Wednesday, 28 December 2016

"Just popping down the dump..."

Wednesday 28th December 2016

That's what I said, and genuinely intended to do, as I headed out of the door. Living here on Wolfe Island, we have to take all our recyclables (almost everything) and rubbish to the local waste collection centre ourselves. Just a year or so ago it was an actual dump with gulls and vultures in abundance but, for the best, it now focuses on recycling and the dump is long gone.

Anyway, I never just 'go to the dump' - I always have my bins and camera with me, as I inevitably take a circuitous route via all the best birding hotspots. Not too much along the way in terms of rarities but these Tundra Swans in town were particularly cooperative. Notice the difference in the extent of the yellow dot at the base of the bills on these 2 birds. No wonder newbies often claim to have seen the much rarer Trumpeter Swan in error believing that they should be able to see yellow at 200 metres with their 8x40s! Oh, by the way, something like 10% of all Tundras show no yellow at all so beware!

Tundra Swan - Marysville, Wolfe Island, ON - see the yellow?
Tundra Swan - Marysville, Wolfe Island, ON - see the yellow?
Tundra Swan - Marysville, Wolfe Island, ON - lots of yellow
Tundra Swan - Marysville, Wolfe Island, ON - lots of yellow
After taking a run through the village, I then took the famed 4th Line in the search of Snowy Owls. There are not so many around this year - we've had 3 good years on the run so this is not surprising. However, a small arrival over the last week has seen up to 6 birds along this road. Though this picture was taken a few days back, the very same bird was present day.

Snowy Owl - 4th Line, Wolfe Island, ON
Snowy Owl - 4th Line, Wolfe Island, ON
I also picked up a Rough-legged Hawk on my journey - the first for some time as this species is also in short supply this year. However, bigger news was forthcoming when I received a phone call from Kingston-based birding buddy James Barber. He'd just relocated a couple of female Harlequin Ducks seen in Kingston during the annual Christmas Bird Count, directly outside his apartment at Portsmouth Olmpic Harbour. I was just minutes from the ferry, so without winter coat, breakfast, clean teeth, or fresh clothes, I headed over to the mainland and picked up my 245th Frontenac county lifer - Harlequin Duck.

Harlequin Duck - Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, Kingston, ON
These birds were actively diving just metres from the shore unperturbed by birders, dog walkers and joggers - a wonderful sight! Now for a male...

'Til next time.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Time for an update.

Saturday 5th November 2016

Remember, remember the 5th of November. Well, no fireworks here but I did want to share a couple of my more recent sightings including a 'lifer' in the form of a 'yellow or eastern' Palm Warbler. The western subspecies is the usual one in our area and, along with Yellow-rumped Warbler, is one of the last species to migrate through. However, to have any Palm Warbler on the late date of 4th November is notable, even more so with it being the one I needed! And here it is, hanging out in my garden.

Eastern Palm Warbler - Button Bay Road, Wolfe Island, ON
Also here the same day was a Pine Siskin - also a first for the garden. That being said, we've only been here a little over a year so 'new birds' come along all the time. Hopefully though, it does look as if we're beginning to have a movement of winter finches into the area. Fingers crossed on that one.

Pine Siskin - Button Bay Road, Wolfe Island, ON
Other birds recently seen here include a pair of House Finches, the male looking quite spectacular in his red regalia - not as vivid as a Northern Cardinal mind you, but that species hasn't yet found my feeders. In the background you can see a Dark-eyed Junco. Seem to be plenty of those this year.

Male House Finch - Button Bay Road, Wolfe Island, ON
Another species showing a reddish hue is the spectacular Fox Sparrow. I was fortunate to have one show up for a couple of days about a week ago. Despite being one of the larger sparrows, they are more often found in dense undergrowth, so to have one right out in the open was certainly quite special - it was also another new one for the garden list.

Fox Sparrow - Button Bay Road, Wolfe Island, ON
Of course, there's plenty more I could share but I'm going to wrap up with an example of one of my favourite groups - the Catharus thrushes. Like the Fox Sparrow, they can often be quite hard to tie down, but with patience and a bit of luck good views can be obtained. This Hermit Thrush went all the way and came right up to the window to have a bathe - very nice!

Hermit Thrush - Button Bay Road, Wolfe Island, ON
Here's a link to some more thrush pictures I posted on the Murphys Point Facebook page. However, it looks like you'll have to copy the link into your browser...

'til next time.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Local Life.

Friday 22nd January 2016

It took some time coming, but winter has finally arrived. Whilst an exceptionally mild November and December was great for us, it didn't do much for the birds. Admittedly dabblers, like Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, even Green-winged Teal stayed longer than typical, birds were widely distributed and hard to track down. With 10-15cm of snow on the ground, that's changed and birds are now coming to feeders and working the edges of roads - birds such as this Lapland Longspur and Horned Lark seen this week whilst travelling around the island. For UK readers, yes these are Lapland Bunting and Shore Lark...

Lapland Longspur and Horned Lark - Wolfe Island, ON
Lapland Longspur and Horned Lark - Wolfe Island, ON
Oh yeah, in case you didn't know, we moved out to Wolfe Island over the summer, so I'm now in a prime location for some of the other island specialities such as Snowy Owl. On any given day, I can see between 1 and 3 of these majestic birds from the comfort of my own house!

This is by no means the best photo I've ever taken of a Snowy Owl but it is one of my local birds...

Snowy Owl - Wolfe Island, ON
And whilst we're on about owls, I have these within 5 minutes of the house too.

Short-eared Owl - Wolfe Island, ON
Eastern Screech-Owl - Wolfe Island, ON
And then there's all the stuff coming to my feeders. Daily, I have about 30 American Goldfinches, 10 American Tree Sparrows, 1 (just 1) Dark-eyed Junco, a handful of Mourning Doves, 3 Downy Woodpeckers, 2 White-breasted Nuthatches, half a dozen Blue Jays, and the occasional American Crow and Northern Raven. House Sparrows have just discovered the place too, and if the Eurasian Starlings are about, I can have well over 100 birds of several species at any one time... I haven't yet attracted any accipiters but that's got to happen before long. However, I regularly see both Red-Tailed and Rough-legged Hawks, though these are not known for stalking feeders.

Rough-legged Hawk - Ottawa, ON
It's not bad for mammals either at this time of year. With plenty of White-tailed Deer around, Coyotes can often be seen, though the Red Fox seems to be more timid. However, these two (poor photo) were out on the ice yesterday waiting for the sun to rise...

Red Fox - Wolfe Island, ON
Highlight of yesterday's run to the ferry was a massive Fisher, that was chasing down the deer on a local field. It didn't really have a chance out in the open but it was certainly quite the spectacle!

'Til next time.