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)

Giraffes and other Vulnerable African Animals

Earlier this week, Mary and I had the opportunity to see the documentary film “The Woman who Loves Giraffes”. The documentary is excellent, and the subject of the documentary, Dr. Anne Dagg, spoke following the film. One of the themes covered in the film and in her comments was the disappearance of giraffes.  Her original work was done in 1956 when giraffes were relatively abundant. Their decline has been alarming. It is estimated that the world population of giraffes has diminished by 40% since 1988 alone.  This species is now on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of species at risk of extinction, officially categorized as “Vulnerable”.  Mary and I had the opportunity to see giraffes in 2008 when I was working on a project in South Africa, visiting a protected reserve, Madikwe, which is in South Africa bordering Botswana. Today, I revisited pictures taken there and in Kruger National Park. Some of these photos are attached. Every species shown in the following set of pictures is on the IUCN Red List!  The reasons for the decline of most of these species varies little from one to the other; habitat loss, trophy hunting, hunting in general. Will my grand children ever have the chance to see these animals in the wild?

White rhinoceros, Kruger NP; IUCN Classification – “Vulnerable”

Hippopotamus, Kruger NP: IUCN Classification – “Vulnerable”

African penguin, Boulders Bay SA; IUCN Classification – “Endangered”

Giraffe, Madikwe Reserve; IUCN Classification: “Vulnerable”

African elephant, Madikwe Reserve; IUCN Classification – Vulnerable

African lion, Madikwe Reserve; IUCN Classification – “Vulnerable”

African wild dog, Madikwe Reserve; IUCN classification – “Critically Endangered”

Giraffe, Madikwe Reserve; IUCN Classification – ” Vulnerable”

African lion, Madikwe Reserve; IUCN Classification – ” Vulnerable”

Leopard, Kruger NP; IUCN Classification – “Vulnerable”

Ontario Birds (October and November)

Late October and early November is not considered “good time” for birding in Ontario.  However, it is a time for seeing rarities, late migrators and birds that have flown well out of their normal range…………….as well as the normal birds of winter.

Hudsonian godwit – a true “marathon bird”. This bird migrates from the Arctic to southern South America!

Northern saw-whet owl being banded. 

Great kiskadee – a bird seldom seen north of Texas but common in South America. This is the first great kiskadee seen in Canada

Red-breasted nuthatch 

White-crowned sparrow

Downy woodpecker

Spotted sandpiper

Carolina wren

Black-throated grey warbler. An errant bird found normally on the West Coast. It would be expected to migrate to Texas or other locations in SW USA.

White winged scoter

Long-tailed duck


Black-capped chickadee. The friendliest bird of the forest! I though this one was going to land on my lens!

Downy woodpecker (female)

Juvenile trumpeter swan

A few western birds………….

The following photos show some of the birds we saw on our travels in Western North America in August and September.

Say’s phoebe (Vancouver Island)

California quail (California north coast)

American kestrel (California)

American avocet (San Francisco Bay)

Snowy egret (San Francisco Bay)

Northern harrier (San Francisco Bay)

Black phoebe (San Francisco Bay)

Least sandpiper (San Francisco Bay)

Northern shovelers in flight (San Francisco Bay)

Anna’s hummingbird (Sant Clara) 

Great horned owl. Didn’t know the bird was there- we saw one fly off earlier, but there were three in the same general area (Klamath Basin, California)

Red shouldered hawk  (Klamath Basin – California)

Forster’s tern (Klamath Basin- California)

White-faced ibis (Klamath Basin – California)

American white pelicans (Klamath Lake Oregon)

Clark’s nutcracker ( Crater Lake Oregon)

Black- billed magpie (Montana)