Friday, March 29, 2013

Warbler Time, Yay?

Back when I visited my brother and birded on both sides of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge I saw my first warbler: the warblers are on their way! Dang, it is not going to get easy from here. Oh, I do like that I get them before Paul and I do like that I added one to my list, but I will tell you (and I alluded to this before) that I am not ready for warblers.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Early Spring in John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

When I have an hour so that is free and want to walk around, I often take a short trip over to Tyler Arboretum. It is a nice place and has programs that my kids are involved in, but I think I have exhausted much of the birds from it. Sure, there will be more in the spring, but it isn't quite wild enough where I can get a handful of birds every time. Taylor Arboretum is a little more wild, but it is smaller and I just don't get that many birds there (though me and my oldest son saw another red fox there the other day). I still like Tyler and Taylor and I still go to both regularly, but I think I have my new go to spot when I want to go birding nearby.

I knew about it for awhile and had planned to eventually get there, but what really spurred me to go to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge was notices on eBird that there was a consistent spotting of a Saw Whet Owl there, as well as Great Horned Owl and other things. Owls! I can't let Paul have all the owl fun, I must get involved in the owl spotting too (though not exactly like Paul did). So I took a trip to Heinz Wildlife Refuge.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Early Spring in Petroglyphs Provincial Park

My birding destination on Sunday was Petroglyphs Provincial Park, which is about 40 km north of Peterborough as the crow flies. I chose Petroglyphs because it sits on the very southern edge of the boreal forest and there are some different birds that can be found flying around its forests. Heading off my short list of possible new birds included hairy woodpecker, brown creeper, golden eagle, barred owl, crossbills, yellow bellied sapsucker, and maybe if I was lucky, I would find the black backed woodpecker that I heard had recently been seen somewhere in the park.

Diagram of the crow flying

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Damon's Birds for the Week of March 17 - March 23

This week was a good week. Continuing my productive birding ways of last week, I did my best to catch up with Paul, except he also continued to go birding and won't let me pull ahead (it is very Red Queen-esque). As of now, I am only 10 behind him, but I didn't make a nice graph to show it yet (data presentation will be soon!).

Week 12 Paul's Update

I had a pretty good week of bird watching. Last Sunday, I stopped by Little Lake near downtown Peterborough and spent some time looking for a black duck. I had seen them reported and knew they were around. Yep, there was one there hanging with the mallards. On Thursday it got a lot better. I added a trumpeter swan, bald eagle, merlin, and northern harrier. That was quite a collection of sightings and to top it off I added a tundra swan the following day.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

It Was a Swan

In the eyes of its mother every turkey is a swan
       -Luxembourgan Proverb

Ah, but the real question is what type of swan? Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself; Let's start from the beginning.

On Thursday, I went bird watching with a real birding pro (he's the one who took me out last week and is a well-established birder here in the Peterborough area). For the purposes of this post, I will simply call him, "The Birder". So anyways, I picked up The Birder at 7:30 a.m. and we headed up the Otonobee River where we stopped at a couple of places to count the geese, goldeneye, and the odd mallard here or there. It was otherwise uneventful until we came around a bend in the river, just past Lock 25 (sidebar: the Otonobee River has a series of locks which allow for the safe navigation of boats from Lake Ontario into the Kawartha Lakes, and these locks provide simple markers of one's position) and that was when I saw the three swans.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Red-Headed Woodpecker at Sandy Point State Park

Last Sunday I went hiking at Sandy Point State Park with my oldest brother. Just like when we went hiking at Terrapin Nature Park the previous day, it was just the two of us exploring a nice nature area without a huge amount of other people around (the wind blowing off the bay was probably too cold for most people). There was some guy with his dog (who couldn't believe that the park ranger person told him to leash his dog) and a couple other people, but otherwise it was just us walking around and seeing birds (though it took at least a good hour and a half before we saw something besides black or turkey vultures).

It was a good trip, fun to be out in, and I got some new birds for my list (see my update at the end of the week for details!). One thing I thought I might see was a pileated woodpecker, and I might have from a distance, but it didn't count because for us at The Year of Birds it has to be a real, complete identification to count. A shame, but one woodpecker I did see was a red-headed woodpecker.

Except eBird doesn't believe me.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Waterfowl Weekend 2013

We still have snow in southern Ontario and winter doesn't seem to want to end, but the spring migration is upon us. The red-winged blackbirds are back and singing next to the pond in my backyard. The geese are flying and there seems to be a lot more birds around. Some of the earliest birds to return to our area (or pass through anyway) are waterfowl. Hence, "Waterfowl Weekend"  was being held at Presqu'ile Provincial Park this past week.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bird of Brothers

My oldest brother is not good at identifying birds.

The other day he called me to ask about a bird he saw because he had no idea what he saw, but said it had a crest and wasn’t a blue jay. When I asked if it may be was a tufted titmouse, he said he didn’t know because he didn’t know what a tufted titmouse looked like. It turned out to be a cedar waxwing.

He is not good at identifying birds. He is, however, a good birder.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Damon's Birds for the Week of March 10 - March 16

Last week I was shut out. Was I shut out again this week?

Not even close.

Week 11 Paul's Update

I have returned to Peterborough after several weeks of trips here and there. You might think this would slow my bird count down but, alas, spring migration is upon us which has allowed me to continue my accumulation of new bird sightings.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gyrfalcon: The Great Snow Bunter

My kids had last week off for spring break. I don't know why 'spring' break in Canada is during winter and so much earlier than what I was used to in the U.S., but it was, so we had to find something for the boys to do all week. I took them skiing on Thursday and, after my snow-shoeing knee bruising, tube breaking finger cutting, and skiing induced aches and pains, I decided something more mellow was called for. So why don't we go bird-watching?!?! The kids were really excited by this prospect! Well, somewhat excited. Not really. But they had no choice.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sparrows in Tyler

The weather started to warm around here, yay! It was snowing in Peterborough when I talked with Paul last night, but down here in Pennsylvania we have been having spring-like weather. And with such weather comes easier excursions to go birding.

On Monday I headed over to Tyler Arboretum, because it is my "go to" place when I have a free hour or two and want to be in nature. This time I decided to venture further out into the more wildernessy trails, so I picked a trail that was by a stream so I could also enjoy the frogs calling. And boy, my god, were they calling in a deafening chorus that sounded like truck traffic. But those aren’t technically considered birds.

With the warmer weather comes more birds, but for the main part of the arboretum (the one I had to walk through to get to the trail) that just mean more titmice, nuthatches, finches, red-winged blackbirds, and chickadees. It also means lots of little flower starting to come up and carpet the fields and even an occasional mallard on the little pond. None of those birds mattered to me on this trip (I’ve seen them all most of my visits, and I visit Tyler all the time), but I checked the feeders anyway.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Snapping Turtles and Eagles

I turned 38 last week. Damn it. My 20 year high school reunion is looming, and I’m not sure I want to go. I know some people who aren’t going and some people who are, but for me my life growing up was hardships and difficulties and things like that stay with you. I wasn’t fond of the place when I was a kid.

I still vividly remember my childhood, and even if it wasn’t always great I guess it still gave me things in life to build on. Like stories. One fact about having a poor and tumultuous childhood is that it gives you lots and lots of stories.

I tell my kids my stories and they actually listen, but they have to because I tell them at dinnertime while they are eating. That isn’t fair, though, because they actually prod me to tell stories in general, and even ask for specific ones.

So, today, I will tell one of their favorites.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The First Fly-Over of the Year

Damon recently mentioned that he started a new job at an environmental centre where he will be able to casually watch for birds. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I do this all the time in my own backyard. 

Paul's backyard. (And no, that's not an UFO in the sky)
As you can see, I have a pond and marsh to watch while I am sitting on my deck enjoying a cold beer. I haven't been able to do this yet this year because of the 2 feet of snow and 1 foot ice covering the pond, and needless to say, the birds visiting the pond during winter have been a bit sparse. However, once it warms up, we should have a nice collection of birds frequenting our backyard including plovers, kingfishers, ducks, geese, herons, and red-winged black birds. 

While I am waiting for the thaw and anticipating the return of the birds, I still occasionally take a look out over the pond. I did this a few mornings back and couldn't believe what I saw. Two Canadian Canada geese doing a low fly-over the pond. This was the first sighting of waterfowl in my backyard for the year and perhaps even a first harbinger of spring. I realize these were probably local birds scoping out open water or feeding areas, but this did elicit a tinge of immediate excitement when it reminded me of something from days gone by.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Damon's Birds for the week of March 3 - March 10

Paul is on a roll, isn't he? Wow, you would think he would slow down after going to Louisiana, but he has kept the momentum up. Damn, what will I do to keep up?  Will I take back the lead?

Week 10 Paul's Update

Winter is coming to an end and, while this means that I expect the bird watching to pick up, it also means I am losing my opportunity to see the birds from the far north that may or may not be lurking around southern Canada. I crossed off two more of these birds off my list this week (snow bunting and gyrfalcon, chronicled in a post coming soon) and saw a horned lark as well. I also got a flavor of the potential bird viewing that is migration.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Winter Birding at the Experimental Lakes Area

After enjoying a week of warm weather and birds in Louisiana, I headed off to the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northwestern corner of Ontario. Usually ELA is a place to visit in the summer when its not under three feet of snow and ice, but this year we decided that a winter sampling trip was in order. I packed my long-johns, wool socks, and extra-warm gloves and caught a flight to Winnipeg last Sunday.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Damon's Birds for the Week of February 24 - March 2

Sometimes I feel like I am falling behind Paul. Sure, the actual numbers of birds seem to indicate that is true, and sure the distance between us has changed from me ahead to me behind with an ever widening gap, but what am I to do? Should I sit idly by and watch a Canadian birder best an American? No, I must not.

But I have been busy this week. Yeah, I am always busy and all, but this week I had a lot of house buying activities that kept me busy in the actual sense as well as the mental sense. But, luckily all seems fine and I can stop obsessing over houses and go back to obsessing over birds.

Week 9 Paul's Update

My bird list grew modestly this week with several birds seen during my trip to the Experimental Lakes Area and one new bird from the Peterborough area. As winter drags on into March here in Canada, I feel like I am playing a waiting game.