Monday, March 21, 2011

Busy, busy, busy.

If you are looking for the bird art auction, please click here.

My backyard. No leaves, but no snow either!
Spring usually is busy for birders. But this wasn't exactly the kind of busy I was looking for. The twins are keeping me busy. Warmer weather means I have to start tackling some shit around the house I've been putting off. And then there's work. I try not to work weekends but sometimes a couple projects land on my desk simultaneously that need lots of attention. Naturally, this only ever happens when I have plans. And usually it's worse when it's birding plans.

This weekend was no different. There's 2 substantial things I'm working on in the advertising world. Neither of which I'm at liberty to talk about. Nor should I even if I were allowed. Quite frankly, what I find to be an interesting advertising problem is generally as fun as watching paint dry to non-advertising folks. Everyone likes the funny commercial when it's done but let me tell you, it's almost always a long, hard and sometimes ridiculous road to get to those funny thirty seconds.

Enough about my job. Suffice it to say I had a bunch of work to do this weekend that I'd rather not have done on the weekend. What I did Saturday was great fun. Well, to a non-birder, it might seem like a dreadful way to spend a Saturday. Waking well before the sun. Driving through the dark morning to a parking lot in the middle of nowhere. Waiting there in the cold for another car to show up, only to drive another 3 hours. And when you stop driving, you wander aimlessly around in the fridgid temperatures looking at hoards of Canada Geese way off in corn fields trying to see one that doesn't have a black neck. Only to tick a little box next to the words 'White-fronted Goose.' And this outcome was  if everything went according to plan. I don't know what's wrong with you, it sounds fun to me.

White-Fronted Goose by Alan Vernon
Unfortunately, things didn't go entirely that way. Oh, all the boring shit up front did. The freezing temperatures were right on schedule, as always. The thing that went wrong was that we never found the Goose in question. Actually, we never found the field with a throng of Geese in it to scour. At least the drive was filled with good company. Margaret Bain, Richard Pope and a person new to me, Andrew Don (Bananaram on flickr). All three make me look like a shit birder. But at least they are nice about it. They are all very advanced birders and I learn a lot just being around them. I almost certainly would have written off the Golden Eagle as a Turkey Vulture or Red-tailed Hawk. The latter being a gross mis judgment in distance. But they were there. So I got myself a Golden Eagle for the year list. That can be a tricky one in Ontario. Thanks Andrew. Or Richard. I'll let them hack that one out.

Up close Golden Eagle by Just Chaos
(More like how I saw it) Golden Eagle by OCParks_CA

We missed another great bird that would have been a lifer. Eastern Screech Owl. I know, I know. I should really have that one by my age but it just eludes me. I've chased them in years past but to no avail. The Tundra swans were in the hundreds that day. A week previous, they were in the thousands. But really, this year, all I needed was one. Tick. Ring-necked Ducks were new for the year. Had them in January in BC. Now I had them in Ontario. We got quite a few Turkey Vultures and we even got Rusty Blackbirds. I love them, with their bright eyes and patches of rusty feathers. We tried for a Spotted Towhee but never got it. There was however a Black-capped Chickadee that had streaks of grey 'hair' throughout it's cap. He looked like he was going gray. If anyone can explain that one, I'd really like to know more about it. There were lots of other good birds that day too.
Eastern Screech Owl by Seabamirum. The one we were after usually hangs out in nest boxes.

Ring-necked Ducks by Bananaram. (This is the actual ones I saw)

Rusty Blackbird by Bananaram. (This is the actual one I saw)

Song Sparrow by Bananaram. (This is  the actual one I saw)
Tundra Swans by ingridtaylar
After about 14 hours away from the house, i went up to Peterborough to see my buddy Bradleyboy play a show at The Pig's Ear. I got a little drunk, ate some pizza and slept poorly. All in all a good day. And then there's Sunday. I took my kids early to the park. In Orono, we have an amazing park with significantly fewer syringes and condoms lying about than our old hood in Toronto. It even has a trout stream running through it. The kids were playing around in the skateboard park area when I heard a familiar sound. My wife knew that she was going to have to watch both kids by the look on my face. My attention was immediately elsewhere. Namely up. I heard it again only this time it was off in the distance on the other side of the park. I scanned the trees feverishly. I wanted this bird. Not that I wouldn't get one this year but there's something about this bird. It called again and I was able to tell it was from the tree right in front of me. Then it popped up into the open and sat there, in all it's woodpeckery glory. The king of woodpeckers in Ontario. Well, for me anyway. It was a Piliated Woodpecker. A great bird. 17 inches long, black with white stripes on it's neck. A big red crest. And one hell of a loud call when they are that close by.
Poster I designed for Bradleyboy's show.

Piliated Woodpecker by Monica R.

A pretty  good weekend birding and some nice family time. Even though I had to work a fair bit Sunday night, it's not so bad. Oh who am I kidding, working at all on a Sunday sucks. After 9pm really blows. I don't care what your job is. Well, ok, maybe a birding guide might have fun owling on a Sunday night. But no ad guy ever liked working Sunday night.

March 18, 2011 day list.
Turkey Vulture

March 19, 2011 day list.
Tundra swan
Ring-necked Duck
Green-winged Teal
Golden Eagle
Rusty Blackbird
Sandhill Crane
Winter Wren
Lesser Scaup
Great Blue Heron

March 20, 2011 day list.
Piliated Woodpecker

Paul Riss
Punk Rock Big Year


  1. Howdee...
    Must be hard doing a big year with work and family! Good luck to you...keep tickin those birds off.
    Happy Birding

  2. Thanks Dawn. It's tough but worth it. Ticked one more this weekend. Only had two hours free time... Cackling Goose.