Tuesday, December 2, 2008

King Eider on Lake Ontario

Certainly not the best photograph of a King Eider you'll ever see, but as this was my first ever, I'm pretty pleased - even if it is a rather shoddy digi-scoped effort! This was one of three females present today on Lake Ontario at Stoney Creek.

Note: Turns out after a thorough review of my North American Life List (May 2009), this was actually my 400th species!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


It has been predicted that this winter may see small finches like Pine Siskin and Common Redpoll irrupting from their northern ranges, as a result of seed crop failures. Whilst not quite indicative of this, siskins do normally migrate during autumn, it was interesting to see a flock of up to 13 siskins coming into the garden for a couple of days last week.

The birds that visited our garden were mostly interested in the fresh water available at the pond.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Least Bitterns at Bronte Creek

This adult male Least Bittern gave fantastic views (of a range of postures) as it stalked fish amongst the floating water-lily leaves in the pond just upstream from Bronte Harbour on the
29th of August.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Arizona Sky Islands and Desert Rivers

The Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, where the Cottonwoods were already greening up in late March.

A Lincoln's Sparrow in the car park.

Along one of the trails I finally found a Lark Sparrow, a species I have wanted to see for many years.

Vermilion Flycatchers were quite easily seen at most 'wetland' sites we visited. This male was at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area near Sierra Vista.

A male Broad-billed Hummingbird on a feeder at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. We also saw a beautiful male Violet-crowned Hummingbird here.

Perched above the creek amongst the willows and cottonwoods, a Black Phoebe.

Yellow-eyed Junco was one of the more common mountain denizens. Look how similar it is to the Dark-eyed 'Gray-headed' Junco (subspecies dorsalis) in the next picture.

Apart from Yellow-eyed and this Gray-headed, we also saw a couple of black hooded Oregon Juncos.

There is a striking progression through habitat types when ascending any of the Sky Island mountain ranges in south-east Arizona. These small ranges, northern outliers of the Mexican Sierra Madre, are surrounded by low lying desert scrub and grassland. But with just slight increases in elevation you move into these Madrean Oak Grasslands. This is in the Chiricahuas.

As the grassland thins, Oak-Juniper woodland thickens. Chiricahuas again.

Higher still, a mixture of Pine and Manzanita. The flowers of the Manzanita were attracting Costa's Hummingbirds here.

Western Scrub-Jay at the fabled 'Big Thicket' feeding station of Dave Jasper in Portal.

Cave Creek Canyon on the east side of the Chiricahuas.

Green-tailed Towhee at the Big Thicket.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, also at the Big Thicket.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Arizona Desert Grasslands

The wide, arid valleys of south-east Arizona are much changed from the grasslands of 100 years ago. Agricultural irrigation has a significant effect on the birds present, often concentrating activity around active fields. The Sulphur Springs Valley is renowned for its raptors, like this Ferruginous Hawk.

Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area near McNeal in the Sulphur Springs Valley is a major wintering site for Sandhill Cranes. Up to 25,000 can be seen at the peak, but by late March most have departed, only 1000 or so remained.

The shallow floods attract other waterfowl such as American Avocet...

...and Black-necked Stilt as well as Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher and Greater Yellowlegs.

Small flocks of Lark Bunting were fairly easy to find, but other sparrows were in short supply.

An adult Swainson's Hawk.

Loggerhead Shrike: probably the most widespread and regularly seen species in the lowlands - due in part to its prominent perching of course!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Arizona Sonoran Desert

Sonoran desertscrub (punctuated by Sagauro Cacti) at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson.

A superb male Costa's Hummingbird.

Common, even in suburban Phoenix, the Cactus Wren's rattling call constantly reminded me of old cowboy films.

Greater Roadrunner. Not often seen running it seems!

Curve-billed Thrasher is the most obliging of the Thrashers in Arizona and particularly conspicuous in the desert.

Desertscrub east of Phoenix with typical mix of Palo Verde, Yucca, Prickly Pear and Mesquite.

Gila Woodpecker.

Chris struggling to ID new birds on our first day in Arizona at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Black-throated Sparrow.

Canyon Towhee on the picnic table at our first campsite.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ravenshoe Redpolls

A short afternoon foray onto the Holland Marsh flats yielded Snowy Owl, a flock of 150 odd Bohemian Waxwings and a small group of about 25 redpoll. I only noticed how pale and grey this bird was after looking at the photos and also, as seems to be my luck, the flock left before I could get many pictures. To me, this looks like a 1st winter exilipes Hoary Redpoll.

A flammea Common Redpoll amongst the flock for comparison. The flanks are way more heavily streaked, the overall tone considerably browner and there are no visible white edges to the greater coverts.

Undertail angle. Maybe one streak there?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Northern Hawk Owl

After several weeks of avoiding the drive, a good opportunity to see the Northern Hawk Owl presented itself and luckily the bird was still around!

In action.

Looking mean.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hoary (Arctic) Redpolls

The number of Common Redpolls Acanthis flammea present in southern Ontario has been increasing in recent weeks and now Hoary Redpolls Acanthis hornemanni are being seen with more frequency too. This mixed flock was visiting a feeding station in Beaverton, Ontario on the 30th of December. Specific Redpoll identification still challenges me, but I think it's pretty clear which two birds amongst this group are the Hoarys! I will even be so bold as to say these appear to be birds of the hornmanni subspecies or Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll.There are also some larger, darker coloured and heavily streaked birds here - could these be of the subspecies rostrata or 'Greater' Common Redpoll?