A Trip to Alberta

Last week, we traveled to Alberta. The objective was to photograph great grey owls, But I had no luck in that regard. However, it was nonetheless a wonderful trip, with lots of wildlife and absolutely exceptional scenery! The following photos show some of the highlights.

Steller’s jay
Moose (cow)
Chinook arch. A very major change in weather occurred with temperatures dropping 24 degrees Celsius and snowfall of 20 cm.
Ruffed grouse
Bow River in Banff
Moraine Lake (Banff National Park)
Lake Louise (Banff National Park)
Grey-crowned rosy finch (normally seen in the tundra or above tree line)
The view from Roger’s Pass (Glacier National Park, B.C.)

And Now from the West Coast!

Since I last posted on this site, we have made the move to British Columbia, and we are well into the process of getting settled. I have had little time for “the outdoors” since the move, however that is starting to change. One’s perspective of “Nature” is a lot different in British Columbia, than it is in Ontario or Kentucky, and wilderness is far more accessible. Similarly, one’s perspective of “Today’s World” is different. Environmental issues and issues of sustainability attract a lot more attention in the general public. I look forward to doing more exploring and getting back to posting on this site as we settle in to our West Coast life. The following photos were taken in British Columbia, Oregon and California over the last two months.

Mount Baker (Washington) seen from our yard in Abbotsford, BC.
Coastline, Central Oregon
Cascade Mountains, Manning Park, BC
Grey whale, Central Oregon Coast
White-faced ibises in flight, Northern California
Female wood duck, Oregon
Raven, Manning Park, BC
Clark’s nutcracker, Manning Park, BC
(Long-billed) Dowitcher, Delta, BC
Mount Shasta, Northern California
Steller’s jay, Oregon

Early Summer Birding in Ontario

This past week, we have been touring South Central Ontario with family from England. While the weather was cool and the forests damp and buggy, it proved to be a good time for birding. On our circuit, we managed to see a few rarities as well as one of my nemesis birds, the golden-winged warbler, a bird I had very much wanted to see before next month’s move to British Columbia. The rarest bird seen, was the piping plover of which there are less than ten breeding pairs in Ontario. The bird had been extirpated, but assisted by willing volunteers, there have been a few returning to the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. This bird is endangered, in all of its habitat as beaches are taken up by indiscriminate development and human activity.

Piping plover
Eastern bluebird
Tree swallow
Belted kingfisher
Grasshopper sparrow
Black tern
Great-crested flycatcher
Cedar waxwing
Golden-winged warbler

The End of the Spring Migration

Now into June, we are in “meteorological” summer. While the weather has been decidedly unsummerlike (cool and wet), the migration is over, the tree canopy is generally very thick, and birds are becoming more difficult to locate. I had very much hoped to photograph a mourning warbler and a golden-winged warbler this year, but had no such luck. It was however a good year in general for spring bird photography. Next year, I look forward to seeing the Spring Migration from a Western North American perspective!

Wilson’s snipe
Tree swallow
American redstart
Grasshopper sparrow
Caspian tern
Yellow warbler

More from the Spring Migration

The abnormally cold and late Spring this year has certainly not hurt opportunities for bird photography. Leaf coverage is generally behind schedule and with cool weather, there seem to be fewer insects – certainly fewer mosquitoes! Prince Edward Point (Lake Ontario) however was an exception where we saw immense clouds of non-biting insects, for miles and miles. McGregor Point on Lake Huron however was the opposite and there were fewer warblers seen than I was expecting. I am still hoping to have a few more chances for outings before the migration is over.

Wilson’s warbler
Nashville warbler
Northern parula
Rose-breasted grosbeak
Black and white warbler
American redstart
Tennessee warbler
Blackburnian warbler
Blackpoll warbler

Spring Migration – Lake Erie

Over the last week, Mary and I had the opportunity to visit several “hot spots” for the Spring Migration on Lake Erie. This included the Magee Marsh (perhaps the best known spot and certainly the most visited), the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Maumee State Park in Ohio, as well as Pelee National Park and Rondeau Provincial Park in Ontario. For us, the most prolific site was the “tip” at Point Pelee. While there, we experienced a “reverse migration” in which birds gathered at the tip and actually left the tip, heading south again across Lake Erie. At this time, there were thousands of birds gathering at the tip, and flying and landing on low trees and on rocks and on the beach. Experienced birders reported that they had never before experienced such numbers of migrating birds at Point Pelee. It is not clear what the reasons for the reverse migration are. Only some of the species seem to have “overshot” on their way north. Most are still short of their ultimate breeding grounds. Some speculate that the birds have been following the shoreline of Lake Erie, and are thrown off by the geography of the point. If in fact they are following the shoreline, the “point” directs them southward. Whatever the reasons, it was certainly an exceptional experience, and one I am not likely to experience again!

Magnolia warbler
Philadelphia warbler
Nashville warbler

Northern parula
Chestnut-sided warbler
Hooded warbler
Bay-breasted warbler
Black-throated green warbler

Blackburnian warbler
Black-throated blue warbler
Scarlet tanager

A Spring Day at Rondeau Provincial Park

Yesterday, we finally had a sunny day, after days of heavy rain! We headed down to Rondeau Provincial Park, on Lake Erie.While it remains early in the season, we saw a great deal of wildlife including sixty species of birds, many types of butterflies, deer, beaver, spring flowers and frogs! Although it was still wet, it was a great outing!

Pine warbler
Walking along a flooded trail!
Yellow-shafted northern flicker
White-winged dove, well outside its normal range (Florida to Texas and south through Mexico). This bird has been returning to Rondeau for years!
Yellow-bellied sapsucker
Frog above hundreds of frog eggs!

The Start of the Spring Migration in Ontario

The Spring migration in Southern Ontario is underway. Yesterday I traveled to Long Point on Lake Ontario and managed to see almost 60 species. I have never seen so many golden-crowned kinglets, brown creepers, eastern towhees or northern (yellow-shafted) flickers on one day! Nor have I heard so many red winged blackbirds! The following were all taken in the vicinity of Long Point.

Forster’s tern
Brown creeper. The speck falling to the bird I believe is a wood tick.

Brown creeper, “hidden” on a birch trunk.
Blue-grey gnatcatcher
One of a “million” noisy red-winged blackbirds
Chipping sparrow
Golden-crowned kinglet
Northern (yellow-shafted) flicker
Ruby-crowned kinglet
Red-breasted nuthatch
Horned grebe


Bird enthusiasts are generally confused and confounded by the small brown birds that are seen almost everywhere. They are colloquially known as “little brown jobs” or LBJs. Most of these birds are sparrows, and it is well worth the effort to try to distinguish one from another. There is great diversity in habitat, behaviour, song and in the subtlety of their plumage. It can also prove to be rewarding to learn the differences between these many species. The following photos highlight some of the variety found in North American native sparrows.

Grasshopper sparrow
Henslow’s sparrow
American tree sparrow
White-throated sparrow
Song sparrow
Swamp sparrow
White-crowned sparrow
Savannah sparrow

January Waterfowl in Ontario

While there are generally not many species of birds in Ontario in January, there are a lot of waterfowl, as long as there is open water. Western Lake Ontario and Burlington Bay are particularly good.

Red-necked mergansers
Canvasback drake
Greater scaup drake
Trumpeter swans
Buffleheads (female and male)
Common goldeneye (male and female)
Long-tailed drake
Greater scaup (female)

Canadian Raptor Conservancy

Last weekend, I went to the Canadian Raptor Conservancy in Vittoria, Ontario to photograph raptors. The Conservancy is an organization dedicated to education relating to raptors, and has active educational programs throughout Canada and an active rehabilitation centre (presently more than 50 birds are being rehabilitated). There is also an active captive breeding program on the site. Frequently, they host photographic shoots for those interested in avian photography.

Eastern screech owl
Bald eagle
Great-horned owl
Bald eagle
Great-grey owl
Red-tailed hawk
Juvenile snowy owl
Barred owl
Great-grey owl
Great-horned owl
Golden eagle
Great-horned owl
Eastern screech owl

Return to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary

Every time I am in Vancouver, I try to visit the Reifel Bird Sanctuary on Westham Island. This week, I managed a quick visit on Wednesday. In the previous week, there had been more than 70 bird species reported – an impressive total for a winter week in Canada! Included were three species of owl. In my brief visit, I managed to see more than 30 species – ducks were prolific! No owls unfortunately, but a good day nonetheless. Driving out to Abbotsford afterward, I saw well over 100 eagles sitting on about five adjacent trees, near the banks of the Fraser River. As I was on the highway, I had no opportunity to stop for a photograph. A few photos from the Sanctuary follow.

Bald eagle, Westham Island
Wood duck (female)
Wood duck (male)
Hooded merganser (male)
Sandhill crane
Pintail duck
Spotted towhee
Ring-necked duck (female)