Birding After Work

I’m sorry for being missing in action for much of this summer on my blog, but my summer job (working for our local agricultural society during the 108th annual Vermilion Fair), and farming, especially looking after my 100 broilers and 100 layers, have kept me very busy. On the up side, I got my driver’s license at the end of June, so I’m enjoying being more mobile.

This past week, I was finally able to get out and do some birding, something I haven’t been able to do for a while. On Wednesday, I brought my camera, binoculars, and scope in work, so when I was finished for the day, I stopped off at the Vermilion Provincial Park to see what was around.

There were lots of gulls flying around the river, mostly non-breeding Franklin’s Gulls, a few Bonapart’s Gulls, Ring-bills, and four Herring Gulls. Double-crested Cormorants were also quite prominent on the river, especially on the dock where many of them were vibrating the muscles and bones in their throats, called gular fluttering, to help them cool down.

On the way back to my truck, I heard a bird “chipping” in the poplars. I was able to see that the bird was an Orange-crowned Warbler.

Here’s my eBird checklist from my bird walk at the park, which included a Ring-billed Gull,

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a pair of Herring Gulls — the front one is a juvenile and I believe the back one is a first winter plumage bird (please add a correction in the comments if necessary!),

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A juvenile Franklin’s Gull, IMG_5108

Double-crested Cormorant and the juvenile Herring Gull, IMG_5077

After evening chores one night this week, I went out with my scope to our summerfallow field to look at some of the wet areas to see if there were any shorebirds feeding in the low spot. I did find a Semipalmated Plover — a year bird for me as I missed the species this spring, and five not-so-solitary Solitary Sandpipers.

I took a few photos of the plover before the resident Swainson’s Hawk flew over where the shorebirds were feeding and scared off the plover. The hawk landed in a bare tree and was immediately harassed by a pair of American Robins and Eastern Kingbirds.

Here’s my eBird checklist from that day, which included the Swainson’s Hawk and American Robin,

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An adult Semipalmated Plover,

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On Thursday after work, I went out for another bird walk around our yard. I first headed to the lake behind our house where I was hoping to find more shorebirds feeding along the lakeshore.

When I walking to the lake, a Merlin flew down and landed on a fence post in front of me until it noticed me and abruptly flew off,

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A Red Paintbrush,

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A juicy wild raspberry,

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There weren’t too many birds at the lake, but there were four adult Eared Grebes feeding their chicks on the lake, and also a group of Savannah and Clay-colored Sparrows flitting about in the bushes. A Killdeer, American Goldfinches, Cedar Waxwings, and Red-winged Blackbirds flew above me.

My eBird checklist from the lake.

Cedar Waxwing,

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Cattails,

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At the slough east of our house I found many more birds than at the lake: a Great Blue Heron, dozens of American Coots, a Black-bellied Plover, common Goldeneyes, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-winged Blackbirds, Redheads, Savannah Sparrows, a male and female Northern Harrier, Spotted Sandpiper, Pied-billed Grebes, and more.

My eBird checklist from the slough.

I spent an hour watching the birds at the slough until I noticed one of my brothers on our deck, barbecuing hamburgers, so I headed home

This Solitary Sandpiper was feeding in a group of five other Solitary Sandpipers and a juvenile Spotted Sandpiper,

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Spring Migrants near Vermilion

Most of the spring migrants have returned to this part of the province, with many species — including the Tree Swallows, Mallards, Green-winged Teals, and Barn Swallows — already sitting on eggs. I’ve been able to go birding quite frequently this month, so I though I’d share some of my favorite photos from May.

A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker excavating a nest in a poplar tree,

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A male Ruffed Grouse taking a break from displaying,

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Song Sparrow,

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This male Baltimore Oriole was quite difficult to photograph as it kept hiding behind leaves and branches,

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The first warblers to arrive in the Vermilion area are Yellow-rumped Warblers (this a Myrtle variant),

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I came across this Mallard nest on one of my walks,

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This handsome Le Conte’s Sparrow is the most recent addition to my Life List,

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A male Yellow Warbler,

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I found this dead Red-necked Phalarope near one of the sloughs,

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A Month at the Long Point Bird Observatory: Part 1

I’ve been home now for about two weeks after spending a wonderful bird-filled month at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario. I had such a great time at Long Point (it’s hard not to!) with the other volunteers, banders in charge, and all of the birding and banding. And I learned so much about banding, molt, neat tricks for aging and sexing certain species, and also how much hard work goes toward keeping all three banding stations going.

I miss everyone at LPBO very much lot and am envious of all the amazing birds that have been banded and seen since my departure. Some of my favorite species I banded were a Semipalmated Plover, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, an Orange-crowned Warbler, countless Swainson’s Thrushes, a Black-billed Cuckoo, an American Goldfinch, Black-throated Blue, and Black-throated Green Warblers, Eastern Wood Pewees, and a Connecticut Warbler, just to name a few.

Because I was at Long Point for such a long time and we did so much, I haven’t included all of my daily journal entries, just some of the highlights (and this is just Part 1): I arrived at the Long Point Bird Observatory from Toronto on August 14th, in the morning. At Old Cut I met Dayna and Janice, LPBO staff who are both banders in charge, and volunteers Darren from New Zealand and Antje from Germany.

In the late afternoon, I walked the census route to re-familiarize myself with the area, and in the evening some of us went to the dike behind Old Cut to count the thousands of Bank Swallows flying overhead. Antje with retrap male Downy Woodpecker at Old Cut, IMG_1303 An Adult Yellow Warbler, IMG_1310 August 16th: I’d been at Old Cut for only one day, and today Darren, Antje, Antoine, Christophe, and I boated out to the Tip. It was a great day for boating — the lake was calm and the sun was shining. When we got to the Tip, we unloaded the supplies and groceries, had a quick lunch, and set up the nets in the garden.

As we were setting up one of the nets, we heard a Virginia Rail calling from the marsh — a lifer for me. We went for a walk on the census route, but passerine activity was fairly slow, though there were lots of birds at the very Tip including 3,000 Common Terns, 73 Herring Gulls, three Least Sandpipers, eight Semipalmated Sandpipers, and one Semipalmated Plover.

The Tip’s Heligoland (funnel) trap was in need of some repair to the mesh, so the birds wouldn’t escape through the holes as they flew into the trap. When we opened the door, we found this Little Brown Bat sleeping. It didn’t move as we continued work on the HT, IMG_1356 August 19th: On my way to check the mist nets this morning, I saw a Blackburnian Warbler in a poplar along with an American Redstart. On my Monarch census for my research project, I found a Black-and-White Warbler and a Brown Thrasher. While swimming in the lake, an immature Ruddy Turnstone flew past with a flock of Least Sandpipers.

After supper, Darren came inside to tell us that there was an American Woodcock near one of the nets so we all went out to look at it. An Ovenbird, IMG_1510 August 20th: It was very windy this morning, and because of that we had to close some of the nets early, but we caught a Black-billed Cuckoo in the Heligoland trap. We all drew net pegs to see who would band the bird and I was very excited when my peg was chosen.

In the evening we put up some mist nets on the beach to catch shorebirds and caught two Least Sandpipers. They’re so small — weighing about 20 grams. An adult female Black-billed Cuckoo, IMG_1410

If you look closely on the primaries and primary coverts, you can see a slight tinge of blue on this female Indigo Bunting,

IMG_1424 Unfortunately, this year the Monarch Butterfly population decreased dramatically so there weren’t as many Monarchs at the Tip as in previous years. During my stay at the Tip, I saw four pairs of Monarchs mating, IMG_5965 A Bay-breasted Warbler, IMG_1590 August 21st: When I was out at the Tip with Euan, a volunteer from Scotland, seven Willets landed on the beach, and as we were just about to leave, three American Avocets flew in.

It was very neat to see both Willets and Avocets because they are fairly unusual species around Long Point. I added a new lifer to my list — a Great Black-backed Gull standing at the Tip with the Ring-billed Gulls. Birds waiting to be banded on one of our fairly busy days, IMG_1359 A Great-crested Flycatcher, IMG_1377 August 26th: We opened only one net this morning because of the strong winds but we did seven HT runs. We almost caught a Sora but it escaped through a hole in the mesh.

In our last HT run we caught a Yellow-billed Cuckoo! There was an immature Black-crowned Night Heron flying around, which then landed in some poplars. I saw 16 Monarchs on census, as well as two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds chasing a Red-winged Blackbird. A Brown Thrasher, IMG_1406 Darren found this huge Bullfrog one night near the lighthouse and brought it back to show the rest of us, IMG_1455 We caught this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in the HT, but you need to have a special license to band gnatcatchers because their legs are so small; in fact, the smallest band LPBO has will fit right over a gnatcatcher leg. So if Blue-gray Gnatcatchers get caught at LPBO, they are released, IMG_1471 August 28th: It was raining in the morning so we didn’t open the nets until 9:30. We all went on census and saw 42 species, with a flock of Cape May Warblers, a Canada Warbler, a Blackburnian, Tennessee, and Magnolias in some bushes. In the nets we caught a Western Wood Pewee which is a very rare species for Long Point.

We took lots of photos and took a few feather samples. In the evening we did a supplementary census. It was really amazing to watch the thousands of gulls “hawking” for insects over the marsh. There were seven Common Nighthawks too. A Western Wood Pewee, IMG_1571 Stay tuned for part two! I hope to get it up as soon possible.

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for my Feathers on Friday meme, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I’ll add the link to my post.

On one of my walks the other week I found this male Yellow Warbler singing high up in the trees (digiscoped),

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More Feathers on Friday Posts:

From Frank at The Early BirderUK Tribute for WBW

Must-see birds: August

I got the idea for a northern Alberta version of “Must-see birds” from Pat Bumstead’s and Bob Lefebvre’s Birds Calgary blog. Matthew Sim, who is another young birder, had the idea for the “Must-see birds” posts and writes them all.

August is the month for early migrants, especially on the Canadian prairies, so be watching for them. I wanted to find the best birds for Must-see birds: August. Here are some birds that you can still find in the month of August.

1. Western Meadowlark

The male Western Meadowlark is a very striking bird, with a black V on the male’s breast. The breast is bright yellow, the bill is very thick and sharply pointed. The Western Meadowlark is an open grassland bird, so look for it on fence posts and small bushes,

2. Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron is a very large bird, with a blue-gray back, a very long neck, and a long pointed bill used for spearing small amphibians. This heron can be found at heron rookeries, lakes, ponds and sloughs,

3. Spotted Sandpiper

The Spotted Sandpiper is a relatively small sandpiper, with a brown back, orange bill, white eyebrow, and white breast with bold spots,

4. Yellow Warbler 

This is a female Yellow Warbler so unlike the male she doesn’t have the orange streaking down her breast. The Yellow Warbler has olive-green wings and tail, and the head and breast are bright yellow,

5. Purple Martin 

The Purple Martin is the largest North American swallow, which nests mostly in man-made boxes. The martin’s color is iridescent blue-black. This bird can be found at golf courses wherever a nest box has been put up,