Five 2020 Birding Goals

  1. Record more bird calls/sounds (I’ve currently recorded 14 species, I would like to reach 30).
  2. Reach 300 lifers (currently at 291)
  3. Reach 200 species in the U.S (currently at 172).
  4. Find some lifers that have been nemesis birds to me, these would be enough to reach 300 lifers: Harlequin Duck, Northern Goshawk, Barred Owl, Spruce Grouse, White-eyed Vireo, Golden-winged Warbler, Blue-Winged Warbler, Eared Grebe, Little Blue Heron
  5. Find some birds that I’ve seen before but have evaded me last year: Red-throated Loon, Northern Shrike, American Golden Plover

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Christmas Bird Count at Point Pelee

This past Monday I had the pleasure of attending the 68th annual Christmas Bird Count at Point Pelee. I was also stoked to be assigned to the Point (our area extended from the Point to the visitor’s centre).

Though not as warm as other years, the weather was pretty reasonable for December. The count hit the ground running with some White-Winged Scoters, Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Black-Backed Gulls, and a nice flight of 250 Red-Winged Blackbirds.

The morning was intense and we surpassed the 40 species mark before lunch time. The afternoon definitely slowed down quite a bit. It was a great time to be out, and the west side of the point was extremely calm and still.

The best bird on the entire count (not just our area) was BY FAR a bird we saw right at the point, a Purple Sandpiper! It was my life bird #291 and year bird #250. I only got a few extremely poor shots which *might* qualify as a record shots.

Other Highlights from my area included: a mind-boggling amount of White-winged Scoters (800), 3 Long-tailed Ducks, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Black Scoter, hundreds of Red-Breasted Merganser, several Red-Shouldered Hawk (including an extremely close eye-level flyby) and a lifer mammal (a Silver-haired Bat, a migratory species which usually doesn’t hibernate here).

Before and after the count, I spent a few minutes at Delaurier (within the park), and got to hear 3 Great-horned Owls and saw a Chipping Sparrow.

All in all, it was a great day at the point! Many thanks go out to Paul Pratt (retired Ojibway Park Naturalist), who skilfully lead my group. I ended up with 45 species and the all the areas reporting, the Point Pelee Bird Count notched 94 species.

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It’s Been A While!

It’s been almost an entire year since I last posted on here. Since then, a lot has transpired!

I’ve had the opportunity to add 26 new birds to my life list. It’s hard to know which ones to highlight, and so I’ve decided to limit myself to listing five here:

  • Little Egret (Maine)
  • Atlantic Puffin (Maine)
  • Cory’s Shearwater (Maine)
  • Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Essex)
  • Slaty-backed Gull (Essex)

Overall, the shorebird selection in the town of Essex has been poor, probably due to extremely high water levels. There still have been some nice shorebirds, and a pleasant surprise was finding the first ever Snowy Egret at the West Lagoons. It was my first Snowy Egret in Essex County!

The biggest birding highlight of 2019 has been, without a doubt, the extreme fallout I was able to witness at Point Pelee on May 9th. I picked the day without knowledge of what would happen, but boy was I ever thankful I picked the 9th! Though I only saw one new lifer bird, the migration activity was mind boggling. Due to rain and needing to leave, I stopped short of 100 species. The final tally was 98 species, 22 of which were warblers. It wasn’t just the species total that was mind-boggling, it was also the sheer number of birds and how close up I could see them.

Looking at my 2019 birding goals, here is a progress update. While I made some progress, it looks like I may not reach the half way point (if I can find a Red-throated Loon or Northern Shrike, I will reach half).

  1. See 220 species for the year in Essex County.
  2. See 240 species for the year in North America.
  3. Reach 150 species for my life in the USA (currently at 140, so just 10 more).
  4. See a Northern Shrike (missed in 2017 and 2018)
  5. See a Red-throated Loon (missed in 2018)
  6. See a Long-tailed Duck (missed in 2018)
  7. See a Yellow-headed Blackbird (lifer)
  8. See a Little Blue Heron (lifer–the last of the realistic Ontario heron/egret species)
  9. See or hear a Saw Whet Owl (lifer)
  10. See a Barred Owl (lifer)
  11. See a Blue-winged Warbler (lifer)
  12. See a Golden-winged Warbler (lifer)

Now, at the beginning of December, things have obviously slowed down a lot. I’m currently looking forward to participating the Pelee Christmas Bird Count, which is the week after next!

Good birding!

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Detroit Zoo Birding

I took my family to the Detroit Zoo on Saturday. It was my first eBird report from Oakland County, Michigan. I was able two add two year birds. I saw fifteen Turkey Vultures (many of which were resting in the polar bear exhibit) and a pair of American Robins. I’m not used to seeing so many Turkey Vultures back home in Essex County at this time of year.

When I came home I kicked myself a bit for not checking the zoo watertower more carefully. eBird indicated there was a Peregrine Falcon resting on the tower while we were there. Ah well, hindsight is 2019?!

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December/Year Report

It’s hard to believe that’s its time to turn in our keys for 2018! It’s been a good year for birding in Essex County, Ontario. Lots of really cool birds were there for the finding.


December closed out relatively slow. I had the opportunity to participate in the Point Pelee Christmas Bird Count. It seems that Christmas Bird Counts in Ontario, for the most part, have had fairly low counts.

Throughout the month, I found 55 species–which is 3 lower than last December. I only picked up one year bird (Lesser Black-backed Gull), bringing my Essex County year total to 218 and my North American year total to 235. Highlights include a Snowy Owl, Ring-necked Duck, and White-winged Scoter in Windsor, several Bald Eagles, a Common Loon at the Point Pelee Christmas Bird Count, and good numbers of Tundra Swan in various locations. I also birded the Point Pelee cemetery for the first time.

Ah! Here comes January 1st, the time when our year lists reset to 0 and the House Sparrow becomes a year bird!


Though December has been slow, I can say that I truly had an amazing birding year. I’ve crossed off 10 of the 15 “2018 Goals” I outlined in this post. Here are some other numeric highlights:

  1. 37 lifers.
  2. 35 new birds for my Essex County list.
  3. 218 species on the year in Essex County
  4. 235 species on the year in North America.

So, what are my birding goals for 2019? Here they are

  1. See 220 species for the year in Essex County.
  2. See 240 species for the year in North America.
  3. Reach 150 species for my life in the USA (currently at 140, so just 10 more).
  4. See a Northern Shrike (missed in 2017 and 2018)
  5. See a Red-throated Loon (missed in 2018)
  6. See a Long-tailed Duck (missed in 2018)
  7. See a Yellow-headed Blackbird (lifer)
  8. See a Little Blue Heron (lifer–the last of the realistic Ontario heron/egret species)
  9. See or hear a Saw Whet Owl (lifer)
  10. See a Barred Owl (lifer)
  11. See a Blue-winged Warbler (lifer)
  12. See a Golden-winged Warbler (lifer)

Happy New Year and good birding in 2019!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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