Sunday, October 28, 2012

Finches on the move!

I went for an excellent hike this morning along the Lake Superior coast south from Pebble Beach in Marathon to the mill effluent treatment ponds and then back along the CPR tracks and saw a tonne of birds. As Alan Wormington discovered back in the day, NE winds along the north shore can trigger large migratory movements of passerines in the late fall. Among the rarities Alan turned up on this stretch have been Cassin's and Field Sparrows, Townsend's Solitaire and White-eyed Vireo.

 I didn't cross paths with any megas but I was awed by the tide of Common Redpoll - one super flock had more than 300 birds. I estimated more than 1,300 COREs in 2.5 hours. Last year in late October I saw similar movements of redpolls moving NW along the coast. Then, as in most years, the migrating flock passed high over head, stopping periodically to feed in the tops of white birches. This year our drought-stressed birch failed to set seed so now most of the migrating redpolls are sweeping through at eye level, pausing to feed on abundant Green Alder cones.

Smaller flocks of White-winged Crossbill, Pine Siskin and Pine Grosbeak were also conspicuous this morning. The flock of nine Bohemian Waxwings and two Northern Shrikes added some contrast. I was surprised not to see a single Rough-legged Hawk passing by Hawks Ridge.

An Indigo Bunting continues to visit our backyard feeders.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Indigo Bunting in Marathon & rarities around Lake Superior

We had a very drab looking Indigo Bunting show up in our Marathon yard today - late-ish but not the latest autumn record in the Thunder Bay District for this neotropical migrant.

Also in our yard were all of the regular winter finches: Pine and Evening Grosbeak, Pine Siskin, Common and Hoary Redpoll, White-winged Crossbill and Purple Finch.

Indigo Bunting in Marathon, Oct. 27, 2012.
Of late some true rarities have been reported from the Lake Superior basin. At Grand Marais (MN), only 128 km from Thunder Bay, a Cassin's Kingbird was photographed today.

Photo here:

In Alger Co., Michigan, only a few hundred open water kms south of Terrace Bay, a Vermilion Flycatcher was seen today.

Report here:

photo here:

On October 25, a Cave Swallow was photographed at the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in MI.

Photo here:

East of Minneapolis, in Eau Claire, Minnesota, a Bewick's Wren showed up at a feeder today.

Photos here:'s that time of year when just about anything can show up in the western Great Lakes. Keep your eyes peeled!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cold autumn colour palette

I don't share enough photos of the local landscape.

Martha took these shots yesterday as snow squalls and high winds swept across across Lake Superior.

 [click on images to enlarge]

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Autumn geese and some other miscellany

In late September and early October high-flying southbound V's of Canada Geese can be seen and heard on most days. Anyone who takes a little extra time to scrutinize a superficially familiar gaggle of grazing Canada Geese has a good chance of being rewarded with something less usual.

It all got rolling on September 10th with the report by Jennifer Chikoski and Jeff Robinson of a Greater White-fronted Goose at Lake Tamblyn, in Thunder Bay.

Lake Tamblyn. Sept. 10, 2012. Photo by Jeff Robinson.
Closer to my home, a Snow Goose stopped over briefly at the mouth of the Pic River (a premier spot for viewing waterbirds in the Marathon area).
Pic River. Sept 25, 2012.
Greg Stroud turned up a Ross's Goose on the lawn near the George O'Neil School in Nipigon.
Ross's Goose at Nipigon. Sept 28, 2012. Photo courtesy of Greg Stroud.
Cackling Geese have been especially common this fall.
Cacklers in Marathon. Oct 5, 2012
High up on my wish list is Brant - I've yet to see one in NW Ontario and it's considered accidental in the T-Bay District. A pair was found on the Pic River in October 2008.
Brant, CACG and CANGs at the Pic River. Oct 7, 2008.  Martha Allen.

One more goose note. Exactly two years ago a cooperative Canada Goose allowed me to approach closely enough to read the number on its leg band. I soon learned that the bird had been banded as a flightless gosling that summer near Winisk, on the Hudson Bay coast.

Two days ago another lone, banded Canada Goose obligingly pirouetted at ten metres distance, revealing the nine digit band sequence. This individual was banded as a flightless gosling in Pennsylvania in the summer of 2011 so it was almost certainly a southbound molt migrant whose only interest in Canada was to gorge on the lush grasses and sedges of the Hudson Bay lowlands while undergoing its summer molt.

A few other nice birds - both casual visitors to the District - have shown up recently. An Upland Sandpiper stopped over on the grassy embankment beside the mill treatment pond below Hawks Ridge in Marathon on Sept. 15-16. On September 30, while en route to a wild dove chase (oy...) near Rossport, I was delayed by a few minutes when a Yellow-billed Cuckoo swooped low in front of my car and perched beside the road in a colourful aspen. Sweet!
Yellow-billed Cuckoo near Rossport. Sept 30, 2012.

The gull watching is getting interesting. In the Soo, the persistent Kirk Zufelt turned up two(!!!) Mew Gulls on consecutive days (Sept 27-28). Check out Kirk's great photos and account of the Mew Gull Miracle.

Yesterday, I checked out our local gull assemblage and turned up four species - no rarities but a good tally for here.
Thayer's Gull in Marathon. Oct. 5, 2012.
A pair of Bonies in Marathon. Oct. 5, 2012.