The Eagleson Ponds: Adding to the species list

Heath Bee Fly

In September 2016, I started a project on iNaturalist to document the non-avian species I’ve found at the Eagleson Road ponds just after the reconstruction that took place in 2015 and 2016 was completed. I was chiefly interested in the mammals and odonates (I use eBird, of course, for birds), largely in part because I wondered if the beaver would be back after its lodge was destroyed and if there were any Rainbow Bluets or Fragile Forktails left. Then, seeing the extensive wildflower plantings after the reconstruction, I began to wonder what species of butterflies might feed here. Since then I’ve started documenting all kinds of insects, turtles, plants and mammals that I can identify on my own, and even some that I can’t…one of the functions of iNaturalist is to connect experts and knowledgeable nature enthusiasts with those who aren’t as experienced in order to assist with identifications. I have hesitated to use the site for this purpose, because identifications are done entirely by volunteers, and (a) there is no guarantee that your species will be identified, particularly for lesser known or more difficult genera (for example, I have some photos of Red-blue Checkered Beetles from July 2016 that have yet to be confirmed); and (b) there is no guarantee that the observation will be identified correctly. Generally the more people who add their identification to an observation, the better; the main identification is decided by a two-thirds majority, and once it has received two or more confirmatory identifications it is considered “research grade” and can be used by scientists for their own projects.

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Costa Rica: A Summary

Keel-billed Toucan

Our trip to Costa Rica was the first time either of us had been outside of North America. It is now the fourth country I’ve visited, and almost everything I saw was new to me – from the tiny Leafcutter Ants travelling up and down the trees and trails in long trains to the gigantic Jabiru, the largest bird in Costa Rica. Although hot and humid, the weather was cooperative almost the entire week we were there, except for a few late afternoon rain showers during our first three days. Although it wasn’t entirely a birding trip, the beach resort we stayed at was great for wildlife, and I saw a lot of great birds, mammals and insects even when we spent a relaxing day on the resort. Here is a summary of what I saw:
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Mexico – Final Trip List

Gartered Trogon

Gartered Trogon

Mexico was a terrific place for birds. It was not as great for other types of wildlife, though perhaps that was due to the time of year that we visited. I saw only a couple of different butterflies and dragonflies, and I didn’t see a single frog or turtle. I saw one snake (unidentified), one squirrel (unidentified), a pair of Spider Monkeys, several bats (unidentified) and a possible Coati. Although I had hoped to come back with several lists of wildlife species seen in Mexico, I returned only with a comprehensive list of birds. Here is the list of 101 species seen in Mexico (lifers in bold):

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Getting Ready for a Brand New Year List

ebird2Tomorrow is January 1st, which means it’s almost time to reset the current year list to 0 and start all over again. This is one of the highlights of winter for me, because on January 1st every bird is new again…even the pigeons and starlings, even the crows. Without a brand new year list to work on, I lose the motivation to get outside and see what’s around, particularly since there are fewer and fewer birds to see as the winter wears on.

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Florida Trip List

White Peacock

White Peacock

A list of everything identified (at least to genus). What I liked about this trip was that we picked a few places to go (Eco Pond, the Anhinga Trail, Naples) and just went to see what was there, stopping along the way if something of interest caught our eye. I didn’t sign up for eBird reports and wasn’t chasing rare bird reports, which made for a more relaxing trip overall. If Doran were a serious birder I probably would have at least checked eBird to see what was around. However, it was much more enjoyable finding my own birds and not worrying about what birds were being reported nearby.


Bottlenosed dolphin
West Indian manatee
Marsh rabbit

(I found it strange that I didn’t see a single squirrel on this trip. I was hoping to see opossum and armadillo as well.)


Blacktip Shark


American alligator
Cuban Brown Anole
Cooter sp.

(I really wanted to see some snakes. And seriously, no amphibians?)


  1. Muscovy Duck – Florida City
  2. Wood Stork – Everglades NP (Paurotis Pond)
  3. Double-crested Cormorant – Everglades NP (Anhinga Trail)
  4. Anhinga – Everglades NP (Anhinga Trail)
  5. Brown Pelican – Everglades NP, Naples Beach
  6. Great Blue Heron – Everglades NP (Anhinga Trail)
  7. Great Egret – Common
  8. Snowy Egret – Tamiami Trail, Naples Beach
  9. Tricolored Heron – Everglades NP (Eco Pond)
  10. Cattle Egret – Homestead (Ingraham Hwy)
  11. Green Heron – Common
  12. White Ibis – Common
  13. Roseate Spoonbill – Everglades NP, Tamiami Trail
  14. Black Vulture – Common
  15. Turkey Vulture – Common
  16. Osprey – Everglades NP (Flamingo)
  17. Swallow-tailed Kite – Homestead (Ingraham Hwy)
  18. Red-shouldered Hawk – Everglades NP
  19. Black-necked Stilt – Everglades NP (Eco Pond)
  20. American Avocet – Everglades NP (Eco Pond)
  21. Killdeer – Florida City
  22. Laughing Gull – Florida City, Naples Beach
  23. Royal Tern – Naples Beach
  24. Sandwich Tern – Naples Beach
  25. Rock Pigeon – Florida City
  26. Eurasian Collared-Dove – Common
  27. Mourning Dove – Florida City
  28. Common Nighthawk – Florida City, Port of the Islands
  29. Chimney Swift – Near Port of the Islands
  30. Red-bellied Woodpecker – Common
  31. Northern Flicker – Near Port of the Islands
  32. Great Crested Flycatcher – Everglades NP
  33. Gray Kingbird – Common
  34. Eastern Kingbird – Everglades NP
  35. White-eyed Vireo – Everglades NP (Anhinga Trail)
  36. Blue Jay – Port of the Islands
  37. American Crow – Common
  38. Fish Crow – Homestead
  39. Purple Martin – Port of the Islands
  40. Northern Mockingbird – Common
  41. Common Myna – Homestead
  42. European Starling – Homestead
  43. Common Yellowthroat – Tamiami Trail
  44. Prairie Warbler – Everglades NP
  45. Northern Cardinal – Common
  46. Red-winged Blackbird – Florida City
  47. Eastern Meadowlark – Everglades NP
  48. Common Grackle – Common
  49. Boat-tailed Grackle – Common
  50. Brown-headed Cowbird – Everglades NP (Flamingo)
  51. House Sparrow – Florida City


Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Barred Yellow Butterfly
Red-banded Hairstreak
Gulf Fritillary
Zebra Heliconian
White Peacock

Seaside Dragonlet
Blue Dasher
Eastern Pondhawk
Four-spotted Pennant
Halloween Pennant
Needham’s Skimmer

(No damselflies identified on this trip. I only saw one, flying over the grass near the marina at Port of the Islands but we were in a hurry to catch our boat trip and didn’t stop.)

200 Year Birds

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

On Saturday I drove to Dow’s Lake at first light to look for the Surf Scoter that has been hanging out there since Thursday. It was supposed to rain later that afternoon, and indeed the sky was dark and ominous when I left. It was rather cold and damp, too, so I wore my winter coat for the first time this fall, even though the temperature was supposed to rise to 14°C.

When I arrived I heard a couple of Golden-crowned Kinglets in the trees near the parking area. I didn’t see much at the Arboretum, but in the marshy area at the edge of Dow’s Lake I saw six Red-winged Blackbirds perched in a large tree and heard a Song Sparrow singing. Another group of about 20 Red-winged Blackbirds flew by a little later but didn’t land. On the water, there were at least 1000 Canada Geese and perhaps half as many mallards swimming in the bay. A large number of American Black Ducks looked completely black in the poor light.

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Grundy Lake: The Trip List

Although Grundy Lake Provincial Park is beautiful, I didn’t see as much wildlife as I has hoped. I am not sure whether this is due to the time of the year, the weather, or the time of the day we were out. Altogether I saw 29 birds, 4 mammals, 7 reptiles and amphibians, 5 butterflies, and 12 odonate species.


Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Wood Duck
  3. Common Loon
  4. Great Blue Heron
  5. Turkey Vulture
  6. Broad-winged Hawk
  7. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  8. Belted Kingfisher
  9. Downy Woodpecker
  10. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  11. Red-eyed Vireo
  12. Blue Jay
  13. American Crow
  14. Common Raven
  15. Black-capped Chickadee
  16. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  17. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  18. Canada Darner

    Canada Darner

  19. American Robin
  20. Cedar Waxwing
  21. Ovenbird
  22. Black-and-white Warbler
  23. American Redstart
  24. Magnolia Warbler
  25. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  26. Pine Warbler
  27. Song Sparrow
  28. White-throated Sparrow
  29. Common Grackle
  30. American Goldfinch


  1. Black Bear
  2. White-tailed Deer
  3. American Red Squirrel
  4. Eastern Chipmunk




  1. Midland Painted Turtle
  2. Northern Water Snake
  3. American Toad
  4. Gray Tree Frog (heard only)
  5. American Bullfrog
  6. Mink Frog
  7. Northern Leopard Frog


  1. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  2. Great-spangled Fritillary
  3. Mourning Cloak
  4. White Admiral
  5. Viceroy


  1. Spotted Spreadwing*
  2. Violet Dancer
  3. Hagen’s Bluet
  4. Tule Bluet*
  5. Eastern Forktail
  6. Lake Darner
  7. Canada Darner
  8. Dragonhunter
  9. White-faced Meadowhawk
  10. Autumn Meadowhawk
  11. Slaty Skimmer
  12. Twelve-spotted Skimmer

* not on the park’s checklist

Point Pelee 2013: Trip List

Belted Kingfisher Erieau

Belted Kingfisher

My trip to southern Ontario lasted seven days, and while the weather was great for being outdoors (sunny and clear for all three days, with a chilly east wind) it wasn’t good for bringing in the migrants or to keep them in the parks. I think I must have chosen the three quietest days of spring to travel to Ontario’s deep south this year – although we saw a lot of species, the number of individuals we observed for each species was very low at both Point Pelee and Rondeau Park. The Blenheim Sewage Lagoons helped to make up for the lack of birds at the parks; there were a large number of shorebirds there each time we visited, as well as several other fabulous birds.

I managed to tally 132 species altogether and added three new species to my life list: Black-necked Stilt, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Prairie Warbler. The Black-necked Stilts just outside of Hillman Marsh were completely unexpected, while the Prairie Warbler was one that I have been hoping to hear (and see) for a while now. I found the Yellow-throated Warblers at Rondeau fairly easily but missed the Little Gulls at Point Pelee. It figures that several rarities were reported after we headed back to Cambridge, including Loggerhead Shrike at Point Pelee and Summer Tanager and Western Kingbird at Rondeau.

A few notable misses include Black-crowned Night Heron, Green Heron, Red-headed Woodpecker, Swainson’s Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Northern Parula, Cape May Warbler, American Redstart, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Indigo Bunting….all birds that I’ve seen in previous years but didn’t see this year (and could have reasonably expected to). This year, however, we found several species which we hadn’t seen in our previous trips, including Northern Shoveler, White-winged Scoter, Ring-necked Pheasant, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, Glaucous Gull, Blue-winged Warbler and Golden-winged Warbler. It was a good trip for ducks, shorebirds and warblers.

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Highlights from 2012

Now that 2012 has ended, it’s time to look back and remember my favourite moments and most memorable wildlife encounters from the past 12 months. Some of the most notable events of 2012 were the summer-like weather in March, the mid-summer drought, my trip to Alberta, and the winter finch irruption in the fall. I ended up with only four life birds in the Ottawa study area (including one on the Quebec side) and nine life birds from Nova Scotia and Alberta. Of course, I missed a lot, too – the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Carp, the Tufted Duck at Shirley’s Bay, Ottawa’s first Cave Swallow, the Northern Hawk-Owl at the airport, and the Ivory Gull a few weeks ago. The Ivory Gull was particularly painful as it was discovered near Arnprior on a Saturday afternoon and I didn’t find out about it until 4:00 p.m. when I checked my email and it was already starting to get dark. Like the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, it stayed only one day and subsequent efforts to relocate it proved fruitless. Many birders saw it, so it would have been an easy lifer had I found out about it sooner!

Despite these misses, I saw a number of good birds and other wildlife in my travels. Here are some of my favourite encounters.

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A New Year, A New List

New Year’s Eve. A time to think back on our accomplishments of the past twelve months, to remember the highlights, and look ahead to what we hope the new year will bring. For many birders, New Year’s Eve is a time to turn the page and begin a brand new year list. This is one of the highlights of winter for me, because on January 1st every bird is new again…even the pigeons and starlings, even the crows. As I start the year I wonder what new life birds I will see in 2013. Will any rarities show up in Ottawa, and will they be as long-staying as the Razorbill last year? Or will they merely be a one-day wonder like the Ivory Gull this year? Will I see any new life birds in Point Pelee in May? Will I reach 200 species in the Ottawa study area in 2013, or 300 species on my life list?

The weather forecast looks promising for tomorrow: cold, but sunny. Although I plan to stay up until midnight tonight to ring in the new year, I also plan to wake up early tomorrow morning to start my new year list. My last new bird for December (and my winter list) was a Northern Shrike seen along Barnsdale Road. Hopefully both the shrike and the Rough-legged Hawk on Brownlee Road will still be around tomorrow.

Northern Shrike

Northern Shrike – my best photo yet of this species, despite the overcast conditions

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