A Storm of Warblers

Palm Warbler

I usually take the second week of May off every year, and head south to spend time birding Point Pelee National Park with my mother. I was unable to make the trip this year, but as I needed a break from work and a change of scenery I spent three nights in Westport instead (more to follow in a separate post). Spending time at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park, Frontenac Provincial Park, and Foley Mountain Conservation Area was fantastic, but unlike Point Pelee, these areas are not migration hotspots or migrant traps, and I had to work hard to get as many species as I did. As a result, I wasn’t expecting much when I returned to Ottawa on Thursday, but it seemed the floodgates had finally opened and the birds were moving north in large numbers. I went out Friday morning, and although the temperature hadn’t improved – the day was overcast and the temperature was still below normal for this time of year – the birds must have been getting anxious to get back to their breeding grounds, for the variety of birds at the Eagleson ponds was amazing.
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A Cuckoo at Frontenac Provincial Park

Black-billed Cuckoo

On May 15th I again woke up early, got my breakfast at the Country Kitchen restaurant in Westport, and hit the road before 7:00 am. It was a bright sunny day, and although I knew the forecast was calling for showers in the afternoon, I hoped to have enough time to explore Frontenac Park while the sun was shining and find some interesting birds and butterflies. Southern species such as Yellow-throated Vireo and Cerulean Warbler were on my wish list, as was a butterfly called the West Virginia White. Peter Hall had seen a couple in the park only a week earlier, and I had received directions as to where I would find them. The morning was cool, but I hoped it would warm up enough for a few to be flying before the rain moved in!
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A Visit to Murphy’s Point Provincial Park

Barred Owl

I took the second week of May off work to do some birding. I wasn’t able to able to get to southern Ontario for my usual Point Pelee/Rondeau Park trip due to family reasons, and as I didn’t want to drive too far I thought I would spend three nights in Westport and visit the nearby parks and conservation areas. Both Murphy’s Point and Frontenac Provincial Parks are about a 40-minute drive from Westport, and the Foley Mountain Conservation Area is just outside of town. I thought this would be a great way to enjoy spring migration in a few different counties, see some southern specialties that don’t quite make it to Ottawa, and get a much-needed change of scenery without having to spend too much time in a car or on a train.
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The Hawks of Stony Swamp

Northern Goshawk

Stony Swamp in Ottawa’s west end is home to a variety of different flora and fauna. The trails are popular among families for hand-feeding the chickadees and among birders for finding Black-backed Woodpeckers and finches such as Pine Siskins in the winter. There are many different ecosystems within the conservation area – such as rocky alvars, ponds, marshes, streams, deciduous and coniferous forests – which makes this one of the most biodiverse conservation areas within the city.

Despite the large number of birds that breed, overwinter, or migrate through Stony Swamp each year, it is relatively under-birded. The closest trail is only five minutes from my home in Kanata South, so I spend a lot of time within the conservation area – particularly in the warmer months. However, I very rarely come across other birders or photographers on the weekends, probably because it’s not a migrant trap like Mud Lake – the birds are spread out more, making them more difficult to find. Still, the trails are worth checking for pockets of warblers in the spring or flocks of finches in the winter, in addition to all the birds that breed here in the summer: Virginia Rails, Pied-Billed Grebes, Eastern Towhees, Field Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows, Black-throated Green Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, Eastern Phoebes, and so much more.

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Butterflies of the Dominican

Tropical Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus oileus)

This was the hardest post of my Dominican series to write, though I really didn’t expect it to be as difficult as it was; this is because it took a long time to find some good internet resources for identifying butterflies of the island of Hispaniola.

When travelling to a new place, the first thing I do is look for field guides or online checklists of species found in that area. This is easy for birds, but not so easy for types of wildlife, such as reptiles and amphibians, dragonflies, and of course butterflies. Once I get home with all my hundreds of photos, it’s easier to narrow down the species I’m interested in. Fortunately, finding online guides to the odonates of the Dominican Republic wasn’t difficult, even though there are fewer people studying odes than there are people studying butterflies; I was surprised that it was much more difficult to find similar websites or articles dedicated to the butterflies of the Dominican Republic, even when I widened my search to the island of Hispaniola. The best checklist I could find was the one on the BAMONA website (Butterflies and Moths of North America). Still, I wasn’t sure how accurate the list was, or if it encompassed all the species of the Dominican Republic or just those that have been recently reported by members of the BAMONA website. I ended up with a lot of photographs of skippers (one of the most difficult groups of butterflies to identify), and clicking on each species link to view the photos quickly became a tedious chore.

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Last Day in Paradise

Hispaniolan Parakeet

Our last day had finally arrived, and as our flight wasn’t until 8:45 pm, I got up early and went out birding before breakfast. I started at the beach, then walked the eastern-most path along the edge of the resort. I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary, and my only goal was to catch up with the cuckoo-like bird Doran and I had seen on our second day.

I didn’t see the cuckoo, but the Northern Parula was in the same tree where I’d seen it before. There was a second warbler in the same tree – brownish overall, with a necklace of dark streaks and a noticeable white wing patch. I thought it might be a Cape May Warbler, but wasn’t able to confirm it until I saw the photos showing the greenish rump and yellow patch behind the auriculars.
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In the Dominican: Around the Resort

Snowy Egret

Friday was our last full day on the resort, and it was another beautiful, sunny day. We enjoyed a relaxing day in the sun, taking a dip in the ocean when it got too hot. The Atlantic Ocean was rougher than the Pacific Ocean at our resort in Costa Rica, which made for a much different experience. Once we got tired of being smacked around by the waves we spent some time on a lounge chair drying off in the warm Caribbean sun. Normally the lounge chairs are all taken by the afternoon, but we had timed it so that most people were getting lunch when we arrived. We didn’t see any birds again – no terns or pelicans or frigatebirds, and after lunch I headed out to photograph some birds and features of the resort.

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