Totally captivated in 2007 by the live camera feed of the Hornby Island nesting Bald Eagles in B.C., I was drawn into birding and have never looked back. Thus begins my account of what I'm fortunate enough to discover each day and perhaps capture with my camera.

Unless otherwise stated, all images were taken by and are the property of Janice Melendez

Species Counts:

2014 Final Year List: 255; 2015 Year List a/o June 5, 2015: 235; Life List: 327

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Pelican Brief- Second Marsh, Oshawa

Doug and I went to Second Marsh yesterday morning for a few hours, and I returned again today to take advantage of the clear(er) skies for more shots of this lone American White Pelican that was first reported here on Saturday. Nice Lifer, eh??? 

He spent his time on a log resting and then preening himself, and once the hunger set in, he began to forage for small fish in the marsh by plunging his massive bill into the water. I was shocked by his size, we could see him naked eye from the path as a "big white blob" (my highly scientific term that made Doug, a retired high school teacher, cringe). Today as I arrived, I decided to see if I could see him from the road as I drove in, and I could, he's that huge!

So here goes, please bear in mind he's quite a distance away from the viewing platform, so the photos will win no awards, but are rather more for my records:

The wing span on these waterbirds is an astonishing nine feet, check this out, the black tips are a nice contrast to the white plumage and yellowish bill and pouch:

Preening session:

On the water now:

When I was editing my pics, I noticed something on the top of the bill, which is apparently (here goes, Doug!) "a fibrous epidermal plate toward the tip, that grows in the breeding season but is much reduced at other times", the theory is that it's important in displays. HUH.

Here he is fishing, with a pair of Trumpeter Swans in the foreground, to help put his size in perspective:

Speaking of other species, during any cloudy periods this morning, I removed my camera from the tripod and wandered around below the viewing platform. At one point I looked back up at the tripod, only to find this young thing looking for some "camera-time" too!


I caved for fear of a pooparazzi episode on my equipment, and quickly agreed to take its formal portrait on the railing instead, what a fine, young American Robin!

But back to the Main Event, that huge, extensible pouch can hold up to eleven litres of water!

Brunch is all done for now, so it's back to the log to clean up:

What a beautiful bird, we're all curious as to how long he'll stay around, as he's rare for here!

As I mentioned earlier, other birds kept me out of trouble during cloudy periods, including a Yellow Warbler...

...Common Yellowthroats...

...and Cedar Waxwings:

And so ends my not-so-brief Pelican Brief this week!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Merlin in a Fog

As Robert and I savour our morning coffee on the dock at the cottage and patiently await the fog to lift, the resident Merlins are quite vocal, with one landing close to us, allowing for some photo opps despite the icky lighting conditions, enjoy:

P.S. Footnote to Thursday's Glen Major hawks, they have been confirmed as Broad-winged vs. Red-shouldered...thanks for clarifying on my behalf, Doug!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Glen Major Forest and Other Goodies- Thursday, June 24

Doug, John and I headed off to Glen Major Forest on Thursday morning, as I was in need of a Daily Lifer fix, and also had yet to visit this rich area for the year.

We began the day on Westney Road in pursuit of a Hooded Warbler that John knew resided in the North Walker Woods area. We spent quite a while on the roadside hearing him sing, but it was Doug that finally spied him for us. Once I got him in my binos I was blinded by his yellow brilliance which was offset by his black hood, what a thrill, he was my first Lifer for the day.

A White Admiral was sunning itself by the roadside after a long and heavy rainfall a few hours earlier:

We continued over to the parking lot on the east side of Glen Major Forest, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Clay-coloured Sparrow:

We heard the Clay-coloured Sparrow but were unable to locate him for a visual, but found the usual Song and Field Sparrows in the meadows. Continuing on to the Westney Road parking lot entrance to the forest, we were greeted by a pair of Eastern Bluebirds:

A singing House Wren also greeted us, my first visual for the year. We headed off with Doug leading the way here:

Song Sparrows were everywhere:

A pair of Northern Flickers entertained us with their antics, this female graciously posed for us, showing off her red nape :

A pair of either Red-shouldered or Broad-winged Hawks (yet to be determined) soared overhead in the blustery winds, as well as Turkey Vultures, but for the most part it was a quiet day on the birding front. We had to be content with a European Skipper.... well as a glorious Red-spotted Purple on the path:

We stopped off for lunch and then arrived next at Corner Marsh in Pickering, a first for me but all was quiet on the birding front there as well, other than serious assorted Swallow action. 

Hall's Road/Cranberry Marsh in Whitby was also quiet, other than a few Cedar Waxwings, a Common Loon out on Lake Ontario, a family of Pied-bill Grebes, and an agressive Blue Jay that pursued  us for food, as well as a brazen Raccoon that rambled towards us at the south platform, leaving in disgust as we had nothing to offer it- in broad daylight, no less!

An added bonus, and unexpected LIFER presented itself at our final stop at the west side of the Whitby Marina, several Purple Martins flew into the birdhouse there, what a sight!

For the record, the "bird" on the roof of the birdhouse on the left-hand side is a fake. I was warned about that, but not about a matching one on the far side, which I was totally fooled by :-(

In any case, these others are the Real Deal, two in flight with a third on the upper balcony on the right-hand side:

The "fake" one is in the background:

So by the end of the day, two new species (Hooded Warbler and Purple Martin) had been added to my Life List, and three (Clay-coloured Sparrow, even if it was only audio) to my Year List!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Luvin' those Plovers, Caught the 'Catcher

Doug, John and I bravely battled the morning rush-hour traffic across the city today in pursuit of a reported Acadian Flycatcher and Hooded Warbler in The Happy Valley Forest in King Township:

It was a good thing that our agility training was up to par, as the trail we followed to where the Acadian Flycatcher had been seen was quite lovely in the warm, summer sunshine but at times extremely treacherous as we had to haul ourselves over and/or around fallen trees, branches, or logs, but it was worth it in the end. Along the trail we were serenaded by a wonderful Wood Thrush, Winter Wren, Ovenbirds, and a Hooded Warbler, but sadly no visuals on any of these were offered up to us. 

As a consolation prize we spotted a stunningly beautiful Red Eft on the trail, this is the terrestrial stage of the Red-spotted Newt (I just knew that some day that the Amphibian Identifier sheet from the Toronto Zoo would come in handy!!). It was bright orange in colour with black-bordered red spots- I just wish I could share what it looked like, but this is my punishment for leaving behind my toy camera in the car, as my other lens was too powerful to capture it, grrrrrrrrr. 

We weren't exactly sure how far along the trail we needed to go to locate the Acadian Flycatcher (Ontbirds indicated "five minutes" in, but we were unclear if that included a time allowance for our obstacle course activity), but we soon heard his "pee-tsup" call and observed it for about 20 minutes as it initially lingered on a tree skag (my photo Hell continued, not one shot was in focus, I was not at all happy in The Happy Valley Forest!) and then eventually he moved onto a tree branch further in the forest, merrily calling away. Mission accomplished though, we had found the bird, my first Lifer of the day.

We re-traced our steps back along the trail and as our other target bird, the Hooded Warbler had gone silent on us (at that very same moment a brutal hill stood in front of us), we returned to the car, and at last I can now offer up this Northern Pearly-Eye Butterfly, what a sophisticated beauty!

Are you not totally impressed with me providing the name now?? Hah, my flutterby books arrived in the mail this past week, but my eyes are still glazing over as I peruse them, so with John's help, I seem to have a positive ID!

We departed for Wasaga Beach on Georgian Bay next for the breeding Piping Plovers (with the mandatory Timmie's stopover first, of course):

As indicated below, the Piping Plover is endangered in Canada, yet only since 2007 have successfully nested along the shores of the Ontario Great Lakes at Wasaga, Sauble and Oliphant beaches:

They do not choose their nest sites wisely, as they do so in the sand right on the beach, leaving themselves wide open to any number of threats, including predators (gulls, dogs, cats), human disturbance, and adverse weather conditions (chicks were killed last year by a hailstorm), to name a few. As a result, the nesting area is fenced off, with wire enclosures put over the nest to protect the eggs from predation. The birds and their nest site(s) are monitored daily by volunteers, the Piping Plover Guardians:

We were greeted by friendly volunteers upon our arrival who indicated to us that the male was taking his turn on the nest, as the (slightly drabber) female was on a break. Admittedly it's tough to see him, he's lying on the sandy beach, just to the left of the centre of the "pen", he's white below with a dark ring around his neck:

Here he is on the move now, to the left of the "pen". They're incredibly well-camouflaged, even the field guides describe their colour as "dry sand", and they're not kidding, unless the Piping Plovers move they're virtually impossible to see:

There are two eggs, with an unconfirmed third one, the volunteers try to take advantage of the "changing of the guard" to count them.

Dad's dealing with an itch:

Meanwhile his Bride continues her incubation time-out on the shoreline, she's also tough to spot:

So this pair was my second Lifer for the day!

But time was now running out as we were on a deadline to return back home, but we squeezed in a brief stop at Minesing Wetlands. (BTW, we later heard that a 5.0 magnitude earthquake had hit Ontario and Quebec while we were in transit, drat!).

John and Doug are at a stand-off here as to who can do the higher keg-toss with that yellow can....  

We had no idea how massive these wetlands were, barely skimming the surface in our thirty minutes there, but recognized its great potential for a return visit. 

So I ended the day with two Lifers, and as well as another Year Bird (Wood Thrush). Not counting the Hooded Warbler, only a half tick Lifer, perhaps tomorrow at Glen Major/Bluebird Trail I can see one??? Hmmmmmmmmmm