Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Weekend with Rusty Blackbirds

I got to watch a flock of 14 Rusty Blackbirds on the Porcupine Lake trail Friday morning.  They are amazing looking birds.  I never had a chance to get such a good look at them so I took advantage of the nice day and I watched them for a long time.  OK, for a very long time… Friday and Saturday. 
Rusty Blackbird / Quiscale rouilleux
Porcupine Lake (26 September 2014)
This one found a dead minnow and I watched him as he enjoyed his feast.

Another Rusty Blackbird
I went back this afternoon and they were still there.  It was a hot day (25 Celsius).  Some of them were coping with the heat by bathing in the little stream.  
Rusty Blackbirds
This is the last one, I promise...
Rusty Blackbird - Porcupine Lake (27 Sept 2014)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Porcupine Lake - Stilt Sandpiper, Red Knot and more

Two weeks ago, on World Shorebirds Day (September 6, 2014), I was determined to explore a lake with sandy and muddy shores where we'd see shorebirds.  We had inquired around for such a lake, preparing for Shorebirds Day.  We wanted to find the perfect 'new' spot.  We drove 90 km to a lake we heard had the nicest sandy shores in the region.  We found the Lake.  We did not find the so called sandy shores.  We only saw 3 Loons.  So we drove back.  A total of 180 km; no shorebirds.  We didn't even see a potentially good shore!  When we arrived back in town, we had 15 minutes to spare so we went to Plan B; we decided to stop by the small beach at Porcupine Lake... I was NOT going back home without seeing a shorebird on World Shorebirds Day!  As soon as I got out of the truck, I spotted it: there was a shorebird waiting for us… and the height of its legs made me realize it was one I had never seen before.
Stilt Sandpiper / Bécasseau à échasses
Porcupine Lake (Sept 6, 2014)
Stilt Sandpiper / Bécasseau à échasses
Porcupine Lake (Sept 6, 2014)
And to think Porcupine Lake is 2 km from my door!  Finding this bird sure made me forget about the 180 birdless kilometres we drove that day.  It was a new bird for Gary and I and for Porcupine Lake.

On September 12, we decided to go explore Hersey Lake.  It's a small, pretty lake in a Conservation Area.  Hersey Lake's shores are all sand and mud with swampy areas.  We check it once in a while because it has enormous Shorebird potential.  Unfortunately, there was nothing.  The lake is surrounded by trails and it's so busy… it's becoming more and more like a dog park; there are always a dozen dogs and most of them aren't on leashes… which is not fun if you're a migrating shorebird in need of rest and food.  I'm eventually going to just give up on that lake.  Coming back from there, we decided to go for Plan B again; we stopped at good old Porcupine Lake and we got lucky again.  We saw 2 new birds for Porcupine Lake.

A Red Knot… at first, I wasn't too sure what it was.  And when I realized it was a Red Knot, I was so excited.  Anyone who read anything on migrating Red Knots can't help being fascinated by the bird.  It can fly up to 15,000 km during Spring and then again in Fall.  (Close to 30, 000 km every year).  If you're not impressed, just look up Moonbird (B95).  I rest my case.  I feel lucky to have had a chance to stand so close to a miracle of nature!
Red Knot / Bécasseau maubèche
Porcupine Lake (Sept 12, 2014)
We watched it for a while.  He was feeding on the edge of the grass where the trail is flooded (Porcupine Lake's water level has been high during the last 2 years)  Then a bicycle flushed it.
Red Knot about to be flushed by a cyclist.
I thought that would be my last look at the Red Knot as it was about to be scared off by a cyclist... but  the bird landed right at our feet.  About 2 meters away from us.
Red Knot - Porcupine Lake (Sept 12, 2014)
After looking at us for a bit, the Red Knot went back to its spot and started feeding again, catching a big juicy worm.
Red Knot - Porcupine Lake (Sept 12, 2014)
We were still watching the Red Knot at a fair distance when Gary spotted another bird nearby.  I put my binoculars on the bird and realized it was a Ruddy Turnstone.  Another new bird for Gary and I, and for Porcupine Lake; 2 life birds in one evening.  At this point, the only way we could have more luck is if they would both come near us and pose together…hmmmm
Ruddy Turnstone and Red Knot
Porcupine Lake (Sept 12, 2014)
On September 18, we went back to Porcupine Lake (we forget Plan A and go straight to Plan B) and we spotted this Semipalmated Plover feeding off the small beach at White Waterfront area.  It was hopping on one leg and upon closer look, I realized that the poor thing was missing its left leg.  
Semipalmated Plover / Pluvier semipalmé
Porcupine Lake (Sept 18, 2014)
As we were watching the Semipalmated Plover, a Ruddy Turnstone landed on the beach.  I can't wait to get back to Porcupine Lake… it's been full of surprises this year.
Ruddy Turnstone / Tournepierre à collier
Porcupine Lake (Sept 18, 2014)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park Camping and Birding

In August, Gary and I went for 2 short camping trips to Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park.  It is situated near Foleyet, around 120 km from South Porcupine.  It is such a wonderful park; I'm afraid my words  can't do it justice. The long sandy beach, the many trails and the rich variety of trees makes it a great place to observe birds... and a great place to peacefully enjoy nature.
Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park beach - August 2014
When we first arrived, we set up our camper (which is just a matter of popping the top up!) and we jumped on our bicycle to explore every inch of the park.   I had been there when I was a child but it was a long time ago.

I was very happy to rediscover that awesome sandy back road that goes near Saw Lake and Boys Lake.  The back road in Ivanhoe park has very little traffic (around 1 vehicle every hour) and the best part is, it's made of sand which means our bicycles can run smoothly without making noise that would scare off the birds.  So this sandy back road quickly became my favourite place to look for warblers. We found many warbler species, especially in the low deciduous bushes along the road between Saw Lake and Boys Lake.

Sadly, I didn't take a lot of photos.  I find that when it comes to warblers, you miss so much if you reach for your camera.  I prefer my binoculars.  I really wish I could share with you the beautiful Black-throated Blue Warbler I saw... my first sighting in Northern Ontario.  I had only seen them in southern Ontario before.  But... no photo.
Ruffed Grouse
Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park (August 2014)
We kayaked the shores of Ivanhoe Lake where we saw a rock full of Spotted Sandpipers, a Bald Eagle, an Osprey and a Merlin.  Further on the lake, you can watch Bonaparte's Gulls and Common Terns.  
Bald Eagle - Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park
(August 2014)
We also went kayaking on Saw Lake, which is a smaller lake situated in the park.  
Saw Lake in Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park
(August 2014)
It's a perfect lake for kayaking; motorized-boats aren't allowed on it.  It seems like it's always calmer than Ivanhoe and it has lots of bays and small islands that makes it so much fun to explore in a kayak.  And the Water Lilies are beautiful!
Water Lily on Saw Lake
Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park (August 2014)
Beautiful pine trees surrounded our campsite.  Every evening, we could sit in our lawn chair and watch a Swainson's Thrush feeding on insects and berries in front of our site.  We spent a total of 5 nights in the park in August (divided in 2 stays). We observed a total of 44 species during our time there.   I didn't take as many photos as I would've liked because our time there was limited and my camera is not working that great.

One evening, we watched a group of 5 Least Sandpipers feeding on the main beach.
Least Sandpiper
Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park (August 2014)
The next morning, I went to the beach to see if they were still there.  They were gone but a Semipalmated Sandpiper was there alone.  
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park (August 2014)
I stood absolutely motionless as he walked the beach; they can get pretty close to us when we do this.  I was able to take many photos including the one above where we can actually see the webbing between its toes.
Sunset on Ivanhoe Lake
Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park (August 2014)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Birding in René Brunelle Provincial Park

I was happy to be able to go to René Brunelle Provincial Park in May and again in July this year.  At the end of May, I had a meeting at the Park so I decided to take a few hours to do some birding… it turned into a few days.   Here are a few of the birds I photographed:

Merlin / Faucon émerillon
René Brunelle Provincial Park (May 2014)
Blue-headed Vireo / Viréo à tête bleue
René Brunelle Provincial Park (May 2014)
Magnolia Warbler / Paruline à tête cendrée
René Brunelle Provincial Park (May 2014)
In July, Gary and I spent 2 weeks camping at the park.  In René Brunelle Provincial Park, you start seeing and hearing warblers as soon as you wake up in the morning.  They are everywhere.  This summer, I found that there were so many Blackburnian Warblers.  By the 3rd week of July, they were actively feeding their young like many other warblers in the park.  

Blackburnian Warbler / Paruline à gorge orangée
René Brunelle Provincial Park (July 2014)
We were on a lakeside campsite so the Northern Waterthrush were present every day, as were these Bonaparte's Gulls.  I love watching them; they have the funniest expressions.
Bonaparte's Gull / Mouette de Bonaparte
René Brunelle Provincial Park (July 2014)
This Philadelphia Vireo was very vocal.  We got to watch it for a while.
Philadelphia Vireo / Viréo de Philadelphie
René Brunelle Provincial Park (July 2014)
One evening, like most evenings, my parents, Gary and I went to the first beach to watch the sunset and we spotted a Red-necked Grebe.  I had seen them in the Moonbeam area before but I had never seen one on Remi Lake, which is a fairly large lake and can get pretty rough when it's windy.  But on this calm evening, there was a Red-necked Grebe in the water in front of the park's first Beach. 

Red-necked Grebe / Grèbe jougris
René Brunelle Provincial Park (July 2014)
A post on René Brunelle Provincial Park would not be complete without mentioning its beautiful sunsets.  They are always very impressive. 
René Brunelle Provincial Park

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer update… and BC birds

Although it's been a nice summer so far, it's been kind of difficult to enjoy birding since June because of the mosquitos.  Maybe it's just my patience getting thinner but it seems like they're worst every year.  We went on the Porcupine Lake trail last week and could barely stop to look for birds without a cloud of hungry mosquitos forming around our face… a cloud so thick my camera couldn't even focus pass them!  

Gary and I took a 10 day break from the mosquitos and went on a family trip to British Columbia in June.  It was my first time in BC and definitely not my last.  It was not a birding trip, but we did manage to see a lot of interesting life birds that we don't get to see around here, like Black Oystercatchers, Rhinoceros Auklets, Marbled Murrelets, Wester Tanager, Violet-green Swallows and lots of very vocal Spotted Towhees.  I can just imagine what one could see on an actual birding trip!    
Black Oystercatcher
Near Tofino, BC  (June 2014)
Maybe it's just a coincidence, but the birds don't seem as frightened around people as the birds around here. Where we stayed in Sechelt, we got to watch these Belted Kingfishers every day. They weren't bothered by our presence.

Belted Kingfishers
Sechelt, BC (June 2014)
And there's dozens of Great Blue Herons around every Harbour and they stand near people and moving boats.  I even watched Marbled Murrelets catching fish 15 meters from Tofino's busy public dock!  

Overall, it was a great trip; we visited Stanley Park in Vancouver, we stopped to see the magnificent Cathedral Forest on Vancouver Island, we stayed 2 days near Tofino and then we visited with family in Sechelt, where we explored lots of great trails.  The trees are spectacular and the best part of it all… there was no flies.  We saw a total of 3 mosquitos in 10 days.   

To view some of the birds I photographed in BC:  British Columbia Birds on Flickr

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Porcupine Lake in May

Springtime is too short!  These past weeks I have not taken the time to write any posts because I did not want to miss one minute of spring.  I feel blessed to have a lake close enough to explore on my bicycle.  Porcupine Lake is surrounded with great trails that attract a wide variety of birds.  I always find it surprising that there are so many birds around and on the lake even though it's so close to town.  On nice days, it's a really busy place with people and dogs, and there are even planes taking off and landing on the lake.  But in the spring, the birds don't seem to mind!

Here's a few birds I photographed around Porcupine Lake during the last 3 weeks of May.

Merlin / Faucon émerillon
Porcupine Lake (May 2014)
The Warblers started to arrive in the wooded trail by the second week of May and we started to hear Winter Wrens.  The part of the trail that starts near the Whitney Arena is great for warblers.
Northern Parula / Paruline à collier
Porcupine Lake (May 2014)
Lesser Yellowlegs / Petit Chevalier
Porcupine Lake (May 2014)
Some of the nicest finds are the ones that are just passing by on their migration routes.  They are  only here for a short time so Spring or Fall is the only time we get to view them… if we're lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.  Gary and I were lucky enough to spot these Long-tailed Ducks.  They didn't stick around for very long.
Long-tailed Duck / Harelde kakawi
Porcupine Lake  (May 14, 2014)
I also saw my first White-winged Scoters on Porcupine Lake.  They were originally spotted by Josh Janvrin and we found a flock of about 11 the next day.  They were quite far so the photo is not clear but I'm posting it anyway because who knows when we get to see these interesting birds again.
White-winged Scoter / Macreuse brune
Some other migratory birds that stopped at Porcupine Lake in May included the Short-billed Dowitchers  (I'm not taking credit for the find… my neighbour actually spotted them and told me about it so I went to check it out the next day… and I'm also not taking credit for the i.d. because I needed help to determine if they were Short-billed or Long-billed Dowitchers.)
Short-billed Dowitcher / Bécassin roux
Porcupine Lake (May 2014)
Dunlins were also present with the Dowitchers, as well as one little tiny bird who was well hidden amongst them.  It was a Least Sandpiper.  I spotted one last fall at exactly the same spot, except he was all alone.
Dunlin / Bécasseau variable
Porcupine Lake (May 2014)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wilson's Phalaropes in Moonbeam

On Saturday, May 17, we drove to Moonbeam for a quick unplanned visit to the Sewage Lagoon (and of course, we also visited my parents!).  Moonbeam's Sewage Lagoon is one of my favourite spot to observe birds, especially during migration. I wish I could go more often.  We spotted regular visitors: lots of American Wigeons and Scaups, a few Ring-necked Ducks and Buffleheads and a couple of Northern Shovelers and Wood Ducks.    
Northern Shovelers surrounded by American Wigeons
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon (May 17, 2014)
There was also a large flock of Bonaparte's Gull; they alway gather on this Lagoon in Spring.  It was a very cold day and it was even snowing at one point.  There was no sparrows or warblers yet in the low bushes surrounding the Lagoon but they will arrive soon I imagine.

After we had explored both ponds, Gary and I were about to leave when we spotted a resting bird at the back end of the North pond; it was curled up, floating around, and we couldn't tell what it was.  It was very far, but we knew it was not a usual duck.  So we decided to wait patiently; we wanted to see what it was before leaving. We waited almost an hour, taking turn keeping a constant eye on it.  It didn't raise its head.  It was freezing, but we waited and waited.

Well… things always happen for a reason and I'm very happy that the bird slept for that long because while we were silently standing still, waiting for the bird to raise its head, look what swam in front of us.  Our patience was rewarded.
Wilson's Phalarope
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon (May 17, 2014)
Our very first Wilson's Phalaropes! We got to watch them for a while.  They were swimming and feeding near the shore in the cattails.  They are very unique birds and it was a treat to watch them bob up and down and spin around.  They have such slender necks and thin bill.  They are elegant!  And I was amazed to learn that contrary to most birds, the female Phalarope wears the bright colours and the male is responsible for the egg incubation and then he takes care for the young.

After watching the Phalaropes for a long time, we looked up to see if our mystery bird had raised its head.  It did.  And it was a beautiful Red-necked Grebe.
Red-necked Grebe
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon (May 17, 2014)
We were in the right place at the right time.  And as we were walking back towards the entrance, we noticed that the Bonaparte's Gulls were suddenly all in the air flying around in a tight group.  Then, we saw why.  A Peregrine Falcon was following them closely.  He had no luck and he had to fly away without lunch.  But we got a really close look at him.

Funny how things work out sometimes.  We saw some amazing birds … mostly because the Red-necked Grebe was asleep for a long time.

Here's some other birds we saw at the Lagoon while we were there:
Solitary Sandpiper
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon (May 17, 2014)
Short-billed Dowitchers and a Dunlin
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon (May 17, 2014)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fox Sparrows and other Spring birds

Every Spring for the last 5 years, our yard is visited by 2 Fox Sparrows.  They always stop by in May and spend a few days.  I always look forward to their arrival; they are beautiful birds and they have the nicest song of all sparrows.  I was never able to get a good photo of them in the past; they mostly stay on the ground, doing their continuous little "kicking backward" motion to get food so most of my photos were blurry.  This Spring, however, the day before they left, one was kind enough to perch on a branch and pose for me.
Fox Sparrow / Bruant fauve
South Porcupine (May 2014)

Fox Sparrow / Bruant fauve
South Porcupine (May 2014)
A lot of fields and roadsides are flooded and there's still some snow in the forest.  One of our favorite birding rural road got washed away so we had to find new ones for now.   We discovered a new marsh, where I was able to watch my first Pied-billed Grebe sink like a submarine.  It's quite impressive!  I wish I had a video but all I got is this photo.
Pied-billed Grebe / Grèbe à bec bigarré
(May 2014)
I was very happy to see my first yard Warblers last week; a Nashville Warbler and a Black-and-white Warbler.  Warblers love our Tamarack trees.  At Frederick House Lake, we saw our first Cliff Swallows of the year; they were already hard at work under the bridge.  We also saw our first Bonaparte's Gulls of the spring.
Bonaparte's Gull / Mouette de Bonaparte
Frederick House Lake (May 2014)
We also spotted a group of at least 28 Double-crested Cormorants under the railway bridge at Frederick House Lake. For some reason, this number was flagged on eBird as being a too large quantity for the date and for our location but the truth is, we see more and more Cormorants every year in this area so I wasn't surprised by this group.  This is becoming a common sight in Northern Ontario.
Double-crested Cormorant / Cormoran à aigrettes
Frederick House Lake/river (May 2014)