Thursday, 30 September 2010

Birds round town

24 Sep
A large westerly movement of birds today, with 230 House Martins, 120 Swallows, 4 Grey Wagtails, 2 HOBBIES and 20 Meadow Pipits. A few Chiffchaffs around too.

25 Sep
A few Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests present

27 Sep
A Grey Wagtail over the house, a few Chiffchaffs and some Swallows passing over. three our four Robins, singing subsongs in very close proximit to one another, were all continental migrants I believe.

28 Sep
Grey Wagtails near house and school today, I believe these are the returning wintering birds. A few Chiffchaffs and Swallows too. Meadow Pipits moving over in good numbers. A few presumed continental Robins too.

29 Sep
20+ Meadow Pipits going south today. Also a few Chiffchaffs, a Goldcrest and the Grey Wagtail near the house again. 50+ Jackdaws flew over the house this evening. a few presumed continental Robins too.

30 Sep
YELLOW WAGTAIL flew over calling today, very late, as did 20+ Meadow Pipits. 7+ Chiffchaffs and two Goldcrests in town. A few presumed continental Robins too.

As well as these birds, Long-tailed Tits are getting ever more obvious, and I'm hearing their calls far more regularly from the garden and school. Blue Tit is becoming more obvious, although, as I noticed recently, I can't remember seeing a Blackbird in seaford since early July! I've seen Ring Ouzel more recently!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Canada Trip: Epilogue

So, 24 days after I left the country, i have at last finished writing up a fairly comprehensive account of my trip to Canada. I saw 124 species of bird, 98 of which were new for me. But lists mean nothing. There are a million sight, sounds, and birds full of character I will never forget from that trip.

of the sights, warblers take some beating. Even in the autumn, when males have lost many of their gorgeous hues, these birds are simply stunning. Of those we saw, Canada Warbler was just beautiful. Black and White was rather good-looking. That one male Redstart I saw, on Aug 21, takes some beating. It is just pipped my Blackburnian though, even though I only saw a female and a moulting male. However, the winner, without a doubt, is the resplendent, gorgeous, iradescent BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER.

It would be unfair to only include warblers in this beauty contest though. Indigo Bunting, Cardinal, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Cedar Waxwing, Red-winged Blackbird and Baltimore Oriole were all just breathaingly gorgeous too.

Of course, beauty is not the only aspect of  fine sight. There are few birds more spectacular than a Turkey Vulture, twisting effortlessly through a prefect blue sky. Or a Nighthawk, powering accross an industrial city backdrop, like a Metro-Pterodactyl. Seeing an American Bittern at stoen's throw distance certainly wasn't half bad. And what bird can possibly be more elegant than a Sandhill Crane?

There are so many wonderful sounds to here in Canada too. The haunting, beautiful, yodelling song of a Loon, bouncing over a sunbathed boreal lake. The fluty, Blackcap-like notes of a Vireo. The thick, rich, piping call of a Hermit Thrush, resonating through the forest floor. The harsh scolding of Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the narky chirps of both Nuthatches, the unmistakeable, onamotopaeic Pewee. The undescribable racket of a family of Blue Jays. And the rasping croaks of a Grey Catbird. 

And there were some memories too. When the American Bittern flew right in front of me. When we trapped a Hummingbird in a butterfly net, to release it from a games room. Those first days, when everything was new, and brilliant, and exciting, even Great Blue Herons and Mourning Doves. And Long Point, where I banded my first birds. I've now vowed myself, and to my dad, that I will keep up my enthusiasm for this. Hopefully we'll be at Whitbred Hollow in a few weeks time.

Lots of the other wildlife was great too. Black Bear, Raccoon and Chipmunk were all just amazing little things, and the Eastern Red Squirrels were nice too.

And best of all, wre the people. David Curson, Kate Mcelderry, and their kids Seamus and Mary were fantastic company in Quebec. Dave, katie and James Beadle put p with us for nearly two whole weeks, despite Dave's hectic schedule. At Long Point, Jon McCracken and Ron and Anne Ridout were fantastic. Ross and Mike, the two wardens, were great at helping me learn the ropes of banding, and the other people we met, Brendan, Julian, Kris, Nelson, Hugh and all the rest, were great company, knowledgeable beyog belief on their birds, and all, especially Julian, gave me loads of encouragement and advice as I banded my first few birds.

Canada was a great country, with great birds, and great people. I've been to Australia, Cyrpus and America and it beats them all. And I've made myself one promise, to Long Point, to the Beadles, and to my uncle, aunt and cousins.

I'll be back. 

Monday, 27 September 2010

Canada trip-part six!!

this has dragged on too, too long now, and now, this post will end the bloody holiday write-up once and for all! So, I bid you all to salute your farewells, and shed a tear for Canada, for she is no longer!

31 Aug
I made the rather foolish mistake of spending too long out in the sun on the tip. As a result, I was feeling sick, hot, dizzy and nauseous a lot on this morning. I missed out on a few birds- Black-billed Cuckoo and Tufted Titmouse the best of them. But I saw a Black-billed Cuckoo earler in the trip, so no harm done there.

However, when MOURNING WARBLER and Sharp-shinned Hawk were being banded, I did make it out of the room! And staring out the window, into the woodlot, revealed 2 Blackpoll Warblers, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, several Cedar Waxwings, 2 Grey catbirds and 2 Cardinals.

I don't envy the guy who banded this one!
We then visited LPBO headquarters, near the town of Port Rowan. Highlights were a flyover Osprey, two Ruby-throated Hummginbirds, two Song Sparrows, three Turkey Vultures, three Wood Duck and 40+ Red-winged Blackbirds. We also saw this...
The nest of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, brought into HQ

We spent the evening walking around Long Point provincial park, and relaxing on the beach. The only birds of note were three singing Warbling Vireos a few Northern Flickers, and two Caspian Terns, but the beaches of Lake Erie are pretty spectacular.

We visited another one of Dad's old friends in the evening. She had a property in the middle of Norfolk county (that part of Ontario, named for its flat, largely agricultural landscape) and on here she had dedicated her time to making it as fantastic for wildlife as possible. She had several hectares of land that were about as good an insect habitat as it is possible to find. This made it great for sparrows, though the Grasshopper or LeConte's Sparrows that had bred here were either gone or hiding. However, she did have 14 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on her feeders, and Nighthawks flew overhead, with a single CLIFF SWALLOW. There was also a single Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, gnatcatching from wires, and in the woodland were singing Wood Thrush and House Wren, both lifers. I also found the feather of a Turkey, but sadly that particular bird can't count on my list!

01 Sep
A good morning at Old Cut, with the following seen;

2 American Woodcock
1 Northern Harrier
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Northern Flicker
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Eastern Wood-pewee
1 Trail's Flycatcher
1 Least Flycatcher
10 Tree Swallow
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
2 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 Swainson's Thrush
3 Gray catbird
20+ Cedar Waxwing
3 Magnolia warbler
1 Black-throated Blue Warbler
1 Bay-breasted Warbler
1 Black and White Warbler
3 Blackpoll Warbler
1 Ovenbird
1 Mourning Warbler
3 Cardinal
20 Bobolink
100+ Red-winged Blackbird

The highlight was also the only lifer, two American Woodcocks that flew over around 06:30, heading from the marshes opposite into the woodland. I also visited the Bobolink net, which had 20 birds hanging around it, some of which I saw get banded. I myself banded a Cedar Waxwing and a Gray Catbird.

We spent the afternoon of 1 Sep at Niagara Falls. The scenery was spectacular, and I got a great many photos, while birds seen were;

300+ Ring-billed Gulls
50+ Bonaparte's Gull
100+ Double-crested Cormorant
1 Red-winged Blackbird
a few Chipping Sparrows
1 Least Sandpiper

ad Ring-billed Gull, with Niagara Falls as a backdrop!

juv Ring-billed Gull in Niagara

The falls themselves

record shots of Bonaparte's Gull and Double-crested Cormorant

and one more of Niagara

On the way back, we stopped at Big Creek Marsh, a few miles from Old Cut. The highlight was 3000+ Red-winged Blackbirds (!) and 100+ Common Grackles. two Night Herons flew into the marsh to roost, as did 12 Sandhill Cranes, probably the same birds I'd seen on Aug 29th. I also saw three lifers. three Blue-winged Teal flew over, and in the marsh were six Swamp Sparrow and a Marsh Wren. i thought two Great Egrets were lifers too, but sadly remembered they are the same species I've seen in Britain, France and Cyprus.

Back at Old Cut, at dusk, i saw a fantastic SEVEN AMERICAN WOODCOCK! They were all flying from the wood and fields out onto the shore of Lake Erie, were they feb on the mud at night. Most of the views i got were brief, but a few showed really well, flying right overhead. They are very small birds, about halfway between a Snipe and a Jack Snipe in bulkiness.

By the end of today, I had seen 119 species in Canada, including 93 lifers.

2 Sep

my last morning at Old Cut, and I went out with a bang! I banded a Canada Warbler, a Gray Catbird and a Veery. I now had 10 birds with my initials in the Long Point database. two Blackpoll Warblers, 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers, 2 Gray Catbirds, and single Wilson's Warbler, Cedar waxwing, Canada Warbler and Veery.

My day totals for this morning were;

1 American Woodcock (in hand!)
2 Chimney Swifts
6 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 Northern Flicker
2 Eastern Wood-pewee
4 Traill's Flycatcher
3 Least Flycatcher
1 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
1 Red-eyed Vireo
3 Warbling Vireo
10+ Tree Swallow
1 poss Northern Rough-winged Swallow
6 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 House Wren
1 Marsh Wren
3 Swainson's thrush
1 Veery
4 Gray Catbird
50+ Cedar Waxwing
3 Magnolia Warbler
5 Cape May Warbler
2 Black-throated Blue Warbler
8 Blackpoll Warbler
3 Black and White Warbler
6 American Redstart
2 Wilson's warbler
1 Canada warbler
3 Northern Cardinal
1 Swamp Sparrow
4 Song Sparrow
30+ Bobolink
1 Brown-headed Cowbird*
2 Baltimore Oriole

the highlights of this morning were my two lifers, Cowbird and Yellow Warbler. However, the Canada Warbler was great, as was seeing Woodcock in the hand, getting another view of a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, loads of Cape May warblers and holding a Bobolink in the hand.

American Woodcock

Those two lifers took me to 95, annoyingly close to the hundred mark! Driving back to Toronto, we had one last stop, to try and rack a few more birds up. We had seen almost no wader habitat anywhere on the trip, but we were hoping Townsend Sewage Lagoons might have a few birds.

Here, we saw Green-winged*and Blue-winged Teal, Baird's* Least and Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Solitary and Spotted Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope*, Lesser Yellowlegs, Bank Swallow, and Yellow Warbler. I had three lifers, taking me up to 98. I wouldn't see any more on the trip. But that only gives me more incentive to go back again!

Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpipers
Following this, it was a drive back to Toronto, to spend our last night in Canada with the Beadles.

I saw a few Nighthawks, and a Killdeer flew over. I was hoping Hurricane Earl would delay our flight for the following day, but it just fizzled out. However, to say goodbye on behalf of  Canada, were some wonderful, joyous and charismatic city dwellers...

Surprisingly, my first Raccoons of the trip. They showed brilliantly in the trees around the beadle's house, and James and I got a few decent photos, with the help of torches. But, all too soon, our last full day in Canada had come and gone. The following day, we would leave for the airport at 17:00 hrs, and I would be bidding fairwell to Canada for at least the next few years...

3 Sep
A day spent in Toronto, without much birding to be done. We went up the CN Tower, for many years the tallest building in the world, and then again for few years between 9/11 and when oil-rich arabians started shooting up for the sky. We spent all day hanging around in Toronto, with House Finch and Cardinal the only birds of note to be seen. But it ws a nice final day, saying goodbye to the Beadles, who had been so kind and welcoming for the past two weeks.

As we drove to the airport, a Common Nighthawk came out, hawking insects in the afternoon sunshine, with its flappy, primeval way of flight. It was wishing me goodbye, and at the same time telling me to come back over, soon. I made a vow to myself, that I would make a visit to this place again, as soon as I can. Maybe if I go back soon enough I might see that same Nighthawk, flapping around as dusk closes in.

Due to a delay in our flight, we left Toronto at about 21:30. I got to see the sun set in the Canada sky one last time, and eat one last Tim Horton's donut. : )

My first bird back on british soil was a Kestrel, scanning a field for mice on the Gatwick Runway

Sunday, 26 September 2010

that thing on Blakeney

says a lot of sense...

Canada Trip part 5: 29-30 Aug

Long Point Bird Oservatory is the oldest of its kind in North America, having celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010. Long Point itself is the largest freshwater sand due in the world, stretching halfway accross Lake Erie (40 km). The Observatory was formed in thr 1960's, and over the following years hundreds, possibly thousands, of volunteers have come and go, helping collect one of the largest bird migration databases in the world. Over 750,000 birds have been banded at Long Point. It is one of the best rarity hotspots in Canada, and 389 bird species have been recorded. In spring and autumn, Half the world population on Tundra Swans migrate through, and up to 8% of the worlds Canvasback may be present on any day during spring. It is a provincial park and world biosphere reserve, as well as a Bird Observatory. Many of the most well-respected in Canadian  Ornithology have volunteered in this spectacular area.

29 Aug

A day that started off in Toronto, with a trip tick in the form of some stunning Cardinals, along with a few House Finch and a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

The Drive we took down to Long Point Bird Observatory provided a few intersting birds. Turkey Vultures were now absolutely everywhere, and I suspect it was their time for migrating. If anyone from across the pind would care to comment on this theory, I'd be most grateful.

other birds on the drive included at least five Red-tailed Hawks, two American Kestrels (side-by-side on a wire) and two Killdeer, near Port Rowan, a town near Long Point

We arrived at Long Point at about 16:30. There are three field stations on Long Point, where volunteers and visitors alike can join in with the banding, and walk around, seeing some brilliant birds. We were staying at Old Cut, the closest in of the three field stations, being at the bottom of the peninsula. There are two other field staions, Breakwater, halfway out, and The Tip, which as you would expect is at the very tip of the Long Point Peninsula

the field station at Old Cut, LPBO(copyright Carole Henderson)

'LPBO wishlist'

As soon as we arrived, it became clear this was a great spot. In half an hour, I saw four lifers. The Baltimore Oriole was a fairly brief fly-over and the Least Flycatcher was fairly dull. But the other two, a Northern Parula and a Canada Warbler, were both in perfect plumage, and looked absolutely immaculate. Two of the most beautiful birds I saw on the entire trip! A back-up in this brief look round was provided by; two Grey Catbirds, two Trail's Flycatchers-two Black and White Warblers, and five American Redstarts.

Black and White warbler, Canada warbler and American Redstart. All pictures sourced from Wikimedia
 The Canada Warbler did look just like the bird in the illustration, they are stunning birds.

We spent the evening in Port Rowan, where we met up with the beadles again, and saw Ron and Anne Ridout and Jon McCracken. These guys have all been at Long Point since my parents last visited, in 1990! It was great to see them, andlearn loads about Long Point from a residents point of view.

And, as a final touch, we had seen twelve Sandhill Cranes from the road to Port Rowan!

30 Aug 2010

I was up bright and early this morning, and man did I see some birds! As with most brilliant bird days, I'm just gonna list what I saw...

1 Northern Harrier*
1 Greater Yellowlegs*
5 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Belted Kingfisher
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Eatsern Wood-pewee
2 Yellow-bellied Flycatcher*
7 Least Flycatcher
4 Trail's Flycatcher
5 Eastern Kingbird
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Warbling Vireo*
4 Tree Swallow
2 Red-breasted Nuthatch
4 Swainson's Thrush*
1 Veery
50+ Cedar Waxwing
1 Tenesse Warbler
1 Nashville Warbler
5 Magnolia Warbler
5 Cape May Warbler*
3 Black-throated Blue Warler
8 Blackpoll Warbler*
3 Black and White Warbler
6 American Redstart
1 Ovenbird*
1 Common Yellowthroat
2 Wilson's Warbler
2 Northern cardinal
4 Bobolink*

Lifers among these have a * next to them.

Trying to pick a highlight from all those is difficult, but I think the photograph below depicts a pretty good choice!
    how to see a lifer!
    This SORA was found by the roadside, by Ron Ridout, and taken into the observatory to be banded. I believe it was the 23rd banded at Long Point, in 50 years!

    I also got the chance to do some bird ringing, or 'banding'. That morning I ringed 2 Blackpoll Warblers, 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers and a Wilson's Warbler. I got to see and hold countless others in the hand too, with probably half of all birds in the above list seen in the hand.

    Red-eyed Vireo

    Garter Snake
    Black-throated Blue warbler. winner of all known beauty contests.
    The afternoon of Aug 30 was spent on the tip. It was a two-hour, very bumpy boat ride out! I left my camera at Old Cut, for fear of having it smashed/soaked. The boat ride out produced a Bald Eagle, a Sanderling, a Least/Semi P Sand, 100+ each of Common and Forster's Terns (the latter a lifer) and, last but not least...

     2000+ DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS, all roosting on one Sandbank!

    It wasn't the best area for birds, but we did see 10 Caspian Terns, 6 Wilson's warbler, 2 Magnolia Warbler, 1 Bay-breasted Warbler, 3 American Redstart and a Cooper's Hawk, a lifer.

    Today, I saw 61 species of bird, including 14 trip ticks and 11 lifers.

    I had now seen 110 species overall, and 84 Lifers!

    For the sake of keeping posts vaguely short, this is as far as this post goes. My next post on this brilliant trip ties it all up, I promise, with just four days left to do now!

    Saturday, 25 September 2010

    25 Sep, double score!

    Late September is my favourite time of year. My first ever local comittee rarity, a Goshawk, was seen exactly one year and 364 days previously to today, in exactly the same area I was walking today. 362 days ago, I saw a Glossy Ibis in the Lower Cuckmere (although I wasn't the original finder that time). And today, I bagged two local rarities, and nice additions to my Self-found list too!

    Having noted an execptional movement of birds throughout yesterday around Seaford (two Hobbies, four Grey Wagtails, 350+ Hirundines and 20+ Meadow Pipits) I thought today would be a good day to get out. With clear skies in the morning, it looked to be a good raptor day, although I wasn't too sure about grounded migrants. I opted to walk out to Firle Beacon, where there would be a good chance of seeing any raptors moving.

    Along, Firle Road, Seaford, I heard my first migrants, a few Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests calling away in the gardens. There were also a handful of Swallows and House Martins overhead.

    On Seaford Golf Course, I recorded a total of 14 Chiffchaffs, 7 Blackcaps and 4 Goldcrests. Single Yellow Wagtail and Meadow Pipit both flew south, and I got a brief view of a Redstart in flight. A flock of Long-tailed Tits, 15+ strong, passed along the pathside. There were also loads and loads of Speckled Woods, some posing very well for shots

    A tatty Speckled Wood

    While this one was almost pristine!
    Hobbs Hawth and Five Lord's Burgh, the areas between the Golf Course and Firle Beacon, where almost devoid of migrants in the windswept weather. about 60 each of Swallow and House Martin were whizzing around, as were 20 Linnets and 30 Meadow Pipits. A Bullfinch called, but just 5 Chiffchaff and 2 Blackcap were recorded, the wind being at least partly to blame here.

    The view from Firle Beacon was spectacular...

    The birds were pretty good too.

    They included 80 Meadow Pipit, 25 Chiffchaff, 15 Swallow, 5 House Martin, 2 Buzzard and single Yellow Wagtail, Sparrowhawk, Wheatear (shown below) and what I thought was a Redpoll, flying south calling. Suffice to say, I was to discover I was wrong, eventually...

    a rather lovely Wheatear at Firle Beacon
    However, by far and away the best bird I managed to see was over the wood at Bo-peep. A raptor was being blown in the wind. It flew over the wood, at treetop height, in view at a range of 30 metres for about 10 seconds. It wasn't a Marsh Harrier. It wasn't a Common Buzzard. It was a damn fine looking, dark-phase, fairtrade chocolate HONEY BUZZARD! Regrettably, I never got a good view of the tail, so I'm still weighing up whether it is worth a description. But even if not, it is my first self-found HB and I'm rather happy with it!

    As I walked the 31/2 mile walk back to Seaford, still on cloud nine, I didn't see too many more birds. Greenway Bottom held a few Meadow Pipits and Linnets, and two Buzzards, a nice comparison with the Honey Buzz. Goig back through Seaford GC, I found this (very!) recently deceased Red Admiral.

    R.I.P, the one that didn't make it to hibernate again.
    Back Home, about 6.00 PM

    what I thought was a Redpoll, flying south calling. Suffice to say, I was to discover I was wrong, eventually...

    I had heard a mysterious bird flying south calling earlier today. It bore some resemblance to a Linnet call, but was at the same time distinctive, and having heard plenty of Linnets, I knew this sounded different. Stuck for ideas, I took my next fallback, a Redpoll.

    But, being nosy, I decided to check Redpoll calls on Xeno-canto when I got home. And it became apparent I was wrong in my ID. It wasn't a Redpoll. Or a Siskin. Or a Linnet, or any other finch. However, when I came accross this page, my queries were happily resolved!

    That's right, a second brilliant self-found bird, a LAPLAND BUNTING! With so many around at the moment, it isn't too surprising. I saw one less than two weeks ago, in fact. But as a self-found bird, they don't come much better.

    As I said before, I love late September!

    My totals for today were
    Meadow Pipit-120+
    House Martin-70+
    Long-tailed Tit-30+
    Yellow Wagtail-2

    Wednesday, 22 September 2010

    Canada Trip part 4, 25-28 August

    25 August

    Waking up at the unremarkable time of 08:00, the 10 of us gradually entered the land of the living for the next hour. Mum, Dad, dave, katie and pretty much else saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird before we left the motel forever. I didn't, but I was happy to claw back with a Broad-winged Hawk flying over, literally seconds before we drove off. That Mr Beadle was the one who ID'd it is an unimportant matter!

    Today, we were heading into the oldest, and one of the most beautiful of all Canada's provincial parks, Algonquin PP. We were only in a tiny area of this huge expanse of wilderness, but it was absolutely beautiful. We arrived just as the leaves were starting to change from the emerald hues of summer into the rusty tones of fall. The species we were hoping to see were Gray Jay, (a smaller, cuter and greyer version of Blue Jays) and Boreal Chickadees (really very similar to Black-capped Chickadee but this is the furthest south you get them). Did we see either? No, sadly, but I saw some great birds anyway.

    First stop was Lake Openogo, where Dave assured us he had seen them every single time he had visited. He however forgot to mention that Gray Jays are a figment of the imagination of Canadians and Canadian Residents! I saw one small-looking Jay, but since nobody else saw it, and it was a fairly bad view, it goes in the one-that-got-away box. However, there were enough birds to keep me entertained anyway. two Eastern Kingbirds were lifers, as was a Bay-breasted warbler, while there were plenty of Cedar waxwings, a Broad-winged Hawk circled overhead and a Great Blue Heron was on the swampy river mire we walked alongside. None of the moose we had hoped for though.

    We then had a look at the visitor centre, where I saw Grey Wolf, Moose, Black Bear, Least Flycatcher, Myrtle Warbler, Beaver, Black and White Warbler, Gray Jay, Raven and Golden Eagle. However, even my conscience was a bit uneasy with counting stuffed animals in displays.

    The next walk we took was around a spruce-bog trail. The only noteworthy bird I saw was a Yellowthroat, but thanks to half an hour of patiently checking chickadees, Dad and Dave came to this conclusion. Telling a Boreal from a Black-capped flitting through the treetops, never giving good views whatsoever, is beyond them. They were both sure Boreal Chickadees were among the flock they were looking at, but were unable to confirm it. In the five minutes it took for me to lose interest, I did hear one odd-sounding Chickadee too, but never saw it through Binoculars, except when it flew off through the wood.

    Followjng this disheartening experience, Dad, Katie, Dad and I went along one final trail, through coniferous woodland, looking for the Boreal Chickadees and Gray Jays. It took us half an hour to see a Black-capped Chickadee!

    However, once we saw one, we saw plenty. Sadly, there was no storybook ending, Boreal Chickadees and Gray Jays stayed well out of sight, ut there was quite a wide variety of birds in this tit flock. I saw Brown creeper, Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, American Redstart and Bay-breasted, Magnolia, Nashville, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated green, Yellow-rumped, Chestnut-sided and Black and White warblers, plus I missed a Wilson's Warbler. That was six lifers in one tit flock!

    I was rather happy as we travelled to our home for the next three nights. Katie's parents cottage, on the shore of Lake Portage, about 150km west of Algonquin. We arrived in the evening, so we couldn't enjoy the scenery too much, but a few of us went for a midnight swim, in the surprisingly warm lake. And Dave showed us a frog called Gerald...

    This particular little guy was a Grey-tree Frog, and he lived by Dave's moth trap, growing morbidly obese on an easy food-supply. I've seen frogs in some unusual places before (including a dog's water bowl and a shower in Australia!) but Gerald may take the biscuit. Don't give it too him, he's fat enough already.

    By the end of the day I had seen eight lifers, (the others being Eastern Kingbird and Bay-breasted warbler), and my total for the trip was about 82 species and 62 lifers.

    26 August
    I woke at 08:30 that morning, but it felt a lot earlier, mainly because everyone else was still asleep. It was also the first time i saw much of the scenery round here. It was absolutely gorgeous. The lake was
    deep blue, and seemed to stretch out into the heavens of the cloudless sky. The trees had leaves in all sorts of colours; crimson, amber, scarlet, and shades of green I can't even name. And it was all dappled by the early morning sunshine, like throwing a rainbow into a kaleidascope.

    It was all stunning, but on this first day I saw no lifers. However, Pileated Woodpecker was great to actually see, rather than hear. As I was standing in  clearing, one of these enormous birds flew right over my head, givng great but brief views.Other birds included two Brown Creepers, three Black and White warblers, an Eastern Phoebe and a Northern Flicker. Two or more Ruby-throated Hummers were seen at their feeders all day long, and for the first time ever I heard the beautiful, mournful calls of Common Loons. The fluty warblings of Red-eyed Vireos weren't bad either.

    27 August
    A better day around the cabin. The sunlight went through my window, directly into my face, at about 06:30. I took this as a sign from the gods to get outside! Most birds were seen in the morning, including
    • Common Loons, they were heard calling throughout the day, with an adult and chick coming to within about 50 metres to check us out. We also saw a separate juvenile on its own.
    • a Spotted Sandpiper. This lifer was on the lakeshore, and at oen point gave very close views on the dock by the cabin.
    • Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, coming back to the feeders all day long. There were atleast three of them but probably more.
    • two each of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Northern Flicker.
    • the distinctive, onamatopaeic song of an Eastern Wood-pewee.
    • Three Red-eyed Vireos, sounding like Song Thrushes.
    • Three Red-breasted Nuthatches, two of which were doing their quite brilliant call.
    • Two Hermit Thrushes calling to each other, their rich, thick calls bouncing through the woods.
    • Tons of Cedar waxwings, literally everywhere you went.
    • two Scarlet Tanagers, another lifer. They were both in their greeny-yellow autumn plumes though, so not the prettiest bird I saw!
    • Finally, a mixed warbler/chickadee flock, which included three Tenessee Warbler (lifer), four Nashville Warbler, one gorgeous Blackburnian Warbler, five Black and White Warbler, one Wilson's Warbler(lifer) and one Northern Waterthrush(lifer). I also got a brief view of a potential lifer. If it was a Veery or Hermit Thrush it wasn't, if it was a Swainson's Thrush it was. Still, it was only a few days before I did see all three of these thrushes...
    On a boat ride out over Lake Portage, we also saw a Caspian Tern, a Loon and a Red-shouldered Hawk. 

    By the end of the day, I had seen five lifers, taking my total to about 67. I had also chased after a Loon, in a kayak, with James B balancing on the back beam. And I had wandered through the forest barefoot, trying to see a Hermit Thrush and causing my feet untold pain.

    28 Aug
    A fairly quiet day. We left the cabin at about midday, me having racked up a close in adult Common Loon, a Northern Flicker, a Hairy Woodpecker, a Red-shouldered Hawk, loads of Cedar Waxwing, a Black and White Warbler, three Red-eyed Vireos and an icterid that initially looked like a Brewer's Blackbird. Closer inspection revealed it to be just a Red-wing. I saw all this without a huge amount of effort. We had a lot of fun staying at the cabin for four and a bit days, and I'd like to thank Katie's parents for allowing us all to stay, and Katie, Dave, James, John, Patrick, Michael and Elden for all making us welcome up their and insuring we had a fantastic time. Annoyingly I committe a cardinal sin, I left my camera out of battery. And my charger back in Toronto. As a result, a lot of the photos I could have taken, I didn't. But here is one of the scenery, from my mum's holiay snaps, just to show you how beautiful it was up here. I plan to add more photos once I've finished writing the whole thing up.

    the view out across Lake Portage (copyright Carole Henderson)
     But, before I forget, ther was one final highlight before we left the cabin. But before I tell that story, it is important to understand there was a Games Room here...

    In a separate Cabin on the property, was a room with a Dartboard, Pool Table, Ping-pong, Table Football, Air Hockey and Pinball. We wound down many happy hours in their during the night, and when it was too hot to be outside. Before we left, Dad and I went in for one last game.

    Now what I am about to say may surprise, shock or scintillate you. There was a frickin' HUMMINGNIRD flying around above the pool table!

    Now Dave, being Dave, had brought some butterfly nets along. So, with the help of James, we found them, got the best one and went back to the pool room.

    Now, I have seen many things in my time. But a Hummingbird being swished up in a butterfly net was one of the more surprising! As my dad groped around in the depths of the net, trying to extract the poor bird, it made a squeaky, helpless, heart-throbbing call. It almost wrenched at your insides with grief.  But fairly quickly, Dad had caught the bird, and held it in the ringers grip in his hand. He then placed it in he palm of my hands, where it sat for a few seconds, before taking off with a supersonic whir of its tiny little wings. I have heard all the stories of them flying over the Gulf of Mexico, but, until you have seen one in your own hand, you have no idea just how miracuous that idea seems.

    Before long, we were off on the road, for the 200km drive back to Toronto. I saw two Red-tailed Hawks and countless Turkey Vultures along the way, with a Nighthawk seen as we approached Toronto. I also saw my only lifer of the day, my 88th, in the suburbs of Toronto. A species I never ticked in britain, despite it being seen first in March, and still being in Devon now. a House Finch.

    We now had just five days left in Canada. The following day (Aug 29) we left Toronto again, heading down to Long Point. We stayed here until Sep 2, when we went back to Toronto, staying with Dave, katie and James again overnight, and leaving the continent the following evening. That is where the next post on this Canada trip will go, but despite it now being three weeks since I arrived in England, I doubt that post will be my last on an awesome trip!

    Sunday, 19 September 2010

    Abbot's Wood, Hailsham

    Walking through Abbot's Wood with Mum, Dad, Nick Pope and his daughter and Martin Tickner was better than I expected. Mainly just te old men getting together but we did see a few good birds.

    We saw a tit flock near the Old Oak that held several Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, a Nuthatch, plenty of Coal and Long tailed Tits, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and almost certainly a Firecrest calling. Checking the call against Goldcrest on Xeno-canto only made me more certain. Along this path, we also found a young Grass Snake, the second I've seen here. A HOBBY was the highlight of the walk, briefly circling over the lake. And Martin, the mushroom man, seemed to find them everywhere!

    young Grass Snake, being held by Dad

    Saturday, 18 September 2010

    Arlington Reservoir

    Amongst plenty of Pied Wagtail at Arlington today, at least two White Wag's, an adult and a juvenile. The only other birds of note were 100+ House Martin, 20+ Great crested Grebes, 21 Cormorants, a few Wigeon (my first of the winter), a Wheatear* and a Muscovy! No Little Stint, nor a wader of any description!

    Muscovy Duck

    An adult White Wagtail

    Pied or White?? I think Pied but not entirely sure.

    The water level was incredibly low!!

    At High and Over, just a few Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap, though a Reed Warbler and four Spotted Flycatchers were reported here on the SOS. The Crane my dad and a few others saw in the Cuckmere early morning was nowhere around.

    On a sadder note, yesterdays White Stork was found moribund and taken into care by the RSPCA.Hopefully it will recover but its not looking too good for it.

    * edit-The Wheatear I saw at Arlington looked kind of odd at the time. It was a female type bird, and had a very rich peachy breast, with the colour extending down more than usual. It also had an unusually brown back, and pretty obvious Supercilium. I didn't take in much detail of its posture, and there were no other Wheatears for size comparison, but I am now fairly confident it was a Leucorrhoa, or Greenland Wheatear. I've seen them in the spring, but this was my first autumn record. I'm not sure if it is good enough to record as such, but morally I feel happy enough about this birds identity.

    Friday, 17 September 2010

    Clawing one back!

    16 Sep 2010

    Unpertubed by previous failure in any attempt at connecting with Lapland Bunting, White Stork or Pied Flycatcher this afternoon, me and Dad tried again in the early evening. We got one, and missed the other two, but who really cares about a Pied Flycatcher when you can see a Lapland Bunting?

    Our first stop was at High and Over, for a scan of the Cuckmere, and one last attmpt to see the White Stork. we peered over the entire valley from Exceat to Litlington, but saw just a handful of Little Egrets. However, a constant stream of Meadow Pipits was going south. Due to our elevated position most were going either level with or below us, while Swallows and House Martins were flowing down the river in good numbers. The bushes of High and Over held a few Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap, doing a canny little subsong, while a Redstart/Willow warbler was heard.

    We then  drove down to Seaford Head again. Matt Eade, Jake Everitt and Marc Read were all looking for the Lapland Bunting in the little muddy field west of South Hill Barn. Dad and I were just going over to ask if they'd seen it when the Bunting appeared from nowhere, disappearing into some long grass on the edge of the field.

    All five of us then slowly snuck up on it, and after about a minute it showed brilliantly, allowing us to see every single little detail of that adorable little bird. It flew off after about 30 seconds, into a tussock of grass about 50 yards away. Here, it remained invisible for not much more than a minute, til inevitably a dog-walker strolled by, flushing it into the muddy field, where the restless little longspur stayed for about 10 seconds before going off again into the tussocky grass, now slightly more safe from accidental flushing.

    Having seen this brilliantly, Dad and I opted to give the Pied Flycatcher another go. But Harry's Bush was deathly quiet, and the grand total of 15 minutes searching every single bush, tree and shrub in the area was one little Chiffchaff. It was a very nice Chiffchaff indeed. But it was still just one measly Chiffchaff.

    We then did the sensible thing, and traipsed back to admire the Lappie, in he company of two Wheatears. Together with Jake and a few other birders, we got even better views of this fantastic bird, through the scope for about 15 minutes, before we left the rest of them to it and answered the calls of our stomachs.

    Success? I think so!

    the best photo I could get of a great bird, click here for a better photo, or here, here and here for what we dipped

    Thursday, 16 September 2010

    A tale of three dips

    Being ill off school was, in different ways, a blessing and a curse today. I dipped on a life tick, a british tick and a sussex tick, saw one brit yeartick and one sussex yeartick, met most of the East Sussex birding fraternity on my way, took a few paracetamol but didn't do my throat infection too many favours.

    It all started at about 12:30, when Dad said he had heard about a Lapland Bunting at Seaford Head. I'd half-hoped one might find its way to our patch with the current invasion, and with birds already seen in Sussex it was no great surprise. But a Lappie would be a lifer, and the first recorded the local area since I started birding, so I was interested to say the least.

    I decided to check up with Matt Eade first to see if he'd found it. He was working, so it would have been quite some feat, but he still provided me with an exact location, on the dungheap west of South Hill Barn. Then I scrolled down the text, and thought I had a halucination. 'White Stork in the Cuckmere too'. What the bliddy hell was that doing!

    Re-checking Birdguides, I was relieved to see I hadn't missed it out first time, there was no mention of the bird! Having said that, I only get the freebie version.

    At precisely 13:00, Me, Dad and his friend Martin, who was staying over, headed off to Seaford Head. Due to the creature needing excersise we took  the dog, but kept him in the car when we looked for the Lapland. We ran into Paul James, John King, Bob Self, Pete Wilson and Neil Greenaway, and Dad and Martin may have heard a Lap Bunt calling, but otherwise all that could be seen from the area was two Wheatear and a flyover Yellow wagtail. We arrived at 13:20. The dog walkers woul have been here non-stop from 08:00. Joys of birding eh! However we did pick up some information. The White Stork had been visible from Harry's Bush, but now it wasn't. However, harry's Bush did have a 'showy' Pied Flycatcher.

    Walking down to Harry's Bush, we were stuck behind a group of kids on a school trip. The looks I got from the dog-walkers were nothing compared to some of this lot and their teachers, but seeing as I was a forteen-year old, outside of school, with binoculars, walking around with three men, I don't blame them particularly! Once we escaped the crowd and were at Harry's Bush, the four of us (Dad, Martin, Neil and me) scoured the area for the Pied Fly. But he seemed to have stagefright. A Spotted Flycatcher, a Tree Pipit and a Redstart (sussex yeartick) were some consolation. The White Stork wasn't visible either, but while scanning for it, dad picked up a thrush, flying out to sea from the scrape. At first he though it was a Stormcock, but it soon became apparent (to him at least!) that it was a dark thrush with pale scapulars. Ring Ouzel! Martin and I eventually picked it up flying over the sea, before it turned back and dropped into the bushes around the Coastguard Cottages. My only ever September Rouzel record!

    Fairly typical Curson birding really, we dip all the good stuff, and find our own bird no-one even knew was there! I'd have liked the Lapland Bunt though, but I'll be scouring the entire area very carefully on saturday!

    We did have one final check for the White Stork from the Golden galleon. It was nowhere to be seen. and we met Chris Brown, who had scoured further up the cuckmere for the bird, but to no avail. Slightly disappointed at my first ever triple dip, I went back home to try and get my health up to a 10-hour trek of the patch at the weekend!

    Redstart and Ring Ouzel took my Sussex Year List to 164. I've had four other sussex yearticks since I got back from canada. On 8 Sep I saw a fantastic 6  Spotted Flycatchers and a gorgeous Short-eared Owl at Seaford Head, along with a few Willow warblers and Wheatears, one Lesser Whitethroat and a single Whinchat. On 12 Sep, Beachy Head yielded the Ortolan Bunting, which showed pretty well, along with nine Whinchat, two Tree Pipits, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Spotted Flycatcher and a few Willow warblers. However we dipped on Icterine warbler and Wryneck. The other yeartick on 12 Sep was a Yellow wagtail, flying over Denton Hill.

    Wednesday, 15 September 2010

    Canada Trip part 3; 22-24 August. BEARS!!

    22 Aug
    we left Mt Owl's Head mid-morning, heading out of Quebec and into Ontario. Before we left I mustered up two Blue jays, an American Robin and one last look at one of those gorgeous Hummingbirds. The Drive back to Toronto was fairly uneventful. One possible trip tick went over the car, a group of three ducks I tentatively ID'd as Common Mergansers (or Goosander to brits). seeing as we were near plenty of lakes it was a possibility, and they looked the part of sawbills, but I wouldn't like to say they were without a doubt.

    However, an easier to ID bird was seen as we reached the urban sprawl of Toronto. From about 17:00 strange, bat-like birds were out in force, I counted 30 or more on the drive. They had a primeval style of flight, looking halfway between a Tern and a Swift. They were Common Nighthawks, and in Toronto they really are like Swifts over a British city. A far-cry from the tales I've heard of twitching a half-dead specimen of this fine bird in a field on the Scillies! Despite my relatively blissful ignorance of most birding culture, I've been accustomed to Nighthawks being practically mythical in Britain, so this was a bit of a culture shock!

    After my happy Toronto greeting by the birds, we got an even warmer reception from our hosts for the next week and a half, Dave and Katie Beadle and their son James. My dad first met Dave and Katie in the mid 80's, volunteering at Long Point Bird Observatory (more on that later). If his name rings a bell, take a look at some of your bird guides, he's probably illustrated a few, and the New World Warblers book he illustrated was also written by my Dad! But enough of family history, the present is far more interesting. (to me at least!) We were staying in Toronto with them for the next day, and heading North into Ontario's Shield Country the following day, staying til the 28th, when we would head back to Toronto.

    So we spent 23 Aug as tourists, not birders. Of course, Dad and I are useless at keeping up these pretences. No lifers were seen, but I did see some Double-crested Cormorants, on the shore of lake Ontario. I did also manage a trip tick, a fly-over Peregrine, but the highlight was two Common Grackles in the city centre, the only time I saw these birds well enough to appreciate them, with their soulful but sharp blue eyes, slightly scowling expression and the ultramarine sheen of their plumage. Grey Squirrels were everywhere, but outnumbered by their Black cousins, (or maybe the same species, squirrel biology is well beyond me!)

    24 Aug 2010
    This day was spent driving. and stopping. and driving again. and stopping again at about 5pm, having a bonfire and staying up til about 11 pm!

    We were driving from Toronto to Dwight, a small village about 350km North of Toronto. We were staying here overnight, before moving onto our final destination for the next thee days. We were also joined just now by Katie's brother-in-law John and his two kids. None of them were remotely interested in birds, but they managed to put up with us, and kept me from being totally obsessed with the birds over the following days. This was a good thing indeed, as it meant I could apprciate the breathtaking Canadian scenery, refreshing Canadian lakes, and the expert Canadian craftsmanship put into the Kayaks.

    But before I get totally carried away reminiscing, I'll have to, err ... reminisce about the 350 km drive up to Dwight. It was broken up by a few Turkey Vultures, but these got decidedly scarce as we got further north. A few swanky Common Loons in their pyjama plumage made up for it though. The stop at a rubbish dump 2/3 of the way was worth it too. The great photo opportunities of Ring-billed and American Herring Gulls on humungous piles of human waste were pretty special. But, if I am absolutely forced to admit the truth, the four BLACK BEARS we saw kinda stole the show a bit. I'll reveal more in a minute.

    Staying at Dwight Motel, we saw quite literally nothing of interest, despite what looked like decent habitat for birds. But come nightfall, I was treated to one of the undoubted highlights of the trip. It started with an innocent little 'chip' coming out of the sky at about 9pm. It was enough to set the three birders up out of our comfortable bonfire seats. And over the next two hours, without trying, I heard several hundred of these little squeaks, serenading the sky. Some dropped down and started calling from the trees nearby. And each and every one of them was a migrating warbler or thrush. Think Redwing migration in Britain, but on a much bigger scale, and going on from August to Early November.

    All very good, I hear you cry, but what about these damn bears? Well, that is a great story.

    We arrived at Kenniskis rubbish dump, all of us hopeful, even those who are(or claim to be) totally disintested by wildlife. We had a scan, and saw Gulls. heaploads of stinking Gulls. There were Blue Jays in all the trees, and Ravens calling out of sight. Add in Turkey Vultures circling overhead, the primeval cacophony of the crows, and gulls fighting beak-and-wing for any last morsel of food, and you have a pretty good metaphor for hell-on-earth.

    And, of course, after a few minutes, Satan himself appeared. Dressed in black, he swaggered through this hellhole, king of it all, scattering gulls as he went. The Blue jays upped the ante as he strutted out from the trees. And Dave, the one who actually knows Canadian Wildlife, kindly pointed out that this was a female. Cos She had Cubs.

    This wasn't Satan. This was Satan's moody, maternal, mistreated spouse.

    And then there were the cubs, all cute and innocent, cowering behind the trees, reminding me of Bambi. If Bambi was a secret arsonist/heroin taker. These cubs looked cute, but, like a puppy, they would grow up. Into a vicious, man-eating puppy.

    OK, I might be taking it a little too far. I did really enjoy seeing the malignant little terrors. And the mother wan't so much nasty as narcoleptic. But what happened next was slightly scary.

    There was one humungous pile of waste, with loads of gulls on it. Dave and I, the two with good cameras, were trying to photograph them. For about five minutes we kept a fairly respectable range. Then Dave wanted to go round the other side of the pile, probably to see if the light was better or something. We should have realised that all the gulls had just flown up. Thankfully the others did, as within a minute a whopping huge male Black Bear swaggered along. Luckily we wouldn't have been in his path, but I was still about 20 metres from a bear which could probably run me down if it felt like it. And what was I doing? Taking bl00dy pictures of it.

    Thankfully, the Bear never did much harm. Satan just swaggered past, and in this bear the muscles in its shoulder really were rippling with every stride. However, When he got to close to the female, I noticed he wasn't that big a specimen. He was a young male, quite small compared to her. And she wasn't happy that this stroppy teenager was getting anywhere near her cubs (the bear, not me!) After watcing him chased to a respectae distance, we did the same, heading off to Dwight, and listening to the warblers at night, and then, on the 25th, enjoying four more days in the Shield Country.

    As you'll find out in the next part...

    Swaggering Satanically.

    Saturday, 4 September 2010

    Mont Owl's Head area, Southern Quebec, 17-21 August

    17 August

    I started birding today ridiculously early (08:30). Me, my parents, my dad's brother David, his wife Kate and their two kids were all staying in this one condo (canadian word for a cabin), on the side of Mt Owl's Head. This mountain was named after an indigenous chief who controlled the mountain, and despite it being a ski resort it still felt like a wilderness much of the the time. A beach on the shore of the lake was five minutes walk away through plenty of northern mountainous forest. Walking through some of this I saw a Trail's Flycatcher (the american name for Willow/Alders they can't ID, the ones listed as Alder in my previous post I should really have assigned to this fallback) and a Pileated Woodpecker's chilling call echoed through the woods. The rest of the birds were fairly normal, Blue Jay, American Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, American Crow and Raven. We spent most of the rest of the day in the town of Magog, about forty miles to the North of MOH, and at the northern tip of the lake below Owl's Head. As a Town, unsurprisingly I didn't see much apart from the by now boring Ring-billed Gulls, but I did hear a possible Eastern Kingbird, and on the lake were a few Double-crested Cormorants. 

    After several hours in Magog, Me, Dad and my Uncle (David), went for a spot of birdwatching on a reserve on the outskirts of Magog, Cherry River Marsh. This is where the Cherry River flows into the lake, with a few hundred hectares of marshland and some nice coniferous woodland to boot.

    We started off by wandering through the coniferous woodland. Chickadees were common as ever, while I saw one lifer, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and heard another, Northern Flicker. Some adorable little Chipmunks were my first mammalian highlight of the trip. The Woodland eventually leads into a huge Alder carr, in which we saw a Chestnut-side Warbler, a Gray Catbird (lifer) and a White-throated Sparrow (lifer). From Once you're out of that you look out over a huge marsh from a viewing platform. Here a Common Yellowthroat called vigorously, and eight Turkey Vulture's were up in the air. The two highlights were also birds of prey, a Red-shouldered Hawk circling overhead was a lifer and a Merlin was a reminder of home. Most odd though was its tendency to hawk for dragonflies, rather successfully, reminding me of a slightly more dashing homegrown falcon at the same time.

    Back at Owl's Head in the evening and I saw an Eastern Wood-Pewee while on my way down to the lake, my 34th species of the day, the sixth one to be a lifer and ninth that was new for the trip. Over the three days I had been present in Canada I had now seen 48 species, 31 of which were lifers.

    18 August
    Today was a very quiet day overall as I spent pretty much all the time with my two toddler cousinsr. I did see some Clouded Sulphur butterflies around the condo and Chickadees and Cedar Waxwingswere ever-present. The only lifers I saw were a Black and White Warbler, singing around the area, and some American Black Ducks on the lake, bringing my total to 50 species, and 33 lifers. But I was well rested  for the following day, which was rather more active.

    19 August
    around Owl's Head in the morning, the Pileated Woodpecker called again, and I saw Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Black and White Warbler, Raven and my most wanted lifer from the trip, two iradescent Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, one of which was a marvellous, majestic male.
    We spent most of the day in a nearby Provincial Park, Mt Orford. This area is a fantastic mixture of mountainous broadleaved and coniferous woodland, with the cherry river (which later forms cherry river marsh) running through it, and there are several large lakes in the area. The list of birds is so numerous, to save time, I have to write it in semi-note form;

    • we saw a Veery, and several different Hermit Thrushes were heard giving their rather peculiar, far-carrying call.
    • woodpeckers consisted of 6 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (all this years juveniles), single adult Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, and some tree-cavity nest holes that would have been recently occupied by Pileated Woodpeckers  (note to all british visitors, Hairy and Downy are their equivalent of Great-Spot and Lesser-Spot sizewise)
    • We heard loads of Ravens and American Crows. The Ravens are the same species as ours while yankie crow is very similar to carrion crow, the but both american versions have far girlier, more pathetic voices than their gruff, rugged brit relations)
    • A few BOPs were overhead. an Osprey and a three Turkey Vultures, the latter having a rather primeval quality to them as they glided overhead, scouring for death.
    • One more Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen, but it was no where near as good a view as the ones at the cottage.
    • We saw a White-breasted Nuthatch, a prettier version of the Red-breasted and just as weird sounding. 
    • One of the highlights was a beautiful Black-billed Cuckoo, one of my favourite lifers of the trip.
    • Eastern Wood Pewee and Red-eyed Vireo were both common.
    • We saw several different warblers. A gorgeous male Black-throated Blue did a display flight similar to Wood Warbler. I got poor views of a few Black-throated Green Warblers. One impossibly dull female type American Redstart almost passed as a vireo till its tail was seen. A juvenile Blackburnian Warbler's orange breast was glaringly obvious in the sunlit treetops.And a Common Yellowthroat tacked away unseen in phragmites in the woodland.
    • A Song Sparrow was seen. thats all I can say about that, I forgot about it long ago
    • There was a distant Common Loon on one of the lakes
    • we saw a few mammals. a great close view of a young buck White-tailed Deer, and a couple of  Chipmunks and the american Red Squirrel, totally different to our Red Squirrel.
    • A Garter Snake slithered across the track, being unwillingly picked up by my uncle as it went
    • In one of the pathside ponds there were 40+ Green Frogs
    • Butterflies seen, and ID'd by the other two cursons, were American Painted Lady, White Admiral, Northern Crescent and Common Ringlet.
    Back at Mt Owl's Head in the evening, Cedar Waxwings were all over, two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a Turkey Vulture and a Broad-winged Hawk were seen, and two Red-eyed Vireos, a Black and White Warbler and a Hermit Thrush were heard.

    We saw 32 species of bird today, including 15 birds new for the trip, 13 of which were lifers.

    20 August
    A touristy day spent around southern Quebec yielded a few birds besides;
    • Stopping off at an Art/Maple Syrup/Local Goods sort of shop by the side of the road, Me and dad got bored after a while and went outside, seeing a Turkey Vulture and a Common Yellowthroat
    • In Magog, all the town birds were seen, along with a few Chipping Sparrows.
    • Driving back to Mt Owl's I saw my only lifer of the day, a Belted Kingfisher perched on wires by a roadside lake.
    In the evening at Mt Owl's Head I saw another Belted Kingfisher and seven Black Ducks on the lake, and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and an Eastern Wood-pewee by the condo.

    21 August
    Getting up early for once, I went birding round Owl's Head in the morning with Dad and my Uncle David. We found one flock of birds containing 10 Red-eyed Vireos, 2 Black and White Warblers, 3 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and 3 White-breasted Nuthatches, which clambered up and down the trees together, like one ever twisting body, emitting their rather distinctive calls as they went. The only birds that we saw otherwise were a Song Sparrow and all the common stuff (American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Cedar Waxwing  etc)

    We spent most of today going round the nearby areas towns and seeing what was there. However, once the touristy stuff got boring I snuck off a few times to see what birds were about. The first stop was the town of Mansonville. By far nd away the highlight here was a gorgeous, splendid, fabulous, bedazzling male American Redstart. Even extreme hyberbole such as that cannot do justice to this beautiful bird. Other birds on a walk alongside a river included two Common Yellowthroats, the same number of Song Sparrows and a few of the ubuquitous Chipping Sparrows. A whole family party(or perhaps several) of Blue Jay's moved through the treetops and a few Chipmunks were heard.

    Next stop was the town of Knowlton. Here we found Etang Mill Pond, a lagoon with a fairly low waterlevel. We first walked up to it with binoculars left in the car, not expecting much. However, a few Solitary Sandpipers made it worth going back to get them. As dad trudged back to the car, I spotted a heron stalking through reeds about 50 metres away. My first instinct was American Bittern. And rather happily, as it walked out into the open, I was proved right! It showed gorgeously, in full view along with three Green Herons, while  on the lagoon we also enjoyed good views of 10+ Solitary Sandpipers, 20+ Least Sand's and one Semipalmated Sandpiper, one Semipalmated Plover and a Wilson's SnipeBelted Kingfisher flew through, perching out in the open for a few minutes. And the hihglight was the Bittern taking flight, flying round the lagoon and eventually coming down on the shore about 30 metres away. Using a bit of patience and fieldcraft, I snuck up to within 15 metres of this incredibly beautiful bird, which stayed in full view for 10 minutes, frozen on the spot, right out in the open. An extra highlight was a Green Heron foraging along the shore which came to within five metres! Annoyingly, I didn't have my camera on me!

    It was gonna be tough to top that, but a stop by the roadside to check directions almost did. In the grassy field opposite I saw a bird, then two, then about ten as I picked more up. Looking through binoculars, these looked like large Little Ringed Plovers with big beady eyes, except they had bright rufous tails and scurried accross the ground like clockwork toys. Killdeer! I counted 27 in this one tiny field in the end, an incredible sight that capped off a fantstic day.

    In the next installment, A week's birding round Toronto and in the wilderness to the North.
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