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)!

May Report

May is a special time of year for birders. Spring migration season is exciting and fast paced in a way which Fall migration is not.

This time around, there were some disappointing misses. I was never at Pelee during a true warbler “fallout”. I missed the two Cuckoo species and a number of warbler species I was hoping to find. My shorebird counts were dismal. The Essex lagoons were lacking mudflats, and consequently the shorebird turnout there was very sparse. These gripes notwithstanding, this was a fantastic May. I saw 137 species this month (last May it was 97) and 9 lifers. Now my Essex County year total is at 181, only 19 species away from my goal!

Two Snowy Owls in the town of Essex were still showing at the beginning of the month. Imagine that! May Snowy Owl sightings within five minutes of my house!!! A year ago, I would have never guessed! I hope to add one to my June list, but who knows?

I had some fantastic warbler hauls at various “lesser” migration hotspots such as Sadler’s Pond and Malden Park. As usual during Spring migration, on a good day these smaller hotspots were superb in warbler diversity.

I ended up getting out to Point Pelee twice. The first time was an active day a little too early in the season. The second day was a slow day a little too late in the season. Neither day lived up to Point Pelee’s potential. However, a slow day in May at Pelee, is quite active! A major highlight was getting to bird with some excellent local birders including Jeremy Bensette, Tim Arthur, Jeremy Hatt, and Rick Mayos. You learn so much by birding with these fine folks!

My lifers this month were:

  • Grey-cheeked Thrush (May 2–Point Pelee)
  • Prothonotary Warbler (May 2–Point Pelee)
  • Marbled Godwit (May 2–Hillman Marsh)
  • Sora (May 7–Spring Garden)
  • Cape May Warbler (May 10–Sadler’s Pond)
  • Black Scoter (May 19–Point Pelee)
  • Acadian Flycatcher (May 19–Point Pelee)
  • Willow Flycatcher (May 19–Point Pelee)
  • Cattle Egret (May 22–Point Pelee)

I’m a bit sad that May migration is already over, but it was fun while it lasted. Now we march on to Fall migration! 🙂

Progress on Goals

Completed Goals

  1. Reach 200 species on my Essex County life-list. This was completed on January 31, with a Great Horned Owl. I’m currently at 210 life birds for Essex County.
  2. See a Lapland Longspur.
  3. See a Prothonotary warbler
  4. See a Rough-legged Hawk
  5. See a Siskin in Essex County
  6. Make a day outing to Point Pelee during May (migration)

Goals Not Completed (Yet)

  1. See an American Pipit
  2. See a Yellow-headed Blackbird
  3. See a Northern Shrike
  4. See a Snowy Owl in Michigan
  5. Reach 150 species on my U.S.A. life-list (Currently at 120)
  6. See the remaining Scoter species (just one left–Black Scoter)
  7. Reach 200 species for the year in Essex County (I’m at 148 species–74% of the way there. See the note at the end of this post).
  8. See the remaining realistic heron/egret species in Ontario (No progress to report)
  9. Reach 250 species on my life-list. (Currently at 239, so only 11 more to go!)

200 Year Species in Essex — Update

Today is May the 4th and I’m currently at 148 species for the year in Essex County.

I had a great outing at Point Pelee and Hillman Marsh recently, with 65 species in total (over 20 FOY and 3 lifers). This morning, I was able to get a couple more FOY birds at Sadler’s Pond in Essex (Warbling Vireo and Chestnut-sided Warbler).

I have 52 species left to reach 200 for the year in Essex County (74% of the way there!). The goal seems much more attainable now. Here are 52 species I’m going to try to get in the remainder of the year (in order of eBird frequency). The ones which are lifers are marked with a (*).

  1. Orchard Oriole
  2. American Redstart
  3. Magnolia Warbler
  4. Red-eyed Vireo
  5. Indigo Bunting
  6. Least Flycatcher
  7. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  8. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  9. Scarlet Tanager
  10. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  11. Veery
  12. Chimney Swift
  13. Great Crested Flycatcher
  14. Common Tern
  15. Ovenbird
  16. Tennesse Warbler
  17. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  18. Cape May Warbler (*)
  19. Bay Breasted Warbler
  20. Bank Swallow
  21. Northern Waterthrush (*)
  22. Wilson’s Warbler
  23. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  24. Blackpol Warbler
  25. Black Tern
  26. Canada Warbler
  27. Cliff Swallow
  28. Blue-winged Warbler (*)
  29. Semipalmated Plover
  30. Philadelphia Vireo (*)
  31. Ruddy Turnstone (*)
  32. Green Heron
  33. Short-billed Dowitcher
  34. Marsh Wren
  35. Yellow-billed Cuckoo (*)
  36. Eastern Screech Owl
  37. Yellow-throated Vireo (*)
  38. White-eyed Vireo (*)
  39. Black-crowned Night Heron
  40. Bobolink
  41. Solitary Sandpiper
  42. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  43. Broad-winged Hawk
  44. Hooded Warbler (*)
  45. Orange crowned Warbler (*)
  46. Willow Flycatcher (*)
  47. Black-billed Cuckoo (*)
  48. American Pipit (*)
  49. Sandhill Crane
  50. Common Nighthawk
  51. Yellow-breasted Chat (*)
  52. Mourning Warbler (*)

April Report

The migrants were a bit slow coming in this April, just like the warm weather.

Nevertheless, I brought my Essex County year species total to 117, which is 7 ahead of last year’s count. I’m starting to feel pretty good about my chances of reaching 200 this year.

Here were some Essex County highlights:

  • A lifer Vesper Sparrow in Ojibway’s Tallgrass Prairie.
  • Lifer Wilson’s Snipes at the Essex Lagoons while birding with Jeremy B.
  • An unbelievable amount of Brown Creepers at Point Pelee (I counted 30, but there probably were many more.)
  • The continuing Snowy Owls in Essex. They could be still here in MAY!!

I spent a few days in Indiana for a friend’s wedding, and I did do a bit of birding there, though the species I saw there obviously don’t count for my Essex County totals. I was able to find 2 lifers as well as 9 FOY species. The two lifers were: a Louisiana Waterthrush and Yellow-throated Warbler (which I was very happy to get, since Yellow-throated Warblers are hard to find in Essex County–none were found last year). The FOY birds were: Wood Thrush, Bobolink, Osprey, Broad-winged Hawk, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Carolina Chickadee, Sandhill Crane, and Pileated Woodpecker.

May is upon us. Good birding to you!

The 100 Species Mark

This year I have passed the 100 species mark yesterday (April 13th), which is one day ahead of last year’s time.

Here are the species (I am now at 103):

  1. House Sparrow
  2. House Finch
  3. Red-tailed Hawk
  4. Downy Woodpecker
  5. Blue Jay
  6. European Starling
  7. American Tree Sparrow
  8. American Goldfinch
  9. Cooper’s Hawk
  10. Horned Lark
  11. Dark-eyed Junco
  12. Northern Cardinal
  13. Canada Goose
  14. Mute Swan
  15. Tundra Swan
  16. Mallard
  17. Canvasback
  18. Redhead
  19. Greater Scaup
  20. Bufflehead
  21. Common Goldeneye
  22. Hooded Merganser
  23. Common Merganser
  24. Red-breasted Merganser
  25. Bald Eagle
  26. Herring Gull
  27. Rock Pigeon
  28. Great Black-backed Gull
  29. Snow Goose
  30. Mourning Dove
  31. American Crow
  32. Lapland Longspur
  33. Snow Bunting
  34. Common Grackle
  35. White-crowned Sparrow
  36. Snowy Owl
  37. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  38. Black-capped Chickadee
  39. White-breasted Nuthatch
  40. Song Sparrow
  41. Eastern Towhee
  42. Brown-headed Cowbird
  43. Pine Siskin
  44. Wild Turkey
  45. Belted Kingfisher
  46. Tufted Titmouse
  47. Brown Creeper
  48. Cedar Waxwing
  49. White-throated Sparrow
  50. Ring-billed Gull
  51. Wood Duck
  52. American Black Duck
  53. Great Blue Heron
  54. American Kestrel
  55. Hairy Woodpecker
  56. American Robin
  57. Fox Sparrow
  58. Northern Flicker
  59. Gadwall
  60. American Wigeon
  61. Northern Pintail
  62. Trumpeter Swan
  63. Lesser Scaup
  64. Ring-necked Duck
  65. Eastern Bluebird
  66. Northern Harrier
  67. Peregrine Falcon
  68. Pied-billed Grebe
  69. Greater White-fronted Goose
  70. Carolina Wren
  71. Great Horned Owl
  72. Merlin
  73. Townsend’s Solitaire
  74. Red-winged Blackbird
  75. Rough-legged Hawk
  76. Killdeer
  77. Ross’s Goose
  78. Northern Shoveler
  79. American Coot
  80. Green-winged Teal
  81. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  82. American Woodcock
  83. Turkey Vulture
  84. King Eider
  85. Surf Scoter
  86. White-winged Scoter
  87. Great Egret
  88. Rusty Blackbird
  89. Eastern Meadowlark
  90. Bonaparte’s Gull
  91. Ruddy Duck
  92. Blue-winged Teal
  93. Horned Grebe
  94. Double-crested Cormorant
  95. Eastern Phoebe
  96. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  97. Common Loon
  98. Forster’s Tern
  99. Tree Swallow
  100. Hermit Thrush
  101. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  102. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  103. Savannah Sparrow

March Report

I saw 71 bird species in March. My current year tally is 91 species, a bit short of my goal of reaching 100 by the end of March. That said, I’m 8 species ahead of where I was last year at this time.

On March 3, I dropped by Hillman Marsh and Point Pelee with my son and was able to add Green-winged Teal and Sharp-shinned hawk to my year list. On March 7, a night drive through the vicinity of Harrow after helping a friend move allowed me to hear and very briefly see an American Woodcock.

A local birder’s gathering on March 15th which brought me to Point Pelee, Hillman Marsh, and Wheatley Harbour. On the trip there I saw my first Turkey Vultures of the year. I *might* have seen a Northern Shrike, the view was too fleeting to be sure, but it seems to have been very near to the location of a recent sighting.

At Point Pelee, I saw my only lifer of the month (White-winged scoter), a King Eider (!), and Surf Scoters. I still need to find a Black Scoter one of these days! At Hillman, I added Great Egret and Rusty Blackbird to my year list.

Then, on March 21st, I stopped by the CKWW towers and got a photo of an Eastern Meadowlark. What a treat!

To conclude March, on the 28th I found some Bonaparte’s Gulls and Ruddy Ducks.

With the advent of April, things should start getting exciting in the birding world (if they haven’t already gotten exciting toward the end of March!)

According to eBird, there are 37 birds which I haven’t seen yet this year and have more than a 5% frequency in Essex County in April. So, I guess I have my work cut out for me! (in case you are curious, the most frequently seen bird on that list is Tree Swallow and #37 is Pectoral Sandpiper)

I will continue looking for rather common birds that have thus far evaded me this year: Eastern Screech Owl, Double-Crested Cormorant, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Sandhill Crane, and Horned Grebe. I must say that I’m also looking forward to the return of the Swallows! I’m thinking I might have to give up on seeing a Cackling Goose until next winter.

Chickadee Facts

Did you know that the number of “dee” sounds chickadees make can convey information about the size or threat level of a predator?

Did you know that chickadees in harsher climates, (such as Maine or Alaska) have a larger hippocampus (part of the brain responsible for memory and spatial learning) than those in Iowa or Kansas?

Source: The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

Essex County Birder Gathering – March 2018

Yesterday, birders in the Essex County came together for a meal and, of course, some birding. I think it’s fair to say that most of us were pretty excited about it. For me, the excitement started right out of the gate as I spotted my first two Turkey Vultures of the season on the road in Leamington.

A number of us started off at the east shore of the Point Pelee tip, near Sparrow Field. The group of people who were there before I got there had seen an Eastern Meadowlark and Long-tailed duck before I arrived, but I was unable to re-find them. The weather was cold but considerably warmer and less stormy than on the west shore. There were large rafts of ducks (mostly Scaups and Scoters) and I was quite excited to find my first White-winged Scoter and as well as my FOY (first of year) Surf Scoter. Now only the Black Scoter remains to be found!

As Jeremy Bensette studied the rafts, he noticed one duck which was different and identified it as a King Eider. What an exciting sighting! He mentioned that this was his first self-found King Eider. This large arctic duck is found now and then in our area, but it’s a majorly exciting find. A few more birders came immediately afterwards, but by then it had flown off and wasn’t re-found by a number of others.

We then stopped by the Marsh tower and watched a few Bald Eagles, Herring Gulls, and Tundra Swans off in the distance. It was also really neat to watch a mink swim.

While within the park we also had the delight of seeing a Great Horned Owl!

One of the highlights of an event like this is the kindness and generous attitude of the birders in our area. There are many ways in which tagging along can help you develop as a birder. For instance, if you are in the market for new optical equipment, an event like this is a great way to experiment with different models of scopes, binoculars, or cameras. For instance, Jeremy Bensette brought an extra tripod and binoculars, which I and other birders got to try out and enjoy.

Using Jeremy’s extra binoculars (Vortex Crossfire 8×42 bins, I believe), the flaws with my current binoculars (Bushnell Powerview 20×50) became evident and I am now convinced that I want to replace them. It was extremely valuable to see that and also to get some practice with using scopes.

(Point Pelee National Park: 3 hours, 25 species, 1 lifers, 3 FOY species)

Next, on the way to Hillman Marsh, I took a short drive through the local onion fields. They were rather quiet and there was nothing significant to report and so I quickly moved on to the Hillman Marsh shorebird cell. The shorebird cell had fewer ducks than my last visit earlier this month. We saw a substantial amount of Northern Pintails, though. As we walked away from the cell and through the marsh, we saw at least eleven Rusty Blackbirds, a species which has been eluding me this year. There were more ducks in others areas within the marsh. Before we left Hillman we were surprised to see the early Great Egret which a few had seen in flight when they arrived.

(Hillman Marsh: 1 hour 35 minutes, 15 species, 0 lifers, 2 FOY species)

Our next stop, the Chatham-Kent side of the Wheatley Harbour was rather quiet, but we were presently surprised with a masterful view of a Snowy Owl! It was nicely perched on a rock barrier in the lake.

(Wheatley Harbor: 23 minutes, 4 species, 0 lifers, 0 FOY species)

After all that time outdoors in the cold, I think most of us were ready to head indoors! About 25 people were present when we met at 7:00pm at Freddy’s Restaurant in Leamington.

(thanks to Kit McCann for the group photo)

It was really nice to spend time getting to know some local birders a bit more. Hopefully more events like this will be planned.

eBird checklist #1000

I’ve been a member of Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird site since 2012 (since then I’ve also submitted data doing back to 2003). Yesterday, I submitted my 1000th checklist.

Like most of my eBird checklists, checklist #1000 was quite ordinary. I went to Lakeview Park and Marina along the Detroit River. Unlike earlier in the winter when the river was partially frozen, there was a meager amount of waterfowl. I did see my first Hooded and Red-Breasted Mergansers of March 2018, but beyond there there wasn’t anything worth mentioning.

(Checklist #1001, on the other hand, was a Snowy Owl I saw in the town of Essex!)

I figured it might be appropriate to celebrate this milestone by sharing my “top 10” checklists.

10. A 6 lifer trip to Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge in Jefferson, New Hampshire in July 2017 They were: Purple Finch, Lincoln’s Sparrow, American Bittern, Wood Thrush, Marsh Wren, and Least Flycatcher. Living in Southern ON, it was weird to see 5 warbler species in *July*!

9. The time in May 2017 when before 7am I spent 39 minutes at Sadler’s Pond in Essex. This trip yielded 4 lifers and 5 warbler species. And a 36 minute trip to Malden Park later that day brought the lifer count up to 9 for the day! Between the two trips, that’s a lifer every 8 minutes!

8. My first Great Horned Owl. Seen up close at Derwent Park in January 2018.

7. The Hudsonian Godwit at Essex West lagoons in October 2017.  By that point in the fall, the shorebirds present in the lagoons were starting to thin out, but nevertheless, a Godwit showed up among a small group of yellow legs!

6. The Glossy Ibis at the Harrow Lagoons in September 2017. What a treat!

5. The Townsend’s Solitare hanging out at Point Pelee in February 2018, a extremely rare vagrant which seems to have been way off course.

4. The time when I was able to add Short-eared owl to my life-list in February 2017! And not just one, but five of them!

3. The amazingly up-close views of a young Yellow-crowned Night-Heron I got along the River Canard in September 2017. And that was after a couple failed attempts to find it! I was ready to give up.

2. The epic family trip to Point Pelee in August 2017 that added Wood Stork to the Point Pelee bird list. I submitted a few different checklists from different locations within the park, but here is the one that includes the stork. This incredible rarity was first seen by my lovely wife!

1. The time I was sick at home in May 2012 and a Summer Tanager dropped by (resulting in my first eBird checklist). I live on a busy corner in town, but that does not preclude rarities! This rarity, too, was first seen by my wife!


Honorable mentions (but not quite able to make the top ten):

– An amazingly large flight of 19 Ross’s Geese at Jack Miner’s in December 2017.

– The birthday (March 2017) trip to Point Pelee and Hillman Marsh that yielded 7 lifers. It was extremely foggy and visibility was poor, but nonetheless an exciting day.

– A number of short visits to the Essex Lagoons in May and August 2017 which yielded a number of significant lifers (such as Short-billed Dowitcher, Stilt Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Wilson’s Phalarope, and Bobolink)