Rain-assisted Birding Bonanza

 

 

This spring we have had some lousy weather, not much fun for us until the spring migration of birds through “Our Woods.”

The bad weather (wind and rain and cold) has turned into a blessing, since the warblers, kinglets and other migrating species that fly north through our back yard and the park with a stream behind us have been forced to sleep over a few days more than usual. A frequent walk north by the two small lakes is great, but we can see them from our dining room bay and master bedroom windows because they like to visit our back yard.

This year we have been paying extra attention and had several first sightings, including the northern goshawk, canvasback duck and pied-billed grebe (see previous post.)

Anita saw a black-throated green warbler last week – a first for this year.

May 10 was a birding bonanza! A spectacular first-ever sighting of a male Scarlet Tanager, and in OUR back yard! Our Spotter saw at the bay window the Tanager, a catbird, Nashville warblers, a female yellow warbler, a palm warbler, a black throated blue warbler, female, then male rose-breasted grosbeaks, white throated and white crowned sparrows, a song sparrow, and a brown thrasher.

On May 13, with the aid of my Spotter’s keen eye and my SONY 200 mm zoom lens we were able to clearly identify a Philadelphia vireo, vireo species being very difficult to distinguish from each other. See last photo above.

The grosbeaks stayed from the 10th to the 14th, departing this morning before 7 A.M. on a rare fair weather day. The white-throated sparrows stayed over a week and the white-crowned since Friday. They haven’t left yet!

Today an American Redstart was finally seen after being heard for a few days.

We are still hoping for an indigo bunting, having seen one in 1996 on the back lawn and in 2011 at the sunflower seed feeder.

The hummingbird feeder went up today. My target was May 3…

My SONY alpha A-6000 mirrorless SLR has come in handy for getting enough detail on birds that don’t wait around for me to take notes. I’ve used it mainly set up for quick action: continuous shooting medium or high (important for quick-moving subjects like warblers and swallows feeding over water). I was able to confirm the rough-winged swallow from its shape and colour with the very blurry photo above. I have been playing with DMF auto focus with manual assist to fine tune or rapidly and crudely adjust focus. Perfection is impossible in some situations.

Blue Jay

 

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Blue Jay with sunflower seed in back yard Jan 12

During the spring and fall we often see lots of Blue Jays passing through “Our Woods.” Sometimes a few, like this one, hang around in winter and feed from the old feeder off our deck landing. This one has been coming regularly this winter, causing my wife and I to talk about their seemingly weird migration pattern. So I checked our National Geographic “Field Guide to the Birds of North America,” which we bought last year to replace our old Peterson guide that went missing. I like this one because it puts Range Maps next to the bird photos, but descriptive info is on the brief side and it includes so many species that it’s also heavier to lug around than the more area-specialized Peterson Guide we had. For Birds of Canada we have a large coffee table size book. And there’s always the Internet and, if we’re out for a walk, the Audubon app on my iPad mini.

Classified as ‘year round’ in southern Ontario, Blue Jays actually fly further north than the GTA in spring to breed. That explains why we rarely see them in the summer.

The above photo was opportunistically taken with my SONY Alpha A-6000 using the old 18-55 mm SONY E-mount lens fully-zoomed. I was using spot focus and mid speed continuous shooting drive mode.

Birding Season Soon!

Though they stay through the winter we don’t regularly see this bird at our feeder, but he was there today. I spooked him when approaching the patio door to the back yard. He returned later to our maple tree, where he was when I took these through our dining room bay window “hiding” behind our 46-year-old, oft-pruned lemon “tree,” grown from seed in 1972 as a fun thing to show our first two children.

The above were taken with my Sony A-6000 and its (55-210 mm) lens fully zoomed using medium speed continuous shooting at 1/1250 s and f/13. Never could have done that in the really old days with Kodachrome-25 film!!

A great way to get motivated to look for the first kinglets and warblers – later this month…

Birding May 12-22

May 22: The black-throated green warbler still eludes us, but we’ve not been out every day.  Today we were treated to our first 2017 magnolia warbler and also the bay-breasted, the latter also having been identified on May 12, when I also saw a catbird. It was cool and had rained a lot yesterday – but warm enough to bring out lots of tiny, gnat-sized bugs that warblers love to feed on, so the woods were busy.

At our feeder a year-round downy woodpecker was gorging itself on sunflower seeds for a long while. They are usually more polite. Here are a few photos:

This morning we identified a wood thrush in tall trees, very leafy, trees… by its call. I recorded it  on my iPad and compared its song to the fluty calls of the orioles and other thrushes, easily accessible via the free Audubon Birds app. The wood thrushes like forested areas with tall trees. Hermit thrushes and veeries tend to be much lower down preferring brush and safe undergrowth.

I saw a broad-winged hawk in our back yard a couple of days ago. Hawks are always a treat. I wish them good squirrelling…

Watched our local great blue heron being chased south by red-winged blackbirds today over the lower ” lake” in “Our” Woods.

Birding May 3 and May 10

Black and White Warbler – May 3, 2017

First sightings May 3:
  1. Black and White Warbler.
  2. Barn swallow
  3. Northern Rough-winged Swallow.

That day we also listed the Song Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warblers aplenty and, yawn, a grackle. In addition to the numerous red-winged blackbirds.

First sighting May 10:
  1. Great Blue Heron (four times, it was almost like he was chilling with us!)

Also seen (by me) for the first time: the splendid, spiffy Black-throated Blue Warbler. He had a girlfriend. As we walked North they were keeping pace with us as they fed on the bugs.

Other sightings: yellow warbler (m & f), ruby-crowned kinglet, and what I think was a chipping swallow on the grass (rusty crown, dark eye-line, and quiet), but my Spotter doesn’t agree. The female red-winged blackbirds, in noisy abundance, must have been finishing nests – one didn’t like me approaching what must have been her nest to get a view of the lower “lake.” She put on quite a display of tail feathers. Pity I didn’t bring my camera today. I left my viewing point to her, but not before seeing the Great Blue Heron, disturbed by my Spotter walking by the nearby shore, wing over my head. We saw him three more times. The swallows were swooping over the upper lake, still here. There was one lone cormorant today. They usually move on further north.

Our Magnolia is still in full bloom. The blooms usually get hammered by the rain and fall soon after it blooms properly, but not this year. And perhaps the cold weather, with no frost, has helped preserve them.

A few more photos:

Birding in Our Woods – April 27

Cormorant display, May 1, 2015
This morning Anita was at the gym so I went out at around 8 AM on my own without my favourite spotter, but with my old, trusty Bushnell Birding Series 8X binoculars in case I spotted anything.

Heard the chipping sparrow’s machine-gun call as I stepped out the front door. It was in the large willow across the street from us. They had arrived in some numbers and I heard them throughout my one hour walk in Our Woods. The spectacular, dependably early, Myrtle warblers were out in force finding tiny insects invisible to me. Peewee commonly heard. Redwing blackbirds were abundant and the males plenty vocal as usual. Saw a couple of females, too. They cautiously don’t announce their presence. Saw the ruby-crowned a few times.

By the two blue benches near the small, well-maintained playground I walked down to the creek that runs SW through the park and flushed what I assumed was a great blue heron, which flew NW along the creek to escape me, probably to the lower “lake,” one of two “made” from the three old quarry pools when the old quarry became a housing development, though I didn’t see it again as I walked counterclockwise around both lakes. The Myrtles, also called yellow-rumped, were plentiful at the N end of the lower lake.

Out of duty I report a grackle in the wild, having already seen a couple, uninvited, at the sunflower seed feeder off our backyard deck. We like to assist the nuthatches, white and rose-breasted, chickadees, juncos, downy and hairy woodpeckers, cardinals and occasional blue-jays by shooing the gourmand blackbirds when we see them. Ah yes! Mustn’t forget the double-crested cormorants, seen today: 4 on the lower lake and 11 on the upper. We first noticed them in Our Woods in 2015.

Birds ‘n Stuff Page Update

Black-Capped Night Heron - April 22
Black-Capped Night Heron – April 22

My Birds and Stuff page has been updated for 2015-2016 with some photos. The most exciting news is a first ever sighting of the Night Heron for my super spotter and me. It has been here for about 4 days. I snapped it today. For more details, please visit the page.

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Mallard Pair sharing a quiet moment in “Our Woods” April 24

Birding Done For Now

Five of about thirty cormorants who rested in Our Woods
Five of about thirty cormorants who rested in Our Woods in April

Time to tidy up our spring birding. This year, for the first time, about 55 double-crested cormorants rested in the two little “lakes” near our house. First time I’ve ever seen cormorants in this neck of Our Woods. We took flight before they did – left May 2 on a tour of 6 major cities that were formerly behind the “iron curtain.” Came back – with my head spinning – to find a pair of these distinguished looking divers  still with us. They are apparently in numbers too great to be appreciated in the fine Ontario cottage country of Muskoka. And I finally got a decent photo of the yellow-rumped warbler before we flew away. We missed the peak of the  spring warbler migration, and saw only one species yesterday.  It was a female American redstart. Didn’t get a decent photo of it due to the lush May foliage. Saw two red-tailed hawks soaring high above us – a treat to see them enjoying 25 km air currents. Today the blue heron was still fishing, harassed by our plentiful red-winged blackbirds protecting their nests near the shore. So here are a few more photos before this blog moves on to the arts and architecture of Austria, Hungary, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Brown Creeper – Humble and Unassuming

Brown Creeper lands
Brown Creeper lands

Even the humble brown creeper is a handsome bird
Even the humble brown creeper is a handsome bird

This dapper little specimen scampers up the trunk of a tree, consuming insects. It arrives early in Our Woods with the kinglets, and goes about its business pretty quietly. Not until I photographed it this year did I realize how well marked and attractive it is. So, here, a small shout-out to the Brown Creeper. The above photos were taken in April.

We’ve been away on a very busy trip, and missed the best time for viewing the warbler procession in the park system behind our house. I don’t often post or comment on others’ posts while away. Apologies.