Hootie, the now famous Great Gray Owl. This individual is the first Great Gray for Essex County. This is a pretty poor photograph compared to the many excellent photos other photographers have taken. Photo by Marianne Reid-Balkwill.
Here we are, in the year 2012. Time to recap on 2011, and attempt to improve our disposition in the coming year.
First, let's take a look at the worse of 2011 for the Pelee Chickadee:
Looking back in 2011, I know that I have never birded so little in my whole birding career. The month of May was a throwaway with working 2 jobs, while a summer of butterfly watching was reduced to a couple of hours a week looking for species of butterflies I never saw including Horrace's Dusky-wing, and Olive Hairstreak. Yes, I still need Olive Hairstreak, and YES, this is really embarrassing! On the plus side it was a great year again for Buckeyes and this is the second summer in a row I have had the rare Common Checkered Skipper in my yard!
With fewer hours at one of the 2 jobs, fall was a little more favourable for getting outdoors. I would often spend my time scanning the skies for hawks at home, or at Pelee. Birding the tip of Point Pelee for Jeagers, Kittiwakes and Sabine's Gulls this fall almost turned out to be an epic failure for all of these species, with not one Sabine's Gull even reported! The only highlight I can recall from the tip was a King Eider. In the end, fall birding has been a heck of a lot better here in Point Pelee, though the first record of Common Raven since the early 1970s was a great highlight!!
Now for the good:
A few highlights this past year included a couple of lifebirds in Ontario: Bell's Vireo in Point Pelee in May, and a Pomarine Jaeger at Niagara Falls on the OFO gullwatch in December.
A few new Pelee birds this year including Bell's Vireo, Common Raven, Black-legged Kittiwake, and Franklin's Gull.
Immature Black-legged Kittiwake at Sturgeon Creek. This photo was taken on December 28th, and may likely be the same Kittiwake that was found by Alan Wormington on December 1st in the onion fields. Unfortunately, this individual died and is now destined for the Royal Ontario Museum. This photo was digiscoped with my Kowa Scope along with my new Android Galaxy cellphone camera! Not too shabby for a record shot!!
I also gained more guiding experience this year. I am the local birding pal for birdingpal tours (check out my profile here: http://www.birdingpaltours.com/OntarioItinerary.htm#tour1 ) and I also helped out again with the Friends of Point Pelee for their Festival of Birds when one of their hike leaders dropped out.
I did get a couple of glimpses of Essex County's first Great Gray Owl that has been around since December 23rd. This bird is causing quite a stir and has become a celebrity now known to many as "Hootie". Of course, as with all owl sightings, this one has caused controversy amongst birders and photographers alike. Stories (true or fake) included throwing roadkill squirrels to it, people honking their horns at birders blocking the road, an individual leading photography tours and charging people to see it, along with someones tripod getting run over by an angry motorvehiclist. It is too bad that something so beautiful, that is allowing us such a rare and often intimate glimpse, can bring out the worse in people, both birder and photographer alike. Luckily there are a few individuals out there making sure the owl has its' space.
As for me, 2012 looks to be more promising. I am only working 1 job this year, while trying a hand at leading birding tours on the side. We will see how this new venture goes. I'm sure there will be pitfalls along the way, but I'm up for the challenge.
I also need to see some of my nemesis Ontario birds this year. At the top of this list is the Spruce Grouse. I have made at least 5 attempts at the Spruce Bog Boardwalk on my last trips to Algonquin Provincial Park, and all have failed miserably. Other Ontario birds I still need include California Gull, Brant, Slaty-backed Gull, Gyrfalcon, Cinnamon Teal, Western Meadowlark, and Curlew Sandpiper. All these birds are lifers too. I hope to get them on my life list and Pelee List. We shall see...
This may not be a surprise, but I also need to blog more. Fellow blogger, and best friend, Jeremy Hatt of Cerulean Sky fame, has blogged more than me this year already and that will not be tolerated. Here is Jeremy's Blog: http://ceruleansky15.blogspot.com/
Happy New Year to everyone who reads this blog! Feel free to follow this blog as I will be having more new updates this year.
Good birding, butterfly watching, and nature loving,