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Lemon Queen (Helianthus)


This is a picture of the Lemon Queen (Helianthus) I have in the back corner of my garden.  It is 6 ft tall.

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Posted by on September 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Winter Finch Forecast – 2016/17


GENERAL FORECAST: Cone crops average poor in Southern Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire, but crops are generally good to bumper in Northern Ontario, Western Canada and Alaska. The dividing line is roughly James Bay south along the Ontario-Quebec border. White-winged Crossbills and often Pine Siskins prefer to move east or west rather than go south in search of cone crops. Many crossbills and some siskins may have already relocated to northern Ontario and across the boreal forest to Yukon where spruce cone crops are abundant. Purple Finches in the East are currently moving south in numbers. See individual forecasts for other finches and further details.

NOTE: Many birds will have a difficult time finding natural food sources this winter in Southern Ontario and the Northeast.

INDIVIDUAL FORECASTS: Forecasts apply mainly to Ontario and adjacent provinces and states. Three irruptive non‐finch passerines whose movements are often linked to finches are also discussed. Follow finch wanderings this fall and winter on eBird.

PINE GROSBEAK: Most should stay in the north because native Mountain-ash berry crops are good to bumper (some poor areas) across the boreal forest. A few may wander to southern Ontario where they like European Mountain-ash berries and small ornamental crabapples. At feeders they prefer black oil sunflower seeds.

PURPLE FINCH: Eastern Purple Finches were moving in early September at the Observatoire d’oiseaux de Tadoussac in Quebec The poor seed crops on most coniferous and deciduous trees indicate that Purple Finches will leave northern breeding areas. Purples prefer black oil sunflower seeds at feeders.

RED CROSSBILL: A scattering of Red Crossbills will likely wander widely in the Northeast this winter. Listen and watch for them on large-coned ornamental pines and spruces. Red Crossbills comprise at least 10 “call types” in North America. Most types are impossible to identify without analyzing recordings of their flight calls. Matt Young (may6 at cornell.edu) at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology will identify types if you email him recordings.

WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL: This crossbill irrupts south only in years of widespread cone crop failures. Many eastern crossbills have probably moved to northern Ontario and to abundant spruce cone crops in western Canada. However, expect some White-winged Crossbills to be scattered across southern Canada and the northeastern USA. Both crossbill species increasingly use feeders with black oil sunflower seeds when conifer seeds are scarce.

COMMON REDPOLL: Last fall and winter’s large irruptive southward flight was unexpectedly halted north of latitude 45 degrees by a bumper seed crop on Balsam Fir. If redpolls move south this year, they will likely continue to southern Canada and the northern states because birch seed crops are generally low across the Northeast. In redpoll flocks, check for larger and darker “Greater” Common Redpolls (subspecies rostrata) from Baffin Island (Nunavut) and Greenland. Redpolls prefer nyger seeds in silo feeders with or without perches.

HOARY REDPOLL: Watch for Hoaries in flocks of Common Redpolls. The “Southern” Hoary Redpoll (nominate subspecies exilipes) breeds south to northern Ontario and is the subspecies usually seen in southern Canada and northern USA. However, “Hornemann’s” Hoary Redpoll (nominate hornemanni) which was formerly considered a great rarity south of the tundra is now reported more often likely because its ID features are better known. See link #2 below for photos and identification marks of Common and Hoary Redpoll subspecies.

PINE SISKIN: Some will irrupt south because cone crops in the Northeast are generally poor. Siskins were moving south in mid-September at the Observatoire d’oiseaux de Tadoussac in Quebec. However, some eastern siskins have likely relocated to abundant spruce crops in western Canada. Siskins prefer nyger seeds in silo feeders. See link #4 which discusses siskin irruptions related to climate variability.

EVENING GROSBEAK: The Evening Grosbeak is the world’s most spectacular winter finch. Its breeding populations continue to increase in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick due to increasing outbreaks of spruce budworm. Watch for them in Algonquin Park, Adirondacks and northern New England. A few are likely at feeders in southern Ontario where they prefer black oil sunflower seeds.

THREE IRRUPTIVE PASSERINES: Movements of these three passerines are often linked to the boreal finches.

BLUE JAY: Expect a much larger than usual flight of jays from mid-September to mid-October along the north shorelines of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The acorn, beechnut, hazelnut crops were generally poor but variable in central and southern Ontario. Drought has damaged many seed crops.

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH:  An early southward movement began in early summer and continues as this forecast is posted. This widespread movement is evidence of poor cone crops in the Northeast. It indicates that Purple Finches, White-winged Crossbills and Pine Siskins are on the move too.

BOHEMIAN WAXWING: Very few Bohemians breed east of James Bay in Canada. Most Bohemians will likely stay in northern Ontario and western Canada because native Mountain-ash berry crops are good to bumper (some poor areas) across the boreal forest. In recent winters, however, Bohemians have been coming south regularly every winter possibly due to reliable annual crops of abundant Buckthorn (Rhamnus) berries. Watch for Pine Grosbeaks eating their favorite European Mountain‐ash berries and small ornamental crabapples.

WHERE TO SEE FINCHES: Algonquin Park is an exciting winter experience about a 3.5 hour drive north of Toronto. Most cone crops are poor (good on White Cedar) in the park so crossbills and siskins will be very scarce or absent. However, feeders at the Visitor Centre (km 43) should attract Common Redpolls (watch for Hoaries), Evening and Pine Grosbeaks. The Visitor Centre and restaurant are open weekends in winter. On winter weekdays, the facility is open, but with limited services (no restaurant, but snacks and drinks are available for purchase). Birders can call ahead to make arrangements to view feeders on weekdays by phoning 613-637-2828. The bookstore has one of the best selections of natural history books anywhere. Be sure to get Birds of Algonquin Park (2012) by retired park naturalist Ron Tozer. It is one of the finest regional bird books ever published. The nearby Spruce Bog Trail at km 42.5 and Opeongo Road at km 44.5 are the best spots for finches and other species such as Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Spruce Grouse and Black-backed Woodpecker.

FINCH INFORMATION LINKS:
#1. Finch Facts, Seed Crops and Irruptions
http://www.jeaniron.ca/2012/winterfinches.htm
#2. Subspecies of Common and Hoary Redpolls – ID Tips and Photos
http://www.jeaniron.ca/2015/redpollsRP.htm
#3. Interview with Ron Pittaway in OFO News 34(1):1-3, 2016
http://jeaniron.ca/articles/FinchForecasterFe2016.pdf
#4. Climatic dipoles drive two principal modes of North American boreal bird irruption
http://bit.ly/1UrmTsI
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: I thank staff of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and the many birders/naturalists whose tree seed reports allow me to make annual forecasts: Alexandre Anctil (Chibougamau, Quebec), Christian Artuso (Manitoba), Dennis Barry (Durham Region and Kawartha Lakes), Angus Baptiste (Grand lac Victoria, Quebec), Eleanor Beagan (Prince Edward Island), Peter Burke, (Georgian Bay, Ontario), Joan Collins (Adirondacks and northern New York State), Pascal Cote (Observatoire d’oiseaux de Tadoussac, Quebec), Bruce Di Labio (Eastern Ontario), Charity Dobbs (Ontario Tree Seed Plant), Carolle Eady (Dryden, Ontario), Cameron Eckert (Southern Yukon), Dave Elder (Atikokan, Ontario), Bruce Falls (Brodie Club, Toronto), Walter Fisher (Rosetta McClain Gardens Raptor Watch, Toronto), Marcel Gahbauer (Eastern Ontario), Terry Gauthier (PEI), Michel Gosselin (Canadian Museum of Nature), David Govatski (New Hampshire and Vermont), Leo Heyens (Kenora, Ontario), Tyler Hoar (Southern Ontario), Kris Ito (French River, Ontario), Jean Iron (James Bay and Northeastern Ontario), Hilde Johansen (Chibougamau, Quebec), Gordon Kayahara (Timmins, ON), Dan McAskill (PEI), Bruce Mactavish (St. John’s, Newfoundland), David McCorquodale (Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia), Stacy McNulty (Adirondacks NY), Brian Naylor (Nipissing District, Ontario), Stephen O’Donnell (Parry Sound District), Justin Peter (Algonquin Park, Ontario, Gatineau Park, Quebec), Fred Pinto (Nipissing District, Ontario), Brian Ratcliff (Thunder Bay District ON), Rosamund and Jim Pojar (Central British Columbia), Harvey and Brenda Schmidt (Creighton, Saskatchewan), Michael Runtz, (Algonquin Park), Don Sutherland (Southern James Bay and Nova Scotia), Doug Tate (Northwest Territories), Ron Tozer (Algonquin Park ), Declan Troy (Alaska), Mike Turner (Haliburton Highlands, Ontario), Richard Welsman (Rosetta McClain Gardens, Toronto), the late Alan Wormington (Point Pelee, Ontario), Matt Young (New York State). Jean Iron made many helpful comments and hosts the forecast on her website.
Ron Pittaway
Ontario Field Ornithologists
Toronto, Ontario
22 September 2016
 
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Posted by on September 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Nice weekend at the cabin


The weather there was fantastic.  Spent most of the weekend sitting in a lawn chair.  Since it was Labour Day weekend, traffic back and forth on the road in front of the cabin seemed to be non-stop.  Birds coming to my feeder never stopped.  Downy Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  Barred Owls calling at night.  And this morning, while sitting out with my morning coffee–a Pileated Woodpecker.

Also re-newed acquaintance with Clyde, my cousin Carol Ann’s husband.  He was up doing some work on the other side of the river with his son Jarrad.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Back to the cabin


We are heading back to the cabin again this weekend.  Leaving today and we return on Monday.  Traffic on Highway 75 will provide no joy.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

THE SYMPATHIZER by Viet Thanh Nguyen


I just finished reading this book.  It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016.  This book tells the story of a young Vietnamese man that gets caught up in the Viet Nam war.  He leaves Vietnam during the fall of Saigon.  Actually, he “escapes” from Vietnam during the fall of Saigon and ends up in California.  He had been working in the South Vietnamese Army and when the US forces fled the country, he went with them.  However, this man was working both sides of the fence.  He was secretly acting as a sympathizer for the Viet Cong and was supplying them with information about South Vietnamese and US Army activities.  The novel tells a different side of the story that I never thought of before.  For example there were 200,00 South Vietnamese soldiers killed in war and there names are not on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.  But they built there own Vietnam War Memorial in Orange County, California, home of “Little Saigon”, the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam.  This book is a very good read.  I highly recommend it.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Eaglesmith


 

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St.Thomas is about an hours drive from my place.  After supper yesterday I made the drive to attend the The Fred Eaglesmith Travelling Steam Show.  I find his performances to be very entertaining.  Between each song, he tells jokes and little stories about his life on the road.  Not sure how you would categorize his music — alt. country, I suppose.

Last night the sound system was not the best.  I found it a bit difficult to understand the words of his songs, except that I familiar with some of the song lyrics, so it was not too bad for me.  But for someone that was unfamiliar with his music it would have been difficult.  Between songs, however, his jokes and stories came thru nicely.  Easy to understand.

The is typical of one of his shows.  Lots of jokes and stories.

 

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Camping in Algonquin Park – 1982


I came across this picture today while sorting thru some old photos.  This is Bob Turner on the left and Bruno Hochheimer on the right.  Bruno went camping every spring in Algonquin Park.  In 1982, Bob and I went up to join him.  Bruno was a co-worker of mine at Nova Chemicals.

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Posted by on August 3, 2016 in Uncategorized