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My husband Deryl and I spend much of our leisure time exploring the great outdoors. Our love for birding and photography has taken us to many locations in Ontario and beyond. In the past few years, we have added Geocaching to the mix. Geocaching is a high tech treasure hunting “game” that uses a GPS device to find hidden containers in both rural and urban areas. Some people describe it as using billion dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods. After signing the log in the container to prove you found the cache, geocachers go on-line and write about the experience.

Deryl regularly checks “e-bird” to discover the location of birds we would like to add to our Annual and Life Bird Lists. I then check geocaching.com to locate nearby geocaches and load the coordinates into my hand-held GPS device. Geocaching provides us with a chance to get exercise while travelling and has taken us to numerous trails and Conservation Areas that we hadn’t known existed.
While on a mini vacation to Fort Erie, searching for a geocache helped us to find 50 Monarch Butterflies resting on some bushes before continuing their southern flight across Lake Erie. I have never witnessed the mass migrations at Point Pelee, but this discovery seemed just as exciting!

We travelled one May 24 weekend to Columbus, Ohio where we discovered Highbanks Metro Park. This jewel of a park was free to the public. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we found a pair of Barred Owls at a nest site. Other highlights included a male Hooded Warbler, Summer Tanager and Acadian Flycatcher. Of course, we also managed to find several geocaches in the area.

After crossing the border back into Canada, we stopped for a stretch at a Conservation Area outside Windsor. Soon after locating another geocache, we discovered a Blandings Turtle, with a feather in his cap, sunning on a log.

Although we often include Peers Wetland in our weekend wanderings, I found my first ever Bronze Copper Butterfly because I wanted to find a new geocache hidden at the wetlands.

I have always thought young kildeer to be absolutely adorable. While searching for a geocache near Lake Erie, a juvenile fluffy killdeer ran across our path and hid amongst the long grasses.

One year we decided to visit the Alymer Wildlife Management Area to look for Tundra Swans. While signing the log for an on-site geocache, 2 Bald Eagles flew towards us and landed in a nearby tree. I wrote about this adventure and 2 geocachers who read the log on-line rushed out to the site to see the Eagles. They sent us a note to express their thanks and excitement!

Getting back to the Piping Plover….
We headed to the Bruce Peninsula for a summer vacation and were hoping to find a new life bird, The Piping Plover, which had recently started nesting along the Lake Huron Shoreline near Sauble Beach. Deryl’s research indicated a specific parking area. As I was scanning online for nearby geocaches to find on our vacation, I read a cache log saying that some geocachers had found a roped off beach area, monitored by volunteers, protecting an endangered species! They had unintentionally found the Piping Plovers!!! If we had followed our original plan, we would have been 5 km off the target and likely would have given up our search.

To date we have found numerous birds as a result of geocaching and look forward to more exciting finds in the future!

Last spring I purchased a 600mm lens and headed out to Canatara Park to see what birds I could spot, and to see if I could actually photograph any of them. To be honest, I wanted to see whether or not I was going to enjoy a longer lens.

I’m not a birder, although I love them and wish I could identify more species than I can. I have often captured the birds visiting my feeders in the winter, but that’s always been for fun and to document the species.

Here are some of the shots I took on April 20th, 2016. Other than basic editing I didn’t do any major cropping to make the birds appear larger in the frame, which is always an option, if I have captured a sharp enough image.

I thought it was a pretty decent first try with a new lens, especially since I took them all handheld. Do yourself a favour, if you are shooting with a long lens, use a tripod or at least a monopod to get the sharpest images. Having some support will also save your arm some strain because long lenses are quite heavy and somewhat awkward!

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Thirty-eight people gathered on a cold Sunday morning in February to enjoy the many waterfowl that visit the St. Clair River during the winter months.  Our first stop was at the Bluewater Bridge where we were treated to a good view of the peregrine falcon that flew past and landed on the bridge.  Our scopes came in handy and some of the participants had great success with “digiscoping” (using your camera/cellphone to take a photo through the scope).  We saw a pair of cackling geese which was the highlight of this first stop!

Can you spot the pair of peregrines like likes to hangout at one of Sarnia’s most iconic spots?

Can you pick out the pair of cackling geese from Canada geese in this flock?

Here’s a closer look. Hint: Cackling geese can be distinguished from their Canada counterpart by their smaller size.

I think the funniest event at this stop was when two walkers stopped to ask our large group, with scopes and binoculars pointed out toward the lake, “What is coming?”  My response was met with the most incredulous look I have ever witnessed … as my response was “we are looking at ducks”.  At this point he paused and said “What?”  I said again “we are looking at ducks … and geese.”  He replied with a chuckle and said “Well, there are lots here.” And continued his walk.  I guess it takes some getting used to the idea that a group of people are willing to brave the cold wind to stand and look at ducks and geese!

Further down the river we stopped at Guthrie park to observe the dabbling and diving ducks around the warm water outflows, the ice-taxiing gulls, and eagles staging their hunt at the head of Stag Island. Then, without warning, thousands of birds took to the air from their water rafts to put on an aerial orchestra. Was it an eagle or a boat that caused the commotion? We weren’t sure, but the fleeting moment was spectacular!

The flocks were estimated to contain over 8,000 birds.

Here’s a portion of the flock. Can you identify any by their shape?

We continued to enjoy the day with several stops along the river, ending at a great little restaurant in Sombra.  Although we saw bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, swans, and lots of waterfowl I think from the reactions of the participants I would have to say the highlight of the day was the lesser black-backed gulls!

Can you identify the different gulls in this picture?

 A big thanks to Paul Carter for leading the group and making sure everyone had the opportunity to see the different birds and explaining what to look for when identifying different species.

Here is a partial list of bird species we enjoyed throughout the morning:

  • Peregrine Falcons
  • Cackling Geese
  • Hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks
  • Mallards
  • Buffleheads
  • Herring Gulls
  • Crows
  • Starlings
  • Northern Cardinals
  • Canada Geese
  • Hooded Mergansers
  • Bald Eagle
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Common Merganser
  • Lesser Black-backed Gulls
  • Greater Black-backed gulls
  • Red-tailed hawks
  • Canvasbacks
  • Redheads
  • Mute Swans
  • American Black Ducks

This monthly presentation begins with a social gathering starting at 7pm. Come and get to know other Lambton Wildlife members and enjoy some refreshments then enjoy a presentation by Jody Allair from Bird Studies Canada.

Jody is a biologist and science educator at Bird Studies who is going to share his knowledge of at-risk forest birds and why they are so important. Learn about these remarkable birds, what threats they face and what we all might do to help them.

To learn more about Jody, watch the video below.

The Field Biologist | Meet Jody Allair of Bird Studies Canada from WorkCabin on Vimeo.

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scott-macdougall-shackletonProfessor Scott MacDougall-Shackleton, Director of Advanced Facility for Avian Research at UWO, gave a presentation on birds and how they respond to changes in weather and daylight, and how they cope with the winter.

 

Some bird behavior is guided and influenced by the length of daylight. This is one of the factors that influences migration. Birds migrate based partially on day length. Hours of daylight let them know it is time to start their spring and fall migrations. Even caged birds display migratory restlessness by fluttering their wings and moving back and forth inside their cages during migration time for their species.

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This monthly presentation begins with a social gathering starting at 7pm. Come and get to know other Lambton Wildlife members and enjoy some refreshments. Our exciting featured speaker, who is an expert on birds, will begin his talk after our social gathering and LWI announcements. Did you know that birds are weathermen?

Birds have a remarkable ability to change with the seasons and respond to changes in the weather. Professor Scott
MacDougall-Shackleton from University of Western Ontario will review how birds use daylight to prepare for the changing
seasons, how birds cope with winter, and how birds can predict the weather.

Professor Scott MacDougall-Shackleton talks about birds and how they use daylight to prepare for changing seasons, how they deal with winter and even how they predict the weather.

Join Lambton Wildlife for our monthly social get together followed by our guest speaker.

Joins us at 7pm for refreshments before the evening begins at 7:30pm.

See the calendar of events for more details.

 

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If the allure of migrating raptors isn’t quite enough, Hawk Cliff is also a great place to see Monarch butterflies. These insects follow a similar route to the hawks and eagles when they head south for the winter, which means they also pass through the Hawk Cliff area.

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Regardless of the warm weather we have been enjoying, migratory birds will still head south on schedule. Raptor migration is underway and that means a trip to Hawk Cliff should be on your calendar. Driving to Hawk Cliff takes approximately 1h 30m from the Sarnia area. The site is located only a few kilometers from Port Stanley on the north shore of Lake Erie, and is a prime place to view raptors flying overhead.

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Spring has arrived and many of our flights of fancy have turned to the skies and the colorful migrants which are slowly making their way north through Sarnia. When many people think of spring birding, journeys to the legendary Long Point and Point Pelee often come to mind. Although these places are brilliant for birding, you do not have to travel so far to see the wonders of spring migration. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the city. Canatara Park is a terrific spot to watch birds. (more…)