Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A few godwits

Godwits are passing through NW Ontario this week. On May 28, Greg Stroud found a Marbled and Hudsonian Godwit together, gorging on earthworms on a flooded ball diamond in the town of Nipigon. I had a chance to observe the pair yesterday (May 29th). It was a real treat to be able to compare the two species in breeding plumage, at close range.

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Town of Nipigon. May 29, 2012.
Yesterday (again, May 29th) I found a lone Hudsonian Godwit at Penn Lake Park in the Town of Marathon.
Town of Marathon. May 29, 2012.
The Checklist of the Birds of Thunder Bay District lists Hudsonian Godwit as a casual species (reported in three to seven of the last ten years).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Late May rare bird round-up for the north shore

Single Northern Mockingbirds were seen and heard in three far flung residential neighbourhoods in the Town of Marathon in the past week. One visited our street on May 25.
May 25, 2012. Town of Marathon.
Luck was on my side yesterday when I pulled into a friend's driveway in Heron Bay and a Lark Sparrow flushed from the ground and perched momentarily on the Hydro line - just long enough for a silhouetted photo - before it flew off.
May 27, 2012. Heron Bay.
This was the second Lark Sparrow to show up on the north shore recently. On May 19, Sue and Mike Bryan spotted one visiting a feeder on the Dorion Loop Road, near Nipigon. It stuck around long enough to be seen by others in the following days.
May 20, 2012. Photo courtesy of Susan Fagan.
Some other good north shore sightings:
  • Gary Selinger photographed a Summer Tanager at his Longlac feeder on May 26th.
May 26th, Longlac. Courtesy of Gary Selinger.
  • A Red-headed Woodpecker was a regular visitor to Susan Fagan's feeder in Dorion between May 20th and 26th.  
  • Christine and Kyle Drake admired a male Scarlet Tanager on Penn Lake Road, Marathon (May 25). 
  • A male Bobolink sang from the top of a Black Spruce at the mouth of the Pic River on May 26. [Pic River residents recall a time, decades ago, when Bobolinks nested in the fields on the Pic River flood plain in their community.] 
  • A Trumpeter Swan's arrival at Penn Lake, Marathon May 27th was noticed by many.

May 27, 2012. Penn Lake Park, Marathon.
May 28 additions: Unusual for Peninsula Harbour were a Ruddy Duck and an American White Pelican, both near the Town of Marathon boat launch.
May 28. Town of Marathon.
May 28. Town of Marathon.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Meadowhawks in May in Marathon??!!

I was watching a dozen or so Common Green Darners cruising, mating and oviposting on a smallish beaver pond in town this afternoon when I flushed a reddish meadowhawk from the shore - very strange for May. I encountered two more reddish males nearby.

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Typically I don't see any meadowhawks until well into summer when adults emerge from ephemeral pools, ponds and lakes. Of course these weren't the typical resident meadowhawks. They were Variegated Maeadowhawks (Sympetrum corruptum) - highly migratory members of the genus who likely arrived from the south in recent days (along with legions of butterflies). I returned later and netted one to confirm the ID - a new species to me.

The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists' Odonata checklist notes only two previous occurrences of the species: a 1939 record at Silver Islet and a 2003 teneral at the Wolf River mouth.
The only other ode I've seen on the wing is the Common Green Darner - conspicuous anywhere along the north shore these days. Here's a male I saw near the mouth of the Pic River on May 17.

May 19th Update: We found more Variegated Meadowhawks in Pic River and beside rocky splash pools along Lake Superior today so I guess it's official, we've been invaded.

Mid-May rare bird round-up for the Thunder Bay District

Some great birds have been spotted over the last week. Here are a few highlights, most of which were reported to the NWObirds email list.
  • May 16th. John Schelling was birding at Chippewa Park in Thunder Bay in an area where he'd seen a male Scarlet Tanager earlier in the week. He caught sight of a duller, female tanager high up in the canopy. His photos revealed a very nice Summer Tanager, perhaps the 12th record for the Thunder Bay District.
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May 16th. Photos courtesy of John Schelling.
  • May 15th. Somewhat out of range for the North Shore was a Brown Thrasher singing from an alder thicket at Peninsula Harbour in Marathon. 
May 15th. Town of Marathon.
  • May 12th. Laurie McCollum, one of the operators of McCollum's Reflection Lake Resort at the south end of Lake Nipigon, had his camera set up on a tripod as he awaited the arrival of a regular flock of American Goldfinches. His preparedness paid off when a stunning male Painted Bunting landed on the feeder. The bird was seen up until the 14h. This is perhaps the fifth record for the District.
May 14th. Photo courtesy of Laurie McCollum.
  • May 12th. Bob Ellis (who hosted a Painted Bunting in July of 2011) had a European Goldfinch visit his feeder in the Town of Marathon. It was in the company of a flock of Pine Siskins.
  • May 11th-17th. John Woodcock reported a busier week of banding at Thunder Cape involving 338 individuals of 43 species. A highlight was a Golden-winged Warbler
  • May 8th. Jon Pleizier submitted to eBird an excellent description of a Franklin's Gull flying past the observation platform at the south end Manito Miikana (Spirit) Trail in Pukaskwa National Park. This is a new species for the park and one of only a handful of sightings for the Thunder Bay District.

Thanks to Bob Ellis, Laurie McCollum, John Pleizier, Brian Ratcliff, John Schelling and John Woodcock for sharing reports and photos of their sightings.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Only in NW Ontario?

This terrific shot comes courtesy of Michael Dawber who found this colourful assemblage, which included 28 Yellow-headed Blackbirds, in Dawson Township, in the Rainy River District. Thanks Michael!

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Dawson Twp, May 8. Courtesy of Michael Dawber.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Blue Grosbeak in MacDiarmid - May 12th update

Harold and Agnes Michon photographed this Blue Grosbeak at their MacDiarmid feeders on May 9. These feeders, set up beside the entrance to the community's post office, also hosted a Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch last winter and in May of 2007, a Lazuli Bunting.
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Photo courtesy of Harold and Agnes Michon

All of the previous Blue Grosbeaks seen in the Thunder Bay District arrived in May:
  • May 21, 1989 - Rossport 
  • May 3, 1994 - Thunder Cape 
  • May 22-23, 2007 - Longlac 
  • May 12-18, 2008 - Squaw Bay 
  • May 19-20, 2009 - Thunder Cape 
  • May 31 - June 1, 2011 - Thunder Cape 
Thanks to the Michons for sharing their sighting and photo!

May 12, 2012 Update: 

The Blue Grosbeak in MacDiarmid was not re-sighted yesterday. Interestingly, two more BLGR's were reported from eastern Ontario yesterday (May 11) - one from Presqu'ile P.P. (Northumberland Co.) and another from Goderich (Huron Co.).

Monday, May 7, 2012

Calling Boreal Chorus Frogs

We heard choruses of Boreal Chorus Frogs along the Superior Coast between Marathon and Neys Provincial Park this week. Here's one minute of audio from typical breeding habitat in Marathon.

Gray Fox on the Sibley Peninsula

Many thanks to John Woodcock for sharing this photo of a Gray Fox at Thunder Cape last week.

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Map of the Gray Fox range in Ontario, from the Royal Ontario Museum.