Saturday, May 28, 2016

A day in Moonbeam

The weather forecast called for rain all weekend, except for a day of nice weather in Moonbeam on Friday, so that's where we went.  We went to René Brunelle Provincial Park and Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons, Moonbeam's two best spots to see birds in May.

René Brunelle Provincial Park was quiet, not a lot of campers were there yet because it's still early in the season.  This made it a perfect day to look for birds. We spent over 4 1/2 hours there.  The warblers were very active and singing non-stop everywhere. 
Magnolia Warbler / Paruline à tête cendrée
René Brunelle Provincial Park (27 May 2016)
Bay-breasted Warbler / Paruline à poitrine baie
René Brunelle Provincial Park (27 May 2016)
Snowshoe Hare / Lièvre d'Amérique
René Brunelle Provincial Park (27 May 2016)
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons was our second stop.  The first pond of the lagoons had been emptied that week, so the bottom was mostly all mud.  This usually attracts a number of migrating shorebirds.
Semipalmated Plover / Pluvier semipalmé
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (27 May 2016)
There were 6 Semipalmated Plovers, 3 Dunlins, 1 Least Sandpiper and 6 Semipalmated Sandpipers.  I wish I was there this coming week to see what else might show up! For the last 2 years, we've had Wilson's Phalaropes at the Lagoons in May 2014 and 2015.  I was hoping to see some, but no luck.

Dunlins / Bécasseau variable
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (27 May 2016)
We saw a total of 6 American Coots.  That was the biggest number I had ever witnessed at this spot.  We usually see 1 or 2.
American Coot / Foulque d'Amérique
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (27 May 2016)
In the trees surrounding the lagoons, we observed this Blackpoll Warbler.  Unlike the other warblers that we see here, this one doesn't breed in our region, it is migrating north for the summer.
Blackpoll Warbler / Paruline rayée
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (27 May 2016)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Birding Porcupine Lake

I have always wondered how long it would take me to go around the entire Porcupine Lake on a bicycle while noting all the species of birds I observe.  There was only one way to find out.  I did it yesterday; It took me 5 hours.

I had biked and walked around the whole lake before but I had never actually birded the entire circumference of the lake in one shot. I usually bird only half or a third of the lake at once when I'm biking or walking because I'm extremely slow; when I look for birds I like to take my time, double-checking each i.d. and watching every bird for a while; in other words, I like to enjoy every minute of it!

I chose a weekday because the trails are less busy than during the weekend, and there's nothing like being completely alone surrounded by birds and nature. I started at White Waterfront area, cycled the 8.5 km that surrounds Porcupine Lake, counter clockwise, all the way back to my starting point.  It was around 13°C when I started at 10:40am and it became really warm (23°C) by the end.  I finished at 3:40 pm.

As you can see in the photo, the lake was calm.  The trees have no leaves yet, which makes May the ideal month to observe songbirds. 
Porcupine Lake - Dead Man's Point Trail
19 May 2016
The first half included the trail that starts at Station rd and goes all the way to Dead Man's Point and Bob's Creek Marsh. This trail had the most activity, mostly because it was earlier during the day and it was just starting to warm up.  The warblers and kinglets were concentrated in patches of spruce and in the deciduous trees that are just starting to show some buds.  I didn't take many photos.
Blue-headed Vireo
Porcupine Lake (19 May 2016)
Blue-winged Teals
Porcupine Lake (19 May 2016)
Black-and-white Warbler
Porcupine Lake (19 May 2016)
The second half of the loop was much quieter.  I saw that the swallows (Cliff, Barn and Tree) are returning to their normal activity near Bannerman's Park.  The cold snap of last week had forced hundreds of them to seek insects on the water at Bob's Lake and Three Nation's Lake.  At Bannerman's, I observed 9 Least Sandpipers.  We usually see more migrating shorebirds in May at Porcupine Lake but it's been a strange migrating season; these were my first for this year.
Least Sandpipers
Porcupine Lake (19 May 2016)
The Redheads were still hanging around in Bristol Park bay.
Porcupine Lake (19 May 2016)
I plan to do a full circle of the lake every year in May.  I saw 57 species, including 13 species of warblers, but I think there should have been more birds in general. I didn't see any Grebes, Herons, Ospreys, Merlins, Dunlins, Dowitchers, etc. We usually see a larger variety of birds at Porcupine Lake in May.  But May is not over yet, so there is still time. So far, 139 species of birds have been observed in the last 3 years at Porcupine Lake (eBird data) and the list will likely keep growing.  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Moonbeam Spring Sightings

I spent the last week in Moonbeam and witnessed the arrival of warmer weather as well as a few birds.  I also had the opportunity to speak to a group of people at the Fauquier Community Centre about all the wonderful bird species we have in our region.  It was organized by the Fauquier Library and it was a lot of fun to share my passion with people who love birds.

On May 5th, I saw my first American Bittern of the year.  It was hiding really well, as Bitterns always do, in the dried cattails in a small pond.  We heard it as soon as we arrived and surprisingly, 20 minutes later, my dad spotted it.  I was able to get a few photo as well a a short video.  
American Bittern / Butor d'Amérique
Moonbeam, ON (5 May 2016)
I've never posted a video on Blogger before so I'm not sure if this will work.  Here is the American Bittern vocalizing:

Tundra Swans are currently migrating to the arctic tundra to breed.  Even though our region is not far off their migration path, we don't see them too often.  I was happy to observe this one on May 9th.  It seemed to be walking on water; it was standing on a thin layer of ice on the pond.
Tundra Swan / Cygne siffleur
Kapuskasing, ON (9 May 2016)
The White-crowned Sparrows arrived last week.  They are also on their way to their breeding ground up north.
White-crowned Sparrow / Bruant à couronne blanche
Moonbeam, ON (7 May 2016)
The ducks are slowly starting to arrive at the Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons.  The ice only melted around May 1st.  We're not seeing the large number of ducks we usually see at the lagoons, but we're seeing the usual; Ring-necked Ducks, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneyes, Scaups, Green-winged and Blue-winged Teals, Mallards…also American Coots and Red-necked Grebes.  And of course, the Northern Shovelers...
Northern Shoveler / Canard souchet
Moonbeam Sewage Lagoons (9 May 2016)
There is a creek on Ste-Marie road where we always see a good number of ducks.  So far, it's been almost empty.  I'm not sure why.
Where are all the ducks?
Moonbeam (10 May 2016)
There has been a few Sandhill Cranes around, but no big flocks like we used to see a few years ago.
Sandhill Crane / Grue du Canada
Moonbeam (10 May 2016)
We were lucky enough to witness 2 Sandhill Cranes doing their courtship display on the 8th of May.  I managed to get this short video.