Friday, September 16, 2016

Mississagi Bay Family Vacation Day One & Two

Well I am finally back at school and that usually gives me some time to relax, but not this year! I have the honour of being Co-President of the University of Guelph Wildlife Club and with that comes a lot of responsibilities in planning events such as our O-week event or our annual Bruce Peninsula Trip. Now things are finally starting to slow down and I have a chance to update the blog with what I did this summer. So let me begin...

With a very unexciting summer, I was fortunate that with my summer job I was able to take a week off to go to my Uncle's cottage located on Mississagi Bay.

Sunday, August 14 myself, my Dad, my Grandma and my Aunt, who is visiting from Alberta, loaded up the car to make the nine hour trip up north. To make the trip as quick as possible, we head up through Michigan, then head east of Sault Ste. Marie to Iron Bridge. We had great weather for travelling and it was great to be able to spend time with both my Aunt and Grandma.

Eight kilometres from the highway into the forested area of the Mississagi Delta Provincial Nature Reserve we finally arrive in the late afternoon, greeted by my Uncle and his family. I have been here once before back in 2009 but it was during the winter and the views are quite different. We unpacked, settled in, had some dinner then enjoyed the views that were around us.

As we sat on the deck, we had a few small visitors fly around trying to get at the feeders near by.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird August 14, 2016 - Mississagi Bay, Ontario

Then came my favourite time of day, sunset. I enjoy this time of day because it is never the same. Every day is different and every sunset is different. I think it is a perfect time to reflect on the days activities, think of plans for tomorrow and just relax after the day. The sunsets this week did not disappoint.

August 14, 2016 - Mississagi Bay, Ontario

August 14, 2016 - Mississagi Bay, Ontario

The next day was just spent around the cottage relaxing. In the morning I decided to go for a walk down the road to see what I could see. There was something everywhere I looked before even leaving the driveway!

Grasshopper August 15, 2016 - Mississagi Bay, Ontario

Chipmunk August 15, 2016 - Mississagi Bay, Ontario
Once out of the driveway, there were lots of wild flower including the invasive Orange Hawkweed.

Orange Hawkweed August 15, 2016 - Mississagi Bay, Ontario

Along with flowers, there were lots of dragonflies and butterflies. Although I focus most of my attention to birding, my interests has also sparked in butterflies, skippers and dragonflies. The book "Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity: With a Photographic Guide to Insects of Easter North America" by Stephen Marshall (who is a professor at the University of Guelph!) is a great book for not only identifying insects but reading up about them too. This White Admiral followed me for my entire walk but did not want to offer that many photo opportunities. The White Admiral and the Red-spotted Purple are the same species (Limenities anthems) but different forms. The Red-spotted Purple is normally found more south than the White Admiral but both forms do occur in Southern Ontario and can interbreed.

White Admiral August 15, 2016 - Mississagi Bay, Ontario
I almost walked by this skipper but it caught my eye.

Leonard's Skipper August 15, 2016 - Mississagi Bay, Ontario

Now I do believe this to be a Leonard's Skipper base on the pattern of the wings and referring to multiple photos but I am by no means an expert.

While sitting on the deck, I had a great opportunity to photograph the hummingbirds that were visiting my Uncle's feeder on the corner of the deck. It was amazing to watch such a tiny bird up close. They did not seem to be bothered by us at all, even if someone was directly under the feeder!

Ruby-throated Humming Bird August 15, 2016 - Mississagi Bay, Ontario
After a long day exploring, it was once again my favourite time of day.

August 15, 2016 - Mississagi Bay, Ontario
Now, I promise it won't be so long between post again! Day 3, 4 and 5 will be up soon! :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Summer Solstice 2016

Photography has lead me on an interesting journey. As I go about my daily life I am seeing all of the little things around me in a new perspective. There are so many things that we see on a daily basis that we just pass by, not even acknowledging. Photography has really made me live in the moment and focus on the things around me, and ask questions. This past week was a perfect example when I heard about this once in a life time Summer Solstice.

The Summer Solstice occurred this past Monday June 20, 2016. For those of you who may not know what this means it is the time of year when Earth's Northern axis is pointed towards the Sun. This results in the longest day and shortest night or the first day of summer for us in the Northern Hemisphere. What is special about this past Summer Solstice was that the full moon coincide. The last time this happen where they were an hour apart was June 21, 1948. Seeing something like this probably won't happen again in my life time!

Summer Solstice Full Moon, June 20, 2016 Wallaceburg, Ontario

It was a great reminder that although it seems like my life is crazy busy I need to make time to enjoy the little things in life and observe everything that is around me. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Go, Go, Go!

Wow! Summer is nearly half over and I feel like all I've done is work and school in fact that is all I have done. Trying to balance a full time job, online courses and my home responsibilities leaves little time for anything else.

This weekend I did however get to go to Guelph and spend some time with some friends and so I naturally had to add in a hike some where! There is a wooded area just outside the west side of the city that Jeremy and I thought we would go check out.

It was a little windy and quiet warm so the birds were rather quiet. That is ok though. There are plenty of other things to discover and see. That is one of the reasons I love nature and the outdoors so much.

The focus turned to the dragonflies and damselflies that were abundant along the edges of the trail. One in particular caught my eye. If any of you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you would have saw the picture I recently posted of an immature Common Whitetail male.

Immature Common Whitetail male June 8, 2016 - Wallaceburg, Ontario
 So it was fascinating as we were walking along the trail when I spotted a mature male of the same species to see the differences between the two.

Mature Common Whitetail male June 12, 2016 - Guelph, Ontario
There were plenty of other dragonflies and damselflies to view.
Ebony Jewelwing female June 12, 2016 - Guelph, Ontario

Ebony Jewelwing male June 12, 2016 - Guelph, Ontario

Widow Skimmer female June 12, 2016 - Guelph, Ontario
Of course there were some butterflies.
Northern Crescent June 12, 2016 - Guelph, Ontario

Northern Crescent June 12, 2016 - Guelph, Ontario

Although I didn't get to bird as I would have liked, it was a great opportunity to learn something new. If you think birds are fast, you should try watching dragonflies! Now there's a whole new challenge I am ready to take on.

Monday, May 23, 2016

May Long Weekend Adventures

The May long weekend brings an old family tradition of heading up to the lake for the weekend to spend time with family. My family and my Grandma have cottages side by side along Lake Huron that are completely off the grid, no electricity, no internet, no cell phone service. It is a really great time to get away from work, school and all the craziness of life and just be together as a family.

So Friday night after work, we loaded up car, grabbed some dinner and off we were to the cabin. It's always exciting to get up there for the first time every year, opening the cabin that has been packed away all winter. We quickly unpacked as there was a cool breeze coming in off the lake, and we wanted to get that first campfire of the season going!

Saturday morning we woke up to a very cool and overcast day. When the weather doesn't give you the ideal situation you have to make the best of it. So out came the cards and board games for everyone to play as we tried to stay warm around the fire. I think almost all of us had on every piece of clothing on that we brought! You always think that you pack warm enough clothes but when that wind is coming in off the lake, it is just a chill that goes straight to the bones!

This weather provided me with a perfect opportunity to doing some birding off the back deck. Our cabin is situated on a hill over the lake that is densely covered in trees and brush. The downfall with it being so dense is it makes it very hard for photographs. Saturday's eBird checklist from the cabin deck can be viewed here. Later that evening, my Aunt and I headed out to a little forested area close by to the cabin that has some trails through it to see what we could see. It was a busy place as the back deck at the cabin had slowed down after lunch.
May 21, 2016 - Lambton Shores

May 21, 2016 - Lambton Shores

 Our complete eBird checklist can be viewed here.

We headed back to the cabin and sat around the fire before heading down to watch the sunset. Lake Huron is known for its sunsets and I don't think I've ever been disappointed. I decided to try something different and create a time lapse. I learned that it takes a lot of photos to create a good time lapse. If it wasn't so cold I would have stayed longer but being right on the beach, the wind sure picked up. So the end product ends up being about 3 seconds but I think it turned out pretty neat for my first time.

I also learned that the next purchase I need to make is another camera battery! With having no electricity, I was very cautious when using my camera so it would last the whole weekend. I am in need of a back up battery that is for sure!

Back up to the fire it was after the sunset to warm up once again before we headed back down to watch the stars. There is very little light pollution around us so it makes for great views of the stars. I also need to touch up on my constellations.

May 21, 2016 - Lambton Shores

May 21, 2016 - Lambton Shores

May 21, 2016 - Lambton Shores
Sunday morning we woke up to a strong breeze and even cooler temperatures than the day before. We stayed bundled all day around the fire. After dinner, I went for a walk back to the forested area to see what was happening. There is a little open field in the middle and it was bustling with activity. I didn't have to move, it seemed like the birds were coming to me. The complete eBird checklist can be viewed here.

The last campfire of the weekend was filled with laughs and lots of s'mores, classic family tradition. Monday morning, we had to pack as Mom and Dad had to head back home early. I did break away quietly from the packing to get some more birding in off the deck. That eBird checklist can be viewed here.

Hope everyone had a great long weekend, I'm glad this week is going to be a short one!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Festival of the Birds Point Pelee National Park - Round 2

Well of course, after a nice week of weather and being stuck at work Mother Nature decides to let loose this weekend! Saturday was a nice relaxing day at home since it rained too much to really do anything. But I said my prayers to the Weather Gods for nice weather Sunday as Kaitlyn was coming down to visit Point Pelee National Park for her first time.

My prayers weren't answered....

Sunday morning we got up at the crack of dawn and the weather didn't look to promising. So what do we do, load the car up and head down anyways. Nothing was going to stop us and if you know Kaitlyn and I, you know we've had some great adventures together.

The drive down there was anything but normal with some sun shine, clouds, rain and SNOW! Yes I did just say snow! I will remind you it was May 15th, crazy but we were determined!

First stop was Pelee Wings Nature Store as Kaitlyn was hoping to buy her first pair binoculars. Its so exciting to introduce her to the world of birds and it really enforces what I learn to be able to teach her.

Now we are set, binoculars - check, scope - check, field guides - check, winter jacket... nope. We dressed warm but we were not prepared for all this snow/ice pellets. We entered the park and parked the car at West Beach were we hurried to the Visitor Centre for a little bit of warmth. With it being the Festival of the Birds, although busy, it is a great opportunity as beginners to ask questions and talk to so many experienced birders that are there.

After touring the Visitor Centre we headed out to Tilden's Woods as this is a place in the park I haven't checked out yet. For Kaitlyn's first time truly birding, she got to see some great birds and really picked up on it quickly. First bird was a Prothonotary Warbler! This is a bird that I have been wanting to see as there are only a few breeding pairs in Ontario. Although it is not a great picture I was able to really get good looks through my binoculars.

Prothonotary Warbler May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
There were lots of Baltimore Orioles and a few Orchard Orioles as we walked down the trail further.

Baltimore Oriole May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
Every where you looked was a new bird and it was a good thing we had our field guides handy. This time last year, I didn't have my binoculars and could only ID birds that I got a decent picture of. So this is really my first chance at viewing warblers in their breeding plumage as they moult their feathers in a fall to be more duller in colour.

Tennessee Warbler May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

Cape May Warbler May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

Bay-breasted Warbler May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
Blackburnian Warbler May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
Black-throated Green Warbler May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

Rose-breasted Grosbeak May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
 Now, we were there to see the birds but we couldn't help at getting excited seeing two racoons up in the tree!

Racoons May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
Next we headed out to the tip to see what was going on out there. When we arrived you are automatically surrounded by Barn Swallows as they nest in the structure there. We headed to the trail and were surprised by some Eastern Kingbirds.

Eastern Kingbird May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
We then lucked out with another warbler, the Chestnut-sided Warbler just barely off the main trail.

Chestnut-sided Warbler May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
Going to the tip is always interesting, seeing how the water changes the landscape every time I'm there. There was not to much activity off shore that we could see but we did have a Double-crested Cormorant fly by and some Red-breasted Mergansers napping just down the shore line. As always, the common Red-winged Blackbird made their presence known with their "konk-la-reee" call.

Double-crested Cormorant May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

Red-breasted Merganser May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

Red-winged Blackbird May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
 On our way out of the park we stopped at the Marsh Boardwalk to see what activity was happening there. When we arrived there were two families of Canada Geese resting in the grass and are the babies ever cute!

Gosling May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
We had great views through the scope of the Marsh from the tower. Great Blue Heron, Northern Harrier and Caspian Tern were a few of the species we noted.

Marsh Boardwalk May 15, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
You can view our eBird Checklist from Tilden's Woodsthe Tip, or the Marsh Boardwalk.

Overall it was a great day, I think Kaitlyn enjoyed visiting the Park and I think I got her hooked on birding!! It was great to see so many new birds for both myself and Kaitlyn. Now to plan the next adventure.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Festival of the Birds - Point Pelee National Park

Saturday, Jeremy and I got up at the crack of dawn to head down to Point Pelee National Park. This park is a great spot to visit and realize just the amount of diversity we have here in Canada. What is so amazing about the Carolinian forest oasis is it is the furthest south on the Canada mainland you can get (besides Pelee Island)!

Still being new to the world of birding, I have so much to learn and see. Attending events such as the Festival of the Birds is a great way to get out in the field and learn. And while the seasoned birder is searching for all the rarities, I get to enjoy the birds they just pass by for all their beauty and worth.

With it being the festival, parking becomes a little tricky as so many people are coming to witness the great migration. We had to park at the Black Willow Beach Parking lot just south of the DeLaurier Trail. We parked the car, grabbed the gear and headed back to walk the DeLaurier Trail.

The first bird we saw was a female Red-winged Blackbird. Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds were the most common bird throughout the park.

Red-winged Blackbird May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

The start of the DeLaurier Trail had the first lifer of the day, the House Wren. Although I have seen this bird before, it was only at a distance before I had invested in binoculars and just more or less was a dot in the distance. Therefore, we will count this as my lifer!

House Wren May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

House Wren May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
The next most abundant bird we saw was the Yellow Warbler. These are beautiful birds being so brightly coloured.

Yellow Warbler May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

Yellow Warbler May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

Yellow Warbler May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

Further along the trail, we had a new warbler to add to the year list, the Black-and-white Warbler.

Black-and-white Warbler May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
 Then a Blue Jay gave a quick photo opportunity before flying off.

Blue Jay May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
On the way to the Visitor's Centre we spotted a Baltimore Oriole and then a few steps later, a male and female Orchard Oriole that didn't stick around long enough for a photo.

Baltimore Oriole May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park
We also got to see a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak only he was at a distance that was only viewable through the binoculars, but the highlight for me was seeing the Blue-winged Warbler just a short distance off the trail.

Blue-winged Warbler May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

Blue-winged Warbler May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

We got to the visitors centre and attended one of the Lunch and Learn presentations on hawk ID at a distance. This is something I would personally like to get better at and found the presentation very interesting, definitely learned a lot!

After the presentation, we took the shuttle bus to the tip. The weather was changing at this point in the day and it was pretty quiet bird wise. There were a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles at the tip with a few Yellow Warblers. I had to put the camera away as there were a few rain drops and I don't know what I'd do if I got caught in a down pour with my camera.

Wild Violets May 7, 2016 - Point Pelee National Park

It was a great day spent birding and just enjoy nature. To view our complete eBird checklist click here. There is something for everyone at Point Pelee. Next weekend I am headed back with Kaitlyn for her first time visiting the park! Should be exciting!!