‘Southward Bound’ – A Songbird Migration Photo Album

posted in: Bird Canada | 12

Another busy summer, and a big burst of southward songbird migration action at the end. Here are a few of my pics from the past few weeks as I attempted to capture some of the songbirds coming through southern Alberta…and my favourite would have to be this young Chestnut-sided Warbler whom I captured a split second before it reduced the local mosquito population by one:

This is only the third time I’ve seen a Chestnut-sided in Alberta, so I was pretty excited to be able to get a few shots of this one:

Some other highlights included a number of Townsend’s Warblers, a species that seemed to come through in noticeably higher quantities than previous years…made me wonder if the extensive spring forest fires in British Columbia (where many of the species breed) had anything to do with this:

An unexpected treat was this Black-throated Green Warbler, which I initially dismissed as a ‘drab’ Townsend’s:

Then there were the ‘usual suspects’ such as the Yellow Warbler:

Blackpoll Warbler:

Yellow-rumped Warbler:

Orange-crowned Warbler:

And good numbers of these hyperactive (even by warbler standards) little guys, the Wilson’s Warbler:

Accompanying the warblers were a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets:

Several species of Vireo, including the Warbling:

and Red-eyed Vireo:

as well as a bevy of Least Flycatchers:

Some Cedar Waxwings joined the flycatchers in hawking for insects:

While some American Goldfinches watched on from nearby shrubbery:

And, finally, on a camping weekend seeing a Common Grackle showing off spanking new plumage right outside my trailer door was a pretty cool treat:

Shorebird action was also pretty decent, but I’ll have to post those pics next time!

 

 

T.O. Backyard – Where Did Summer Go?

posted in: Bird Canada | 8

Welcome back to our Toronto backyard! First off I really want to thank everyone who took the time out to read our July post, and comment, regarding the Peregrine Falcons and fledge watch. I put a lot of heart into that one and the feedback was appreciated.

So here we are in September already. Seriously, where did summer go? We had some very warm days this summer but thankfully not for extended lengths like last summer. It wasn’t exactly the most active time here with birds but we enjoyed whatever came around.

Odd was having random appearances by a Cooper’s Hawk. Normally we don’t see this species until mid-September. I’m unsure if it has been the same Hawk or not. It did manage to catch one of our visiting Pigeons one afternoon.

I am happy to report that none of my special friends were the Hawk’s meal. Fitz here, along with Charlie and Barney are all okay and still coming to see us.

Here is Barney. He’s rather new to the backyard. Pigeons are very charismatic birds if you get to know them as individuals. They have big personalities!

A White-breasted Nuthatch has also made some appearances. Another bird species we normally don’t see until well in the fall. Hmmm? Are these birds telling us something?

We know for certain we have at least 4 Hummingbirds coming, which is normal for this time of year. The birds are fueling up for their migration south in the coming weeks. They are visiting the pollinator garden as much as they are visiting our couple feeders. This one was going through one of our Bee Balm plants.

The Baltimore Orioles disappeared this summer. Past years, we would have one or two pairs hit us up for sustenance all summer, as well as bring their young by August. Not the case this time. Weird. A couple have returned the last week of August including this banded bird that I have not been able to get any band info of through photographs. The birds have since left us, as per norm, gone by the first week of September. *sigh*

Our family of Northern Cardinals are still coming in, with the male who we call “papa” still feeding two young birds. This is their second brood.

We had a new batch of American Robins appear in August.

A Downy Woodpecker has started roosting in one of our nest boxes the last couple weeks. He’s very sneaky about his entry, doing it in the blink of an eye. I watched every evening of the Labour Day long weekend and finally saw him go in on the Monday just before dark.

I work an afternoon shift and about 11 pm every night I go for a walk around the backyard to see what’s happening. Some nights the Woodpecker is sleeping right at the entry hole and this is what I see.

We’ve had a couple Warblers stop in already but none have been positively ID’d. Hoping to add a new species or two to our yard list this fall migration.

I guess that’s about it for the birds but here’s some other highlights from our backyard this summer.

Earlier in August I happened to spot a Monarch caterpillar on our swamp milkweed plant. Angie and I watched him for a few days until he disappeared.

The next couple weeks we kept an eye open when around that part of the garden. We told ourselves he went off to go into his pupa stage even though we weren’t certain what really happened. A friend assured us they do leave the “food plant” and try to find a safer place to go into their next phase. Day after day, I always had my eyes near the milkweed, scoping the plants, often squatting down. Finally I saw him. He really did make it to the butterfly stage!

You can read more about it in a blog of my own here. We actually had a number of different caterpillars appear in the yard this summer, a short photographic blog here.

No shortage of Raccoons going through the backyards this summer. At least two families were spotted at once. A mom with 3 young as well as a mom with 4 young made for some active nights. Add a big male in there too. Crazy loud snarling times!

I’m soooooooooo cute!

I’m sooooooooo shy.

This is the big male. All the other Raccoons scattered whenever he showed up.

One of the mother Raccoons came out late afternoon while we were enjoying the Monarch caterpillar. The swamp milkweed is to the right of her.

We named this Raccoon Albert. He’s a young Raccoon and always alone. He often makes early evening appearances before any of the other night creatures. A few times he’s come around mid-day like here. I was gardening, putting in some new plants, when suddenly he appeared. He walks around, sniffs everything, touches everything, plays in the bath basins, scrounges under the feeders and then disappears again. Funny guy he is. It’s a good thing he comes to a backyard where the humans are pro-wildlife. I do believe they can sense such things.

We’ve had a couple Opossum sightings this summer too. In the fall we usually see them more often. Perhaps with less foliage for them to hide in as they wander around is the reason?

And what Toronto backyard would not be complete without some Skunks? I’m unsure how many we are seeing, but there are some large ones, and wee little ones too.

I hope you enjoyed visiting our backyard again this month. It’s our favourite place to be!

A hand feeding Hairy Woodpecker we have coming to visit almost daily.

Notes From a Northwestern Ontario Backyard – July 2019

posted in: Bird Canada | 5

Hello again!

Believe it or not, we actually have some colour up here right now that is not WHITE! 😉  Flowers are blooming, the grass is a deep green …. summer in Northwestern Ontario is very short & goes by very quickly but it’s beautiful to see while it’s here.  Not all winged visitors are of the feathered variety in summer. This has been a spectacular year for Dragonflies. At any given time, you can see 100+ floating around. I also saw a quite large bat fly through the street light at the end of my driveway recently. At about a foot across the wings, it was definitely the largest bat I’ve seen here. I narrowed it down to either a Red Bat or a Hoary Bat. Without seeing it up close, the i.d doesn’t get any better than that. And there are a few other critters floating around too, like the two below.

 

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on lilac blossoms.

 

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth on lilac blossoms

 

It’s been an excellent season for Woodpeckers around my backyard. I had a pair of Downies & a pair of Hairies coming around since last winter. The Downies were coming to my feeders regularly since then but were feeding their young outside of my yard so I never got to see the babies.

 

Female Downy Woodpecker on peanut feeder

 

Male Hairy Woodpecker (left), female Purple Finch (center) & female Downy Woodpecker on my feeders

 

The Hairies, however, actually dropped one baby off here in my pine trees for an entire day before returning to pick him up in late afternoon!  I could hear the young one  calling & calling from my pine trees but it took me a few hours to actually track it down. When I finally spotted him, he was right at my head level!

 

Baby Hairy Woodpecker left in my tree’nursery’ one day. 🙂

 

Momma Hairy WP feeding her female young

 

Father Hairy WP spent an evening in my yard running back & forth from my feeders to the pole to feed his son.

 

One disappointment for me this spring was the lack of Tree Swallows nesting in my birdhouse. A few years ago, I put up a new feeder in a design that they apparently didn’t like. After 2 seasons of no nesting, I put their old house back up. They check it out every year now but have not nested in it again yet. I remain ever hopeful tho’.

This year after nesting season ended in the neighbourhood, a strange thing happened: the local Swallow family came back to check out my birdhouse again. They were not preparing for a second clutch. They had a half dozen of this year’s youngsters with them and they ALL scoped out the bird house, taking turns going in and out of it. At one point, I counted 9 Swallows (as seen in the photo below), a mixed group of adults and juveniles/immatures. I have never seen this behaviour before. Normally, as soon as all the chicks fledge, the Swallows completely disappear for the season and I don’t see them again until the following spring. Apparently tho’, this behaviour of checking out bird houses AFTER fledging was happening all over the place. I’m still baffled by it.

 

Weeks after fledging, a family of 9 Tree Swallows, adults & juveniles/immatures, were checking out the bird house they did not nest in this season. They did this 3 or 4 days in a row before disappearing.

 

I would love to know what this adult Tree Swallow was saying to the rest of the family!

 

I didn’t get completely bombarded with Blackbird families this spring/summer. There have been a few small flocks of Grackles & Starlings around on the lawns but certainly not in dramatic numbers.

 

Immature Starling waiting to be fed ……

 

… and its obliging parent. 🙂

 

Pretty Purple Finches have been around all summer long. They are one of my all time favourite feeder visitors. I still have good numbers of Pine Siskins at the feeders daily and every once in a while, a couple of American Goldfinches will arrive. Hummingbird activity has been quieter this year than last but is fairly steady. I’ve been watching a single male Eastern Bluebird floating around my neighbourhood. I believe he nested somewhere nearby.

 

Female Purple Finch

 

Male Purple Finch

 

I’ll end this month with a surprise visit I had one day from a lone male Rose Breasted Grosbeak. He wasn’t here for very long, just a few hours one day. I have not seen him again. He is the only one I’ve seen in my yard so far this season.

 

Male Rose Breasted Grosbeak with White Throated Sparrow on my platform feeder.

 

Until next month, thanks for reading. 🙂

 

A Southern Alberta Birding Photo Album – Summer 2019

posted in: Bird Canada | 4

As usual, late spring and summer have been pretty busy family-wise, but I’ve still managed to get out for some early morning/after-work birding trips and walks and with migration having hit its peak these trips have been quite fruitful.

An overnight trip down to Waterton in early May yielded quite a number of Sandhill Cranes, but most of them were quite wary and quick to head off in the other direction, although I didn’t manage to get the odd shot here and there:

This trip also enabled me to stop in at Frank Lake on the way to and from Waterton and I was pleased to see a number of different species enjoying this great wetland area such as Franklin’s Gulls:

and California Gulls:

As well as a number of American Avocets chasing tiny insects on the lake’s surface:

And a few pairs of Black-necked Stilts:

Other sloughs south of Calgary also held abundant numbers of the usual suspects, such as the Yellow-headed Blackbird:

Canada Geese:

Gadwall:

Redhead:

and Northern Shoveller:

 

On later visits to the parks and woodlands around Calgary I was able to see a number of woodland birds including a ‘lifer’, this Hammond’s Flycatcher:

This bird would perch low on reeds at the edge of the stream, then hawk for insects on or near the surface of the water:

In fact, this flycatcher seemed to be deliberately wetting it’s belly and tail feathers while it hawked…maybe this is how they bathe??

 

Other flycatchers also made an appearance, such as this Western Wood Peewee:

And the first hatchlings of the year also began to show up, namely these fluffy Mallard ducklings:

Song Sparrows were still merrily singing away:

Although they would be abruptly silenced whenever the resident Cooper’s Hawks made an appearance:

The start of the show on these trips however would have to be my first Yellow Warblers of the year which simply glowed in their vivid yellow breeding plumage:

 

I was lucky enough to have a free Sunday morning that coincided with perfect cloud-free and wind-free conditions and I was delighted to find some cooperative wetland birds to photograph including a personal favourite, the Horned Grebe:

Some more American Avocets:

Including one pair that appeared to be very much in love:

A pair of striking Wilson’s Phalarope’s was a very nice bonus:

In late May on our first family camping trip of the season, I was happy to capture some of Dinosaur Provincial Park’s ‘specialty’ resident birds including the Spotted Towhee:

Rock Wren:

Lark Sparrow:

As well as the ever-beautiful Western Meadow Lark:

And pair of Brewer’s Blackbirds:

as well as a curious Swainson’s Thrush:

Two complete, but very welcome, surprises were a migrating Harris’s Sparrow in breeding plumage (I’ve only ever seen them in the fall until this point):

And a similarly breeding plumaged male Blackpoll Warbler:

When it comes to migration, you truly never know exactly what birds will turn up where!

A little later, in June, I went visiting the ponds again and enjoyed the antics of a pair of drake Ruddy Ducks as they tried to impress a lone female with their ‘bubbly’ courtship display:

My last June outings were in Kananaskis Country, with the most notable finds being a pair of singing Alder Flycatchers at Lower Kananaskis Lake:

And a gorgeous singing MacGillivray’s Warbler at Bow Valley Provincial Park:

A pair of hungry young Pine Siskins still begging their parents for food was another highlight as well:

Finally, a long hike in early July to see wildflowers in the foothills south-west of Calgary yielded a nice pair of Townsend’s Solitaires:

and a lovelyRose-breasted Grosbeak – a real treat as I have rarely seen this striking bird!:

T.O. Backyard – Falcon Fledge Watching (not from our yard of course)

posted in: Bird Canada | 8

Hello! Welcome back to Toronto, only this month we won’t be in our backyard but still close to home. The month of June got swallowed up with Peregrine Falcon fledge watching. This is an ordeal I participate in annually. This is something I am quite passionate about. I hope some of you will enjoy what I am sharing today.

Some may ask “what is a Falcon fledge watch?” When young Peregrine Falcons take their first flights, like here in Toronto, it is important that there are people looking out for them. Take my main nest site I help at as the perfect example. See those ledges near the top of this glass office tower? A pair of Peregrine Falcons nest up there. This is in Etobicoke, at the corner of Islington Avenue and Bloor Street. It may not be downtown Toronto but it is a very busy area. The nest is very high up and in many cases, when the young birds take their first flights off that ledge, they slowly get lower and lower, some eventually coming to ground, winding up on the sidewalk or worse, out in traffic. If not for the watchers, these birds would be dead. They lack strength and experience. They simply cannot get back home or even close enough to it, where the adults would come to care for them.

Of course our watches start earlier in the spring with random spot checks at the nest sites. Sometimes we catch the adults in the process of “making babies”. But this blog is about the fledge watch so let’s give this Rexdale pair, Hurricane and Chessie, a bit of privacy.

The Canadian Peregrine Foundation is located in Toronto. They’ve been helping the Falcons for over 2 decades now. A part of the monitoring program is to band the young birds. They try to get to as many nest sites as possible, banding the birds at about 21 days of age. Every bird has it’s own unique banding code for future ID purposes. There’s a lot of debate on the purpose of banding birds but when one of our Toronto Falcons surfaces on territory a couple years later somewhere in North America, that’s the reason all I need right there.

What a cute little killer!

We’ve been blessed over past years by having a web cam pointed to the Etobicoke nest ledge; unfortunately it went down earlier this year and hopefully it will be back up again. It really helps us keep a close eye on the birds. For one, their development.

Here they are 6 days later.

4 days after that. It’s amazing how quickly they develop. The colored tape on their legs helps us quickly ID the birds.

At approximately 45 days, the young take their first flight off the ledge. Within the first 30 minutes of this bird’s flight, he was now about 15 feet above street level.

The birds wander about and explore. It must be a scary ordeal for them especially as they realize they cannot get back to the comforts of home.

They can exhaust themselves and sometimes take a nap wherever they finally settle and feel safe.

As you can see with our Etobicoke nest site, that glass is reflective. Anyone who knows about birds and reflective glass, it can be deadly.

Unfortunately for us, we suffer losses almost yearly. I assure you this beautiful young Falcon is dead.

“Recoveries suck!” is the polite way to put it. Sadly this is another young Falcon I picked up through my years of volunteering at the watches.

To actually witness a Falcon fly into the reflective glass and spiral to the ground is gut wrenching and heart breaking. Being the one to retrieve the body can tear a person apart. It’s not for everyone to participate in a fledge watch and some walk away after such a tragic experience, never to return. We cannot begrudge them for making this decision. Their haunting memories will forever be a voice against reflective glass in the years ahead.

Of course it’s not all death. There are the rescues. Giving a young Falcon a second, sometimes even a third chance. Not every window strike is fatal or even that harmful but we don’t know until we rescue them. Now imagine if no one was there watching over them.

This year a friend and I witnessed quite a window strike by one of the young birds at the Etobicoke site. We thought he was a goner. We watched him hit, we heard the bang and we saw him start to spiral. We were up around a side street because being back some distance from the towers gives us a better of the roof tops and the actual nest ledge since 2 birds still had yet to take their first flights. We run around the corner and out along Bloor Street. Suddenly, what do we see but this young bird standing there on the sidewalk. He’s totally upright and just looking at a small crowd of smokers surrounding him. He’s standing like nothing happened to him, no wing droop or any other signs of injury. Now this is about 8:30 am, it’s morning rush hour. I have about 95% focus on that bird on the other side of 4 lanes of busy traffic. The other 5% is on the cars passing by. I play a game of Frogger with the cars and in a flash, I am across the road, and quickly gathering up the bird in my towel. There was a lot of oooooo’ing and awwwwwwwww’ing at this Falcon. People were trying to take photos of him with their cell phones. With him in my towel, I wasted no time in getting him out of harm’s way and into an animal carrier, then into a utility closet that the building management allow us to use for the birds to have a time out in. The birds do get assessed after a few hours of peace and quiet; then released back up on the roof of the tower if all looks good. They are given that second chance. I am happy to say that particular bird, his name is Aries, is doing fine weeks later and has not needed rescuing since.

Now, as for one of his siblings, welllllllllllll…

Meet Avro. Here he is after his first rescue early one morning.

He had taken flight the day before, I was on site to witness that. Throughout the morning and then into the evening it rained a lot. The evening watchers relayed where the kids were when they closed shop at dark. I knew exactly where Avro was. When I left work at 10 pm, I decided to pass by the site and have a drive around. The rain eased off and I could see him just sitting there abut 15 ft above the sidewalk, preening away. It was too dark to spot the others so I went home. I got to bed about 12:30 am. I had a terrible sleep as I kept thinking about this bird (and the others of course). I got up about 5:20 am, threw myself together, and was back down to the watch before 6 am. I saw no birds for what felt like the longest time, other than their sister Bliss who was still on the nest ledge. I walked around the perimeter of the buildings, looking in every nook and low level spot throughout. Finally as I got back around, there was Avro sitting on the steps outside the newly opened Sobey’s grocery store. What I found comical was there was a person sitting about 6 ft in front of him, they were smoking a cigarette, completely glued to their mobile device and oblivious to what was unfolding here . As I stood near them and assessed the situation, no reaction from this person. Now even as I pulled out my large blue bath towel, they still did not look up and over at me. Wouldn’t your eyes dart to a person next to you by this point? I went in and grabbed this Falcon right behind them. They still never budged. WOW! Avro was fine, just confused and exhausted from his first big day out. He went back to the roof top later that day, reuniting with his family.

A few days later he wound up in a low spot again and long story made short, he was rescued by 2 other watchers as he actually came down onto Bloor Street. Avro was nearly run over by a passing car! He was contained and again later released back to the roof.

Then about 5 or 6 days later a call came into CPF about a Falcon stuck on someone’s balcony. Here is where that tape color came in handy. Blue was the color. We knew it was Avro once again. Oh boy. He was on a 23rd floor balcony. I assume he was sitting on their railing when either he slipped off or the wind blew him off. The glass barriers really confuse the young birds as we’ve had such incidents like this in the past. They can see out and cannot understand why they can’t just fly out.

CPF contacted me, asking if I could help since I live so close. I was down there in about 20 minutes. I get to the condo balcony and can see poor Avro rather frazzled at his current situation. His parents were circling the condo, screeching, as they knew exactly where he was. I thought Avro would be happy to see me, being one of his saviours in the last week, but that was not the case. A little hissing and backing up was all I got. He hopped up to this flower pot, trying to be more eye level with me, and ready to do battle perhaps. I’m only guessing.

Out came the big blue towel again. Funny how it matches his tape color, eh? Then he was contained and had his third time out in the utility closet. As I key this, he’s reported to be doing very well, staying high above the streets and out of trouble.

I wish Avro the best, to be safe and may we never set eyes upon each other until perhaps one day he resurfaces somewhere on territory.

Here is another bird from our nest site a few years back. He also needed rescuing during his first days off the ledge. He was named Ferris. About two years later Ferris was positively ID’d somewhere down in southern Ohio. This is what makes the watch worth it.

A big rescue this year happened during Toronto’s massive Toronto Raptors celebratory parade after they won the championship. This is Bonvoy. It seems he fell off his nest ledge a few days too early. Thankfully a watcher was on site, even with this big party going on, and he was rescued. It will be a big celebration with us if he resurfaces somewhere in a couple years. Photo taken by my friend Tracy Simpson who has taught me a lot about helping the young Falcons over the years.

I know I played up a lot of the both good and bad to a watch but honestly for the most part it is many hours of baking in the heat and humidity, following the shade while keeping the birds in view.; or hiding out from the rain under whatever one can. Basically it’s a lot of just watching paint dry. If you have some company, great, and hopefully you like each other. We have a watcher who actually works in the Etobicoke office tower, so she is a huge asset to the Falcons and joining us out on the street when she can; but she watches the birds all year long and has discovered changes in the adults at the site over the years (something that would most likely be missed until the next nesting season). She is my friend now. A positive to the Falcon watching is making some new friends who share the same passion for wildlife.

Unfortunately at most sites the last few years is a lot of the time is passed alone, a watcher and his/her thoughts. No matter how much time you put in. The Etobicoke site was broken up in shifts, and a few of us did what we could, communicating with the next person coming down and seldom was there a gap of time with no one one. Other sites had one dedicated person spending all day with a site, and even the week. There is some interest from the general public but not a whole lot. It’s disappointing in a city with over 3 million people. I’ve had photographers approach me, talk for a minute, then pass me their phone number or business card, asking me to call them as soon as a juvi Falcon is in great photographing range. Ya, as if! Do the time like us or forget it. I tell people like I was told in my early days, “You do what you can, giving whatever time you can spare. There is no obligation. Hell, even 20 or 30 minutes allowing someone else to dash off to the bathroom or get a drink is appreciated.” I know I used to feel guilty after leaving the watches, no matter if I spent 2 hrs or 5. It’s better than nothing for those young birds in the first days of flying.

Over the years, much thanks to social media, I have had friends from high school come out and join me. I always hope they get to see and encounter something cool as I know my friend Elizabeth did a couple years back; but if nothing else, we have a nice visit and catch up.

For me in my alone time, I people watch when the birds are inactive. Stand in one spot in Toronto long enough and the weirdos show themselves. I once had a guy break out into song with “Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head”. He couldn’t figure out what I was so focused on, which was a young bird just above my head and out of reach. The guy just kept looking at me, then at the wall, back and forth. This went on for over 10 minutes. Suddenly he belted out part of that song, and then danced his way off along the sidewalk. At least that was comical. I’m not a fan of seeing someone peeing in the back alley or parking lot. Those not aware of what we are doing have been known to call the police on us. I guess it’s understandable when a grown man is standing across the road from a condominium with binoculars and a big camera. HA! The police have been great about it, even impressed and thanking us for what we do. We are respectful of peoples’ property and privacy. It’s all for the birds.

I also pay attention to the birds around me. I witnessed mom Falcon lay a beating on an Osprey high over us one day. The poor Osprey wanted nothing more than to pass through, heading north to some lake, but momma Falcon did not care what the reason and aggressively escorted the Osprey out of territory.

A rare moment had me spot a food transfer between an adult and young Falcon. This is part of their training. I’ve heard of this but have only seen it once in 8 years.

There is a Canadian flag atop one of the towers so I wait and try for cool photos like this.

Or just take cute photos of the young birds when I feel it is safe to do so. When I can divert my attention from a serious watch, and have some fun.

Juvenile Falcons are one of my favourite birds to see every year, not just because of my involvement in these watches. Their markings, the coloring, I just love.

One thing I know is to always be watchful where I stand.

I thank anyone who has read this right to the end. I put my heart into this one. It helps I’m fresh off the watch.

You can follow along with the GTA Peregrines through the CPF Facebook page. Another great Peregrine page is this one from Ohio.

Now, if you feel like reading a couple more Falcon blogs of mine at some point, here are a couple links.

My first real time alone at a watch where all the kids fledged within mere hours of each other. http://robandtheanimals.blogspot.com/2014/06/william-osler-falcon-watch.html

You may need the tissues for this one. http://robandtheanimals.blogspot.com/2014/07/pierre-falcon.html

New Report on the State of Canada’s Birds

posted in: Bird Canada | 0

The North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) has just released a new report on the state of Canada’s birds. It’s the second comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of birdlife in Canada. The new report highlights the challenges of bird conservation as well as past and current successes of conservation actions. It also draws attention to actions that all Canadians can take to help conserve bird populations.

Bird Studies Canada is proud to have partnered with the other members of NABCI to develop this important report. Bird Studies Canada’s volunteers, like you, were an important part of this achievement; sixty-six percent of the species trends in this document came from programs that rely on skilled Citizen Science volunteers.

 

How are our birds faring?

Canadian breeding bird populations have changed since 1970, when effective monitoring began for most species. Some groups, such as grassland birds, aerial insectivores, and shorebirds, are showing major declines. In contrast, waterfowl and birds of prey have largely recovered from earlier declines as a result of careful harvest management, wetland restoration, and a ban on DDT use.

These population rebounds are evident in some areas where Bird Studies Canada staff and volunteers are working. For instance, Bald Eagles and are very abundant during the winter months in British Columbia’s Fraser Delta region. Farther east, on Lake Erie, Christmas Bird Count data indicate that numbers of Scaup, Goldeneye, and Bufflehead have increased over time.

We at Bird Studies Canada are encouraged by these positive results, which demonstrate how conservation actions can bear fruit. At the same time, we are concerned by the findings showing major declines for other groups of birds. We are committed to working with partners and with all Canadians to reverse these trends.

We’re taking action, with your help

Bird Studies Canada works on a variety of research, monitoring, and stewardship projects, and collaborates with governments and non-government agencies to create conservation strategies.

The conservation of grassland birds and aerial insectivores depends heavily on stewardship from private landowners. Bird Studies Canada has had the privilege to work with landowners across the country whose dedicated efforts are preserving bird habitat. For example, farmers around Prince George, BC have been supporting the successful nesting of Long-billed Curlews each year through their stewardship of hay fields. We are also partnering with cattle ranchers in Manitoba to preserve grassland habitat for Species at Risk like Sprague’s Pipit and Chestnut-collared Longspur. In Ontario and Eastern Canada, Bird Studies Canada is encouraging and supporting the stewardship efforts of people hosting Chimney Swifts and swallows on their property.

We are also taking action for shorebirds. Bird Studies Canada is taking part in a collaborative initiative to protect British Columbia’s Fraser Delta – a key stopover site – from industrial development. In Ontario and the Maritimes, we are working with dedicated volunteers and partners to protect nesting Piping Plovers. And in the Bay of Fundy, we are leading coastal stewardship efforts to reduce disturbance to thousands of shorebirds at critical stopover areas during fall migration.

If you want to do more

Bird Studies Canada is deeply grateful to you, our volunteers and supporters, for all that you do to conserve Canada’s birds.

With our NABCI partners, we encourage all Canadians to take action to improve the state of Canada’s birds and our environment. If you are looking for new ways to be a champion for birds or actions you can encourage others to take, consult the new report and Bird Studies Canada’s Top Six Ways You Can Help Birds.

Bird Studies Canada eagerly welcomes Citizen Scientists of all skill levels to participate in programs across the country. Visit birdscanada.org to learn more.

Notes From a Northwestern Ontario Backyard – June 2019

posted in: Bird Canada | 10

Hello again!

After weeks of chilly temperatures, the season is finally improving up here. Even though the first day of summer is officially tomorrow, we are now getting late spring weather with temperatures finally getting into the high teens and low 20’s C. 😀 Trees and shrubs are blooming beautifully but many other plants are behind normal schedules or lost completely after last winter’s brutal cold. Check out my neighbour’s flowering crabapple tree though! It’s so heavy with blossoms right now, the branches are drooping!

 

Can you spot the Cedar Waxwing in the blossoms?

 

To get you caught up on my spring season, I completed my annual Great Canadian Birdathon on May 20th. Considering the slow, very chilly weather conditions we had, my husband and I actually did fairly well with 60 species in about 12 hours. We had very few Warblers, finally tallying only 3 for the whole day. The highlight of the day was hearing (and tallying!) the call of a Barred Owl when we were leaving our last trail for the night. What a way to end a count. 🙂

A few photos from our sightings that day:

Solitary Sandpiper mirror image – my favourite photo of the day

 

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

 

Palm Warbler

 

Mallard Ducks mirror image

 

Adorable Lincoln’s Sparrow

 

Bonaparte’s Gulls – first year bird on far right

 

My husband and I took a day a couple of weeks ago to go out and get some of next season’s firewood and had a few good sightings out around the bush roads.

 

Spotted Sandpiper

 

Sandhill Cranes

 

Awesome Broad Winged Hawk! (saw 2!)

 

Common Merganser

 

Hooded Merganser – one of my favourite ducks 🙂

 

The last weekend in May, we went to Dorion, Ontario … about an hour east of Thunder Bay (and 3 hours west of here), for their 11th annual Birding Festival. The original committee retired in 2018 after the 10th year and the Lakehead Regional Conservation Authority from Thunder Bay took over management of the festival. They did a fabulous job! It was kept as close to the original format as possible with very few discernable changes. We are thrilled that it was not cancelled completely! My lifer sighting for the weekend was a pair of Blackpoll Warblers but I couldn’t get any photos. As a group of about 120 people, we tallied 118 species from Saturday morning to early Sunday afternoon. Here are my two favourite photos from that weekend.

 

I LOVE Pelicans! We saw 3 flocks of varying sizes, from just a couple up to this flock, which numbered 23 in total!

 

My best photo of the weekend: a lovely Magnolia Warbler

 

I’ve had no time with the camera in the past couple of weeks as my husband and I are super busy helping his parents as they buy a house here and move into town. My lens is also threatening to act up again and may need to be sent in for more repairs soon. Anyway, here are some of my recent sightings in my backyard.

 

White Throated Sparrow

 

Super adorable Pine Siskin

 

This Sharp Shinned Hawk has taken to hunting my backyard once in a while.

 

One of two Sandhill Cranes that flew over my house recently.

 

Hummingbirds are here! I have 4 feeders out for them and all are being used. 🙂

 

Female Red Winged Blackbird

 

Chipping Sparrows are now nesting here. They nest in shrubs in my neighbour’s yard, then hop the fence to come feed in my yard. 🙂

 

I’ll end this month with my most special visitor this spring. A beautiful female Baltimore Oriole graced my yard for 4 days at the beginning of June. I have never seen one here before. I had been hearing tons of reports of Oriole sightings throughout this region so thought I might as well put some oranges out … what can it hurt? She showed up on one the very next morning. She ate 3 whole oranges in total before moving on. 🙂

 

Female Baltimore Oriole – first ever visit to my yard that I know of!

 

And that’s it for another month. Fingers crossed that my lens, Big Bertha (a Tamron 150-600mm with a Nikon D3300 camera body) continues working for me and I’ll try my best to get some use out of it in the coming weeks.

In the meantime ….. HAPPY SUMMER!

 

 

 

Spring, snow and Song Birds – My birding outings in Calgary in May 2019

posted in: Bird Canada | 11

By late April and early May, spring migration was clearly on in earnest here in Calgary as each new week heralded newly arrived species in the urban parks around the city, notably song birds such as the aptly-named Song Sparrow:

As well as the tiny and energetic Ruby-crowned Kinglet:

And the Ruby-crown’s cousin, the Golden-crowned Kinglet:

Warblers began to appear as well and their song was music to my ears as I head their calls for the first time in a year, most notably from flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers of both the Myrtle, Audubon and hybrid varieties:

Also foraging with the Yellow-rumped were a number of Orange-Crowned Warblers:

As well as a handful of Wilson’s Warblers:

Down by the Bow River, gull numbers had also increased significantly and I was happy to get the opportunity to photograph Franklin’s Gulls as they patrolled up and down the river for emerging insects:

This time of year, the Franklins have a lovely pinkish hue to their feathers which is gone by the fall:

While it may be spring in Calgary, this definitely does not mean the end of the snow and we had two quite wintry weekends that must have caused some misery for all the migrating birds. Indeed, the warblers seemed quite puzzled by the all the ‘white stuff’:

The nemesis of songbirds, hawks, also began to reappear, such as this Cooper’s Hawk:

And it was apparent it was wasting no time in setting up a nest to rear a new crop of raptors:

Perhaps the most interesting and exciting moment during this snowy spring weather came one morning when I was walking the shoreline of Glenmore Reservoir. I had been to photograph American Pipits and I was able to find a few flitting about the partially snow-covered pebbles at the water’s edge. However, getting anywhere near them for a close shot was nigh impossible as they were more than particularly flighty and long-range shots were all I could manage:

Then, as I rounded a bend in the pathway, I came across what I describe as a ‘swallow tree’ – a tree where hundreds of Tree Swallows had perched to try and stay warm:

Amazingly, I was able to walk very slowly up to the tree and all the swallows stayed put and let me just enjoy this unusual spectacle of nature from close distance.

As I scanned the many swallows, I began to notice a number of other swallow species mixed in with flock, such as Cliff Swallows:

Northern Rough-winged Swallows:

Hmmm…one of these birds is not like the others!

And the breath-taking Violet-green Swallow:

A little further on, I found a smaller tree on the bank that dozens of swallows were resting in, and sat down on the beach and took shots of these birds as well:

After about 20 minutes of looking pretty much only through my lens, I raised my eye from the view finder, peered around and – lo and behold – to my great delight, found I was surrounded by at least a dozen pipits foraging away, many only a few feet away!

I find good doses of patience and luck go a long way when it comes to bird photography!

Another spring arrival that seemed to have been way-laid by the poor weather was a gorgeous Say’s Phoebe that hawked for insects up and down the shoreline:

Finally, on my way back to the car, I spied a Common Loon relatively close to the shore. While the light was poor for photographing waterfowl, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and decided to shoot in high-key. I just love the patterns on loons:

Notes From a Northwestern Ontario Backyard – May 2019

posted in: Bird Canada | 5

It’s the Spring That Never Was.

The snow has melted, yes (mostly: there are still some thick patches in the woods) but it’s still COLD here in Manitouwadge, ON. Today, May 19th, we have a daytime high of only 6C when it should be well into the high teens C by now. Migration up here is quite slow this year because of the weather. I haven’t seen a single Warbler yet … not even a Yellow Rumped which usually show up here in April!

On the plus side, I did have a really good, if short, showing of Rusty Blackbirds earlier this month. They are my favourite Blackbird. My rough estimate tells me we had at least 300 of them for a couple of weeks. This photo shows barely a quarter of the flock that was coming around.

This Blackbird flock is mostly Rusties with a couple of Grackles mixed in. This is maybe 1/4 of the entire flock that was around for a few weeks.

 

Female Rusty Blackbird

 

Male Rusty Blackbird

 

Below are some photos of other migrants that have been around lately:

White Crowned Sparrow. We also have a few White Throated Sparrows & Juncos now.

 

Chipping Sparrows. Tree Swallows are also around. Chipping Sparrows nest in my neighbour’s shrubs & come to feed in my yard.

 

Female Brown Headed Cowbird

 

Fox Sparrow – one of my all time favourite Sparrows.

 

Bohemian Waxwings – a flock of about 30 raided my neighbour’s fruit tree earlier in May.

 

Downy Woodpecker – at one point a couple of weeks ago, I had 5 Downies every day!

 

Hooded Mergansers – not in my yard, obviously, but one of my favourite ducks to see in spring.

 

Tree Swallows – 2 pairs have been vying for the birdhouse in the peak of our garage. Fingers crossed for a successful nesting season!

 

We recently went on a week-long trip through southern Ontario, covering from the London area over nearly to Ottawa, then back up north to Kirkland Lake & home. It wasn’t a bird watching trip but we still did okay thanks to a lovely lady who owns a country/gardening shop in London. She invited us to her house on a super rainy Thursday to see the Orioles, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers & Indigo Bunting she had visiting her feeders. It was incredible!!

 

Female Rose Breasted Grosbeak

 

Male Rose Breasted Grosbeak

 

Male Indigo Bunting … WOW!

 

Male Baltimore Oriole, a bird I just for the first time in spring 2018

 

Female Baltimore Oriole with a lifer for me: male Orchard Oriole!

 

Even though it is crooked and not super crisp, I still love this photo: female Baltimore Oriole, male Orchard Oriole & female Scarlet Tanager!

 

I never expected to get a lifer sighting on this trip so I was absolutely thrilled to see this stunning male Orchard Oriole at my friend’s feeders on that rainy day!

 

Other sightings on our trip included:

 

Be still, my heart: a stunning Northern Cardinal

 

Male Northern Flicker amongst the dandelions

 

One of many Robins

 

Here at home now, my feeders are overrun with Purple Finches and Pine Siskins. Sparrows are few & far between but there have been some. I’ve only seen 1 Goldfinch here so far. Definitely a very late & quiet spring.

The other night, we went for a drive to do an American Woodcock Survey. We got skunked on the Woodcocks but we did come across this handsome fellow during a courtship display for a female that we could hear moving around but not see.

 

Ruffed Grouse courtship display

 

I’ll end this month with a funny little sighting. I looked out my kitchen window the other evening just in time to see a female MALLARD DUCK fly by! A friend had called the day before to tell me she one in her yard eating cracked corn (just a few houses down the street from me) and my next door neighbour told my husband he had seen one at the end of the street chasing a Crow away. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she has a nest nearby! 🙂

That’s it for this month. Now:  could someone please turn the heat up???

T.O. Backyard Spring “Springing” 2019

posted in: Bird Canada | 7

Hello!  Welcome back to our slice of nature here in our Toronto backyard.

It’s been a slow moving spring but the birds assure us that the weather is changing and slowly getting warmer.  First sign weeks ago was this Chipping Sparrow who spent a few days with us.

I was finally able to put some of the baths out again, not having to worry about freezing. This American Robin was happy about that.

A few days later we got a new backyard bird species being this Pine Warbler who stopped in for a drink. Water sources are vital to any backyard birds.

Then there was a lull. We had a week plus long cold and wet spell. It’s still not seasonal but we are getting there. The Baltimore Orioles arrived in the first week of May.

We don’t spend as much on bird seed through the summer but grape jelly and oranges are weekly purchases.

Another species of Oriole arrived this week, Orchard Oriole, and they are backyard bird species #73. One of two males that has been coming in.

A female has been present too!

We hope they decide to spend the summer with us.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks paid us a visit as well. Two males and one female. Most spring migrations we get a brief visit from this bird species.

The male.

The female. She may not be as flashy but she’s still pretty.

Our first Hummingbird arrived this week. No photos yet.

We are also enjoying a handful of both White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows singing much of the day away in the yard.

Spring migration is an exciting time. Birds are seemingly everywhere.

Black-throated Green Warblers are singing as they stop in the area.

Yellow Warblers are finally back.

Great Egrets too.

Nice to see the Wood Ducks again.

Early May has had some oddities as northern Owl species, Saw-whet and Long-eareds are still being seen in some parks. Enjoy them while they are here, but from a respectable distance of course. May 2018 we were still seeing a Snowy Owl.

Long-eared Owl.

Screech Owls are residents of Toronto and if you listen to the other birds angry calls, you might just spot one.

It’s been a few months since we last posted. We hope you haven’t forgotten about us. See you in June!