November Report

November has been a slow birding month, certainly the slowest yet this year. My species count for the month (59) was well behind last November.

And, again, my camera is out of commission for repairs.

That said, there were some major highlights. I saw my first Brant ever, which is very rare locally. I also saw my first Short-eared Owl of the year. The view wasn’t very satisfying, but after not seeing one since February 2017, I’ll take what I can get! Other than those two species, there were no new additions to my Essex County year list, which sits at 217.

As it is now December, I’m looking forward to participating in the annual Point Pelee Birding Area Christmas Bird Count!

Good birding!

October Report

October has now ended. It was not a terribly exciting birding month. I didn’t get out to any major hotspots such as Point Pelee or Holiday Beach. I also didn’t see any Golden Eagles like I did last October.

Nevertheless, the birding was decent enough. I found 91 species of birds, which is 8 more than last October. I found an Orange-crowned Warbler, which is a lifer, and a Red-shouldered Hawk, which is a year bird. Both these birds were seen at the Essex Lagoons.

In terms of social birding, I enjoyed an Essex County Field Naturalists outing lead by Kory Renaud on October 13th. It was at the Essex Lagoons. The bird showing was not amazing, but it was a fun time and a good opportunity to get outdoors and learn about birds and other wildlife.

Perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the month was to see some of the winter-ish ducks starting to appear, such as Redheads, Canvasbacks, Ring-necked Ducks, Scaups, Buffleheads, and Goldeneyes.

I spent most of October without my camera, but the repair is finally done and I once again can take photos! My Essex County year list now sits at 215. I look forward to see what late fall and winter brings! There has obviously been a lot of buzz about this year being a great winter finch year. I have a few to add to my life list if they show up. We’ll see! It’s not that long until the Christmas Bird Counts are upon us.

Here are 10 species I haven’t seen yet this year in Essex County and I feel could be somewhat realistic targets for the remainder of the year:

– Long-tailed duck
– Lesser Black-backed Gull
– Golden Eagle
– Yellow-headed Blackbird (lifer)
– Lincolns Sparrow
– Short-eared Owl
– Northern Shrike
– Common Redpoll (lifer)
– Red-throated Loon
– Marsh Wren

There are others. I’d love to find one of the Crossbills or an Evening Grosbeak, though I don’t have a good chance for these in Essex County.

September Report

September was an exciting birding month. Sadly, I continued to be without my camera. That was quite unfortunate, since I had some stunning up close views of warblers which would be great to capture. Alas, no pictures to spruce up this blog post!

The numbers, of course, did not quite reach those of May, but they got pretty close! I saw 113 species in September, added 14 year birds, and notched 5 lifers.

I went out to Leamington to try to find some reported Buff-breasted Sandpipers. I struck out on that but got my 200th bird species for Essex County in 2018-an American Golden Plover! 200 was a big milestone for me, especially since I narrowly missed reaching it last year. My North America year total stands at 230.

The lifers this month were Cackling Goose, American Pipit, Philadelphia Vireo, Connecticut Warbler, and Mourning Warbler–all of which I have been seeking out for some time.

Other highlights from this month include: a much more hawky visit to Holiday Beach Hawkfest than last year, an early Ross’s Goose and my second ever Cackling Geese at Jack Miner’s, a lifer American Pipit, another yard flyover of Broad-Winged Hawks, and some new yard bird species (Forster’s Tern, Double-crested Cormorant, Northern Flicker, and Great Blue Heron).

Reaching 200 species in Essex this year has taken the steam out of some of my goal-driven approach, but there are still some birds that I’d really like to see. I hope to find the following in October/November:

  • Golden Eagle (year bird)
  • Red-shouldered Hawk (year bird)
  • Rough-legged Hawk (already have one this year, but it’s a sweet hash to see)
  • Greater White-fronted Goose (another one I always love to see, even if I already have one for the year)
  • Orange-crowned Warbler (lifer)

Of course, there are many other birds I’d love to find, but these are the ones which I will be most actively seeking.

Good birding!

August Report

As the calendar turned to August I was still vacationing in Maine, with a North America year list at 215 species. My first outing of the month was a brief visit to the Valentine Farm Conservation Center, a hot spot I haven’t visited until this year. I didn’t find any new year birds there, but it is always exciting to find a Pileated Woodpecker and a nice cache of warblers (7 species).

On August 2nd, I took my family out to Popham Beach in Phippsburg, Maine. The beach, which is in Sagadahoc county, is really cool and has a few islands you can walk to when the tide is low. I got a very passing glimpse at a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a lifer. However, by far, the most exciting observation was a Bald Eagle scattering tons of gulls on one of the rock islands.

On August 5th and 6th, I took my wife to Freeport and Portland. We also returned to Popham Beach, this time minus our kids. As you might guess, some incidental birding occurred! Our hotel in Freeport, had a marsh view. I saw 15 Great Egrets at one moment while looking out our window in the morning!

Our return to Popham Beach was amazing bird-wise, with three lifers (Guillemot, Sanderling, and Roseate Tern). Certain parts of the beach were hopping with terns, and I saw 35 Common Terns! I also had the satisfaction of picking out a lone White-rumped Sandpiper from a group of Semipalmated Ssandpipers. Most of all, though, I was thrilled to see an alcid (the Guillemot) from land! I have horrible photos to prove it 🙂

Returning home, I resumed the quest to reach 200 year species in Essex County. The evening I returned, I saw a Semipalmated Plover (#194) at the Essex lagoons. Sadly, before I would tally my next year bird, my camera was out of commission well into September. I think not having a camera for a while forces me to use my binoculars well and probably makes me a more effective and observant birder overall, but it is hard not to have photos to back up IDs and certainly I do enjoy photography even when it does not aid ID. I’ve had some really close-up views of Short-billed Dowitchers at the lagoons, and unfortunately, I have no (good) pictures to show for it!

Proceeding without my camera, and leaning heavily on my binoculars, there came an amazing bird–the Purple Gallinule (#194)–which is a great rarity in Essex County and the most beautiful bird I’ve ever seen. I guess you could call it an outlandish and odd sort of beauty.

After the Gallinule, I saw #196 (Black-crowned Night Heron) and #197 (Baird’s Sandpiper) at the Essex lagoons. A trip to Point Pelee brought #198 (Common Tern). And another trip to the Essex lagoons brought #199 (Wilson’s Phalarope). It was fun to initially discover the Baird’s and Phalarope–and also satisfying to know that my reports allowed others to enjoying seeing these cool shorebirds! There are other reasons I find it important to report my bird sightings, but certainly one very important reason is the satisfaction of knowing that my reports are helping others.

Alas, August has come to a close. And my county year count sitting, tantalizingly I might add, at 199. I look forward to September and all fall will bring. Good birding!

July Report

July started on an exciting note. A friend called me to report the presence of some Eastern Screech Owls near his house in Essex, both red-phase and gray-phase individuals. Screech Owls have been a major nemesis bird for me and I hadn’t seen one since 2009!

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Also of note in July was the return of shorebirds to the Essex lagoons, including Short-billed Dowitchers (year bird), a Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Wilsons Snipes, Least Sandpipers, and Solitary Sandpipers.

My first lifer of this July was a Hooded Warbler I heard at Brunet Park.

As of July 28, I started birding in Western Maine, and on my first day I saw a Red-breasted Nuthatch, which was the year bird that brought me to 200 species on the year in North America!  Other year birds found in Western Maine (and the trip there) include Common Raven and Red-shouldered Hawk.

Most exciting, though, was a hike day I took on July 31st to wrap up the month. Thus far, my hike days in Maine have usually been in the boreal forest in the Western part of the state. This year, however, I decided to stick to the coast. For my location, I chose Biddeford, Maine.

First, I visited East Point Audubon Sanctuary. Situated at the end of Biddeford Pool, the sanctuary has a short trail along the perimeter of the point. It is wonderful, giving good access to the rocky coast, with views of the Wood Island light house. I was impressed with the number of Common Eiders (a year bird) which are quite common in coastal Maine. I also was delighted to spot two Red-necked Grebes (lifer) and a Black-crowned Night Heron and a Northern Mockingbird (year birds). Being from Essex County, Ontario, it was odd to see a Northern Harrier harrying this time of year. The biggest highlight, however, was finding my #1 target on this trip, two American Oystercatchers (sadly, the photos are quite horrible.

Next, I moved to Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge’s Timber Point trail. I had visited this gem briefly the previous year, but didn’t do it justice then. This year, I was determined to give it a thorough survey. I met and birded with volunteer/guide Susan Keefer and also spoke briefly with her husband Steve. She was an excellent companion and was very helpful in her knowledge of the local wildlife.  Previously privately owned land, this recently acquired (2011) plot is spectacular.  The seaside roses are simply delightful.

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The trail, which is approximately a mile, provides access to Timber Island, tide permitting.  I had a great photo session with a very compliant Bonaparte’s Gull. I was floored to see no less than 36 Semipalmated Plovers (year bird). The Common Tern count was also impressive and I was able to spot a Least Tern (lifer). Snowy Egrets (year bird) were plentiful and I got my first photo of one which shows the species lovely yellow feet.  I was able to notch a couple more lifers, seeing a Laughing Gull and three Whimbrels flying over.

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All in all, this “tide watching” was quite amazing. As if the day was not birdy enough, next I proceeded to Hills Beach, which is also in Biddeford and right next to the University of New England campus. There I struck gold with some amazingly close views of endangered Piping Plovers. No less than 8 of them! These stunning cuties walked and flew amazingly close to unwitting beachgoers. I first saw this species last year at Wells Reserve in Maine, but the views were extremely unsatisfying (and the pictures were even worse), so I was very happy to get some “up close” time with this remarkable species.

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What a finale to July! My Essex County year count is at 193 species and the North America count is at 214. I added six lifers and 21 year birds this month. I call that a good July.

June Report

June has been HOT. I didn’t spend too much time birding, especially not in the second half of the month.

Nevertheless, the species count far exceeded last June and I made considerable progress toward my goal of 200 species for the year in Essex County. I am now at 188.

I found seven year birds and three lifers. The lifers were White-rumped Sandpiper, American White Pelican, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Onward to July!

Birding Podcasts

If you like listening to podcasts, here are birding podcasts that I would recommend:

2 Longer Shows:

American Birding Podcast – Run by the ABA (American Birding Association) and the host is Nate Swick. I find the recent ABA rarities segment most fascinating, though the show is consistently very good. In my opinion, this is the best longer show available.

Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds – More on the “traditional radio show” side of things with little variation in outline, but a good staple.

2 Shorter Shows:

WCAI Weekly Bird Report – Short segments that are regional in nature (Cape Code, MA), but tend to be widely interesting to birders. I love their emphasis on migration.  In my opinion, this is the best short show available.

BirdNote – Very short segments about birds and conservation. Enjoyable, though hard to keep up with (a show a day)!