Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spring in South Porcupine and Moonbeam

May is the greatest time to observe birds in Northern Ontario.  The weather has been ok so far.  Most of the time, it's been nice for birding but we have had some days with freezing temperature and snow (it wouldn't be Northern Ontario if we didn't go from 25˚C to -4˚C in 24 hours at least a few times!) I have been travelling to Moonbeam a lot this May.  Here are a few of my favorite spring sightings from Moonbeam and South Porcupine.

The Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon never disappoints.  I've observed the Eurasian Wigeon there a few times and I saw it again on May 24. The water was very high until the 2nd week of May, but then the south pond was emptied, which attracted many shorebirds. On the 22nd, I saw a flock of 12 Semipalmated Plovers, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, 23 Dunlins, 3 Least Sandpipers, and a Wilson's Phalarope.  It was the biggest concentration of shorebirds I ever witnessed at MSL.  
Semipalmated Plover / Pluvier semipalmé
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (22 May 2015)
This was my second Wilson's Phalarope sighting; the first sighting was a male and female at exactly the same spot in May 2014.  This time, there was only the female.
Wilson's Phalarope / Phalarope de Wilson
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (22 May 2015)
When the pond gets emptied, it leaves the mud exposed.  Lots of shorebirds were feeding that day.
Dunlins and Dowitchers feeding
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (22 May 2015)
Short-billed Dowitchers / Bécassins roux
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (22 May 2015)
I was pleasantly surprised when a friend of mine told me about a Great Horned Owl nest  in Moonbeam.  He obtained the property owner's permission to bring me to see them.  It was my first Great Horned Owl sighting.  One adult was in the nest with 2 owlets (the other owlet is hiding in this picture)
Great Horned Owl / Grand-duc d'Amérique
Moonbeam (25 May 2015)
I was far when I took the above photo, but even then I felt like I was invading their peaceful life, so I didn't stay long.  That's why I love my Canon Powershot SX60HS; I can take photos of birds without disturbing them too much.  At full zoom, it offers the equivalent of a 1365mm lens (for under 500$!). Of course, it doesn't produce professional, sharp photos, but at least it's efficient, it's cheap, and I can carry this little camera everywhere!  This is the view from where I was standing when I took the Photo.
View of the Great Horned Owl's nest
Porcupine Lake is another spot that never disappoint in May.  I didn't have a chance to spend as much time there as I wanted, but I did get to see my first Horned Grebes on May 10.
Horned Grebes / Grebe esclavon
Porcupine Lake (10 May 2015)
I haven't seen many shorebirds at Porcupine Lake, but it's a really busy place, with lots of dogs off their leash.  But I did see Dunlins and a Least Sandpiper. 

This post is getting too long, so I will end with a gorgeous warbler that we don't really see often enough around here.  I observed it at my in-laws' campsite, which is close to Kettle Lakes Provincial Park.  I first heard its very distinctive song so I looked for it until I found it.  I had seen them before at Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park near Foleyet; it was a treat to find one near here. 

Black-throated Blue Warbler / Paruline bleue
Near South Porcupine (16 May 2015)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Eurasian Wigeon in Moonbeam

I have been watching spring arrive in Moonbeam since the 18th of April.  Although birding is not the main reason I've been spending a few weeks here, I have had the chance to go to many of my favorite spots to witness the arrivals of spring birds.  One my favorite spots is the Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons, which never fails to attract colorful spring migrants.  Last year, on May 17 2014, I got to see my first Wilson's Phalarope here.  This year, on the evening of May 2nd, I got to observe my first Eurasian Wigeon.

Eurasian Wigeon / Canard Siffleur
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (May 2, 2015)
We went to check the lagoon the next morning at 7am and it was still there.

On May 4th, we went for a tour of the rural roads south of Moonbeam to look for birds.  There are many lakes, fields and ponds along these rural roads where we can see spring migration unfold.  In particular, I love stopping at 2 creeks; one on St-Jean rd. and one on St-Marie rd.  We stopped at the creek on St-Jean Rd first; this gorgeous creek actually surrounds a small horse farm. In spring, the creek becomes very wide and it's a favorite stopover for many waterfowl and shorebirds.  As soon as we arrived, I couldn't believe what I was seeing; the Eurasian Wigeon was there!  

Eurasian Wigeon and Killdeer
Moonbeam - St-Jean Road (May 4, 2015)
It's certainly the same bird I saw at the Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon on the evening of May 2nd and on the morning of May 3rd.  The creek is exactly 5.6 km from the lagoon (a straight 5.6 km as the Wigeon flies!)  Also in the creek near the Eurasian Wigeon were 2 American Wigeons, some Green-winged Teals, Mallards ... and a Killdeer.

We saw the Eurasian Wigeon again at the Moonbeam Sewage Lagoon on the afternoon of May 8.  I'm not sure how long it plans to stay in the area.  I'm leaving Moonbeam today and I won't be back until May 23.  But I might just go for one last stroll at the lagoon before I leave.

Here are some other spring arrivals I observed around the Moonbeam area.

Northern Shoveler / Canard souchet
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (May 2015)
Lapland Longspur / Plectrophane lapon
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (May 2015)

Spring has been great so far… and the best part is, it's not over!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Quick Winter Update

Winter Update
We're already in the second month of 2015... time goes by fast.  Since my last post was over 4 months ago, I decided I should do a quick update. 

What happened in the last 4 months?  Winter happened.  One thing you can count on here in Northern Ontario is winter.  It's a cold one (OK, maybe not as cold as last winter, but close)

We've been seeing lots of Redpolls at our feeders as well as some Pine Grosbeaks and a couple of Evening Grosbeaks.  We have flocks of 30 to 100 redpolls every day in the neighbourhood.  For the first time since I've lived here, we have a Pileated Woodpecker visiting the suet feeder.  But then again, I've only had a suet feeder since last winter (I started putting it out last year to help our rare visitor, the Red-bellied Woodpecker, survive winter.  He successfully survived our harsh climate.  He stayed from November 22, 2013 to May 23, 2014).  Now the Pileated shows up every day so I have to make a new batch of home-made suet every week!

Pileated Woodpecker / Grand Pic
South Porcupine (February 2015)
Timmins Christmas Bird Count 2014
On December 20th, Gary and I participated in the 21st Timmins Christmas Bird Count.  It was a beautiful day.  It was sunny and -20 Celsius so it was a perfect day to be out there looking for birds.  We did some fields around Timmins.  We also did some of the beautiful trails at Hersey Lake Conservation Area, where we saw this Black-backed Woodpecker. 

Black-backed Woodpecker / Pic à dos noir
Hersey Lake Conservation Area, Timmins (Dec 2014)

Dominican Republic
We went to the Dominicans from December 27 to January 3rd  to attend my cousin's wedding. It was our first time in the Dominicans.  We were a group of 39 and I didn't have time to do any birding side trips like I had hoped... but our resort was still pretty good for birds because it had some naturals ponds and streams right on its grounds.  One pond was blocked off by trees but we still found a way to get to it almost every day.  I got to see 32 species, 19 of which were life birds for me.  I got to observe this Black-crowned Night-Heron on my birthday… they can be seen in Southern Ontario sometimes but I had to go to Punta Cana to see my first one. 
Black-crowned Night-Heron/ Bihoreau gris
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Jan 2015)
I didn't take a lot of photos (there was sand in my camera so it wasn't working so good)  You can view a few more photos I took in the Dominicans here:  Some of my Dominican Republic Birds on Flickr

I finally saw my first snowy owl. For some reason, they never seem to come to the Timmins area.  We've been scanning fields for years and we never saw one here.  On January 23, we went to Kapuskasing for my sister's birthday dinner and we saw one just before arriving in town (I didn't have my camera)  It was pure white, perched on a telephone pole.  There are no words to describe how beautiful these owls are.

On the 27th of January, I had to go back to Moonbeam for a meeting and I saw another one.  It was a different bird.  I had my camera that time but I was 300 meters away from it so it's not very clear.  So far, Snowy Owls have been spotted in the Kapuskasing, Moonbeam and Cochrane area but none have been seen near Timmins yet.

Snowy Owl / Harfang des neiges
Moonbeam, Ontario (27 Jan 2015)