Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Winter" finches and tardy migrants

Redpoll flocks are everywhere. Many are taking advantage of the bumper crop of White Birch seeds. Many more can be seen migrating along the Lake Superior coast, from SE to NW. I saw the first flocks, numbering ~140 individuals, on October 13. On the morning of the 18th I tallied ~1250 redpolls migrating westward. Since then they have been ubiquitous. Today I spotted a Hoary Redpoll, a very pale male "exilipes", feeding in a birch with a dozen or so Common Redpolls.

[click on images to enlarge]

Since late spring we've grown accustomed to very good numbers of White-winged Crossbills that have taken advantage of the abundant crop of White Spruce cones. Along the north shore, males could be heard singing through the summer. In the last month, WWCR numbers have grown and have been joined among the cones by Pine Siskins.

Northern Shrikes are more conspicuous this autumn. I saw three this afternoon. All were chasing redpolls.

A few interesting late-to-depart passerines have shown up in recent days.

Lastly, in nearby Manitouwadge a female Eastern Towhee - a real rarity in northern Ontario - showed up in Tammie Hache's yard today [thanks for the use of your photo, Tammie!]

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Varied Thrush at Dinorwic Lake

Ellen Riggin shared a few photos of a Varied Thrush she found yesterday at Dinorwic Lake (between Ignace and Dryden). Thanks for sharing the photo Ellen!

[click on photo to enlarge]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rock pool herbfield south of Marathon

With cold, wet, blustery weather in the forecast, we spent an hour or so clambering among the rocks and pools on the coast about six kilometers east of Marathon. Overhead we watched/heard migrating flocks of 30 to 50 Common Redpoll flying westbound along the coast.

The rocky shore of the north shore hosts rich communities of lichens and arctic-alpine disjunct plants.

[click on images to enlarge]
A Least Chipmunk (Eutamias minimus) was alarmed by our presence.
We found this stripey-legged dragonfly nymph - a Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa) - in a rocky splash pool. It will likely emerge as an adult next summer after having completed a larval phase lasting three or four years.
This distinctive foliose lichen is Orange Rock Posy (Rhizoplaca chrysoleuca).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Some autumn bird notes ♩ ♬ ♪

I spent an hour birding along the CPR track near Coldwell this morning. The abundant Mountain Ash fruit in our area is drawing flocks of American Robins. [We can probably expect decent numbers of fruit eating birds - both waxwings, American Robins and a Townsend's Solitaire or two - to overwinter on the north shore.] In with the AMROs was a pair of Eastern Bluebirds, my first of the autumn.

A half a dozen Boreal Chickadees were active in the alders beside the tracks - one perched obligingly on the trackside wires.

[click on photos to enlarge]

On the opposite side of the tracks a Northern Shrike chatted away, sounding like a harmless budgie.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thanksgiving in Nipigon

We spent Thanksgiving with friends in Nipigon and enjoyed some great hospitality, a little (salmon) fishing, some birding at Hurkett Cove Conservation Area, and hiking at nearby Ruby Lake Provincial Park. As it has been for weeks, the weather was unseasonably warm.

Shorebirds were scarce, despite the  availability of so much great habitat. At the mouth of the Wolf River we found four Black-bellied Plovers and a lone Wilson's Snipe.

[click on images to enlarge]
Along the road to Hurkett Cove we encountered lots of Rusty Blackbirds, American Robins and Pine Siskins. We also pished up four warblers - Yellow-rumped, Palm, Orange-crowned and Cape May - the last species being somewhat late for our area. Nearby were two Fox Sparrows and a Black-backed Woodpecker.

By late morning a few dragonflies were active. We saw Saffron-winged Meadowhawk in the parking lot and at the edge of the wetland, Black Meadowhawks were ovipositing. As a mosaic darner flew by me I was able to catch it by hand - a feat made possible, not by my cat-like quickness, but rather by the tattered and aged condition on the insect, a female Canada Darner. This is a late date, by more than a month, for the Thunder Bay District.
Next we headed east to Ruby Lake Provincial Park where we hiked up to the spectacular east rim of the diabase cliffs overlooking the lake.

Of interest was the plant community of the cliff edge. The Fragrant Shield Fern (Dryopteris fragrans) was new to me.

Here's our bird tally as processed through eBird.

Hurkett Cove Conservation Area, Thunder Bay, CA-ON
Oct 10, 2011 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
7.0 kilometer(s)
48 species

Canada Goose  35
American Black Duck  1
Mallard  4
Northern Pintail  1
Bufflehead  3
Common Goldeneye  2
Hooded Merganser  1
Common Merganser  25
Ruffed Grouse  1
Common Loon  1
Bald Eagle  1
Black-bellied Plover  2
Wilson's Snipe  1
Bonaparte's Gull  17
Ring-billed Gull  12
Herring Gull  10
Downy Woodpecker  3
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Black-backed Woodpecker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Gray Jay  4
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  1
Common Raven  6
Black-capped Chickadee  24
Boreal Chickadee  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch  18
Golden-crowned Kinglet  10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  4
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  25
American Pipit  2
Cedar Waxwing  10
Lapland Longspur  12
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Cape May Warbler  1     Smudgy HY bird - all field marks seen
Palm Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  13
American Tree Sparrow  6
Savannah Sparrow  4
Fox Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  3
White-throated Sparrow  8
Dark-eyed Junco  18
Rusty Blackbird  65
Purple Finch  2
Pine Siskin  35
American Goldfinch  6