Thursday, 11 December 2014

Shorebirds on the move

One of the delights for birders in Southern Ontario is the variety of shorebirds that pass through the Great Lakes region in migration in every Spring and Fall.  In Northumberland County this is especially true of the shores and wet areas of Presqu'ile Provincial Park and the area of Cobourg Harbour, as well other suitable places nearby, such as the the Lake Street Marsh in Port Hope and the big pond at Garden Hill.
Migrating Dunlin in breeding plumage (May 26, 2014)
On their way North to breed, Dunlin are quite colourful, as seen in the pictures (above and below) which were taken when over 1000 Dunlin were on the beach at Presqu'ile Park, in late May 2014.
Dunlins having a chat at lunchtime
Earlier, in mid-May, I photographed a single Dunlin, in the company of a Ruddy Turnstone and a Semi-palmated Sandpiper, in Cobourg Harbour. 
As reported in the previous posting, in mid-July, Cobourg Harbour was visited by an aberrant Dunlin, one that exhibited "Leucism" (reduced pigmentation).  Not totally white or colourless, it showed pale rusty patches where a normal Dunlin would be most coloured.
When Dunlins return in the fall, on their way South to their wintering grounds on the Eastern Seaboard, they are mostly dull grey-brown, and much less attractive.
Dunlin in non-breeding plumage (November 15 and 17, 2011)
Another common shorebird that migrates through our area is the Sanderling. 
Sanderling in non-breeding plumage, wintering in Texas (2011).
White-rumped Sandpiper, hiding behind a juvenile Sanderling, at Presqu'ile Park (September 23, 2013).
The mixed flock below consists mainly of Sanderlings, along with a Semi-palmated Plover (front, left) and two or more Semi-palmated Sandpipers (front, centre and in the main group).
Sanderlings on a  beach on Tybee Island, Georgia
Another mixed group of waders at Presqu'ile: a Sanderling (back left), two Semi-palmated Plovers (back right and left front), two White-rumped Sandpipers (in the middle distance).
Semi-palmated plovers can be quite feisty, at times (as below).  
Below are a Least Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper, many of which pass through Presqu'ile Park, every year.
Much less common in Southern Ontario are Buff-breasted Sandpipers which migrate from the Arctic Islands mainly through the prairies and central plains, all the way to the Pampas of South America.  The one below was on Owen Point in Presqu'ile Park, on September 2, 2011. 
Short-billed Dowitchers (below) are medium sized waders with long bills for probing mud. They pass through on their way from the lowlands of James Bay, heading for Caribbean islands and the northern shores of South America.  
Whimbrel are even larger waders, and every year some pass through, though often far out over Lake Ontario. Some come to land for a rest, as did these two on Presqu'ile beach.  
Another occasional visitor is the American Avocet, which is basically a western species.  In May 2013, we had one showing its breeding plumage and a second in September 2013, wearing non-breeding garb, both in Cobourg Harbour.
More photographs of these species and others can found in the albums for Presqu'ile Park and Cobourg Harbour in my photo sets on Flickr

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A "cool" Leucistic Dunlin

This is not another "Winter's Tale", it's from this summer, but it is a "cool" story.  I have christened the shorebird shown below "Luke" because of its leucism.

Yesterday, a birder friend told me about a Leucistic Dunlin that had been seen in Cobourg Harbour.  It was seen first on July 12th by another mutual friend from Cobourg (Ontario).  I "rushed" over to look for it, and found it on the west side, where it had been seen previously. 

I took over 70 photos of "Luke" between 9.40 am and 10.15 am, including a few movies. It seemed unconcerned by the nearby Kayakers or by me.  I stood still for several minutes and it came quite close to me, as you can judged by the photographs.
There are more pictures of this Leucistic Dunlin to be viewed - here
For comparison, below is a picture of a "normal" Dunlin, in breeding plumage.
More pictures of Dunlin in breeding plumage can be found - here.

A Winter's Tale

One bright aspect of the brutal winter of 2013-2014 was the the plethora of Snowy Owls available in southern Ontario, and elsewhere on the eastern seaboard. A particularly large number were concentrated in southern Newfoundland.  Others reached farther south - Little Talbot Island, nr Jacksonville, Florida, and one even made it to Bermuda, 1,239 km (770 mi) south of Nova Scotia. On January 2014, I managed to get some good shots of a cooperative Snowy Owl conveniently located on the west headland of Cobourg Harbour.
Snowy Owl in Cobourg (Jan 18, 2014)
Before the New Year, I had seen 8 other Snowy Owls at various times: 4 at Presqu'ile Provincial Park and 4 at Cobourg Harbour, though I may have seen the same bird on different days.
Finding a window in the winter weather, we headed south to warmer climes, in search of - birds and golf, of course.
Among the ornithological delights of South-East Arizona are the various hummingbirds that may be encountered. Here are five of the nine species web that have seen recently.
Broad-billed, Costa's, Magnificent, Violet-crowned and Anna's Hummingbirds (March, 2014)
The other four hummingbird species we saw were the noisy Broad-tailed, the feisty but, pretty Rufous, the quiet Blue-throated and the elegant Black-chinned. Two other birders directed me to a hummingbird nest which contained one egg (at the time) and I moved off when the mother returned. I am fairly certain she was a female Broad-billed: a common in Madera Canyon and in the area surrounding it.
Broad-billed Hummingbird nest, in Madera Canyon (March, 2014)
Sadly, the next day when I came back to show the nest to a friend, it was empty, no egg, and no sign of the female.
Female Broad-billed Hummingbird, Madera Canyon (March, 2014)
More pictures of our time in Arizona can be found - here.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


After a week in Texas, ending in El Paso, we moved on to southern Arizona.  Our first port of call there was Cave Creek Canyon Ranch, near Portal, AZ, to check out some of the local birds.
Entrance to Cave Creek Canyon, AZ (Picture from March 2008)
Many of the winter regulars (Sparrows, Finches, Woodpeckers, etc.) were there but the weather was cool, very dull grey and overcast and only the White-winged Doves photographed well.
White-winged Doves at Cave Creek Canyon Ranch, AZ (Jan 26, 2013)
After an overnight stop in Tombstone, where we ate in the saloon, but stayed out of trouble, we checked out the Twin Lakes, outside Willcox, and then we drove over to Whitewater Draw, NE of Douglas, in time to see thousands of wintering Sandhill Cranes coming in to rest.
Sandhill Cranes about to land at Whitewater Draw, AZ (Jan 27, 2013)
Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw, AZ (Jan 27, 2013)
We did not see the Great Horned Owls that are often in the barn at Whitewater Draw but we had an unexpected view of an American Bittern, standing out in the open and to be easily photographed. Normally, these birds are very secretive.
American Bittern, Whitewater Draw, AZ (Jan 27, 2013)
After Whitewater, we stayed with birding friends in Sierra Vista who have lots of birds coming into their garden, including a Great Horned Owl roosting in their pines.
Great Horned Owl at roost in Sierra Vista, AZ (Jan 29, 2013)
We went on an early morning birding walk along the San Pedro River and picked up a few more species.  It was quite cool that day and the next day we awoke to snow.
Morning snow in Sierra Vista, AZ (Jan 29, 2013)
There was still snow alongside the road when we drove north on the way to the Phoenix area.
Heading towards Tucson, en route to Phoenix, AZ (Jan 29, 2013)
We stayed in the San Tan Valley, south-east of Phoenix, for several weeks, spending much of our time bird-watching and playing golf, of course.  In the vicinity are plenty of desert-loving birds and other species where agriculture or water resources provide different plants and ecological niches. A good selection of waterfowl and waders can found at the Gilbert Water Ranch, the sewage lagoons on South Higley Road near East Ocotillo, in Gilbert, and the Veterans Oasis Park, in Chandler.
Resting Black-necked Stilts at the Gilbert Water Ranch, AZ (Jan 31, 2013)
Peregrine Falcon posing for me at the Veteran's Oasis in Chandler, AZ (Jan 31, 2013). 
Anna's Hummingbird, one of many in the Phoenix area, AZ (Feb 1, 2013)
Sunset behind the San Tan Mountains, AZ (Feb 2, 2013)
Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal, resting at the Gilbert Water Ranch, AZ (Feb 11, 2013)
Northern Shoveler at the Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson, AZ (Feb 12, 2013)
Loggerhead Shrike in the San Tan Valley, AZ (Feb 22, 2013)
Western Screech Owl, sunning itself at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, AZ (Mar 1, 2013).
(Later, this small owl was killed by a much larger Mexican Spotted Owl)
Sage Thrasher on a dyke beside disused arable land reverted to desert, in the San Tan Valley, AZ (Mar 2, 2013)
Verdin at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, nr Superior, AZ (Mar 3, 2013)
Curve-billed Thrasher nesting in a Cholla Cactus, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, AZ (Mar 3, 2013)
An "Odd Couple" - Burrowing Owl and Snowy Egret - at the Veteran's Oasis, Chandler, AZ (Mar 4, 2013) 
Anna's Hummingbird at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, AZ (Mar 20, 2103) 
Hepatic Tanager in Madera Canyon, AZ (Mar 25, 2013)
American Kestrel in the San Tan Valley, AZ (Mar 28, 2013)