Monday, June 8, 2009


I was lucky to be out in the field last week, listening and looking for breeding birds on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario. The area is fairly sparsely populated (at least away from the lakeshore) and has a rich and diverse avifauna, with many species near the southern limit of their breeding ranges in Canada. I encountered several species of warbler in suitable breeding habitat, including Canada, Magnolia, Mourning, Black-throated Green, Ovenbird, Nashville, Yellow-rumped and Black-throated Blue, but the most common by far is American Redstart. Whilst After Second (calendar) Year (ASY) males are easily discerned, Second Year (SY) males closely resemble adult females, although they usually have richer yellow colouring and often some black feathering coming through on the head. This bird (above) looks like a SY male.

This is clearly an ASY male.

Striking a pose.

Looking for the intruder (me)

Bobolinks can be quite numerous in suitable hay fields, with little groups of males rising out of the grass to enthusiastically pursue any female that crosses their airspace.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird enjoying apple blossoms.

Upland Sandpipers have been steadily declining over much of south-west Ontario and even on the Bruce Peninsula, where there would appear to be plenty of suitable habitat, they are considerably less numerous now than they were during the first Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas in 1981.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The North Country

I spent three days last week driving up to the north country of Ontario, with my friend Eric, on an errand. I didn't need too much of an excuse to go, despite the 1800km round-trip because I'd never been up there before. Specifically we were headed to Kapuskasing, which is on the Hudson Bay Frontier. The forest is truly boreal: lots of White Spruce, Black Spruce, Tamarack, Balsam Fir, Jack Pine and Trembling Aspen. This is also lumber country, so I was curious to see how it looked. We camped at Greenwater Provincial Park just outside Cochrane and were lucky to see this Great Gray Owl in the gloaming.

This view is from the Esker Trail at Greenwater. Two things that were immediately noticeable were the absence of both bugs (black flies or mosquitos) and leaves. Despite the early spring-like climatical conditions, there were a number of typically late spring migrants already in residence on their breeding grounds, like this male Bay-breasted Warbler.

I was particulary impressed by the dawn chorus as I lay in the tent. First Ruffed Grouse, followed by Loons, Sandhill Cranes, Wilsons Snipe, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and finally Robins.

Dark morph Red-tailed Hawk by the roadside.

Broad-winged Hawks were the most numerous large raptor. There were also many Kestrels in the cultivated areas.

This pair of Common Loons covered several hundred metres to check us out as we shattered their tranquility.

Bull Moose just getting started on his rack.

I think it sounds a bit more impressive than it actually is, but the place marker is pretty smart nonetheless.

A Raven nest on an electricity pylon, with two almost fledge-worthy young occupants visible.