Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Anna's Hummingbird, new to northern Ontario - updated Nov 10

What a great autumn, bird-wise, for the Thunder Bay District! A few weeks ago a Slaty-backed Gull was added to the district (and Northern Ontario) list(s). Now comes the discovery of an Anna's Hummingbird, a first for northern Ontario, and a second for the province, visiting a feeder in Thunder Bay. More details, from OntBirds here.
Dec. 3, 2013. Courtesy of Glenn Stronks.
Dec. 5, 2013. Courtesy of Glenn Coady.

The first provincial record of Anna's Hummingbird was documented for October 25-30, 2010, in Essex County.

Dec. 10 update: The Anna's Hummingbird has not been seen in several days, following the onset sub-30 C temperatures. Apparently the bird was present for months (15 September - 7 December)

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Sophie and Gary Wiggins for sharing their sighting and also to the Glenns, Stronks and Coady, for sharing their photos.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The latest Western Kingbird

The intrepid Alan Wormington, who has an uncanny knack for turning up interesting birds during his annual forays across the north shore, found this Western Kingbird, a casual visitor to the district, on October 18, 2013 at the Schreiber-Terrace Bay landfill, a stone's throw from the Trans-Canada Highway. Thanks for sharing your photos Alan.
October 18, 2013. Courtesy of Alan Wormington.
October 18, 2013. Courtesy of Alan Wormington.
Other photo-documented sightings of WEKI along the north shore include:
  • Sept. 10. 2010, at Marathon
  • Aug. 21, 2012, a new addition to the Pukaskwa National Park checklist. James Telford's eBird checklist and photo here.
...and some older autumn records adjudicated by the OBRC, again courtesy of AW.
  • November 2, 1996: Thunder Bay (Nick Escott -- found by?) --- accepted by OBRC.
  • October 12, 1993: Thunder Cape (Nick Escott) --- accepted by OBRC.
  • October 13, 1992: Terrace Bay (Alan Wormington) --- accepted by OBRC. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

White-eyed Vireo strays to Manitouwadge

Tammie Hache of Manitouwadge, at the east end of the Thunder Bay District, found a very unusual passerine in her yard today (November 10th, 2013). Tammie wrote:
I discovered this beautiful little bird in my backyard today. I sadly thought it was a window strike casualty when I found it on the ground half tucked under the last piece of siding on the garage but when I picked it up, it blinked at me. :) It has incredibly beautiful eyes!
November 10, 2013. Courtesy of Tammie Hache
This is only the fourth occurrence of White-eyed Vireo in northern Ontario. All have been in the T-Bay District: Marathon, Thunder Cape and Rossport, all between Sept. 29 and Oct 21. Definitely a pattern of fall vagrancy here. This is likely the northernmost record for Ontario. Thanks for sharing the sighting Tammie!

Thunder Bay Slaty-backed Gull continues

Thunder Bay birders are continuing to enjoy the first-for-the-district Slaty-backed Gull found by Brian Ratcliff on November 6th. Calvin Knorr relocated the bird the following day (thanks for sharing the photo Calvin!).
November 8, 2013. Courtesy of Calvin Knorr.

Yesterday, November 9th, Greg Stroud reported that the SBGU was still present, along with the Lesser Black-backed Gull as well as five Glaucous Gulls.

Here are some of his photos (thanks Greg):

November 9th. Courtesy of Greg Stroud.
November 9th. Courtesy of Greg Stroud.
On the north shore of Lake Superior, every dark mantled gull is a "good" bird...very few adult Great Black-backed Gulls are seen west of the Soo. As best as I can tell, Lesser Black-backed Gulls are seen with about the same frequency - eBird shows only a hand full of T-Bay District records for either species.

Perhaps of interest to some will be Brandon Holden's excellent photos from St. John's, NL, providing side-by-side comparisons of Slaty-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls.

November 11th update:

Calvin Knorr relocated the SBGU but not the LBBG today.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Slaty-backed Gull in Thunder Bay, new to northern Ontario!

One of the more impressive north shore birding spots is the John St. Landfill (also affectionately known as the Thunder Bay Solid Waste and Recycling Facility) on Mapleward Road. Local naturalists have done an especially good job of sharing their interest in birds with the operators and there have been none of the selfish shenanigans that have seen birders barred from entering other major landfills. In NW Ontario, songbird, shorebird and waterfowl numbers typically taper off by mid-October, which is when things get rolling at the landfill.

Raptor expert Brian Ratcliff has been tracking the impressive recovery of Bald Eagles in northwest Ontario and nowhere has this been more apparent than at the landfill where he's tallied triple digit counts of Bald Eagles in each of the last two autumns (207 yesterday).

Yesterday (Nov. 6, 2013), when Brian turned his attention to the gulls, two interesting dark-mantled birds stood out among the throngs of Herring Gulls. He took a few photos and sent them off to Alan "Kelp Gull" Wormington to confirm the ID's. After consulting with fellow uber-birder Jim "Brown Booby" Pawlicki, Alan informed Brian that he'd documented northern Ontario's first Slaty-backed Gull, as well as a rare-ish Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Awesome, just awesome!

Congratulations Brian.

Here are some of Brian's photos.
November 9th. Courtesy of Greg Stroud.
Slaty-backed Gull. Nov. 6. Courtesy of Brian Ratcliff.
Slaty-backed Gull. Nov. 6. Courtesy of Brian Ratcliff.
Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Nov. 7. Courtesy of Brian Ratcliff.
While the species is new to the T-Bay District, a smattering of Slaty-backed Gulls have shown up elsewhere in the Lake Superior Basin, e.g.,
  • Jan. 12, 2012. Sault Ste. Marie landfill. Kirk Zufelt's blog account (with great pics) here
  • July - Aug. 2006. Grand Marais, MN. Tom Auer's eBird checklist (with photo) here
  • Dec. 30, 2012 - Jan. 5, 2013. Duluth, MN/Wisconsin Point, WI. Larry & Jan Kraemer's eBird checklist (with excellent photos) here.
So there you have it!. Nicely done Brian, and thanks for sharing.

Now, do you suppose there might be an overdue-for-Ontario Glaucous-winged Gull kicking around?

Nov. 7 update: Brian reports that the LBBG and SBGU are still present.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

New (and overdue) in northern Ontario, White-faced Ibis (updated May 3)

In the last week came the exciting report of a White-faced Ibis that's stopped over on a lawn along side the Trans-Canada Highway in Oxdrift, in the Kenora District.  Ursala Wall noticed the ibis on April 23 as it foraged on Alane Sken's lawn. Carolle Eady from nearby Eagle River was able to get some excellent photos confirming the first occurrence of the species in northern Ontario.
Photo courtesy of Carolle Eady
The record is exceptional and yet not so surprising. Let me explain.

It is exceptional in that only a dozen or so WFIB have been documented for the province and never before for northern Ontario. The bird's behaviour and site-fidelity have resulted in excellent documentation photos that leave no doubt as to the species. Note the complete white border to the face, the red eye and reddish legs - clinchers for WFIB (vs. the closely related Glossy Ibis).
Photo courtesy of Carolle Eady
Alas, not all dark Plegadis ibis are as mature, cooperative and distinctively marked. Following review, many Ontario sightings are officially recorded, ambiguously, as Plegadis sp. or Glossy/White-faced Ibis. Autumn juveniles can be especially difficult to identify.

As of November 2012 the Ontario Bird Record Committee had reviewed 129 Plegadis ibis reports of which only 70 supported specific ID, i.e.,
  • 11 White-faced
  • 59 Glossy
  • 59 Glossy/White-faced aka Plegadis sp.
The only other ibis reported from northern Ontario, one from Gowganda, Timiskaming District, in October of 2001, was reviewed and assigned to Plegadis sp.

The range of the White-faced Ibis has been steadily expanding northwards over the last century. Breeding has been documented in nearby Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota. A quick glance at an eBird plot of occurrences from the region - red points indicate recent sightings - suggests to me the addition of WFIB to the list of northern Ontario birds was due, if not overdue.

Update: May 3. 

On May 2, Evan Timusk turned up a Plegadis ibis at Pither's Point Park in Ft. Frances. The encounter lasted only a minute or so but Evan was able to observe a thin white border to the face and a dark, but not red eye. Thus, the bird might have been northern Ontario's first Glossy Ibis although Evan notes that a second year White-faced is a possibility. In either case, this is the first occurrence of a Plegadis ibis in the Fort Frances District. Well done Evan!

In recent days Andy Nyhus from Winona, MN has been enjoying a great showing of ibis in our neighbouring state. The most remarkable find was an apparent Glossy Ibis in Olmstead Co. (a county first) on April 30th.
Glossy Ibis. April 30, 2013. Olmstead Co., MN. Courtesy of Andy Nyhus.
On April 27th Andy also photographed White-faced and Glossy together in Houston Co. just south of La Crescent. Whereas White-faced Ibis is now a well established breeder in MN and elsewhere in the upper Mississippi watershed, Glossy Ibis is considered accidental in MN.
GLIB and WFIB. April 27, 2013. Houston Co., MN. Courtesy of Andy Nyhus

Acknowledgment: Many thanks to Carolle Eady, Evan Timusk and Andrew Nyhus (here's Andy's photography website) for sharing news and/or photographs of their recent ibis encounters.

Related: Shaffer, J.A., Knutsen, G.A., Martin, R.E. and J.S. Brice. 2007. Pattern and potential causes of White-faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi, establishment in the northern prairie and parkland region of North America. Canadian Field-Naturalist 121(1): 46-57. (pdf)


Saturday, November 10, 2012

A moment to appreciate the Pine Grosbeak

There's a decent movement of Pine Grosbeaks along the north shore this week. We have a dozen or so visting our feeders. Along the Lake Superior coast, they can be seen and heard flying northwest on most days.

Last year we had a bumper crop of Mountain-Ash fruit and we enjoyed an abundance of Pine Grosbeaks through the winter. This year during our drought, very little fruit was set and all of that has been eaten. I'll be surprised if any Pine Grosbeaks remain here for the winter.

The first photo was taken today - I've never noticed pink in the wing bars before. The others are older. What a beautiful creature...



Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll

We've had a mixed assemblage of 150+ redpolls in our yard for a few weeks. Most have been "Southern" Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea flammea) with a smattering of "Greater" Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea rostrata).

A couple of "Southern" Hoary Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni exilipes) were joined today by a "Hornemann's" Hoary Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni hornemanni). These photos give a sense of the larger size of Hornemann's Hoary Redpoll relative to the Common Redpoll in the foreground.



Over the previous two winters I've spent some time observing Ontario's four recognizable redpoll forms - you'll find notes, tons of photos and related links here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Summary of the 2012 North Shore Round-up

Once again Nick Escott and the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists coordinated the autumn bird round-up. Six parties spent at least part of Saturday (Nov 3) or Sunday (Nov 4) counting birds between Thunder Bay and Manitouwadge. Martha and I covered the Lake Superior coast between Rossport and Marathon.

A total of 77 species were tallied. Waterfowl viewing conditions were particularly good. While no real rarities were turned up, an ongoing Eastern Towhee was a good sighting in Nipigon. Many thanks to all who participated.


Here's the tally, posted per Nick's request.

Snow Goose 5 Downy Woodpecker 18
Canada Goose 347 Hairy Woodpecker 13
Wood Duck 3 Am.3-toed Woodpecker 1
Gadwall 2 Blk-backed Woodpecker 1
American Wigeon 7 Pileated Woodpecker 2
American Black Duck 35 Northern Shrike 4
Mallard 480 Gray Jay 14
Blue-winged Teal 1 Blue Jay 45
Green-winged Teal 1 American Crow 206
Redhead 6 Common Raven 250
Ring-necked Duck 20 Horned Lark 3
Greater Scaup 23 Black-capped Chickadee 425
Lesser Scaup 95 Boreal Chickadee 11
White-winged Scoter 2 Red-breasted Nuthatch 30
Black Scoter 1 White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Long-tailed Duck 17 American Robin 25
Bufflehead 114 European Starling 128
Common Goldeneye 159 Eastern Towhee 1
Hooded Merganser 162 American Tree Sparrow 13
Common Merganser 44 Vesper Sparrow 1
Red-breasted Merganser 18 Savannah Sparrow 1
Ruffed Grouse 32 Swamp Sparrow 1
Common Loon 4 White-throated Sparrow 1
Red-necked Grebe 2 White-crowned Sparrow 1
Horned Grebe 1 Dark-eyed Junco 19
Pied-billed Grebe 1 Bohemian Waxwing 10
Bald Eagle 54 Lapland Longspur 2
Northern Goshawk 1 Snow Bunting 279
Rough-legged Hawk 2 Red-winged Blackbird 1
Merlin 2 Rusty Blackbird 2
American Coot 13 Pine Grosbeak 103
Wilson's Snipe 4 House Finch 12
Bonaparte's Gull 35 White-winged Crossbill 10
Ring-billed Gull 240 Common Redpoll 364
Herring Gull 562 Pine Siskin 2
Thayer's Gull 1 American Goldfinch 6
Iceland Gull 1 Evening Grosbeak 30
Rock Pigeon 413 House Sparrow 30
Mourning Dove 8