Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bohemian Waxwings visit fruit tray

We had some success attracting waxwings to a feeding tray in our backyard. The fruit is a wide variety of mostly wild-collected varieties [Arctostaphylos, Cornus (3 species), Viburnum, Vaccinium (4 species), Rhus, Rubus, Rosa, Ribes, Vitis, etc.]

We hung some pruned, fruit-bearing crab-apple twigs above the feeder to serve as an attractant.

[click on images to enlarge]

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sights along the Trans-Canada Highway

I just returned from an unplanned trip to southern Ontario. Here are a few of the sights from the return drive along the north shore, between Batchewana and White River.

[click on images to enlarge]

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yard birds

A few recent weather events brought changes to the birds visiting our yard. The Oct 26-27th storm brought about the departure of most American Robins, American Tree Sparrows, Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings. The only sparrows visiting our yard are two Dark-eyed Juncos.

Flocks of up to 40 Common Redpoll pass through the yard daily, feeding on white birch seeds. They've yet to discover our feeders. A trio of Pine Grosbeaks has and they are fairly constant. Other regulars include a Red-breasted Nuthatch, two Hairy Woodpeckers, five American Crows, one Common Raven, one Gray Jay, two Blue Jays and up to 10 Black-capped Chickadees.

A small, quarrelsome flock of Northern Cardinal has grown to four - as many as any of us can recall seeing together in this small town, at the very northern limit of its geographical range.

Also unexpected was the arrival, with a suet-loving flock of 20 or so European Starlings, of a Brown-headed Cowbird and a Common Grackle. Will they overwinter?

Unfortunately, the female Red-bellied Woodpecker that struck our window last Tuesday (Oct 16) didn't survive. The specimen is being sent to the Royal Ontario Museum.

Our friend Tammie Hache, a.k.a. the Bird Lady, in nearby Manitouwadge keeps a close eye on her yard visitors. Many look forward to her weekly updates in the Manitouwadge Echo. In cooperation with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and Project Feederwatch, Tammie and Ben will be hosting a live feeder-cam in her yard this winter. Read more here.

Related links:

Project Feederwatch

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Heron Bay to Thunder Bay by water

Today I helped crew the Melissa June on a run across the north shore. We set out at first light and covered 233 km in six hours and 11 minutes. The 30 foot aluminum catamaran provided a smooth ride over one meter swells at an average speed of 34 km/h. We saw a handful of Herring Gulls and eight Black Scoters but otherwise, very little wildlife.

Here's our GPS track - zoom in to get a sense of how rugged and interesting the coastline is. I look forward to doing this trip (in August!) by kayak.

View T-Bay Trip in a larger map
Our course took us past several light houses - Slate Islands, Porphyry Point and Trowbridge Island Light.

The most memorable aspect of the trip was viewing the always impressive Sibley Peninsula and Sleeping Giant from the water.

Many thanks to Keith and Melissa McCuaig for having me along.

Related links:

Cattle Egret in Wawa

Fritz Fischer found a Cattle Egret feeding in tall grass at the corner of Churchill and Algoma Streets in Wawa on November 12.

Thanks for sharing your photos Fritz.

From NWObirds, Sue Bryan passed on reports of Cattle Egrets from the Thunder Bay Conservatory: a single on Oct 31 and a pair on November 3.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Red-bellied Woodpecker at Marathon

[click on images to enlarge]
A female Red-bellied Woodpecker showed up in our yard today. The Thunder Bay District lies well north of its known breeding range. Unfortunately, it stunned itself against a window moments after I took the first photo. Hopefully it will recover.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday birds

We saw our first snow last night which underscored the lateness of the Orange-crowned Warbler I saw at Cummings Beach today. We expect the Wilson's Snipe to overwinter. The odds of (lately) the very reliable Sandhill Crane at the Marathon dump sticking around through December aren't as good.

I encountered four different Northern Cardinal (three at feeders) around town. This is as many as I've seen in a day here in Marathon, where the population likely consists of fewer than a dozen birds.

Here's today's tally as processed by eBird.
Location: Marathon, Ontario
Observation date: 11/14/10
Notes: Crane continues at the town dump, 1(m),1(f),2(m,f) NOCA's seen at widely separate locations around town, photos taken of Orange-crowned Warbler.
Number of species: 26

Black Scoter 1
Long-tailed Duck 13
Common Goldeneye 10
Common Loon 1
Bald Eagle 2
Wilson's Snipe 2
Sandhill Crane 1
Herring Gull 175
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Gray Jay 1
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 7
Common Raven 35
Black-capped Chickadee 8
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
European Starling 25
Bohemian Waxwing 13
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Snow Bunting 35
Northern Cardinal 4
Pine Grosbeak 3
White-winged Crossbill 1
American Goldfinch 1
Evening Grosbeak 6

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Some odds and ends, bird-wise

A few late autumn migrants are lingering, perhaps enjoying the mild weather. A dark morph Snow Goose, found at the mouth of the Pic River by Wayne Michano a few days ago, was present this morning.
This morning, I found a late Killdeer at Cummings Beach, here in Marathon.
Meanwhile, the Sandhill Crane remains at the town dump on Penn Lake Road.

Bohemian Waxwing influx

Bohemian Waxwings are famously irruptive. Our first of the season showed up about a month ago, on October 16. Since then I've noticed a few small flocks of up to a dozen birds around town. Most were foraging in ornamental crab apple trees.

Today, those same crab apple trees hosted scores of newly arrived birds. Elsewhere, I saw and heard many more flocks of up to 80 birds. Clearly, they're on the move. Because their winter survival depends on a steady supply of sugary fruit, there is nothing to keep them here once the crab apples are gone. In neighbouring jurisdictions like Algoma, where there are good crops of Mountain-ash fruit, the Bohemian Waxwings should settle in for the winter.

Here are a few photos from today.

[click on images to enlarge]
The Bohemian Waxwing has an Holarctic distribution. In Europe it is known simply as the Waxwing. Birds from northern Europe are, just now, arriving in the U.K. Here are some truly wonderful Waxwing photographs taken a few weeks ago in Scotland.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sandhill Crane at the Town of Marathon dump

I paused in front of the town dump this morning to check through the swirling throng of Herring Gulls for anything different. To my surprise I saw a subadult Sandhill Crane standing only 20 m. or so from where the garbage trucks were dumping their loads. This is a pretty late occurrence for our area.
[Nov. 7 update: The crane remains at the dump. A town employee told me that bird has been in the area for several weeks.]

Our backyard feeders have been busy today:
  • Hairy Woodpecker 1
  • Downy Woodpecker 1
  • Mourning Dove 1
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
  • Common Crow 2
  • Common Raven 1
  • Blue Jay 1
  • Black-capped Chickadee 7
  • American Tree Sparrow 2
  • Dark-eyed Junco 4
  • Pine Grosbeak 1
  • Evening Grosbeak 25
  • Pine Siskin 5
  • Common Redpoll ~30 (feeding in birch seeds at back of yard)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Some bird notes ♩ ♬ ♪

Rough-legged Hawks continue to migrate along the north shore. In a span of ten minutes this afternoon I observed seven flying low, from west to east, perhaps deriving some lift from the south winds deflecting off the bluffs.

This House Sparrow (a female was perched just out of frame) was a surprise on October 29th - it's the first we've seen of the species in our three years here. I checked the Christmas Bird Count records and it appears to have been an established town resident in the mid-1970's. More recently, its numbers have waned - it has been recorded in small numbers on only three of the last 20 CBCs, most recently (a single) in 2006.
Another unexpected bird was a very skittish meadowlark that I flushed several times from long grass near the harbour yesterday and today. So far, I've only seen the bird on the wing so the specific ID remains elusive. Given the recent storm, I think either species (Eastern or Western) is possible.

Not far from the meadowlark's haunt is the sheltered seep where Wilson's Snipe often overwinter. The three snipe I flushed there today may well remain here until next spring. Also in the area were two adult Northern Shrikes, one of which unsuccessfully pursued a female Northern Cardinal through a dense stand of young birch.

Here's today's tally as processed by eBird:

Location: Marathon, Ontario
Observation date: 11/2/10
Notes: WISN were in sheltered seep where they often overwinter. Cardinal was in the bush, far from feeders.
Number of species: 27
  • Mallard 2
  • Long-tailed Duck 26
  • Common Goldeneye 17
  • Bald Eagle 2
  • Rough-legged Hawk 7
  • Wilson's Snipe 3
  • Herring Gull 210
  • Mourning Dove 1
  • Downy Woodpecker 5
  • Hairy Woodpecker 1
  • Northern Shrike 2
  • Gray Jay 1
  • American Crow 5
  • Common Raven 14
  • Horned Lark 2
  • Black-capped Chickadee 18
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet 4
  • European Starling 7
  • American Pipit 6
  • American Tree Sparrow 2
  • Dark-eyed Junco 4
  • Lapland Longspur 18
  • Snow Bunting 45
  • Northern Cardinal 1
  • meadowlark sp. 1
  • Pine Grosbeak 1
  • Pine Siskin 4