Spring at Long Point, Ontario. Part 3-Vireos, Grosbeaks, Tanagers and Cuckoos

 

I keep thinking Im almost done with Long Point images and then I remember something like Scarlet Tanager or Philly Vireo, how could I leave them out? Im trying to be brief for my own sake (although I know i’ll look back at these posts fondly) THE VIREOS were excellent birds to watch, with most encounters providing prolonged views of birds sometimes stationary for lengths of time.  The most common were Blueheaded and Warbling Vireos, followed by smaller numbers of Philadelphia  and smaller still (perhaps only 5)  Redeyed and Yellow Throated, Whiteeyed were seen by others but not me.  Again a great range of personality, colour, subtlety and expressions aswell as both bizarre calls and sweet tuneful songs.

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Blue-headed Vireo

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Warbling Vireo

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Yellow throated Vireo

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Philadelphia Vireo

alas, no shots of Red-eyed Vireos but they were probably the most exciting to watch. There was very little on the trip that didnt get me going and the OTHER PASSERINES, were no exception. It was very nice to catch up with Rosebreasted Grosbeaks, particularly the females, and I certainly appreciated seeing them in context, made me like them even more, their ‘squeaky shoe’ call was often heard.

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Scarlet Tanagers were shocking things to look at, I had a high count of 15 one day and some were very approachable.

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We had both Black and Yellow-billed Cuckoos within 20 mins of each other and that was pretty much all we saw of them.

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Expect the next post to be everything else in a ‘last but no least’ style.

 

 

 

Spring at Long Point, Ontario. Part 2 – Thrushes and Sparrows

A post detailing some of the comparatively subtle north American passerines that we encountered at Long point.

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Graham talked about the north American avifauna providing these birds to perfectly compliment the bright and gaudy warblers, and he’s right with THE THRUSHES in particular; Their appearance, tentative movements and the dappled light you often see them in go perfectly together, add something like Wood thrush song to the equation makes such a good birding experience. In fact the whole suite of Catharus thrushes are definitely something I focused on and enjoyed, and managed to see 5 species thereof. Swainson’s and Veerys were the most common throughout the 10 days, with Hermits in better numbers towards the beginning and only one Grey-cheeked briefly towards the end.  Wood thrush were consistently present in small numbers throughout our time there.

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Swainson’s thrushes

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Veerys

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Hermit thrushes

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Wood thrushes

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Gray-cheeked thrush

THE SPARROWS were something I’d lazily neglected to really study up on before hand but a very enjoyable group of birds with fluxes in numbers throughout the trip but often high numbers of Whitethroated, Chipping and Whitecrowned present. We also Saw Swamp, Field, Lincolns, Song and Savannah fairly regularly around Long point itself and both Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrows at a local farm nearby.

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White Throated Sparrow

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White crowned Sparrow

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Chipping Sparrow

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Lincolns Sparrow

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Savannah Sparrow

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Field Sparrow

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Song Sparrow

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Grasshopper sparrow

 

Spring at Long Point, Ontario. Part 1- Warblers

Its almost 2 weeks since I came home from 10 days in birding in Ontario, southern Canada. Staying a stones throw from Long Point Bird observatory as the base of Long Point national park –  a spit of land some 40km long jutting out into lake Erie.  Graham Gordon, Fred Fearn, Laurence Pitcher and myself slowly walked round and round a small area staring at the *worlds best migratory birds in varying numbers and varieties as the eb and flow of their north bound migration was helped and hindered by weather, timing and their need to feed up. Basically the best birding trip I’ve ever done abroad and something I’ll be doing again.  The place we stayed in was owned by local birder Adam Timpf. Its a perfect spot for 4 people to stay and concentrate on the birding around Old cut and in the park. Heres the link to it on Air b&b if you’re interested in staying there yourself

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Graham has written a nice run down of the trip, including details of the fall days for Birdguides have a look here.  

I took something like 1500 images and have edited them down to a lot less but heres the first of a few posts – So Warblers first! All together we saw 26 Species of Warbler. Things like Blackpoll warbler were probably missed as a result of the dates rather than regularity but the following were more than enough and many were new to me completely and the main focus of the trip.

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Black & White Warbler

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 Northern Parula

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 Blackburnian Warblers

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Cape May Warblers

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Yellow warblers

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Canada Warblers

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Nashville Warbler

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Tennesse Warbler

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Chesnut-sided Warbler

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American Redstart

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Palm Warbler

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Northern Waterthrush

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Black-throated Green Warbler

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Magnolia Warblers

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Ovenbird

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Common Yellowthroat

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Prothonotary Warbler

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Bay-breasted Warblers

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Yellow Rumped Warbler

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Hooded Warbler

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Golden Winged Warbler

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Black-throated Blue Warblers

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I think I went without getting decent shots of the following: Pine, Orangecrowned, Bluewinged, Wilsons

Next up thrushes…

Easter Weekend ’19

 

I spent the bank holiday weekend birding my regular sites away from Walthamstow. The 19th and 20th were down at Beachy head with LP.

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Blue skies, blazing sun and NE winds didn’t spew birds all over us but a smattering of nice migrants kept us going.

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Over the two days we saw: c20 Willow Warblers, c25 Common Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Tree Pipit, 5 Yellow Wagtail, …

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…2 White Wagtail, 10 Wheatear, 2 Redstart, 7 Whinchat, 1 Spoonbill east 1 Hobby, a single Red Kite bearing a wing tag, all three hirundines were seen arriving in off the sea, 2 very high presumable migrant Marsh Harriers were picked up over near by West rise on the 19th as well as a first summer Yellow legged gull.

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The sunday was spent doing normal boyfriend stuff with Amy but Monday morning Rich Bonser and I set off for Dover at 5.45am and by 7.15 we were birding Langdon hole and the surrounding area.  The Highlights were 4 Ring Ouzels, (three in the field above Langdon hole and the other found later on in the shrubby area above the carpark) This last bird was very showy and a real treat for us both. There were around 15 singing Lesser whitethroats, 10 Common Whitethroats, a single Willow warbler and a few Swallows and sand martins.

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Back to London and Erith pier yielded 2 first summer Yellowlegged Gulls and this nice first summer Caspian Gull. Its the first Casp ive seen for a couple of months.

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We gave a site up river a go and again 2 yellow legs and a Caspian showed up, all different birds from Erith, with this Caspian giving more of a east German vibe, still pretty nice though.

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April up close.

One of the advantages of grass-verged concrete banks lining your local reservoir is you can get fairly close to migrant birds without disturbing them. Crawling on your belly and sticking your bins or camera over the edge is a much used technique on my patch and the results are often both good photographically aswell as carrying the satisfaction of moving away from the bird after without it flushing. Below a White Wagtail from a couple of years ago taken with ‘the old crawly belly’ method, abit random but I like the photo.

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Ive used this technique on a few approachable individual migrants in the past couple of weeks too. This Blacktailed Godwit present on the 6th was very approachable and seemed more perturbed by my belly crawling to get close than it did the scores of visitors strolling by, oblivious to its presence on a busy Saturday afternoon.

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The same goes for this Littleringed plover, present on the 18th.

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Above and below: a handsome drake Gargeney that DB picked up swimming into the middle of number 4 reservoir on the 16th. I fully expected it to give us the run around but our efforts to remain out of sight for the bird were slightly unnecessary and it swam around back and forth infront of us, aware but not alarmed.

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Sometimes you don’t need reservoir banks! This almost summer plumage male Brambling, one of 3 birds currently sticking around at the south end of the central path seemed non threatened and stayed put in nice light. Not exactly  the norm for this species as the majority of my records here are vismig fly- overs in late Oct or as the past two springs have played out, part of a small number hanging on after winter and occasionally singing.

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Away from Photography and onto the subject of finds, We’re all still waiting for the stand- out bird so far this spring. With a Black Kite find on the patch last year for me after a run of incredible birds for a London Reservoir (all found by others) I have fairly high standards to beat for myself this year.

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The above 2cy male Black Redstart popped up on the 13th 100m from where I’d had a male Common Redstart the week before. Its still around apparently in the Riding stable paddocks on Walthamstow Marsh. Id be made up with adding Ring Ouzel or Pied Flycatcher to London birds I’ve had on the patch this spring but heading to the south coast in the next couple of days to try my luck there for hopefully something more exciting! 

Hong Kong, March 2019

 

My third annual work trip to Hong Kong in as many years. Similar birds to previous visits with a few exciting additions, access to a few sites that I haven’t visited before, (many thanks to HK resident John Holmes for driving me round) and a few days later than my previous  2  visits.   Ive said it before but Hong Kong birding is excellent,  Mai Po and the surrounding fishponds are stacked with birds and the slightly later date of this years trip accounted for a little more migration than I’d witnessed before. Things like more Pacific and House Swifts, Oriental Pratincoles, White Winged Terns small flocks of Greyfaced Buzzards and smarter plumaged waders featured more this year and were welcome of course.

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I wanted to give a more accurate account of the birding out there but to be honest I cant help myself watching and photographing Dusky Warblers and Red-throated pipits instead of Forktailed Sunbirds, Whiteshouldered starlings and Haircrested Drongos, rest assured you can see all of that stuff with relative ease during these dates at least but for now I cant pull myself away from things like the below Yellowbrowed Warbler, which are almost everywhere in HK.

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Dusky Warblers are also very common. You hear the call outside the city in all suitable habitat but they’re a bugger to photograph. Some pishing worked for these individuals .

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More common wintering birds are things like Richards, Redthroated and Olivebacked Pipits

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Stejnergers Stone chats, also common. I had intended to photograph lots of first winters, trying to get a feel for the range in tones although most stayed distant, nice to watch though. the adults were approaching summer plumage, black wing coverts against gleaming white primary and secondary bases underwing is a satisfying feature to glimpse.

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More chats: Red spotted Bluethroat above and Siberian Ruby throat, the latter only the second Ive ever seen, a brief but intense encounter.

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Eastern Yellow Wagtails featured heavily in the audio track around the fishponds, m.t.taivana (below) mostly and m.t.macroynx in smaller numbers.

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A migrant 2cy East Siberian Wagtailm.a.ocularis below.

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Oriental turtle doves were more obvious this trip, seen in 2s and 3s in flight and here with spotted doves feeding on the bread piles intended for the fish. They appeared to be Orientalis: dark beneath with greyish tips to the tail feathers. 

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Long-tailed shrikes look more saturated here in comparison to the birds I was seeing in Shanghai, below is the melanistic form ‘Dusky Shrike’ pretty cool.

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A Wryneck! bit of a surprise but Eurasian Wrynecks winter in hong Kong in small numbers.

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The next birds were a highlight for me. John and I were birding around the car park at Mai Po when I picked up a Needletail zipping into view between the ‘canopy’, then two! they were hawking insects above some tall trees in a figure of 8 pattern and were coming quite low at times. Silver-Backed Needletails are a “Scarce spring migrant” to Hong Kong and I guess are eruptive, with some years not being recorded and others a flock of 120 fly through. Bizarrely I picked up another the following day which zipped straight through some fishponds to the east of Mai Po.

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heavy crops but that mantle is incredible and deserves some focus!

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Above and below, shots a couple of House Swifts. 3 Pacific Swifts were seen but went un-photographed and as for bird of a similar ilk : The fish pond habitats held many Barn Swallows and a handful of streaky looking Red-rumped swallows. I also saw Asian House martin .

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Other than the ubiqitous Blackeared Kites, I had 2 Greater-spotted eagles at Mai Po (above), as well as a new bird for me in the form of the Crested serpent eagle, (below)

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The beneath Japanese sparrow hawk was one of 4/5 I saw during a visit to Peng Chau island.

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Heres 3 of a flock of 7 Rednecked phalaropes present at Long Valley and a nice and close Pacific Golden plover.

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The waders at Mai Po are intense. If you catch a rising tide at the right time of day then you can get some incredible views. At times I felt like my bins were completely glued to my face and my brain was frothing up with all the info to take in. This was probably my best trip in terms of wading birds close to the hides and good light but still missed a few species Ive not managed to catch up with, namely Asian Dowitcher, but all the other bangers were in place.

Suprisingly (to me) there are 3! wintering Long billed Dowitchers at Mai Po this winter, I picked this one up from one of the boardwalk hides and we saw another on the scrape during high tide.

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Nordmanns greenshank above and a Spotted Redshank flanked by 2 Common Greenshank and 3 Marsh sandpipers

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Below, one of perhaps 150 Curlew Sandpipers present one morning, 3 Broadbilled Sandpipers were with them initially but I couldn’t re-locate whilst I had the camera out.

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Above and below, Rednecked stints.

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Terek Sandpiper above and Kentish Plover below

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Greater sand plover (above) and HK scarcity Oriental Plover (below), Most records of this long distance migrant are from mid winter so this bird approaching its summer finery this was a real highlight of the trip and showed well briefly despite distant photos.

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I’ll leave it there for waders, although theres alot Ive missed out, but thats a summary of what i saw well/enjoyed the most. Below is the only shot of a ‘large’ Gull I’ve ever posted from HK as theyre always distant, one of 2 first winter Black tailed Gull, distant but gorgeous, Taymerensis Hueglins, Mongolian and Blackheaded aswell as Caspian Terns in shot too.

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So thats another year. I’ll probably end up writing shorter posts in future but thats the edited version this year!

Spring fix from both patches

Monday was spent at Beachy Head with LP and the first decent ‘fall of birds for the site this year. 81 Willow Warbler, 13 Chiffchaff, 1 Whitethroat, 16 Blackcap, 4 Common Redstart, 3 Wheatear, 4 Black Redstart, 4 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, 3 Ring Ouzel,  at least 5 obvious migrant Song Thrush which departed high north with one of the Ouzel, 20 Robin, 1 Brambling, 1 White Wagtail, 2 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Firecrest, 4 Goldcrest, 1 Merlin,and a Greenshank over calling from the murk. 10 Swallow in.

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Whilst I was blissfully out of signal on Beachy head, yomping around for kilommetes at a time, A migrant tornado was being stirred up at Walthamstow, see the details here  but in brief a load of Little Gulls,yellow Wagtails, some waders and an Osprey had all made appearances. I was slightly late to the party but mopped up the following morning with Avocet, 8 Little Gulls (both long awaited patch ticks for me!) and my first Yellow Wagtails of the year for the patch. I will be out every week day morning in April so expect some updates with similarly poor/grey photography 🙂

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