Thursday, 5 July 2018

iNaturalist and Other Recent Activities

Finally, school has finished, so I've had a little bit more time recently to do stuff I've been wanting to do again for a while- mainly doing some mothing. There usually seems to be this little lull in birding in July-August, most birds have made it to their breeding grounds, set up camp and stopped singing, so not only have lots of birds left, the ones that are here are quiet and skulking around their nests. So naturally, I (and most birders) have to come up with something to fill our time. Many turn to moths, butterflies, dragonflies, orchids, and many other things. But, it turns out that there are way more moths than there are birds, so it can be quite daunting to get into. But thankfully, handy-dandy iNaturalist, and can essentially identify any living plant or animal with a picture. I had used it before and found the website very hard to use (especially compared to eBird), but it has changed around quite a bit, and their app is fantastic. So, needless to say, I'm back into it. And my rekindled interest almost perfectly aligned with the arrival of my sister's macro camera + lens, so it was shaping up to be a good summer (before summer school started that is). Here's just a bunch of random pictures from the past few weeks:

Pretty awesome right? And all of these things have been right in my own backyard...

Side from the use of iNaturalist, I also did a pretty late breeding bird survey near my chalet (grey county), which was pretty productive, highlights being Black-billed Cuckoos, Grasshopper Sparrows, over 50 Savannah Sparrows, adult and young Pine Siskins, Northern Waterthrush, and finally my incredibly overdue yearbird Sharp-shinned Hawk (#247 Ontario year)! Another recent highlight was last Thursday when I went down to Niagara to do some bat audio equipment monitoring, which got me a good number of Niagara birds, seeing as I pretty much only go once a year to the county- in December for gulls. On the way back we stopped in Port Dalhousie for the continuing Fish Crow. At first, I thought it was going to be a no show, but then Lilian called me back to where a silent (but very suspicious looking) crow was eating out of a dumpster! I followed it around for a bit, but it took off east, silently, and I couldn't track it down. But then a pair of crows showed up, looking equally suspicious, and eventually one let out a squeaky "ah" when it got dive-bombed by a Barn Swallow. The pair hung out for a while, and the same kept calling, which was really nice to study! I felt pretty confident that both were Fish Crows, even though the one was silent. A nice bird to finally add to my Ontario lifelist, although I can't really complain, I've only tried for them twice ever in Ontario, so that's not too bad.

They should rename Fish Crows to Dumpster Crows, because that's all these birds would eat

And here's a list for the Fish Crows that has a record shot/recording of the Crows:

Looking ahead, I'm hoping to maybe head down to the Long Point area this weekend for some Common Gallinules or Louisiana Waterthrushes, or possibly to the Pinery for the Prairie Warblers. After that, a couple packed weeks of Grade 11 physics (yay), then a family trip to our cottage for a week, with a possible trip to Tobermory, or a bit (a huge) stretch maybe to Prince Edward Point for the Chuck-will's Widow. Then after that... I'm doing shorebird surveys in JAMES BAY for two weeks! It's going to be an awesome summer.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Point Pelee Part 2

Day 4:

Today was a bit of an impromptu big day with some other young birders, but we decided not to go super hardcore, as to not blow our selves out for the coming last days. We briefly tried for Whippoorwill with no luck, but got the guaranteed American Woodcocks in the Visitor Center parking lot. We made our way to the tip, and got a pretty nice Red-throated Loon. Passerine movement seemed dead, but as we walked north up the tip, we realized it was anything but! Warblers were constantly coming in off of the west side from high up, and then pretty much dropping right into the trees along the shore! Nothing rare really showed up amidst the excitement unfortunately, except for an Acadian Flycatcher that disappeared quite soon after it was found, which they had been doing to us every day so far (along with yellow-bellied flycatchers as well!)! We proceeded with the day, aware of the imminent rain threat. We didn't really keep track of species, but we got pretty much all of the warblers (except Blackpoll and Prothonotary). We waited out the rain in our car for a bit, then jogged a couple meters from the parking lot to where a very wet female Hooded Warbler had been found. I'm not gonna lie, that thing looked pretty much exactly like a Yellow Warbler until it flicked it's tail open! Nearby to there we also found another White-eyed Vireo. A very good year for them indeed, considering that I'd seen none any previous years, and then four (at least!) already this year! Afterwards we headed over to Hillman, which was pretty dead except for a male Bobolink in the field, after we checked out some side roads which got us pretty much all of the same things, but much larger numbers, which was nice to see. On the way back to the park we were lead to a reliable spot for Ring-necked Pheasant, which we had putting off for the week, thankfully one male popped up in the bush, I had a feeling that I was going to miss it for the year! Somewhere amidst all of this we also checked Wheatley Harbour, which got us a Whimbrel, and then went to the feeder very nearby for the continuing Dickcissel, which we heard singing just out of site. Back in the park, people were getting ready to leave when we got word of an Acadian Flycatcher and a Cerulean Warbler at Pioneer, but we narrowly missed them as well. Immediately after dipping on those, we sped down to Redbud Trail for an alleged Connecticut Warbler, but after getting terrible views of the bird (and nearly blowing my lungs out from sprinting to it), it was decided to be a female Mourning Warbler. Ah well, but hey, I still needed that for the year too! And besides, I've already banded one anyways, if you count that kind of thing on your list ;)

 Red-throated Loon

White-eyed Vireo 

Spot the Ring-necked Pheasant!

Day 5:

We awoke to the sound of pattering rain at 5am, and (wisely) decided to go back to bed for an hour. An hour turned into several, and I woke up at around 9. Nathan was still quite soundly asleep, so I decided to do a little yard birding. A Lincoln's Sparrow and some very feisty Baltimore Orioles on the oranges I put out were some of the highlights. Man, I would give anything for that yard... Nathan eventually woke up, but he was pretty sick (I wonder why, lack of sleep surely has nothing to do with it...), so me and the rest of my family decided to do a little birding, while Nathan decided to sleep a little more and would come over if I texted him if there was anything rare (especially a Kirtland's Warbler). The migration was unsurprisingly minimal, being past 10, but a continuing Sedge Wren at the tip offered very close views. I pulled out my picture, composed the shot real nice, pressed the shutter and... nothing happened. I forgot the SD card. Oh well, Sedge Wrens will have to wait another day for a 5 star eBird quality photograph. The day all in all was uneventful, so I spent a reasonable amount of at the Wheatley Harbour photographing Common and Forster's Terns, as well as getting a proper look at the Dickcissel. Later on, we got word of an Olive-sided Flycather in the cactus field. We got pretty nice looks of it, and it was nice because it was late enough that pretty much everyone had quit birding for the day, so the field was empty of people. Thoroughly satisfied with our day, we went to the cottage and ate supper. At about 8:40, we got a report that 7 Willet were at Hillman Marsh, which would be an Ontario bird for me. With the sunlight fading (well, it had pretty much already faded actually), we bolted to the car and sped off to the marsh, which was thankfully quite close. We got to the marsh in record time (speeding may or may not have helped), did a terrible parking job, then literally sprinted out to the marsh, past some pretty bewildered looking older birders. My heart sank when we reached the marsh, because I realized I could see pretty much nothing. I could only make out two slightly lighter coloured blobs at the back, the blobs turned out to be Sandhill Cranes, that's how dark it was! We ran around the marsh to try and get closer for better light, and started hearing a strange call. I stopped and strained my eyes on a possible bird to my left, super close to me. I could tell it was sorta big, but then it flushed and let out a quick "pew pew pew", drat, Short-billed Dowitcher! Then the weird sound picked up again, and I heard Nathan shout. I looked up, and to my amazement, 7 white and black wing flashes buzzed past me calling. Willet! Thank God for that wing pattern, or else they would have looked like any other brown bird! I actually took a picture after they'd gotten pretty far away, so you can imagine the quality, or you can just look at it below:

It appears that I missed one of the birds entirely off of the left side...

 Forster's Tern- note the slender orange bill and frosty primaries

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Day 6:

The morning was decent with the highlight being a co-self found Clay-coloured Sparrow that was singing at the tip, and may have actually been found before, but close enough I think. My favourite part of the tip this day was the Tricoloured Bat (Not Heron!) that was roosting at the visitor center. Some other cool birds from the day were a very late Dark-eyed Junco, Sora, Yellow-breasted Chat, Common Nighthawks, an orange variant Scarlet Tanager and an American Coot. I sorta just lumped the Chat in there, despite it being a pretty good bird, but it seems that's the way Pelee goes, way too many too good birds!

 Tennessee Warbler

 Black-throated Blue-Warbler

Scarlet Tanager

Day 7:

The last day...

While waiting for the tram, we saw an Olive-sided Flycatcher fly in for a few seconds, and then leave, which was very cool. Only a few meters from the half way stop, an alert about a Worm-eating Warbler came out. Apparently it was 100 meters from where we were! We hopped off of the train, and then scurried up to the small group of people who we assumed had just reported it. Just before reaching them, it sang on our right! Awesome! Worm-eating Warbler was a lifer for me, not just an Ontario bird! We heard it sing quite a few times, until finally I noticed it hopping around just above eye level in a cedar. Not exactly worm-eating behaviour, who tend to spend the majority of their life within a meter of the leaf litter, eating worms. We decided to walk the rest of the way to the tip, and experienced huge movements of Swainson's Thrushes going south. Quite cool, and there was a good number of Grey-cheeked mixed in as well. For a brief second I thought I had a female Summer Tanager, but it was gone before I could really tell. The rest of the park was quiet, and we decided to call it quits. But we weren't calling it quits all of the way, how could we!? We made a "detour" on the way home to Mitchell's Bay for the breeding Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and were rewarded with two flyby males, as well as a chuckling Least Bittern, which I briefly saw. Right as we approached to the turn to either go back to the park or home, a report of a young male Kirtland's came out in the park. We spent probably almost ten minutes deciding wether or not to go, but eventually decided it wasn't worth it, and school also existed a little bit... It turned out we made the right decision, as it was never seen again! 

They may not be the brightest warbler, but i think that they're beautiful! 

All in all, an absolutely incredibly amazing, totally worth the sleeping in a car in a Walmart parking lot for a few days. So many new Ontario birds, I can't wait 'till next year!

Friday, 1 June 2018

Long Point Big Day

The long awaited big day. It was finally here. Previous to this Long Point one, I'd only ever done half big days, where I didn't really try and see as many species as possible like this one, they were more just bird in a bunch of places for most of the day. My big day record was sitting somewhere around 130 species, which is still pretty respectable, but I was aiming for higher on this big day. Although our route was barely planned out, we knew that we would start somewhere in Long Point, and work our way to Hamilton. The team was comprised of myself, Nathan, another young birder from good ol' Waterloo county, and a bunch of other young birders from the banding station Ruthven I frequent.

At first light, actually wait, way before first light (2:30 am) I awoke, and we made the quick drive from my uncle's cottage in Old Cut to the actual banding station where we would be meeting. We walked around while waiting for people to show up, and got Pine Warbler, American Redstart, and a couple other nocturnal migrants by call. Soon everyone arrived, and we set out shortly after 3 am. The first stop was St. Williams Conservation Reserve, and quickly got an Eastern Whippoorwill singing. Surprisingly, this was a new bird for me, besides some that I heard a long, long time ago while camping. We stopped at a few other locations before sunrise, getting American Bittern, Virginia Rail, American Woodcock, Sora, Purple Martin, as well as many others. At the Port Rowan Wetlands, we decided to split up to maximize efficiency, and I missed Common Gallinule, while the other group got it. This is a way, way, way overdue Ontario bird, almost as overdue as Whip! So that was frustrating, but it was okay, because I *thought* we were going back later in the day... we didn't. But that was fine as we had many other good birds to keep us entertained for the rest of the day. For dawn chorus, we made our way back to Old Cut, satisfied with our 'first' night of the day, despite dipping on owls. Birding was slow in the morning, but after a couple hours at old cut, we had added a couple warblers, a Common Loon (always a worry on a big day), Lesser Scaup, Scarlet Tanager, and a Pine Siskin. Afterwards we headed to Hastings Drive, where the Kirtland's Warbler had been seen a few days before, but we (unsurprisingly) couldn't refind it. A Willow Flycatcher was a bit of a consolation prize, but not much of one! We next hit a couple more midday spots, including Backus, Hahn Marsh, the Timpf Farm and various backroads. With this, we added Cerulean Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, Hooded Warbler, Clay-coloured, Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrow, but dipped on Sedge Wren and Prothonotary Warbler (gah!). After passing the same dead opossum on the road for a fourth time, we decided we'd wasted enough time, and needed to get moving (and remember to plan our route better next year!). We headed to the Townsend Sewage Lagoons, getting Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Rock Pigeon (I know!), Sandhill Crane, Northern Harrier and Pied-billed Grebe. At Townsend, being a sewage lagoon, we gained many new species, most being shorebirds. Shortly upon arriving, we grabbed Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Dunlin and some other passerines. Nathan scoped out a male Wilson's Phalarope all the way across one of the big lagoons, which was a nice addition to the total, and also way to far out for a decent photo with the camera.

Dunlin, so pretty in their breeding plumage! 

 Semipalmated Sandpiper

And because I'm so nice, a bonus "sub-sub par" image of the Phalarope

While observing some ducks, we heard a strange, faint call. Whimbrel! We watched in awe as (exactly!) 43 Whimbrel swirled around in the lagoons, calling. What an awesome sight! After a few minutes of picture taking, the Whimbrels finally landed and warily eyed us. A truly amazing experience! I really hope that their call sticks in my head for good this time!

I really took so many pictures that I wasn't sure which ones to choose to put on here, so I'm gonna say that that's good enough. We left feeling quite reinvigorated, after all, we had already been up for twelve and a half hours, and it was only 3 pm...
          We next stopped by at my Grandma and Grandpa's house, which I knew was a reliable spot for Tufted Titmouse, as well as Bobolink and Meadowlark (which only some people in the group had seen). Within only a few minutes of pulling up, we had Tufted Titmouse which had responded pretty much right on cue to my whistle imitation, and we were (fairly) quickly on our way across to the other side of the Grand River, where the banding station Ruthven was. On the way there, we got Meadowlark and Bobolink out the window. We spent a bit of time at Ruthven, being successful with a roosting Screech-owl, Orchard Oriole, Chimney Swift, and a last minute Phoebe that was nesting at the mansion that we almost forgot to go get! Next was Hamilton, and on the way I saw Ontario yearbird Northern Mockingbird, but other than that it was a fairly uneventful drive. Next was Windermere, where we pulled out a Black-bellied Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Redhead and Great Egret, as well as both Scaup together. We then quickly stopped at LaSalle for Trumpeter Swan, the lift bridge for Peregrine (and also got a bonus Long-tailed Duck), then CCIW and then carried on to Bronte Harbour. Here, we quickly found that we were running out of time (and species), but managed the local Red-necked Grebes, Red-breasted Mergansers and another Long-tailed Duck. The sun was beginning to get quite low, and Sedgewick Park was pretty much our last chance at the last few passerines that we'd missed. We spent just under an hour there, and collectively got Nashville Warbler, Carolina Wren, Cooper's Hawk (phew!) and my favourite- a family of six Eastern Screech-owls! The family was comprised of four young and two adults, which were camouflaging halfway up a tree. Super cute!

Three of four babies! Parents must have been busy feeding these guys! 

One of two adults

At this point, light was getting really low, so we high-tailed it back to Hamilton, and walked around in Coote's Paradise as the light finally faded for good. In near blackness, we somehow got a Black-crowned Night-heron, and an Osprey on a nest! We called it quits around 10 pm, dropped people off, and barely made it back to Kitchener without falling asleep. Nathan was so tired that he decided it wouldn't be safe to drive from my house in Kitchener back to his house in Cambridge, in case he actually did fall asleep. All in all a good day of solid birding, and our total added up to 154! A perfect tie of the old team record, so close!! Still really good though! I think with better planning we can get higher, and get me a Common Gallinule in the process...

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Point Pelee Part 1

Taking a writing break from Mexico, I think I'll interject a couple posts about my six day trip to Point Pelee with my friend Nathan. I had never been to the Point, because my mom and her coworkers always went to the Island, which arguably is just as good, just way more under-birded. But I got an offer to go down for a full six days at the point, and no matter which one's better, I'd rather have 6 days than 3, which is how long my family goes down for. I would also get to go earlier, and a ton of rarities were already popping up that we could potentially get.

Day 1:

We left Waterloo at about 3 am, in order to arrive at the Visitor Center by 6, for one of the first trams to the tip. We got there almost exactly on time, and we rode the tram down. The Tip was packed with warblers, and we racked up a good list in the first 30 minutes. Highlights were a Grasshopper Sparrow, Surf Scoters, a pair of American-white Pelicans cruising over the tip, and a very rare bird for the area- a Pileated Woodpecker, which reversed off the tip, along with hundreds of Orioles, tons of Indigo Buntings, and many, many warblers. At one point (point, haha get it), Nathan called out a sparrow sp, which was interesting because we'd barely seen any sparrows that morning. He snapped a few flight shots, and I got a crappy tail end look, of what appeared to be a weird looking House Sparrow. Once the bird was out of sight, we quickly reviewed pictures. As soon as we saw the image, we looked at each other and said "Eurasian Tree Sparrow". We quickly showed others the picture, who agreed, and silently cursed. We stayed at tip for a while after, and it flew over twice more while we were there, the third time I managed a photo, but it's nothing to brag about. What a crazy bird (in more than one way). Only the second record for the park, and decides to reverse of the tip 3 times! We spent the rest of the day meandering around, seeing good birds such as Hooded Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Prothonotary Warbler, Black Tern and Grey-cheeked Thrush and others. We then checked out Hillman, which was pretty empty, and then high tailed it back to the park when someone reported a male Kirtland's Warbler at Pioneer. We came up empty, but with the Tree Sparrow and abundant warblers, it was still a great day!

American White Pelican

Prothonotary Warbler

Black Tern

Day 2:

Today we pretty much followed our steps from the day before around the park, and came up with a high number of good quality birds. Red-headed Woodpeckers were abundant in the park, and we saw three White-eyed Vireos! Other good birds included the continuing female Kentucky Warbler, likely the same pair of pelicans as the day before, a male and female Cerulean Warbler, seen at separate times, the male was an absolute jaw dropper! He was amazingly photogenic, and quite low to the ground. We also got a roosting Common Nighthawk, and Hillman was much more productive. We got a breeding plumaged female Wilson's Phalarope, and a couple Long-billed Dowitchers mixed in a flock of Short-bills. The Phalarope was very interesting, because it was my first of that family group in Ontario, and the fact that the females are brighter coloured than males, and this bird beautiful! The Dowitchers provided us with killer comparisons, something that can be hard to get in Ontario, as Long-bills usually come through earlier than Short-bills. We made a quick trip to the onion fields north of the park to pick up some Whimbrels and a male Snowy Owl that had been found earlier, and we were succesful on both! We stopped in at the male Cerulean again, because the light was better, and we were well rewarded! Probably my favourite warbler now, too bad they have declined so much!

(female) Kentucky Warbler

(male) Cerulean Warbler

Long-billed Dowitcher

(female) Wilson's Phalarope

Day 3:

It rained pretty good today, so birding was a bit slow. Word of a Mississippi Kite circulated around the park, but it was only seen briefly by a few people. We got a red morph Screech Owl camouflaging with some red oak leaves, which I thought was pretty cool, as well as a flyover Peregrine Falcon that made us think it was the Kite! We twitched a young male Summer Tanager at Hillman and were successful, although I got my camera pretty wet, so it started acting up... but it's okay now. Just have to press the up button a couple times before it works.

Northern Parula

(red morph) Eastern Screech Owl

More Pelee, Mexico and Big Day (that's starting super early tomorrow!) to come!

Monday, 7 May 2018

Birdathon Fundraising

Taking a little break from Mexico, spring has sprung in Ontario! And as a result, the annual passage of many thousands of thrushes, sparrows, tanagers, orioles, and everyone's favourite- the warblers, has begun! I'm already up to somewhere around 15 warbler species in Ontario already, without even going close to Pelee! And pelee, I leave super early Wednesday morning, and I'll be there straight until Tuesday. Let me know if you're there at the same time, I can add you to my big list of people who I'm trying to bump into, crazy how many people go to Pelee! Interesting thing is, this is actually my first time to the point, I've always gone to the Island. We'll see which is "better". And then the next weekend (on the Saturday), I'm doing a team big day in the Long Point area! Being related to the Great Canadian Birdathon, somewhere around 25% of funds go to Bird Studies Canada, then 75% goes to a place of your choosing. I have chosen Ruthven, the banding station I regularly go to, which is also where all of the team members came from. Ruthven relies pretty much entirely on donations, specifically this Birdathon, to pay for banding supplies and other vital things. I know not too many people read this blog, but if any of you anonymous readers are feeling particularly generous, I'd really appreciate a donation, every little bit helps! We expect to see in the neighborhood of 150 spexies, and are shooting for 155! This would set a new team rexord, and it is sure going to be hard! Even if you don't donate, secretly cheer us on, and read my summary post!

You can donate specifically to me here

Thanks so much!!!!

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Mexico: Day #5, Troncones Birding Tour

During my research, I had found the contact to a guy who did local birding tours and lived in Troncones, a small town about a 40 minute drive from our hotel. I had originally tried to organize a trip to the mountains with him, but found out that he only local tours. As it turned out, they were very local- he did them in his backyard. I wasn't discouraged however, as it turned out his 'yard' was actually extensive thorn scrub, deciduous forrest and grassland, and a lot of it. I guess it technically wasn't his yard, but the space behind his house.
          We got up at about half-past 5, so that we could get there by 7. Things went pretty much perfectly as planned, and we got there a few minutes early. We met up with our guide, Wil, and parked out car at his house. We introduced ourselves, and pretty much started the walk right away. One of the first birds I got on was a White-tipped Dove, the last pigeon/dove I needed for the trip. I only got a pretty bad picture, so I won't put it in here. Right after the dove, we found a couple of Pale-billed Woodpeckers, which Wil said like to travel in family groups. The species is very similar to the Lineated Woodpecker, and is another close relative of the extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

A real striking resemblance to the Ivory-billed I think, seeing this species almost made me feel like I'd seen a ghost!

Further on in the walk, we found some more of those orange flowers that the birds seems to love, and spent a while watching them as the sun crept it's way up. We got much better looks at Tropical Parulas, Streak-backed Orioles and others. While watching, Wil also picked out the song of a Bright-rumped Atilla, a relative of the flycatchers, in the distance! Something I would have completely missed if I'm being honest. Further up the trail, he picked out another song, one that he said belonged to a Flammulated Flycatcher! This is actually an endemic to the area, and he said that lots of his... customers I guess? Come and search for. I had looked at them in the book a few times, and they are quite interesting because they are on the page with the confusing Myiarchus Flycatchers, which it looks similar to, but it's actually not one of them! Funny how taxonomy works. Later on, I identified my own Flammulated by call, so I felt better with my ID. Next we approached some grassy/shrubby habitat, where we heard several Stripe-headed Sparrows singing. And almost immediately after hearing it, a couple popped out onto the path in front of us! They are quite cool, and the name is totally appropriate, the head stripes are very prominent!

Even in this distant photo the head striped are pretty apparent

Although we didn't get any Crested Caracaras in the grassy field, we did see several Ash-throated Flycatchers, my third Myiarchus species for the trip! We were beginning to reach the peak heat of the day, so we decided to alter our course, and ascend a little bit into the foothills of the Sierra Madre, which had a little bit more shade. About half way up our ascent, Wil noticed two silent Amazonias (a family of large parrots) fly overhead and land somewhere uphill of us. White-fronted Parrots, which I had already seen several of, are noisy Amazonias, and squawk the whole time they're flying. The other two, Yellow-headed and Lilac-crowned Parrots, both of which are endangered species. We quickly got our bins on them, and through the dense underbrush, we got decent views of two Yellow-headed Parrots! This was by far my most wanted bird for the trip, but I had thought it was unfeasible, do to their scarcity. I had done some research on them, and their ENTIRE wild population is estimated at around four thousand. The population is estimated to have declined by 90% in the past two decades. I think that that is just insane, and I really wish I could something to stop the decline of these birds. It is known that poaching is the main cause of their decline, and the illegal pet trade business in Mexico is sadly very common. These birds were both amazing to see, but it was also kind of sad, knowing that in the next 20 years or less, these could be the next Ivory-billed Woodpecker. It really is chilling, and I'm super glad that people like Wil exist and manage this land to a degree, as well as attract eco-tourists and educate locals. I really hope that there is a future for this species, but I really don't know.

Really nice birds, I guess I can understand why people want them as pets so much...

We kept going, feeling slightly enlightened I guess after seeing the Amazons. The rest of the walk was quite hot, but we managed to get a few more Northern Beardless Tyrannulets, an endemic Golden Vireo, a pair of Scrub Euphonias, Blue-black Grassquits, a very fleeting glimpse of a Blue Grosbeak, and a handful of Blue Buntings. Pretty much all of the blue finch like birds possible!

Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, much better looks (I guess I could just say looks at all) then yesterday! 

A very pretty bird! Scrub Euphonia.

We began nearing the end of our walk, and only about 20 meters from Wil's house, he glimpsed a large brown bird land on the opposite side of a tree from us. He said it was a Woodcreeper! I was looking in a different direction, so I had missed it! I slowly approached the tree, and creeped around to the other side, but nothing was there! Funny how birds can do that... It definitely didn't fly across the path, so the only way it could have gone was left, over the vine covered fence... I stepped up onto a stump, and could just barely look over the fence. But there it was! An Ivory-billed Woodcreeper was picking it's way up a small tree. I managed a pretty bad photo, because I half of the lens was covered by the fence, and the rest was pretty much covered by vines. But hey, you can see a bird!

Also pretty chilling to put this one into eBird, has the same four letter code as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, pretty much the same name too!

And since we were so close to Wil's house, we didn't see many birds afterwards. But we did see this cute calf, only a couple of days old: 

Right as we were about to depart, a Ferruginous Pygmy-owl started hooting in Wil's yard! I walked over, and found it sitting on a pretty exposed branch. Another owl responded to it a little farther away, and it flew off, but not without letting me grab a picture!

After thanking him and finally breaking away from Wil's yard, we went to a nearby beach and played in the huge surf for a while. Troncones is a surfing town, and we could really see why! The waves were huge, and just continuous! It was fun diving into the waves before the crashed, and some Brown Pelicans looked pretty cool gliding only centimeters from the surface of the water in the wave troughs.

There was some much cooler times when the Pelicans got right down into some of the much larger waves, but I was in the water when that happened 

Sure would suck to get pushed up against these!

The big rocks really can hide in the massive surf. This one was particularly ominous and deadly looking!

An awesome, bird intensive day! If anyone would like Wil's contact information for a tour or questions, I can give it out individually. I don't really want to publicize too much because of the vulnerability of the Yellow-headed Parrots, because poachers have been known to use web sources to track down birds, so I'm being intentionally vague with places...

List: Troncones

Friday, 27 April 2018

Mexico: Day #4, Aztlan Ecological Park

While doing my pre-trip research I looked at the top eBird hotspots for Guerrero state. Number one was a dormant volcano in the interior part of the state, but number two and three were both for the Aztlan Ecological Park, a 4 kilometer bike path sandwiched between extensive thorn forrest and a dense marsh with some open water. We decided to start at the west end, and work our way across to the crocodile viewing area. We got to the start at around 7, and quickly started racking up species. A large water retention pond was right at the start, and a quick scan revealed 15 Black-crowned Night-herons, with a few Yellow-crowned mixed in. There was also a fair number of Black-necked Stilt around the edges as well. Farther up along the trail, we got brief but good looks at an Olive Sparrow, a side by side comparison of a female Black-chinned and Ruby-throated Hummingbird, as well as a scattering of Tropical Parulas

Night-herons galore! And to think only a couple years ago I greatly struggled to even see one! Well, this is Mexico...

We walked for a few more minutes, and then I noticed something strange on the ground ahead of us- it looked like it was moving! Could my dreams be coming true!?? I ran up a little bit, and I was right! An Army Ant swarm! They weren't quite as condensed as I'd seen in Planet Earth, but it was still quite cool! And another good thing I'd done my research, I knew what Army Ant swarms attracted... birds! Surprisingly, birds don't actually eat the ants themselves, but the things they scare up. As the ants march along searching for food, all of the insects, mammals and reptiles frantically try to get out of the way before the army reaches them. And luck was perfectly playing on my side, because this was the head of the army, where the most stuff gets scared up, and where the most birds are waiting! 

Some of the ants, notice all the ones in the background too!

I watched for a few seconds, and sure enough, a flurry of movement caught my attention. A large group of about ten White-bellied Wrens, a harder species of wren in the area were dashing around catching insects! The longer I looked, the more birds I saw! In a super short amount of time I got Nutting's Flycatcher, Bell's Vireo, Brown-crested Flycatcher and Rufous-naped Wren among others! Something else flitted back into the cover of the shade that I didn't recognize. I dashed around to the other side of the tree to get a better look, but the bird was being super skulky. Then it popped up on a slightly more exposed branch. A FAN-TAILED WARBLER!!! A very hard species to get in this area, and although they are recorded about annually, it takes an insane amount of luck, because the only way they end up in this area is by following an Army Ant swarm 20 kilometers or so down from the Sierra Madre, which in Ontario standards is quite small, but for a non migratory species, and in a country where some species entire range is in a space smaller than some of our counties, it's quite large. So in Mexico standards, this was pretty much a vagrant! I was very, very happy with this sighting! 

I actually got to watch it use it's 'fan tail', it would open it quickly and expose the white tips, I suppose it was doing it to scare up prey, so it could see it and then catch it.


After that excitement, I wasn't sure what else I could really expect from the walk! But literally ten minutes later, I'd added Pacific-slope Flycatcher and Roadside Hawk. It just wasn't going to stop! I took a little side path down to the water (not without being warned by an elderly lady walker about the "big snakes and crocodiles" first). The little open patch had Purple Gallinule, Common Gallinule, Common Yellowthroat, Tricoloured Heron, and Northern Waterthrush! No 'diles (Is that even a word? I mean 'gator is, so why not...) or big snakes. 

Roadside Hawk- Almost more of a Kite-type beak I think

Between there and the end of the trail, I got more of the same types of stuff, but added quite a few new goodies, such as better looks at a Red-billed Pigeon, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Rose-throated Becard, Grey-breasted Martin and one of our migratory Swainson's Thrushes! 

Rose-throated Becard

Red-billed Pigeon

An assortment of species, lots of Blue-winged Teal!

An awesome walk, giving me 11 lifers, and 71 species just for those 4 kilometers!

On the drive back to the hotel, I noticed a large amount of shorebirds in one of the ditches that went under the road so we pulled over. They turned out to be mostly Least Sandpipers, but some Black-necked Stilts, Semipalmated Plovers, Greater Yellowlegs and Killdeer were among them, as well as a few Northern Jacanas! This has been a dream bird of mine for a long time, and they sure weren't a disappointment!

How many species do you see in this photo? I can see 5!

Later on, I got lifer Black-vented Oriole at a red light right in the middle of the city!

Lists: Aztlan, Ditch