#399 The Snow Goose

#399 to our life list – the beautiful Snow Goose.   Submitted observations from eBird and a local birders email group reported that a Snow Goose (blue morph) was in the area with a flock of Canada Geese.  On my birthday (Jan 31st), we decided to go out and try our luck at the location it has been visiting.

It was COLD but so well worth the wait.  With Anthony’s power scope, we were able to locate it far off in the distance with a small sub-group of the larger flock of Canada Geese.   Anthony was able to digiscope the bird and we were delighted.   As our fingers began to lose their feeling from the sub-zero temperature, we were about to pack it up, when the small sub-group took flight and I was able to capture the beautiful bird with my own camera.  A personal fly by for my birthday!

It was quite an overcast day, so the photos are dark and grey – but I am delighted never the less for #399 … the Snow Goose.

Belwood, Ontario31 January 2015Snow Goose is new to life list!

Belwood, Ontario31 January 2015

South of Belwood Lake Bridge over the Grand River

South of Belwood Lake
Bridge over the Grand River

Portugal December 2014 – January 2015

DSC_9053

Madeira Firecrest (Endemic)

Added a field trip page for our recent trip to Portugal (Madeira Islands and a short layover in Lisbon). Please visit the field trip page for more information.

Spectacled Warblers - Ponta do Pargo - Madeira, Portugal

Spectacled Warblers – Ponta do Pargo – Madeira, Portugal

Netherlands (& Brussels)

During the last week of April, I travelled to Breda, Netherlands on business.  Although there were no “specific” birding trips (incidental birding), I paid close attention to birds in the cities and parks of where I travelled (and even from the train!).

Lovely birds were seen (including a white stork in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark) and in total, while on business – 37 species were noted and recorded.   Many were lifers!  and I was very happy to have brought my binoculars and camera with me on this trip 🙂

Location S/P Date
1 Mute Swan Hook of Holland NL-ZH 02 May 2014
2 Black Swan Hook of Holland NL-ZH 02 May 2014
3 Egyptian Goose Hook of Holland NL-ZH 02 May 2014
4 Mallard Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
5 Tufted Duck Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
6 Ring-necked Pheasant Brussels BE-BRU 28 Apr 2014
7 Great Crested Grebe Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
8 White Stork Vondelpark NL-NH 03 May 2014
9 Great Cormorant Hook of Holland NL-ZH 02 May 2014
10 Gray Heron Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
11 Eurasian Moorhen Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
12 Eurasian Coot Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
13 Northern Lapwing Hook of Holland NL-ZH 02 May 2014
14 Bar-tailed Godwit Hook of Holland NL-ZH 02 May 2014
15 Black-headed Gull Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
16 Herring Gull Hook of Holland NL-ZH 02 May 2014
17 Lesser Black-backed Gull Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
18 Great Black-backed Gull Hook of Holland NL-ZH 02 May 2014
19 Common Tern Vondelpark NL-NH 03 May 2014
20 Rock Pigeon Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
21 Common Wood-Pigeon Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
22 Eurasian Collared-Dove Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
23 Great Spotted Woodpecker Vondelpark NL-NH 03 May 2014
24 Rose-ringed Parakeet Brussels BE-BRU 28 Apr 2014
25 Eurasian Jay Vondelpark NL-NH 03 May 2014
26 Eurasian Magpie Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
27 Eurasian Jackdaw Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
28 Rook Brussels BE-BRU 28 Apr 2014
29 Carrion Crow Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
30 Coal Tit Brussels BE-BRU 28 Apr 2014
31 Eurasian Blue Tit Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
32 Willow Warbler Hook of Holland NL-ZH 02 May 2014
33 Eurasian Blackbird Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
34 European Starling Brussels BE-BRU 28 Apr 2014
35 White Wagtail Breda NL-NB 27 Apr 2014
36 Common Chaffinch Vondelpark NL-NH 03 May 2014
37 House Sparrow Brussels BE-BRU 28 Apr 2014

Windermere Basin – Hamilton

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Windermere Basin
Hamilton, ON
15 March 2014

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Windermere Basin
Aerial View

Windermere Basin is located at the east end of Hamilton Harbour at the mouth of Red Hill Creek.   It was essentially a pre-industrial wasteland since the 1950s.  But, the City of Hamilton had a vision and at a cost of more than $20 million, the Windermere Basin was transformed into a Great Lakes Coastal Wetland.   A significant achievement for the City and the environment, where wetlands are disappearing within our Province, the city took a sediment wasteland and transformed it into something beautiful.  The restoration of the conservation area was completed in 2007 and has the potential to develop into something great within the near future.   Already, waterfowl and birds have begun to populate the area and I look forward to personally visiting this area more often!
Our first trek to the Basin was on March 15th, 2014.  A rather cool, blustery day – but it was well worth the drive from the North.  Windermere Basin offered a plethora of birds, including a Spring-feeling welcome greeting from a red-winged blackbird that sang its cheerful trill as we entered the pathways to the viewing platform.  The presence of double crested cormorants also indicated that a change in seasons is upon us.    A minimum count of 30 Northern Shovellers (likely over 50 of them) and this was a “lifer” for both Anthony & I.   A great diverse bunch, only wish it was a wee bit warmer to enjoy the crowd more.  This really is a spectacular spot and the story behind it is even more special.   Kudos!  to the City of Hamilton for a fantastic vision that turned to reality.   For more information on Windermere Basin – visit this link:

http://www.hamiltonwaterfront.com/2011/11/01/windemere-basin/

After Windermere Basin, we ventured off to the Burlington Lift Bridge, but along the way (just prior to the Bridge) we spotted SEVEN Bald Eagles perched on ice flows within the Bay, in front of the steel factories.  It was a great sighting and Anthony was able to capture the event via digiscoping with his powerful Vortex 85mm Razor HD Scope.  Photos coming soon!

COOL WINDY day, but really nice birding!

Checklists of Birds seen within the Area can be viewed by clicking on the links below:

Windermere Basin  – March 15th eBird Submission

Burlington Lift Bridge and Bay area – March 15th eBird Submission

Burlington Lift Bridge Peregrines

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We decided to venture down to the Burlington Lift Bridge for a second time in two (2) days, as we realized we missed a few key species that had been reported on eBird within the area. One of the biggies were the pair of Peregrine Falcons that nest within the Lift Bridge Canal. When we arrived, the FIRST bird we saw was a Peregrine in flight. The bird then perched on the Skyway bridge for a lengthy period of time, allowing Anthony to “Digiscope” the bird and obtain some decent photos on a VERY windy day! After reviewing the photos when we returned home, we could see it was a GREEN/black leg band, which would indicate the we viewed the female, “Cirrus”. Mackenzie, the male sports a black (no green) leg band.

Info on the Birds themselves:

Cirrus hatched in 2006 at the AT&T building in Dayton, Ohio.  She has a Black K over Green 83 leg band.  She is the daughter of “Snowball and Mercury”.

Mackenzie hatched in 2009 at the Sun Life Centre in Etobicoke, Ontario.  He has a black leg band, “29/Y” and was banded on May 26, 2009.  Mackenzie replaced “Sir Adam Beck” as Cirrus mate back in 2011.

Helpful Links:

Sightings/reports about the nesting pair can be found at this web site: Canadian Peregrine Foundation

The nesting pair’s activities can also be followed here, postings from CPF Volunteers:  http://pereginepatrol.blogspot.com

Birding the Shores of Lake Ontario

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Long-tailed Duck
Burlington Lift Bridge

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Redheads
Oakville-Bronte Harbour, Ontario

I have been watching the reports come in for “Halton” eBird and drooled at the diversity and the numbers that have been reported.  So, on a cool but OK day to travel, Anthony & I headed south towards Lake Ontario.   Our first stop was Oakville-Bronte Harbour which was a great delight.  There were just “too many to count” Greater Scaups – they were as far as the eye could see!  and really, just a great diversity of water fowl that presented beautiful photo opportunities as they dove or dabbled with the Harbour area.

After the Harbour, we headed over to the Burlington Lift Bridge where a pair of Peregrine Falcons have been reported, as well as a Bald Eagle amongst again a great diversity of water fowl.  We fell in love with this “hot spot” and will definitely return in the near future.  Although we did not see any raptors, we saw great birds including a King Eider who was way out from shore, but visible in Anthony’s scope for a few minutes before we lost him again.  There were several great moments here and between the two sites, added quite a few new lifers to our list.

I would highly recommend either location for a great day of birding!   we had a blast!!!  To view more photos from our day “at the beach”, visit this link to our smugmugs page:

http://ponyshots.smugmug.com/Birds/Halton-Region/i-9bP68zz

Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers

The field identification of the Downy Woodpecker vs. the Hairy Woodpecker can be tricky at best.  I wonder how many times in the past I have actually seen a Hairy Woodpecker, thinking it was a Downy!   For the past month, I have been studying the small distinguishing characteristics between the two species, in hopes that one day – when out in the field, I could possibly identify correctly if I saw a Hairy Woodpecker!   The opportunity came this week, while walking the forested trail alongside the Speed River within Riverside Park, Guelph – Ontario.   I heard a rapid TAP TAP TAP and saw wood flying from a tree in front of me.   I quickly zoomed in on the tree and watched for at least 10 minutes the woodpecker that was very active in the tree.  Immediately, I saw a longer beak than usual and thought to myself, this could be it!  Have I found a Hairy Woodpecker for my life list?  or is it yet, another Downy?   I was pretty certain that it was the larger Hairy, but thought I would confirm at home when I could zoom in on the photos that I had taken.   But, then nature offered its best!   I heard several bird calls in a tree about 10 feet over from the Hairy.  I quickly zoomed in on the tree and there were THREE Downy Woodpeckers flirting around the tree and it was then so much more obvious, with both species present – the difference in size and bill shape!

When I returned home to view my photos, I again studied the difference in characteristics between the two species.  From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Feeder Watch), they are summarized here:

Hairy Downy
  • A black-and-white woodpecker about the size of a robin (averaging 9-13″ long).
  • A small black-and-white woodpecker (approximately 6.5″ long).
  • The bill is long, chisel-like, about as long as the distance from the base of the bill to the back of the head.
  • The bill is rather short and dainty, about one-third as long as the distance from the base of the bill to the back of the head.
  • Well-developed “comma-shaped” black mark extending from the shoulder onto the breast. This feature is often less obvious in Downy’s and is sometimes a useful distinguishing mark.
  • Some individuals show a “comma-shaped” black mark that extends from the shoulder onto the breast, though it is often not as obvious as it is on the Hairy.
  • In most of the Eastern U.S., Hairys have completely white outer tail feathers.
  • The white outer tail feathers on the Downy Woodpecker are usually barred in black, giving a spotted effect.

In addition to the above distinguishing characteristics, David Sibley of Sibley’s Field Guide shares another new clue for identifying the Downy vs. the Woody and when I looked at my own personal photographs, this clue held true! David Sibley points out that the Downy Woodpecker a larger white patch on the sides of the neck.

Illustration by David Sibley from the Sibley Field Guide

Illustration by David Sibley from the Sibley Field Guide

Downy WoodpeckerPicoides pubescensSpeed River - Guelph, ON

Downy Woodpecker
Speed River, Guelph, ON
(Waste Water Treatment Plant)

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Hairy Woodpecker
Speed River, Guelph, Ontario
(Riverside Park)