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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Another Cottage Road Trip with Ann

It had been weeks since Ann and I had been out nerding together (despite the last post on Pelee, which was months ago!), so off we went last Monday morning. We initially feared we'd be jinxed as the first significant rain the area had seen in decades weeks started up at the crack of dawn, but that did not deter us.

En route to the cottage, Ann spotted a Turkey Vulture. But not just one, several, we did a hasty u-turn on one of the busiest roads in the area for gravel trucks and were amazed by what we saw for the next half hour:

And no, they were not flying away from us, they were roosting in these trees, at least eight of them, gradually we were able to approach them as they moved from tree to tree:

One of my Sibley guides confirms that Turkey Vultures sun their spread wings and by doing so, are also able to warm themselves up and rid themselves of any nighttime dew  (as well as torrential downpours?)

This one comes in for a beautiful, perfect landing. I've never been so close to one in the wild before:

 of its feathers is left behind as it lands:

Another theory is that they adopt this posture to realign their flight feathers after hours of soaring:

Admittedly, we went insane watching this spectacle, but it was truly intriguing to see their group dynamics, and they didn't seem to mind our presence:

Phew, only just a  few Turkey Vulture pictures to edit there...

Our next special bird for the day was a fresh-looking young Eastern Kingbird near the Ganaraska Forest:

But the rains started back up, so our next stop was at the cottage to have lunch with mom, as well as to have a visit with one of our resident Loons that had made its way back to the swamp:

Leg stretches were in order:

And despite the drizzle that had returned, Ann and I tolerated it as we realized that the Loon's mate was in the vicinity...

...for what I refer to as a- wait for it- Rain Date  ♥♥♥:

...not even the rain stopped them from doing a late-season courtship dance with each other, as they both simultaneously dipped their heads into the water, it was beautiful to watch them:

By now it was time to retreat to the car to dry off our camera equipment, and our next thrill for the day was finding a family of Merlins, both parents with their four young ones, here are three of them, a first to see this many together!

The last one takes off to join the rest of the family, I suspect there aren't too many songbirds in the area with that many hungry Merlins flying around!

One of the Osprey parents by the bridge was off in the distance (actually, Ann was also way off in the distance by now, shhhhhhhhhh!)...

...while a fledged young Osprey makes a rough landing on the hydro wire:

Meanwhile back at the poison ivy nest, one of the babies checks us out...

...but then we realize there are two in the nest!

We look forward to them fledging within the next little while:

On the way back to the cottage, a pair of Wild Turkeys were scurrying across a field with their poults, another first for me to see young ones in the wild, as the only other poults I've seen were at the Toronto Wildlife Centre:

Our final Osprey family in Scugog were enjoying the sunshine, the adult is on the left:

The baby's eyes are still that striking orange colour I so love:

So this was one of those days where timing was everything, from seeing the roosting Turkey Vultures before they began their rocking flight for the day, my cottage Loons dirty-dancing in the rain, an entire Merlin family, an entire Wild Turkey family, and lots of Osprey to boot!! Life is good!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Pelee Trip, at Last!

It's been almost three months since Ann and I terrorized Point Pelee National Park and environs for spring migration in early May, but it was wonderful to revisit the trip as I sifted through a few thousand photos which I can now share with you at last just as fall migration is gearing up, nooooooooooooo.

Between Thursday, May 5th and Monday, May 9th, we spent time at Wheatley and Kingsville Harbours, Hillman Marsh, the North Dyke, the Onion Fields, Sturgeon Creek, both Blenheim and Kingsville Lagoons, Cedar Creek Conservation Area, Rondeau Provincial Park, and of course Point Pelee National Park, Canada's warbler capital:

Twenty per cent of the species that I saw were warblers, ending the trip with twenty-two different kinds. This was my first time ever to Pelee in the spring, and we were told that it was a "slow" few days, with most of the more experienced birders telling us that "quality versus quantity" was a fitting way to describe our time there.

So here goes with my warblers! Not all of them were successfully photographed, and several of the following photos are garbage  bad, bad, bad record shots only, so consider yourself warned.

My first Lifer of the trip was this Blue-winged Warbler, seen on Day One on the Woodland Trail:

My second Lifer, also, on Day One, was a brilliant Prothonotary Warbler, our only cavity-nesting warbler:

They continued to reliably feed in the same wooded wet sloughs a few days later when Ann and I returned to the trail:

Day Two's highlight and Lifer was this beautiful and unfortunately endangered Kirtland's Warbler that was finally found for me thanks to Jean Iron's generosity and patience as we waited for him to come out into the open. I've never worked so hard for a Lifer, but this young male was certainly worth the effort:

Black-throated Green Warblers were seen a few times in the park:

Most of the Palm Warblers we saw were either at Hillman Marsh or in the shrubs that lined the North Dyke. The male is easily recognized by his chestnut crown and tail pumping:

Day Four (Sunday) was by far the best day for warblers, as Ann and I literally raced over to the Sanctuary trail after eavesdropping on conversations we wisely determined all on our own after extensive analysis that this was where the next big warbler fall-out would occur. yeah, right. The trails were packed with anxious birders from all over the world, and it was an exhausting exhilarating few hours as we added more warblers to our species list, including Chestnut-sided, Hooded, Wilson's and this Canada Warbler.

Warning: serious garbage record shots ahead.

Magnolia Warbler:

Blackburnian Warbler:

Black-and-white Warbler:

Yellow-rumped Warbler:

Nashville Warbler:

Northern Parula:

Old Faithful, aka our precious little Yellow Warblers:

My first ever Yellow-throated Warbler, seen across from Pelee Wings, thanks to Todd!

American Redstart:

So that's my Warbler Wrap-up, what a difference a few months makes! You may recall that last fall was my initial foray into Warbler Hell, which is definitely not the time to learn warbler identification. Between fall plumages, male versus female differences, no singing, and all those new young birds thrown into the picture, I didn't have a prayer, so by comparison, this was easy-peasy,  Master John was right once again, spring time is warbler time!

But warblers weren't the only game in town, I have fond memories of this Great Horned Owl family near the park entrance:

Only one of the two owlets is visible here...

...but both are visible here, the other one's tucked deep down into the stump towards the back:

Ann and I were tipped off about this other baby in a different area of the park, but this one had already fledged:

Ann and I began Day Two at the Tip of Point Pelee where the crowds had already gathered to watch this handsome Horned Grebe swimming right off the shoreline:

Ann works her camera magic on the Grebe:

A Northern Mockingbird was in the shrubs by the beach... was this Ruby-crowned Kinglet:

Otherwise it was quiet at the Tip, so we left to explore other areas in the park. This American Coot foraged around in the water next to the Marsh Boardwalk:

And just how slow was it? I was reduced to photographing a female Red-winged Blackbird....

...and a House Wren:

It was time to move on, so Ann suggested that we try to find the reported Snowy Egret in nearby Kingsville. We had already seen lots of Great Egrets in the area...

...but a Snowy Egret would be a Lifer for both of us, so off we went. The ease with which we immediately found him would be offset a few hours later by the torturous Kirtland's Warbler search. In the meantime, enjoy my Snowy Egret, clad in beautiful golden slippers:

Our final stop for Day Two was the North Dyke where these roosting Turkey Vultures just cracked us up:

Along the canal we saw Belted Kingfishers, and added Blue-winged Teal to our species list... well as Green Herons:

We returned on Day Three to the park and spent most of our time on the Woodland Trail again:

A handsome Rose-breasted Grosbeak serenaded us along the trail, one of many that we saw that morning:

A deer wandered through the woods ahead of us, despite the crowds:

We eventually left the park for Hillman Marsh, and along North Dyke Road saw this Barn Swallow...

...and I unexpectedly startled a deer (who in turn startled an unidentified bird on the right!) while I was warbling (clarification: verb; 1. looking for warblers; 2. not attempting to sing like one) in the shrubs that lined the road:

After only hearing Sandhill Cranes in the fields, we finally saw one, no wonder it took us so long, look how camouflaged they are:

Upon our arrival at Hillman Marsh...

... a bird banding event was being held, giving us excellent, close-up views of a few birds, including this confirmed female Red-winged Blackbird, who knew she also has a touch of those red epaulets:

This male Rose-breasted Grosbeak had just been banded but hung around the area for thirty minutes after being released. He eventually flew off but rested quietly in this bush, he had zero fat on him so perhaps he was just exhausted from his trip back up north, as we had already seen several flocks of them passing through the area. What a killer bird, I just love his markings!!

Day Four (=Sunday) saw us back in the park exploring more woodland trails, as it continued to be slow birding at the Tip:

Our first BOTD was a flock of Wild Turkeys, Ann hid behind me:

This Warbling Vireo took a break from his morning singing session to enjoy an insect for breakfast:

My Peterson guide tells me that vireos are closely related to shrikes!

A pretty male Indigo Bunting landed for us:

After our intense warbling session along the Sanctuary trail, we visited the DeLaurier parking lot for the Eastern Bluebirds...

...and enjoyed the antics of a Brown-headed Cowbird (yes, I know we hate them and yes, they're parasites, but they sure are fun to watch!):

Outside of the park, the North Dyke area beckoned once again, and threatened Blanding's Turtles basked in the sun:

A female Orchard Oriole fed in a tree:

At dusk a Sandhill Crane flew overhead:

A deer at the Golden Hour:

Another Lifer for me, one of many Ring-necked Pheasants waaaaay off in the distance out in the fields:

The setting sun on Lake Erie wrapped up a wonderful day:


Our final day for our trip was Monday, and our first stop before entering the park was for a Red-headed Woodpecker near the gate. On Friday we had seen one along the Woodland Trail, this being a Lifer for me:

But imagine our delight when we had even better views of another one on Monday:

Wood chips were flying everywhere as the excavation continued:

Then suddenly a second one unexpectedly appeared up out of the stump, what gorgeous birds these are!!

But those possible warblers in the park beckoned, so we reluctantly left the woodpecker pair and returned to the Sanctuary trail, but as expected, things on the warbler front had slowed down from the day before, although we did see more warblers.

A Tree Swallow paused with a moth in its beak:

A Gray Catbird sang its disjointed song:

But sadly it was time to begin our return trip home, so after stopping off at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons, we arrived at Rondeau  Provincial Park which also enjoys good songbird migration:

We had probably arrived too late, though, as it was quiet along the sloughs, but still what a pretty area!

We spent a bit of time at the feeders at the Visitor Centre after hearing reports of another Yellow-throated Warbler, but decided to wander over to the lakeshore.

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird fed on the nectar of the spring blossoms:

Another pretty Barn Swallow was all fluffed up on the wire:

But for sure the highlight was the Yellow-throated Warbler feeding in the tree blossoms on private property, many thanks to the generous homeowners who gave us access to their special bird:

This was our second one in as many days, if you double-click on the photos, you'll even see pollen from the blossoms on its beak!

What a spectacular bird to end our trip with!

My final species count came in at one hundred and twelve (not counting any mystery shorebirds at Hillman Marsh that I'm still too lazy to address!) , easily earning both Ann and me this special commemorative pin from Point Pelee National Park:

Nine Lifers were added to my list, so in order:

Wilson's Phalarope
Blue-winged Warbler
Red-headed Woodpecker
Prothonotary Warbler
Snowy Egret
Kirtland's Warbler
Canada Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Ring-necked Pheasant

A Wilson's Warbler was an Ontario first for me, as the only other one I had seen was a year ago with Les at Campbell Valley, British Colombia. 

And so ends my Pelee wrap-up, did I not honour last night's commitment to you on time???