Monday, 23 May 2016

Point Pelee and area - May 7-8, 2016

Dave Szmyr and Josh Mandell, two birders and friends of mine that live in Barrie came down for their much anticipated weekend at Pelee on Thursday evening, and we spent most of the day on Friday birding together.

I birded the Chinquapin Oak trail, Cactus Field, and Tilden's Woods on my own first thing in the morning - a good decision as word from the Tip was that there were few birds around. I had about a dozen warbler species, including several first of years - Chestnut-sided, Northern Parula, Cape May, and American Redstart. A Yellow-throated Vireo was a welcome addition!

This red-morph Eastern Screech Owl had been found roosting in Tilden's Woods, so Josh, Dave and I took a look as we passed by the area. Gorgeous bird!

Eastern Screech-Owl - Point Pelee National Park

It was a great day of birding and hanging out with the guys, though birds were generally fairly scarce throughout the park. A few new things were in however, and we enjoyed the beautiful day and the colorful spring migrants.

Orchard Orioles are a conspicuous resident of Point Pelee from May through the early summer. The numbers were fairly high on this day, as local nesting birds as well as some likely migrants were scattered throughout the park.
Orchard Oriole - Point Pelee National Park

This Veery paused briefly before flying deeper into the undergrowth, allowing a couple of semi-obscured photos.

Veery - Point Pelee National Park
We walked along some of the lesser-used trails along the west side of park. Josh spotted this nice Yellow-throated Vireo in a hackberry along the beach.

Yellow-throated Vireo - Point Pelee National Park

A little further along, I heard the distinctive song of a Hooded Warbler - always a welcome species to come across! We eventually spotted the bird, though it remained a bit too far for good photos. Hooded Warblers used to be quite scarce in Ontario but they have been expanding their range northward in recent years and they are much more regular at Point Pelee nowadays. I usually encounter three or four a spring down there.
Hooded Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

Eastern Kingbirds had finally arrived in the park, though their numbers were lower than what we would be seeing in a week's time. This particular individual was quite photogenic!

Eastern Kingbird - Point Pelee National Park

Eastern Kingbird - Point Pelee National Park

The following morning was bright and sunny and I birded with Dave, Josh, and at times with Dan Riley and his girlfriend Nikki.

Late in the morning, I noticed this Clay-colored Sparrow near the bathrooms at White Pine - a somewhat rare migrant at Point Pelee that I don't see every spring. Dave, Josh and I watched it for a few minutes, but it remained out of site when others came to search for it later that morning.

Clay-colored Sparrow - Point Pelee National Park

Clay-colored Sparrow - Point Pelee National Park

I took my first ever photos of a Wood Thrush while walking with Dan and Nikki - this species is more often seen than heard as it skulks about in the darkest parts of the forest. It was a nice surprise to have such great views of one out in the open along one of the trails!

Wood Thrush - Point Pelee National Park

The most memorable bird of the weekend for me was this Lawrence's Warbler that I discovered near Sleepy Hollow - a first for Dave, Josh and I. This is a hybrid between Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warbler, two species that frequently interbreed where their ranges intersect. While there is a wide range in the physical appearance that the hybrid offspring can exhibit, the hybrids fall into two categories, which, during the early days of ornithology, were considered two different species. The genetically dominant hybrids are called Brewster's Warblers, while the much rarer recessive birds are referred to as Lawrence's Warbler. Lawrence's have the facial pattern of a Golden-winged Warbler, though the rest of the bird looks more like a Blue-winged. While I have seen dozens of Brewster's Warblers in the past, this was my first Lawrence's! Ken Burrell was in the area and came by to twitch this bird, as he had never seen one either. It was pretty fun to observe this rare bird, even if it doesn't count as any species! I had left my camera behind for this walk, though Josh Mandell took some photos of the bird.

"Lawrence's" Warbler - Point Pelee National Park (original photo by Josh Mandell)

It was a great five days of birding in the Pelee area, but by Sunday we had to return home for another work week. I had planned on visiting the park again the following weekend, during what is often the peak of spring migration.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Point Pelee and area - May 4-6, 2016

Late last week, I took some of my few remaining vacation days and headed down to Point Pelee for a solid five days of birding. After returning from my trip to Spain at the end of April, I was itching to get down to Pelee for the first time since an early March visit. The migrants were returning in early May and I satiated my thirst for warblers, orioles, and other spring migrants by exploring some local areas in St. Catharines/Niagara-on-the-Lake during the few days I was back in Niagara. However, the reports coming in from southwestern Ontario were enticing - particularly the news of a Black-necked Stilt that had been present at/around Hillman Marsh since being found on April 30th. 

As I detailed in a blog post last week, the Black-necked Stilt was kind enough to depart the day after I drove down to Pelee, and I enjoyed stunning views that evening as it fed in the shallows of the shorebird cell. It was a great start to my Pelee adventure!

Black-necked Stilt - Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

Birding on May 4 was fairly slow by Pelee standards at this date, but many first of the years revealed themselves and I enjoyed revisiting some of my favorite areas of the park, seeing some familiar faces, and observing migrants newly arrived to Ontario. 

A decent reverse migration failed to appear at the tip, though Chimney Swifts and Northern Rough-winged Swallows overhead were my first of the year. A male Bobolink departed the tip with a small group of Red-winged Blackbirds before looping back to the mainland, while several Indigo Buntings gave their diagnostic calls as they flew overhead as well. 

Several Horned Grebes were feeding just off the tip, including these two individuals in contrasting plumage - the first has almost completed its molt, while the second was still in the awkward stage.

Horned Grebe - Point Pelee National Park

Horned Grebe - Point Pelee National Park

The warbler pickings were slim, and aside from Yellow Warblers which had recently invaded the park, the only other warblers I saw were singles of Blue-winged Warbler and Common Yellowthroat. The Blue-winged was a nice surprise on a slow day. A wave of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks had recently arrived - it was music to my ears to hear the first one "chink"-ing and I was very happy to lay eyes on several individuals, often close to the trails and fairly low in the understorey.

A Great Horned Owl nest is easily visible, directly above the Woodland Nature Trail. Two fluffy hatchlings peered over the nest when I passed it in the early afternoon.

Great Horned Owls - Point Pelee National Park

While walking the trails failed to produce any migrant warblers, the recently arrived Yellow Warblers, Baltimore Orioles and Orchard Orioles provided splashes of color.

Yellow Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

Several more first of the years appeared over the course of the day, including both White-crowned and Field Sparrow. Field is one of my favorite sparrow species -there is something to love about the tiny species with the distinctive "bouncing ball" song.

Field Sparrow - Point Pelee National Park

That evening I had some amphibian surveys scheduled in London, so I made my way northeast via the onion fields, Hillman Marsh and Blenheim lagoons. My first stop was the most memorable - the horse paddock along Concession E just outside of Point Pelee National Park. Almost immediately after beginning my scan of the muddy field I came across two orange shorebirds feeding with a sewing-machine motion. While a little distant, with the scope cranked up to 60x they appeared to fit the mold of Long-billed Dowitcher, the earlier-migrating but much rarer of the two species of dowitchers we see in Ontario. Jean Iron pulled up a couple of minutes later and agreed that they were both Long-billed Dowitchers after studying the birds. Several other shorebirds were making good use of the productive habitat, including Least Sandpiper, Killdeer, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, two Solitary Sandpipers and a single Least Sandpiper. Hillman and Blenheim both had more or less the typical species I expected, though the duck diversity at Blenheim was nice to scan through. Tree Swallows had trickled into the Blenheim lagoons - I dutifully picked through as many of the 500+ presence in the off-chance that a wayward Violet-green Swallow had determined that Blenheim was a sufficient resting stop.

The following morning dawned bright and sunny, and with it a small wave of birds had descended into the park. It was nothing mind-blowing - just a nice diversity of early to mid-May migrants to pick through. The really excellent days are rare at Pelee, with slow days especially rampant some years early in May. While total numbers of species were not high on this day, it was quite enjoyable to observe many species that I hadn't seen in months. New warblers included Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Nashville, Magnolia, Hooded (heard only), Tennessee, Magnolia, Blackburnian and Black-throated Green. At one point I chased a reported Kentucky Warbler in Tilden's Woods. It remained fairly skulky but did show for a few seconds before flying back into the more distant understorey. Too quick for photos, however.

Tip at Point Pelee National Park

The onion fields yielded many of the same shorebirds at the horse paddock (minus the Long-billed Dowitchers), but with the added bonus of a flyover Sandhill Crane and American Pipit. I was happy to spot a single American Golden-Plover with the other shorebirds at the Hillman Marsh shorebird cell - it would end up being my only one of the trip.

That evening I walked down to the Tip, which can sometimes be quite productive at that time of day and with the added bonus of lacking the big crowds from the morning. A few new species were added to the year list, including Lincoln's Sparrow, Veery and a heard-only Scarlet Tanager. An obliging Black-and-White Warbler was an easy photographic target along one of the side-trails.

Black-and-white-Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

Black-and-white Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

When the birding is slow it is easy to become distracted with common birds perched at eye-level beside the trail. Red-winged Blackbirds aren't usually my photography targets as they are ubiquitous and I already have some good photos of the species, but I couldn't resist snapping a few shots of this female.
Red-winged Blackbird - Point Pelee National Park

I checked Sparrow Field as the sun crept lower towards the horizon. As is always the case this time of year, I kept an eye out for any sparrows or other skulkers hanging out in the grasses or brushpiles of Sparrow Field. I was surprised to flush a small streaky sparrow flush from the grass near the side of the trail, and it landed far up ahead along a brushy edge. Brief, semi-obscured views in the binoculars confirmed my suspicions that it was a Henslow's Sparrow, a rare species in the province. Unfortunately it ducked out of view soon after, and I failed to turn it up after walking over to the spot where it had disappeared. Here is a photo of a Henslow's Sparrow from the nearby "Serengeti Tree", taken on May 4, 2014.

Henslow's Sparrow - Point Pelee National Park (May 4, 2014)

It turns out that Ken Burrell had happened upon the Henslow's in the same area about 45 minutes earlier, while Jeremy Bensette had fleeting glimpses of an Ammodramus sp. earlier that morning. While once numerous, Henslow's Sparrows have declined over much of their former range as fallow fields are being converted into more intensive forms of agriculture. Other than a couple of tiny remnant populations, most of the Henslow's encountered in Ontario are presumed spring-overshoots, with many of the records coming from Point Pelee. This was my 10th time observing Henslow's Sparrow in Ontario, with most of those sightings coming from Point Pelee. The only exceptions were a bird I found last spring at Wheatley Harbour, and a couple of singing males on territory last spring near Harrow.

Slough in the Woodland Nature Trail - Point Pelee National Park

The plan for May 7 was to meet up with Josh Mandell and David Szmyr as they had arrived the previous night for their long awaited Pelee trip. Excitement was high for our first of three days, though the birding was a bit slower than we had anticipated!

On my drive in to the park I couldn't help but photograph a displaying male Wild Turkey. Unfortunately it half-depressed the display as I rolled to a stop, and I did not want to waste too much valuable early morning daylight, so this shot will have to do.

Wild Turkey - Leamington onion fields

It was great to be birding with Dave and Josh again, meeting up with other birders throughout the day. Despite it being very slow for birds, we slowly added things here and there, including this Prothonotary Warbler that we had heard about along the Woodland Nature Trail. The lighting was a bit harsh at this point of the morning but it was great to observe this Endangered species to Canada at close range. They may be a common bird in wooded swamps further south, but up here it is always a pleasure to observe this sharp-looking warbler.

Prothonotary Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

Prothonotary Warbler - Point Pelee National Park

Prothonotary Warbler -  - Point Pelee National Park

That afternoon we tried our luck walking some of the footpaths further north in the park. While we were walking along the bike path between Sleepy Hollow and Dunes, Josh stopped to check out a flitting songbird which turned out to be a Nashville Warbler. There appeared to be a little bit of activity here, and after spotting some movement down low, I was surprised to see the facial pattern of a Golden-winged Warbler staring back at me. The only problem was that the bird was mostly yellow with blueish wings. It took a second before it dawned on me that this was a Lawrence's Warbler, the rarer of the two hybrid phenotypes between Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers. Brewster's Warbler is the dominant phenotype when these species hybridize, and its one that I have seen well over a dozen times. This however was my first Lawrence's Warbler - and a drop dead gorgeous adult male at that! After sending out some texts, Ken Burrell magically appeared down the trail only a few minutes later, as it was one that he had never seen before either. Luckily we were able to refind the Lawrence's, while Josh and Dave obtained decent photos. Unfortunately I had left my camera in the car for this excursion - a mistake not to be repeated the rest of the weekend! Here is a cell phone shot of the back of Josh's camera...it was a real stunner of a bird.

"Lawrence's" Warbler - Point Pelee National Park (original photo by Josh Mandell)

In the early afternoon Jeremy Hatt discovered a Stilt Sandpiper at the horse paddock on Concession E, so we drove down to check out this rare spring migrant to Ontario. While fairly common in the autumn, it is not every year that Stilt Sandpiper is observed in southern Ontario during the spring migration. This was only the third spring bird I had seen, after the two last year that spent a couple of days at Hillman Marsh.

Stilt Sandpiper - Concession E horse paddock

A walk to the Tip later that afternoon failed to produce much else of interest, though it was interesting to watch several hundred Blue Jays streaming in from the southeast in a broad line of birds. Some flew over our heads before continuing north through the park.


Blue Jay - Point Pelee National Park

We had two more days remaining at Pelee during the most wonderful time of the year - I will be making another post detailing those days soon!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Ruff at the Brighton Constructed Wetlands

I could not resist driving down to Brighton yesterday after work to see the male Ruff that had been seen there over the last few days at the constructed wetlands after being found by Bill Gilmour and Mark Ansell on May 9th. Previously I had only viewed one Ruff - a distant male last winter in Morocco - so this was a bird I was hoping to study from close range.

Ruff is the most frequently observed Eurasian species of shorebird in North America, and up until a year or two ago was common enough that the Ontario Bird Records Committee did not require documentation if one was found. But sightings in Ontario have dried up in recent years and I was still waiting to lay eyes on my first one on this side of the Atlantic, despite having chased (and missed) at least three birds already over the years.

The drive down was fairly uneventful and I just snuck through Toronto before rush hour. I pulled up to the Brighton constructed wetlands just as the day was transitioning from "afternoon" into "evening".

It did not take too long to spot the bird - bigger than a yellowlegs, and with such unique plumage details, it is impossible to miss! Fortunately the bird was fairly close to shore, and after a bit of stealth work I had positioned myself at the edge of the cattails directly across from it.

Ruff  (left) and Least Sandpiper - Brighton Constructed Wetlands, Northumberland County, Ontario

It did not show concern at all with my presence and continued to feed on the mudflats in front of me. The sun was lighting the scene a little too much from the side, but if the bird was at just the right angle the lighting was good. What a fantastic opportunity....

Ruff - Brighton Constructed Wetlands, Northumberland County, Ontario

This was another new one for my Ontario list; my 40th species of shorebird, and 378th species of bird overall.

Ruff - Brighton Constructed Wetlands, Northumberland County, Ontario

Ruff is the shorebird species with perhaps the most unique mating ritual. Much like grouse and turkeys, some Ruffs gather at a lek in the spring, and the males perform elaborate displays to either attract the attention of females, or to establish a "pecking order" amongst the males. Central to their displays are the elaborate neck feathers that some males exhibit, which, when erected, vaguely resemble the ruffs worn in Western Europe in the 1500s and 1600s, for which the Ruff is named after.

Ruff (left) and Lesser Yellowlegs - Brighton Constructed Wetlands, Northumberland County, Ontario

Ruff - Brighton Constructed Wetlands, Northumberland County, Ontario

There are three different male "forms". Dominant males (over 80% of all males) have black or chestnut colored neck feathers, and between 5 and 20 of these dominant males usually hold residency at a lek. These dominant males actively court females and show aggression to other males. Satellite males (16% of all males) have white ruffs and don't actively hold territory in a lek - instead, they join a territory already occupied by a male and several females and attempt to mate with the females. Generally their presence is tolerated by the dominant males because having the satellite male on his territory increases his odds of attracting additional female partners. The third type of male is called the "faeder" male. It more resembles a female in plumage as it lacks the elaborate neck feathers of the other males. A faeder male will blend in with a group of females on a lek, and "steal" matings when a female crouches down to solicit copulation from a dominant male!

Ruff - Brighton Constructed Wetlands, Northumberland County, Ontario

The bird in Brighton appears to be a satellite male, beginning to show his white ruff which is starting to grow in. It was a pleasure to spend an hour with this bird yesterday and hopefully one day I can make it up to Russia or Scandinavia to watch Ruffs on their lek.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Black-necked Stilt at Hillman Marsh

On April 30, Derek and Jen Lyon found a female Black-necked Stilt at Hillman Marsh in Essex County, and it continued to be seen regularly for the next few days. Black-necked Stilt is a species that I had wanted to see in the province for some time, as the last chaseable birds showed up at Pelee in early May, 2013, the day that I had left to drive to Aurora to start my current job, and they had left by the next weekend when I returned to Pelee. According to the eBird targets feature, Black-necked Stilt was the most likely species that I would add to my Ontario list.

I drove down on Tuesday afternoon, happy to be making the familiar, though long drive back through the agriculture and occasional woodlots of Oxford and Middlesex Counties, and through the monoculture of Elgin, Chatham-Kent, and Essex. I arrived in the Hillman Marsh area late in the afternoon, with reports of the bird coming in throughout the day. As I drove along the north edge of Hillman Marsh I encountered Bob Cermak - Bob informed me that the last he had heard was that the stilt was back in the shorebird cell at Hillman Marsh.

The sun was starting to descend in the sky as I walked briskly to the entrance to the shorebird cell. I could hear unfamiliar bird calls as I approached, and the calls were soon pinpointed to the group of feeding American Avocets only a few dozen meters from the grassy dike. This rare but regular spring and autumn migrant had shown up in decent numbers in the Point Pelee area, with a number of sightings in multiple areas. This ended up being the largest group of them - numbering 34 to be exact.

American Avocets - Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

My attention soon shifted to searching for my main quarry, and it only took a few seconds with my binoculars before a slender black and white shorebird with long legs stopped my scanning. Further looks with the scope revealed the bright pink legs and intricacies of its plumage - a smart looking shorebird indeed!

To take advantage of the better lighting from the west, I headed down the adjacent dike until I was in a good position, a few hundred meters from the bird. The distance was still a little too far for great photos, but it serves well as a "bird in habitat" photo.

Black-necked Stilt - Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

There are 17 records of Black-necked Stilt accepted by the OBRC, current to the end of the 2014 annual report. Thirteen of these records were during the spring season, with dates ranging from April 11 to June 23. The species has attempted to breed once (at Jarvis sewage lagoons in 2004), while  the latest lingering individual was at Port Lambton until January 2, 2002  This was the tenth time that a Black-necked Stilt has been seen for more than just one day.

It was nice to document all 34 American Avocets in a single photo as well, since my lens was not conducive to this when they were closer.

American Avocets and Black-necked Stilt - Hillman Marsh Conservation Area


The diversity of the remaining shorebirds included many first of the years - Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Dunlin, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, and Wilson's Snipe. Ten Willets were also observed in the shorebird cell, some occasionally probing at the mud while others resting. It almost felt like I was watching at the edge of a pothole wetland in the prairies, watching flocks of Willets and American Avocets.

Killdeer - Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

Willet - Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

By 7:30 PM the American Avocets became restless, and shortly thereafter they alighted, taking off together along with the Willets. At times, both species flew right over my head, providing an interesting photographic opportunity. The Willets eventually landed, but the avocets continued on far to the northwest.

American Avocets - Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

American Avocets - Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

American Avocets - Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

The Black-necked Stilt continued to feed along the edge of the water and I enjoyed it through the scope for another 20 minutes or so, before continued on to my next destination. It was a great start to over four days of solid birding at Point Pelee!

Willets - Hillman Marsh Conservation Area

With Black-necked Stilt off the target list, the next most frequently reported species that I "need" for Ontario include the following. Will one of these species be next? There is currently a Ruff being seen at the Brighton constructed wetlands that is tempting!

-Willow Ptarmigan
-Ruff
-Tufted Duck
-Rufous Hummingbird
-Northern Wheatear
-Swainson's Warbler
-Tricolored Heron

Saturday, 23 April 2016

From Spain, to Turkey, to Canada, back to Spain again, and spring migration in Ontario

I am thinking that I should change the name of this blog as I seem to be posting more stuff from outside of the province than inside. I will however be back in Ontario soon enough and can't wait to go birding and herping locally, during (nearly) everyone's favorite time of year - May!

Laura at Parque Natural Els Ports, Cataluña, Spain


Laura and I had an excellent adventure in northeast Spain, flying in and out of Barcelona and renting a car to traverse the countryside for the days in between. Spring was just heating up, as was the birding and herping. I'll get into more detail about the trip at some later date, but needless to say we had a blast. The food and wine was amazing, we hiked daily and often in places with stunning vistas, we found a nice variety of herps (Laura has quite the knack for spotting snakes; I think she found each of the three we encountered), and we came across nearly every target bird species.

My uncle and his partner live in Barcelona, and our visit happened to coincide with a visit that my maternal grandparents were having to Spain as well. My brother was visiting his girlfriend in England at the time, so they flew down too, as did my mom's cousin. We all stayed at a house in a town in the Pyrenees for a few days and it was great to have a bit of a family reunion in this beautiful country.

hiking in the Pyrenees, Aragon, Spain

In no particular order, here are some of my nature highlights from the trip:

-finding a male Wallcreeper with Laura after an all-day search- a difficult, iconic and unique species that was my most wanted bird for Europe;

-a surprise Alpine Accentor that Laura spotted in El Parque Natural Els Ports;

-encountering a Viperine Snake, flock of Whiskered Terns, Wood Sandpiper, Slender-billed Gull and an early Purple Heron at the Ebro Delta, among the thousands of Greater Flamingos and other wading birds;

-Spanish Ibex!!!

-great looks and photos of Dupont's Larks, a Near-Threatened species that is one of the most range-restricted birds found in Spain;

-Lammergeiers flying right over our heads...what incredible birds;

-finding and identifying many lizard species;

-digiscoping Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse in a field, followed shortly by a Little Owl;

-hiking in the incredibly scenic Spanish Pyrenees, while Egyptian Vultures wheeled above us in the sky;

-catching up with a few nemesis birds of mine: Jack Snipe, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Citril Finch, Eurasian Penduline-Tit, etc;

-the excitement of finding a neonate Montpellier Snake with Laura.

Laura with a Montpellier Snake - Belchite, Aragon, Spain

male Wallcreeper!! - Alquezar, Aragon, Spain

The trip was over much too quickly (aren't they always), but I had arranged a 20 hour layover in Istanbul before returning home to Toronto. I hooked up with local birder extaordinaire Kerem Ali Boyla from birdwatchturkey.com and we squeezed out as many birds as we could in my short time there - I was happy to pick up an even 10 life birds. I highly recommend Kerem if you happen to be in Istanbul. He picked me up from/dropped me off at the airport, and knows the area probably better than anyone. Migration in the area north of Istanbul can be absolutely spectacular and it is well worth it to add in a day or two layover here if you happen to be flying to Europe anytime soon.

I was home for about a week when an opportunity came about to travel to Spain with Worldwide Quest. They were in need of an emergency replacement guide for the tour leaving in one week's time - it was an offer too good to refuse and so I started to madly prepare for a return to Spain. I am currently in Trujilla, Spain, after a highly successful first week in Andalucia and Extremedura provinces in the southwest of the country. I have been blessed with a fantastic group of ten people to lead around Spain and the weather has largely cooperated, allowing us to find a wide variety of birds and wildlife.

Today we explored the steppe areas west of Trujillo, currently awash with the reds, yellows, and purples of spring wildflowers. We found displaying Little and Great Bustards, both species of sandgrouse, European Rollers and Bee-eaters, and a wide variety of raptors including a nice surprise in a Spanish Eagle! We have had many other highlights so far including Northern Bald Ibis (reintroduced into Spain in 2003 after an absence of over 500 years), Iberian Chiffchaff, and my favorite find so far - a Western False Smooth Snake. I am happy to have seen most of my remaining target bird species found in Western Europe - most of these I had not yet found because they are later migrants and all of my visits to Europe have been in February or March.

Iberian Magpie - Parque Nacional de Doñana, Andalucia, Spain


Spring migration is well underway and perhaps even winding down here in Spain, but back across the pond the crazy season is just picking up steam. I am excited to return to Ontario by the end of the month to partake in the festivities of May birding - it is always an awesome time! Hopefully whatever rarities the intrepid birders in Ontario find over the next little stay put until next weekend ;)