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)