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!


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.


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.


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.




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.

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A Recap of 2017

Birds have always fascinated me and I’ve been a “lister” for longer than I’ve considered myself a birder. I’m still on a pretty low rung of what appears to be a lifetime learning process, but this year has been a watershed year of sorts. The hobby has been ramped up a bit. Maybe the gears are slipping a bit–up that is.

I can’t put my finger on a decisive explanation. Maybe I’ve reached the place where you get where you’ve done something for a couple years and it starts to click and the various habits start to set in. Maybe it’s been new connections I’ve made. Maybe there was just a nice influx of really cool migratory species to lure me in this year.

On December 31, 2016, I found my first Red-Breasted Nuthatch over at Sadler’s Pond, the last bird species of the year. It brought my life-list (a bird-nerd term which means “bird species I’ve seen in my life”) to 115. That December brought a lot of cool new species such as a Northern Shrike, Northern Harriers, and Snow Buntings. And then, suddenly, 2017 came, a fresh new year.

Now, almost a full year later, I’m reflecting on 2017 (a full year of fairly heavy-duty birding). In 2017 I’ve birded in two countries and seven states/province, tallying 209 species, 193 in Essex County, Ontario and 103 in the United States. I’ve been able to add 112 “lifers” (bird species I’ve seen for the first time) to my life-list. I suspect that unless I start traveling pretty far south or west, I won’t have another 100+ lifer year!

There have been a lot of great moments. For instance: The time we were doing a family walk (with my wife and three young kids) and my brilliant wife pointed to what proved to be the first Wood Stork to be seen in Ontario in over fifteen years. (She’s a keeper, eh? I mean my wife, not the Wood Stork!) It’s not every day you can add a new species to the Point Pelee list!!! There were also the Short-eared Owls. The Snowy Owls. The Golden Eagles. The Snowy Egret. And the River Canard Yellow Crowned Night Heron. The Hudsonian Godwit, Glossy Ibis, and other amazing varieties of shorebirds at the lagoons. The Olive-Sided Flycatchers. The Eurasian Wigeon. The Little Gull. My first Pileated Woodpeckers. The Red-headed Woodpeckers. The Dickcissel. The Red-Throated Loon that was really up-close. The mini-warbler fallouts in less popular hotspots. There was my first Christmas Bird Count at Point Pelee where a Bohemian Waxwing appeared. I’m probably forgetting some other great moments. Many of these experiences were shared with many great family and friends at my side!

Here are some birds I regret not going to see: the Magnificent Frigatebird, Cattle Egret, Lapland Longspur, and Black-necked Stilt. Hopefully some of these can be added to my list in 2018.

I’m so thankful that, despite being pretty busy, I’ve been able to get out so much and see so much. It’s been a challenging process to get decent photographs, get used to my binocs, and learn to ID species I haven’t come across. I’m very thankful for my wife and children who so patiently and lovingly endure this hobby of mine. (For the record, my son constantly speaks of wanting to go to see ducks and my daughters are very vigilant sidekicks at hawk-spotting). I’m also thankful for the many amazing local birders who have been so helpful, so supportive, and so patient with a newbie like me.

Quite a birdy year it has been! I envision myself continuing to bird in 2018. In some ways, 2017 was a year of great expansion and 2018 will probably involve more consolidation. I don’t anticipate getting as many new species, but I will be attempting to get better at IDs and get to know some of the previously seen birds a little better.  I also hope to improve my ability to recognize bird sounds. The prospect of a new year with 4 fresh seasons is rather exciting!

No matter what level of knowledge or interest in birds you have, I hope 2018 is a safe and happy New Year. Good birding and I hope to see you out in the field!

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