Monday, September 24, 2018

September Sightings

We've had a warm August and beginning of September but the normal fall weather is now upon us, with nights of -2°C and lots of windy days this week. Here are a few sightings from the last month.

Timmins/South Porcupine is not a great location for large flocks of migrating shorebirds, but if we go out often enough, we might see one or two good shorebirds during spring or fall.  It was the case on August 30th when we arrived at the lake and found one lone Baird's Sandpiper. It was the first Baird's reported for Porcupine Lake.
Baird's Sandpiper / Bécasseau de Baird
Porcupine Lake (30 August 2018)

Baird's Sandpiper / Bécasseau de Baird
Porcupine Lake (30 August 2018)
Another lone shorebird landed at the lake on World's Shorebird Day, on September 6th; a Stilt Sandpiper (Found by Melanie P.)  The only other Stilt Sandpiper I had seen at the lake was on World Shorebird Day 2014. Same day, same beach, 4 years apart.

Stilt Sandpiper / Bécasseau à échasse
Porcupine Lake (6 September 2018)
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon is a great spot for migrating shorebirds, especially when one of the ponds get emptied. This fall, with the low water level in the north pond, many species of shorebirds stopped there (Least, Semipalmated, Pectoral, Stilt Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers as well as lots of Yellowlegs and Semipalmated Plovers) I just wish I could go more often (it's 2 hours away from South Porcupine)

On September 15, I found my first Red-necked Phalarope at the Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons.  It was raining and very far away so the photo is not great.
Red-necked Phalarope / Phalarope à bec étroit
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (15 September 2018)
September is a great month to see Palm Warblers, Rusty Blackbirds and American Pipits and this year is no exception.

Palm Warbler / Paruline à couronne rousse
Porcupine Lake (6 September 2018)

Rusty Blackbird / Quiscale rouilleux
Porcupine Lake (23 September 2018)

American Pipit / Pipit d'Amérique
Porcupine Lake (22 September 2018)

On September 11, a friend of mine invited me to go birding in Cochrane with a group of birders from Southern Ontario.  A few of them found a Le Conte's Sparrow and we were able to relocate it.

Le Conte's Sparrow / Bruant de Le Conte
Cochrane (11 September 2018)

Le Conte's Sparrow / Bruant de Le Conte
Cochrane (11 September 2018)
Another highlight of this birding day was a group of Sharp-tailed Grouse.  They are not common in the Timmins area but if you go around Cochrane, you might be lucky a see a few, even though Cochrane is only 1 hour north of here.  It was difficult to get a photo as they were hiding in thick brush.
Well camouflaged Sharp Tail Grouse / Tétras à queue fine
Cochrane (11 September 2018)

On September 1st,  I found a group of River Otters having a feast of crayfish at Porcupine Lake.  It was nice to see them in a feeding frenzy and I managed a few shots. Our native crayfish are not usually that big so I'm suspecting that it might be an invasive species of crayfish.

River Otter eating crayfish
Porcupine Lake (September 2018) 

On the morning of September 22, a friend found a Cackling Goose at Porcupine Lake and we were able to relocate it in the afternoon.  None had ever been reported at the lake, so it became Porcupine Lake's species #179.  I can't wait to see which bird will be #180!

Cackling Goose (L) with Canada Goose
Bernach de Hutchins
Porcupine Lake (22 September 2018)

Cackling Goose between 2 Canada Goose
Bernache de Hutchins (milieu)
Porcupine Lake (22 September 2018)
On the same day, we came across a group of migrating Eastern Bluebirds... and a Red Fox.

Eastern Bluebirds / Merlebleu de l'Est
Timmins (22 September 2018)

Eastern Bluebird / Merlebleu de l'Est
Timmins (22 September 2018)

Red Fox / Renard roux
Timmins (22 September 2018)

Red Fox / Renard roux
Timmins (22 September 2018)

Carolina Wren update: The Carolina Wren is still here (since August 27). It lost it's tail last week, but it looks like it's already in the process of regrowing.
Continuing Caroline Wren
South Porcupine (21 September 2018)

We still have a full month of fall migration before the ice sets in so I can't wait to see what the next few weeks will bring.

In other news, we exchanged our old truck for a smaller vehicle with better gas mileage and on Sunday, this American Pipit approved of our choice by landing on it.

American Pipit approving our new vehicle
Porcupine Lake (23 September 2018)

Friday, September 14, 2018

Carolina Wren in South Porcupine

On the morning of August 27, I heard the loud, distinctive Carolina Wren song a few times from my kitchen window.  Having heard this species on our 2 trips to Point Pelee this spring and summer, I knew it sounded like a Carolina Wren. I eventually located the bird in my backyard, hiding in the vine-covered hedge and singing a variety of songs and making loud rattle calls.  I managed to get good views and a photo when it perched briefly on a pole.

Carolina Wren / Troglodyte de Caroline
South Porcupine (27 August 2018)

Carolina Wrens are rare in Cochrane District and in Northern Ontario in general.  The only other documented sighting of Carolina Wren in our district was even more surprising, as it was found in Moosonee on September 30, 2012 by Josh Vandermeulen, Alan Wormington and Mark Jennings.   I believe the 2012 Moosonee Carolina Wren was the first OBRC record for Cochrane District and the 6th for the Northern Ontario region.  It was also the most northerly record for Ontario.

As for non-documented sightings, I'm sure there are more, since not many people report their sightings in our vast region. I received a message about a Carolina Wren that apparently overwintered once in Timmins many years ago but after reading 36 full OBRC annual reports, I couldn't find any documentation about this event.  I don't doubt that it occurred; I wish we had dates and more details. Documentation and OBRC reports are important.

Here are the OBRC records I could find for Carolina Wrens in Northern Ontario. It's interesting to note that all of them occur in fall (except 1 in winter) and some attempts are made at overwintering.  

Cochrane District Records:

South Porcupine (Cochrane District) 27 August 2018 - Continuing
Moosonee (Cochrane District) 30 Sept 2012

Timiskaming District Records:

Englehart (Timiskaming District) 13 Oct 2017
New Liskeard (Timiskaming District) 8 October to 8 December 2016
New Liskeard (Timiskaming District) 15 December 1988 to  15 February 1989

Northwestern Ontario Records:

Marathon (Thunder Bay District) 14 & 20 August 2012

Atikokan (Rainy River District) 15 November to 23 December 1990

Algoma Records:
Michipicoten River (Algoma) 10 November 2012 to 6 January 2013

The Carolina Wren visiting our neighbourhood is still here today.  It sings on and off every day from sunrise to sunset, and it visits the bird bath occasionally.  Our backyard seems to be a suitable habitat for it; it is surrounded by a big tangled mess of overgrown hedge (Cedar and Siberian pea-shrub) that are covered in vines. It's quiet and there are lots of hiding spots. 
Carolina Wren / Troglodyte de Caroline
South Porcupine (10 September 2018)

I'm really enjoying the wren's various songs (it's actually singing as I am writing this!) I am curious to see if it will attempt to overwinter here.  Our winters are harsh, cold and long; it's not uncommon to have extended periods below -40°C.  I have purchased many bags of mealworms in case it decides to stay.  And as soon as the black bears go into hibernation, I will be able to put out seeds and suet.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

End of Spring: Warblers and Shorebirds

The last 2 weeks of spring brought warblers and shorebirds to Northern Ontario; some were a bit late but most of them arrived close to their usual date. I couldn't get out as much as I usually do but I managed to check Porcupine Lake as much as I could.  I also went to Moonbeam for a few days around May 20th and visited the Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon and the René Brunelle Provincial Park.  Even though Moonbeam is just 1 hour north of Timmins, spring arrived later there. There were still some snow piles in the forest on May 20th!

Magnolia Warbler / Paruline à tête cendrée
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon (20 May 2018)
Wilson's Warbler / Paruline à calotte noire
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (20 May 2018)
Northern Parula / Paruline à collier
René Brunelle Provincial Park - Moonbeam (20 May 2018)

Cape May Warbler / Paruline Tigrée
South Porcupine (1 June 2018)
Photographing warblers is always a challenge, especially with my camera which is a point and shoot (very slow with no manual focus).  The warblers that I am finding the hardest to photograph are Orange-crowned and Blackpoll.  I tried again this year and this is the best I could do:

Orange-crowned Warbler / Paruline verdâtre
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon (21 May 2018)
Blackpoll Warbler / Paruline rayée
Porcupine Lake (29 May 2018)
As always, the Winter Wrens were singing everywhere at René Brunelle Provincial Park and I managed to capture this one.  It was fun to watch it sing a few times on a pile of dead trees.

Winter Wren / Troglodyte des forêts
René Brunelle Provincial Park - Moonbeam (20 May 2018)
During the last part of May, we had a few shorebirds stopping to rest and feed at Porcupine Lake. This doesn't happen every spring but this year the unusually dry spring produced low water levels and provided a decent exposed shoreline for them.  We were able to observe 2 shorebird species that are rarely seen in our area: the White-rumped Sandpiper and the Ruddy Turnstone. The White-rumped Sandpipers we found were surprisingly the first to be reported for Porcupine Lake.

White-rumped Sandpiper / Bécasseau à croupion blanc
Porcupine Lake (26 May 2018)

White-rumped Sandpiper / Bécasseau à croupion blanc
Porcupine Lake (31 May 2018)
Ruddy Turnstone / Tournepierre à collier
Porcupine Lake (8 June 2018)
These more common shorebirds also stopped by Porcupine Lake on their way north.

Semipalmated Plover / Pluvier semipalmé
Porcupine Lake (8 June 2018)

Dunlin / Bécasseau variable
Porcupine Lake (27 May 2018)
Semipalmated Sandpiper / Bécasseau semipalmé
Porcupine Lake (25 May 2018)
Least Sandpiper / Bécasseau minuscule
Porcupine Lake (25 May 2018)

On the same day that we added the White-rumped Sandpipers to the Porcupine Lake checklist, we added another new species: Black Terns. 

Black Terns / Guifette noire
Porcupine Lake (26 May 2018)
In other news, the Porcupine Lake Gray Catbirds are back for the 4th year in a row.
Gray Catbird / Moqueur chat
Porcupine Lake (11 June 2018)
I hope you all have a great summer! We are planning a short camping trip to Wheatley Provincial Park sometimes in July. It will be our first time camping in that area. I'm not sure what the birding situation is like near Wheatley in summer but I hope I will get the chance to see at least a few new birds.  In Wheatley, I don't think we'll be running into many of these guys like we do here.

Black Bear in our front yard
South Porcupine (16 June 2018)


Monday, May 14, 2018

Some May Migrants and a Painted Bunting in Porcupine

Since the ice on Porcupine Lake completely melted yesterday evening (May 13, 2018), I thought it would be a great time for an update with some highlights from the first half of May.

Let's start with a very unique and surprising rare visitor: a male Painted Bunting.  It was found by Andrew Warren (who also happened to host an overwintering Easter Towhee from December 2017 to March 2018). Andrew found the Painted Bunting on May 9th, 2018 at his feeder in Porcupine (10 km East of Timmins).  The bird could not have chosen a better yard with a more cooperative homeowner! Andrew quickly spread the word and gave us permission to go observe the bird. After 2 failed attempts that same evening, I finally saw it on the morning of May 10th.   

Here is my very blurry photo taken in the rain. It was a cold morning: 4°C (-1°C with the wind chill) and after standing still for almost an hour, the bird showed up briefly at the feeder and I had time to observe it and take a few quick photos.

My first Painted the rain
Porcupine (10 May 2018)
If you look online at the usual range map of the Painted Bunting, you will understand how rare it was to see it in Northern Ontario's Cochrane District.

Although I am proud of my blurry photo, it doesn't do the bird justice.  Andrew got some stunning photos and gave me permission to post them here.  In Andrew's photos, you can see the whole array of colours: blue, red, yellow, green and orange!  I would like to thank Andrew for lending me these great photos and giving me the opportunity to observe this life bird.

Painted Bunting / Passerin nonpareil
Porcupine, ON (10 May 2018) Photo: Andrew Warren

Painted Bunting / Passerin nonpareil
Porcupine, ON (10 May 2018) Photo: Andrew Warren

From May 9 to 11, the unusually cold weather (in addition to below-zero nights) probably prompted the Painted Bunting to visit the feeder on and off.  But starting on May 12, the temperatures rose over 15°C so the bird probably didn't need to supplement its diet with seeds and was unfortunately not seen again.

Other spring arrivals:

On May 5th Gary and I went out for most of the morning and afternoon for the Global Big Day. It was very early in May for Northern Ontario but we managed to see a few interesting species.
Peregrine Falcon / Faucon pèlerin
Timmins (5 May 2018)

Northern Shrike / Pie-grièche grise
Connaught (5 May 2018)

Rough-legged Hawk / Buse pattue
Connaught (5 May 2018)

Lapland Longspur / Plectrophane lapon
Timmins (5 May 2018)
Gary looking for Greater Yellowlegs
Global Big Day 2018 - Timmins Area
Most of our waterfowl species have arrived; we've been seeing decent numbers of them on Porcupine Lake and Frederick House Lake. Yesterday evening, we observed some Gadwalls and Northern Pintails with a group of mixed waterfowl (Greater and Lesser Scaups, Redheads, Common Goldeneyes, American Wigeons, Ring-necked Ducks, Buffleheads) in the Bristol area of Porcupine Lake where they usually gather in the evening during the month of May.

Northern Pintail / Canard pilet
Porcupine Lake (13 May 2018)
Gadwall / Canard chipeau
Porcupine Lake (13 May 2018)

Three Black Scoters were a surprise visit to Gillies Lake (which is a very small lake in the city of Timmins) They were found by a local birder and we were able to relocate them. They were only there for 1 day.
Black Scoters / Macreuse à bec jaune
Gillies Lake - Timmins (9 May 2018)
When Porcupine Lake is still covered in many sections of ice, it's a great time to look for rare gulls. We didn't get the number of rare gulls we got last year but we did find a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Great Black-backed Gull.
Lesser Black-backed Gull / Goéland brun
Porcupine Lake (8 May 2018)
Another fun thing to watch for when the Lake is partially covered in ice every year is the gulls' attempts at stealing the fish from the mergansers.  Here is a Ring-billed Gull doing just that.

Ring-billed Gull watching the Common Merganser
Porcupine Lake (7 May 2018)
 In the shorebird category, the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are here and a small group of Least Sandpipers arrived on May 12.  We also found a Wilson's Phalarope on May 12 in the same location as the one we found last year around the same date.
Wilson's Phalarope / Phalarope de Wilson
Porcupine (12 May 2018)
Not a lot of warblers have arrived yet but I'm expecting a good number will arrive during the upcoming week.  The most abundant right now are Yellow-rumped, Black-and-white with a few Nashville and Palm.
Black-and-white Warbler / Paruline noir et blanc
Gillies Lake (11 May 2018)

Yellow-rumped Warbler / Paruline à croupion jaune
Porcupine Lake (13 May 2018)
This week, we have lots of White-crowned Sparrows (mostly all males so far). They have been everywhere and they are very vocal so the Merlin's visits have been inevitable.

Merlin feasting on a White-crowned Sparrow
South Porcupine (11 May 2018)

I can't wait to see what the second part of May will bring.