Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Bird Counting

For a birder, the annual Christmas Bird Count ("CBC") is as much a part of the holidays as turkey dinner. My first CBC was in Bowmanville in 1998 and since then I've participated in counts in Kitchener, Hamilton, Fisherville, Algonquin Park and memorably Red Lake (where the count tally was something like 5 species). This year we plan to do the same counts as last year: Kitchener, Hamilton and Fisherville.

The Cambridge count was on December 15th (last Saturday). It was a good day overall. This was the 5th time we had done our count area so we have it pretty down pat. Our best bird was a Hermit Thrush on Bethel Road.

The Fisherville count might be my favourite. Hannah & I do it on our own and we have a nice little sliver of an area that takes in a little bit of waterfront and wooded area in addition to the expansive agricultural fields. A couple of weeks ago we were in the area and saw a Rusty Blackbird just south of Selkirk. Maybe he will stick around.

As much of a tradition as it is to do a CBC here at home, it would be fun to try one in Miami for a change. It must be fun to do one wearing shorts!

Monday, December 10, 2012

To All The Gulls I've Loved Before


It is that time of the birding year in Ontario when thoughts turn to the family Laridae (gulls), as reflected by recent posts by others in my blog roll.

I would really like to get in on the action, but I have nothing rare to report (I never do) and no bragging rights to exercise (although there was that Slaty-backed from last year...). Anyway, failing that I thought I would give a personal gull retrospective. All taxonomy is according to The Clements Checklist.

I guess a good place to start is with the numbers. There are 52 species of gull worldwide. I might as well own up that I have personally ticked the following 24:

  1. Black-legged Kittiwake
  2. Sabine's Gull
  3. Slender-billed Gull
  4. Boneparte's Gull
  5. Black-headed Gull
  6. Little Gull
  7. Laughing Gull
  8. Franklin's Gull
  9. Sooty Gull
  10. Heerman's Gull
  11. Mew Gull
  12. Ring-billed Gull
  13. Western Gull
  14. California Gull
  15. Herring Gull
  16. Yellow-legged Gull
  17. Armenian Gull
  18. Thayer's Gull
  19. Iceland Gull
  20. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  21. Slaty-backed Gull
  22. Glaucous-winged Gull
  23. Glaucous Gull
  24. Great Black-backed Gull
That's almost half of the world's gulls, and if all goes according to plan I should be ticking Kelp Gull and Hartlaub's Gull in a month or so. Fingers crossed!

As well, gulls like to hybridize and I have observed what I think (or have been told) were the following hybrid crosses:
  1. Herring X Great Black-backed Gull
  2. Herring X Glaucous Gull (Nelson's Gull)
  3. Western X Glaucous-winged Gull
Which only leaves me to confess my most wanted gull. For some bird families it might be a difficult choice for me, but in this case it is crystal clear: Ross's Gull.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Power of Positive Thinking

This weekend I think I will see a Purple Sandpiper.

The time will be right (late November), the place will be right (the Niagara River), and I received a very positive indication from a fortune cookie today.

Yes, I think it will be a good weekend for birds.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Scoter Time

Hannah & I were in Hamilton last Saturday, birding along the lakeshore with Kevin McLaughlin. We made a number of the regular stops; Hutch's, Gray's Road, Sayer's Park, Green Road, Fifty Point. We saw the typical birds for mid-November; Red-throated Loon, Long-tailed Ducks, Common Goldeneye, all three Scoters. A first-year male King Eider was a highlight.

Most of the ducks were too far offshore for good photographs, but two birds at Sayer's Park were nice and close. One was an adult female White-winged Scoter, and the other a juvenile Surf Scoter.

White-winged Scoter

Surf Scoter

I thought the above photographs made for a nice comparison. The White-winged Scoter is noticeably larger, with a round head and a gnarly bill shape, while the Surf Scoter is smaller with a flat head and a shorter, more uniform bill shape. The adult males are unmistakable but the juveniles and females require a bit more study. The Surf Scoter shown above has the dark iris and pale lower breast/belly of a juvenile.

White-winged Scoter is one of those birds that has a palearctic population that is sometimes considered a distinct species, and sometimes considered a different subspecies. Either way, I like their name for it better than ours: "Velvet Scoter".

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Harlequin Duck

I was at a meeting on Monday near Mavis Rd. and the QEW in Mississauga. This happens to be not far away from Arkendo Park in Oakville where two or three Harlequin Ducks have been seen regularly since Luc Fazio reported them on November 4th.

So after my meeting adjourned, I dropped by Arkedo Park, and in the company of some fellow onlookers I got some fine views of the adult male and lesser quality views of one of the "female" type birds. I put the female in quotes because of a recent article I read in Birding magazine that leads me to believe that first year male Harlequin Ducks might retain a female-like appearance into November. Still, I'll go along with the diagnosis that the bird was a female.

I have only ever seen Harlequin Ducks on large bodies of water, and although I have no complaints about that, I do sometimes wish I could see them in the swiftly flowing rivers and streams where they breed. Broadly speaking there are two populations of Harlequin Duck; a west coast population and an east coast population that breeds in Labrador. Presumably the ones that appear on the Great Lakes in fall and winter are of the eastern population.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"White-cheeked" Geese

Having seen a Cackling Goose in Burlington with Hannah and Cathy this past Saturday, it reminded me of something: in the uncertain realm of taxonomy, there is perhaps no greater conundrum than the "White-cheeked" Geese.

"White-cheeked" Geese
(Canada Goose & Cackling Goose)

Since 2004, the AOU has formally recognized two species of "White-cheeked" Goose (Canada Goose and Cackling Goose) and the research cited in support of that decision recognized 11 extant subspecies (7 for Canada Goose and 4 for Cackling Goose). However, according to more recent publications, the 2 species/11 taxa approach vastly underrepresents the amount of variety within this population complex. Compare, for example, the approach of H.C. Hanson (2006) which recognizes 6 species and 217 subspecies! Consider also the approach of B.W. Anderson (2010) which recognizes 15 species and 181 subspecies!! It is research like this that leads to misgivings about the essentialist/typological assumptions embedded within birding culture.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bills, Bills, Bills

There are a lot of Bills associated with the Hamilton Fall Count. Bill Lamond is the master compiler for the entire count, Bill Wilson is the compiler for the Cambridge Sector of the count, and Bill Read is my count partner. I had an overdose of Bills on Sunday.

Golden Eagle

Bill and I had fun driving around our count area and getting out periodically to see what could be found. Three Golden Eagles were a highlight (two juveniles/sub-adults & one adult). I think Bill's favourite bird was a Common Loon seen swimming in a pond on the west side of Hwy 24 just south of German School Rd. He did look kind of odd there (the Loon).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Delivers

As every Ontario birder already knows, yesterday the winds and other weather elements associated with the "Frankenstorm" resulted in some very interesting bird sightings. Along the shores of Lake Ontario from Oshawa west to Hamilton and south to the Niagara Region seemed to be the "vagrant zone". I was able to spend part of the day at Van Wagner's Beach in Hamilton where the big highlight for me was a Leach's Storm-Petrel.

Leach's Storm-Petrel

In addition, there were jaegers and Black-legged Kittiwakes galore, as well as seemingly disoriented flocks of Brant. Some observers in the same area as me were fortunate enough to spot a second species of Storm-Petrel (Wilson's) but I was more than satisfied by my apportionment of birds. Elsewhere along the lakeshore a Razorbill was seen as well as several Red Phalaropes. The storm track of Sandy combined with the weather system from the north was the admixture for some exciting birding!

I suppose the potential was there for even more seabirds to be carried into our region; Black-capped Petrels and Sooty Terms could have been anticipated. However, there could be more to the story and by the end of the week perhaps there will be additional sightings of unusual birds displaced by Sandy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fall Fun

Thanksgiving is a time for family. Hannah & I spent the first half of the weekend in Kingston (actually just north of Kingston on Sydenham Lake in the Township of South Frontenac). The weather was forecasted to be cold and overcast but it turned out to be beautiful fall weather, particularly in the mornings. Our birding was limited to the 2 km private laneway leading to the cottage where we were staying, but that proved to be ample territory.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
"Western" Palm Warbler

A cold front passed through on Friday night which was a likely factor behind the large number of migrants we saw on Saturday morning. We saw mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and White-throated Sparrows, but there were a few surprises such as a late Northern Parula and a Philadelphia Vireo (which I thought I had missed for the year).

Philadelphia Vireo

I saw my first Dark-eyed Junco of the fall; an indication of the changing seasons. Also in the area were several Eastern Towhees and Purple Finches, both of which I presume to be resident family groups that had not yet departed.

Coprinus comatus

As well as birds, there were some interesting fall mushrooms including Giant Puffball and Shaggy Mane. Another highlight was an encounter with a juvenile porcupine that I caught on video.

Finally, on our way out of town we saw a large congregation of Wild Turkeys in a farm field, which seemed like risky behaviour on their part.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wind Map

For those with an interest in trying to predict bird movement and distribution based on weather, here is a neat frame taken from the following URL:

The map is an indication of surface winds, which do not necessarily reflect the conditions experienced by birds aloft, but it is interesting nevertheless.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ontbirds Infotainment


Mon Sep 24 18:49:21 EDT 2012

A spotted redshank at rouge valley beach, with a flock of lesser yellowlegs, some killdeer, a great egret, belted kingfishers, and a magnolia warbler.


I sure would like some further detail about those Killdeer. Zing!

Spotted Redshank - 9000 km from Ontario

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

If a Thick-billed can do it...

...why not a Dusky-capped or Brown-crested Flycatcher? All three Tyrannidae are from the southwest, but the Thick-billed has the most limited distribution in the ABA area. So why not?

Thick-billed Kingbird

No reason, that's why not. Maybe they have occurred in Ontario, but have so far escaped detection because of their similarity to other Myiarchus species, in particular Great Crested Flycatcher.

It is interesting that the Province's first Thick-billed Kingbird was found in the exact same location (Calf Pasture, Presqu'ile P.P.) that the Province's first Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher was found in 1986. Also, Doug McRae mentioned today that he found a Western Kingbird in that same location. Very weird. Why do the vagrant Tyrant Flycatchers love the Calf Pasture so much?

For my family who are probably the most loyal readers of this stuff, but who are not as up-to-date on the birding news, Ontario's first Thick-billed Kingbird was found at Presqu'ile Provincial Park last evening. Instead of going to the office this morning, I got up early and drove 2 hours to see it. It was well worth it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Isaac is Coming

Heads up stormwatchers! Isaac's trajectory looks very promising. The tip of Point Pelee this Sunday morning would be a good place to set up a vigil. Here's hoping that Isaac deposits storm-entrained pelagic/tropical birds to a lake watch near you!

[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]
Courtesy of NOAA

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chimney Swift Migration

I captured some video of the Chimney Swift roost at Dickson Public School, 65 St. Andrews St., Cambridge. You can hear one of the neighbours taking orders for coffee. Everyone likes a catered event.

The numbers were pretty impressive; about 300. On the other side of the ledger, the roost that I identified three years ago in Hespeler (Ernie's Roadhouse) is totally inactive this year. I believe the chimney was modified last fall (e.g. capped or a liner installed) making it unsuitable as a roost. This could account for this year's apparent increase in numbers at the Dickson Public School. Migrating birds may be bypassing Hespeler, or birds that bred/fledged in Hespeler might be vacating the area sooner than last year and moving south to join up with the higher concentration of birds in Galt.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

AOU 53rd Supplement

It's that time of year again when the AOU's Committee on Classification and Nomenclature - North and Middle America publishes its supplement to the Check-list of North American Birds. These guys just love to mix it up, doggedly pursuing the chimera of a perfect taxonomy.

This year's supplement lacks some of the pizazz of last year's reorganization of the wood warblers. On the other hand, the rearrangement of the Falconiformes (caracaras & falcons) and Psittaciforms (parrots) to a position immediately before the Passeriformes is intriguing. This is consistent with the thesis that there are two independently evolved lineages of raptor, rather than one as is traditionally believed. Also, there is the exciting addition Bryan's Shearwater; the first newly described (rather than merely split) North American species in recent memory.

The most relevant change for Ontario domestic birders is probably the change of genus for Purple, Cassin's and House Finch.

An editorial criticism I have is the committee's use of the term "resurrect". A more objective choice of terminology would be "reinstate".

A "typical" Savannah Sparrow exhibiting obvious dissatisfaction
with the committee's failure to recognize its distinctness from its
"Large-billed", "San Benito" or "Belding's" conspecifics.

One item that was not approved for this year's supplement was the proposal to modify the species-level taxonomy of the Savannah Sparrow by recognizing up to four separate species. We have seen variations of this proposal before, but for various reasons the committee has so far declined to split this species. I must admit, I was kind of rooting for committee member (and U of T prof) James Rising on this one, but it was not to be.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pelee Island Butterfly Count

Over the long weekend we participated in the Pelee Island butterfly and dragonfly counts. It was really great being in the field again with Bob Bowles who not only possesses the skills of a great all-around naturalist, but is also a really swell guy with a willingness to teach. He started and later incorporated a really great not-for-profit organization called Kids for Turtles that does a lot of education and conservation work. Bob has been the organizer of the Pelee Island counts for the past 10 years or so, but this year he had some help from Kristyn Ferguson from the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Pipevine Swallowtail

The island was split into quadrants, and we were assigned to the southeast portion with Bob and some really great people from the Nature Conservancy. I wish I had a group shot - oh well.

As far as the results of the count, I don't have a comprehensive list, but I personally tallied 24 butterfly species and 7 dragonfly species. I was not too much help with identification, but I did bag the only Pipevine Swallowtail of the day (I actually thought it was a Spicebush Swallowtail). It was nice to see Hackberry Emperors and American Snout in abundance. A sighting of Tawny Crescent was the cause of much disputation. I'm really not sure who most of the other participants were, except for Bob Yukich. Everyone seemed nice though, and I overheard the mention of the 'Burg Birder on more than one occasion although he wasn't there in person.

Question Mark

It was very interesting to learn about some of the properties being managed by the Nature Conservancy on the island, and interesting to hear about some of the restoration work being conducted. Pelee Island is definitely a unique part of Canada.

NCC Property

It may be worth mentioning that there was an unconfirmed sighting of a Black Swift near the ferry dock when we arrived on Friday evening - I really don't have any further details.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Learning About Lepidoptera - Part 2

So here is Part 2 :)  I wanted to cover moths in a separate entry. I know even less of this group. But I do enjoy discovering them in the field every once in while; in particular, the giant silk moths (family Saturniidae)!

A few years ago, I stumbled across a Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia). According to Wikipedia, it is North America's largest native moth. Pests have become quite a threat to this species. This one that I found was in Halton Region. I believe it is a male, because its plumose antennae is very bushy (females have moderately less bushy antenna). Someone may wish to correct me.

A few weeks ago I discovered a couple of Polyphemus Moths (Antheraea polyphemus) north of Acton while conducting Bobolink/Eastern Meadowlark surveys. It was interesting comparing its features in photographs to that of its close relative the Cecropia Moth. I love the translucent eyespots or 'windows' on the wings!

Cecropia Moth - male

Polyphemus Moth - upperside - female

Polyphemus Moth (underside hind and forewings)
male - note large, bushy antennae


Polyphemus Moth - underside hind and forewings

Front view of female - note small, fine antennae

 Next on my bucket list: Luna Moth!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Merlins Nesting in Cambridge

I wasn't the one who found it, and unfortunately due to property owner sensitivity I can't disclose the location, but here are a fews photos at least.

Merlin - AHY

The adult male is finely streaked, reminiscent of the prairie subspecies richardsoni. We watched him deliver a headless Tree Swallow to his mate.

Merlin - HY

This recently fledged bird was testing out his wings before taking a short practice flight around the neighbourhood.

Merlin Nest

The nest is mostly vacated now but the young birds might return periodically.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Thanks to BatchGeo and The Birdist there is a way to view all of your eBird locations together on one map. Try it for yourself!

Here's mine (since 2008):

View MyBirdingLocations in a full screen map

Very fun!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Favourite Ontbirds Footer

Re: [Ontbirds] Frigatebir​d species

Please note that excellent flight photos taken yesterday at Clear Creek are diagnostic for Magnificent Frigatebird, a "first-stage" juvenile per "Seabirds" by Peter Harrison (1983: page 312).
Presumably the Ontario Bird Records Committee will concur with this initial assessment, provided that all relevent documentation is submitted for review.

Mr. X

53 Year Old Mom Looks 33
The Stunning Results of Her Wrinkle Trick Has Botox Doctors Worried

Monday, July 2, 2012

Learning About Lepidoptera - Part 1

I don't know a lot about the order Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) yet, but I've been slowly trying to understand more about them when Rob and I are out birding together, or when I'm doing surveys for work. I have come to realize that there is a lot to learn about them. They have their own complexity that is different from their other winged friends.

Take for instance the Phycoides group (i.e., Northern and Pearl Crescent). There is such a great degree of variation in both sexes both in colouring and size that it becomes nearly impossible to separate them. According to a friend, James Holdsworth, opinions range from some questioning whether they are even two species to some who believe that there are up to four species!

Phycoides sp.
Phycoides sp.

We have also discovered how much fun they are to photograph! They have so many beautiful, intricate patterns and colours.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) - view of undersides

Often one of the keys to identifying a butterfly is get a good view of the underside hindwings and forewings. In the case of the Polygonia group, this holds true. The uppersides can be quite variable in Grey Comma (Polygonia progne), Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) and Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) for example, making them confusing to identify just from views of the uppersides. The undersides of these three species provide clues that distinguish them from each other. Below is a photo of a Question Mark, which has a small sideways silver "?" mark on the underside of the hindwing. The Eastern Comma has a silver "," on the underside of the hindwing where the comma is enlarged at both ends, whereas the Grey Comma has a silver "," similar to the Eastern Comma, but the comma tends to taper at both ends instead.

Polygonia sp. - view of uppersides
Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) - view of undersides

 Stay tuned for more entries on the fascinating world of Lepidoptera in the future!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Most Eponymous

Not too long ago I was talking with a friend about common English bird names and the people some of them are named after. We were also trying to tabulate who has the most North American birds named after them. John James Audubon seemed like a good guess but despite his notoriety, we could only come up with two species: Audubon's Shearwater and Audubon's Oriole. Perhaps the reason has something to do with Audubon's rivalry with Alexander Wilson and the politics of American ornithology in the 19th century.

Cassin's Finches - Jackson County, CO

Speaking of Alexander Wilson, by my count he shares the top spot with another 19th century ornithologist, John Cassin (both with five):

Cassin's Auklet

Cassin's Kingbird

Cassin's Vireo

Cassin's Sparrow

Cassin's Finch
Wilson's Storm-Petrel

Wilson's Plover

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson's Warbler

Cassin's Finch - Yellow Variant - Jackson County, CO
(extremely rare according to Sibley Guide)

You might be thinking that Wilson & Cassin named the birds after themselves, but there is an informal rule of nomenclature that you are not supposed to do that. There is only one exception to this rule for a North American bird as far as I know. William Gambel accidentally named Gambel's Quail after himself when he wrote his name on the specimen label of a bird he presumed to be a California Quail. When the bird was later determined to be a distinct species Gambel's name was applied to it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Birdie Num Num

It's the time of year when parent birds are busy provisioning hungry nestlings/fledglings. Not coincidentally, it is also the time of year when prey items are abundant. It's mind boggling to think about the volume of insect food that breeding birds consume throughout the spring and summer. It is really a land of plenty for the birdies.

Grasshopper Sparrow eating... you guessed it.

Not only do they eat a lot, but they seem to like to show it off. Oftentimes I will see a bird with a fat, juicy bug in its bill, positioned on a conspicuous perch making a big racket as though boasting about its catch.

Them sure is good eatin'.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Times They Are A-Changin'

Things are changing up at the Carden Alvar.

Wilson's Snipe

Since 1998 the Nature Conservancy of Canada has been acquiring land; the Katherine McGuaig MacDonald Nature Sanctuary was donated to the NCC in 1998, while the Cameron and Windmill Ranch properties were purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 2003 and 2006, respectively (with the support of the Couchiching Conservancy, Ontario Parks, and others). Just this year Bluebird Ranch was also acquired. Of course there is also the much-hyped Loggerhead Shrike reintroduction program. These changes have been slow and incremental. This year however, there is a noticeable change in the look and feel of the entire area. Signage has been improved. The bluebird boxes have been repainted and labelled in a more sophisticated manner. There are nice parking spaces along Wylie Road, and the surface of the road is smooth and graded. There is a fantastic new 1 km walking trail that takes you along the edge of the Sedge Wren marsh. There is a portable restroom at bluebird box 10 for crying out loud. Most shocking of all was a sign declaring "Birders Welcome".

Signage for New Sedge Wren Marsh Walking Trail

To top things off there is currently a notice on the Ontario Environmental Registry of a proposal to establish Carden Alvar as a regulated natural environment class provincial park where members of the public are encouraged to submit their comments.

Black-billed Cuckoo
Upland Sandpiper

Yes, this all seems like really great news for Carden.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Meet Chuck


He is a Chukar Partridge (Alectoris chukar) and for a brief moment in time, he was a regular visitor at our backyard feeder earlier this spring. I have heard of other people who have had this Middle Eastern native arrive on their back doorstep in Ontario before, so when we got home one weekend from a birding trip and opened our back curtains to find a Chukar under our feeder, despite my surprise, I knew what he was!

Chuck stayed with us for about a week and we enjoyed his company. "He" (sex was not confirmed) was rather cute and pudgy and had a funny way about him, but he was very alert, and kept a safe distance from us. We thought (or hoped) he might permanently set up house because he had the advantage of the woodlot directly behind our backyard to seek shelter and he had a reliable food source (us). I was even willing to put up with his rather messy and abundant droppings all over my new patio if it meant we could be friends. 

Here is a rather comical video we were able to get:  

Alas, the day came when he was no longer able to cope with the stresses of urban life. It was getting warmer outside, which meant that there was more activity in the backyard. Our neighbours were getting ready to install a patio, and we were planting a tree and working in our gardens. Lawn mowers were revving their engines. One day it just got to be too much for him, and the last I saw of him he was running down the middle of our subdivision road at full speed without a glance behind. I waved goodbye but he didn't notice. I hope he is somewhere safe. It's a concrete jungle out there. I'm sure it must be terrifying for a bird who is native to the open hillsides of Asia.

Which takes us to the fact that sightings of this species in Ontario are an uncommon but regular occurrence. If Chukars are a native of Asia (according to Wikipedia from Israel and Turkey through Afghanistan to India, along the inner ranges of the Western Himalayas to Nepal), how the heck do they wind up in our backyards in Canada? This species is actually a popular gamebird. It is in the pheasant family Phasianidae. And since hunting gamebirds is a popular pastime for many people all over the world, there are businesses who breed them for recreational hunting. Or, some people may just keep them as part of their hobby farm collection.

Where there are ways to escape, an animal will try. And so Chukar escapees, like waterfowl and other wildlife that are kept in confined spaces, may find themselves "free" and in their travels beyond the fences that were meant to keep them in one place, they wind up showing up on people's back doorstep so-to-speak. This species appears to be fairly adaptable to other climates - it is believed that there are actually feral populations in the province, as well as other areas of North America. So watch out for Chuck in your backyard, you might be next :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Birding's Dirty Secret


It's the steroids of birding. It used to be that only specialists knew about its advantages, and few had access to the recordings and/or equipment needed to utilize playback as a method in the field. Now every Tom, Dick and Harry has an iPhone with the ability to broadcast the vocalizations of every North American species.

Virginia Rail walking out into the open for no reason at all

I won't bother to tell any stories; we all have tales about the abuses we have witnessed. It is a direct consequence of making something so readily available. It is easy to feel righteous indignation towards other people who use playback, and it's also easy to rationalize our own uses of it.

"I never used playback" - Roger Clemens

Playback is occasionally beneficial for wildlife management. For example, a combination of playback and decoys was used to attract and re-establish an Arctic Tern breeding colony on Eastern Egg Rock off the coast of Maine. However, what most of us do lacks this kind of merit.

There are times when playback is simply too tempting. But we should try to use it less often. And by "we", I am including "me".

Here endeth the sermon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Name Change

So I have to admit it is a challenge to come up with a blog title that isn’t: a) lame; or b) already taken. I thought I was doing alright with “Field of View” but it turns out that BirdWatching Magazine (formerly Birder’s World) already has a blog by that name.

So I guess I should change names but that puts me in the rather awkward position of selecting a new one. Everything I can think of seems to run afoul of one or both of requirements that it not be lame and not taken. Here are some examples:
  • Mostly About Birds (lame)
  • Bird Notes (taken)
  • The View (invites comparison with a ladies' daytime talk show)
  • On the Wing (lame)
  • Bird Lore (taken)
  • Consolations of Birding (really lame)
  • Birdcraft (fruity)
Prairie Warbler
One direction I could go is to take a jab at some of the egos in the birding community. C’mon you know the types. The ones that think they are God’s gift to birding. The ones that don’t hesitate to broadcast their daily list to OntBirds but then can’t be bothered to give you the time of day on the trail, or when they do speak it is only to indulge in their own sense of superiority. I’m sorry to say it, but the birding community reeks of these individuals and their influence. These people are legends in their own mind. So in that vein, I could rename my blog: “Legendary Birder”.

Another direction I could go would be to point out that birding is a subculture, and like other subcultures it makes no sense to outsiders. Some people like cars, some play golf, some fancy shopping, and some go birding. So I could rename my blog: “Some Go Birding”.

Both of those ideas involve a political statement to some extent, but it is meant for amusement only. I do not actually want to politicize birding more than it already is, but at the same time I think it is important to engage people.

It is always dangerous to ask for input because you risk receiving none, but does anyone have any suggestions?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ontario Bird Checklist 2012

The OFO Ontario Bird Checklist 2012 is currently with the publisher and will be distributed to OFO members later in June. Additional copies will be available for purchase from OFO. Below is a preview.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The DNA Speaks

Here is a graphic representation of the phylogenetic analysis which further confirms that Hudsonian Whimbrel and Eurasian Whimbrel are genetically distinct. The researchers used Upland Sandpiper as their outgroup.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hudsonian Whimbrel

That's what the British Ornithologists' Union has renamed the North American population of Whimbrel. According to that particular taxonomic authority there are sufficient morphological differences to justify a split from the Eurasian populations (which the BOU now refers to as Eurasian Whimbrel).

The Bird Formerly Known as Whimbrel

Currently there is no similar proposal before the AOU but perhaps there will be one in the near future.

Interestingly, at the Toronto Whimbrel watch last week a Eurasian Whimbrel was observed and photographed. You can read more about it from Jean Iron.