (Detroit River International Crossing) bridge corridor.

The Chappus Street (Prairie remnant) area was adjacent to the DRIC project and was just starting to be developed into a residential neighborhood. The MTO bought the few houses that were just recently built and the surrounding land to compensate for the environmental destruction the DRIC highway caused on the Ojibway Complex. Had a proper environmental assessment been completed, no development should have been allowed in an area filled with endangered species. One interesting point that Russ made was that even though the DRIC bridge project had a huge environmental impact on the Ojibway complex, the fact that the Chappus street area was preserved and restored hints that there was a net positive effect on the area. This Prairie is arguably as biodiverse and filled with rare plants as the Provincial Ojibway tallgrass prairie, Tallgrass prairie preserve, or the Spring garden area.

Our group of about 12 nature enthusiasts walked through some amazing tallgrass prairie habitat. Some plants noted in the first few minutes were Willow leaf Aster, Purple Gerardia, Boneset and Tall Boneset, Ironweed, Seedbox, Colicroot, and countless goldenrod species.

At one point we entered a gated portion of the area and were lucky enough to see one of the rarest plants in Canada. Tall green Milkweed! Other excellent plants were Blood red Milkwort, Three awned grass, (cudplant?), Round headed bush clover, Tall Coreopsis,  Foxgrape, Hairy Pinweed as well many species of sedges and rushes that are rare in Canada. 

Later on in another area of the prairie we saw a few other rare plants including Narrow leafed Mountain mint (as opposed to the more common Virginia Mountain Mint), Winged Loosestrife, Culver's Root and others. One area was restored from a perfectly manicured lawn that was being maintained by someone who was extending their back yard onto this property.

One last point that Russ showed the group was the hibernaculum that were setup from basements that were developed along that road. The concrete and wood left over from the few demolished homes acted as a perfect backfill for basement foundations that would make great wintering habitat for then local endemic snakes (Fox and Butler's).

Later, we moved toward the Oakwood forest section of Ojibway and took note of the new bio-crossing passage that connects Oakwood with Spring-garden. This passage allows snakes, mammals and herps cross the 401 highway that has divided the two areas for decades. The genetic exchange that can take place with a passage way will increase the chance for the animal communities to be healthier and thrive. Some radio tagged snakes have used the corridor which proves its usefulness. 

We then were allowed to go to the spring garden study area which used to be a small (Reddock?) street with houses, but because of the DRIC project, needed to be expropriated. Indigo Buntings, Carolina and House Wrens were present as we looked at Tall Sunflower, Silky Dogwood, Flowering Dogwood, Whorled Milkweed, and American Chestnut.

Overall, I think the 12 participants to this field trip were amazed by the biodiversity of the sites that we visited and were very appreciative of Russ's time and expertise. It would be nice to have more botany walks at different times in the spring and summer to appreciate the botanical bounty that the Ojibway Prairie Complex has to offer. 

Good birding & botanizing,
Dwayne Murphy


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