Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 13,2015 Churchill birding

Hi Everyone 

Between strong winds out of the east and afternoon rain it was a tough day of birding. Not much change in the local bird life, but a few new species for the trip list: Solitary Sandpiper and Thayer's Gull. The Granary Ponds continue to attract many water birds including Red-necked Phalarope, Hudsonian Godwit, Arctic Tern, and hundreds of puddle ducks and Canada Geese. Along Goose Creek Road and Hydro Road there were two pairs of Hooded Merganser, and a pair of Bufflehead. We did not see any Tree Swallows around town yesterday, where we had seen up to about a half dozen earlier in the week.  They appear to have disappeared (retreated back south?) in the cold and windy conditions.  The only swallows we saw yesterday were 12 feeding at the Weir. Bird song remains limited except for White-crowned Sparrows, American Robins, Northern Waterthrushes and Yellow Warblers. 

Good birding,


The Harbour Seals are a common sight along the Churchill River and Hudson Bay.

Common Eiders along the Churchill River. 

The Common Crane continues to play hide and seek near the Grain Elevator ponds. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

June 12,2015 More Churchill birding

Hi Everyone 

The birding continues to be interesting despite the continuing cool weather, northerly winds and the slowdown of migration. Today we spent the morning birding east of Churchill, along Launch Road and Twin Lake Road out to the old burn site. It was very quiet; remarkably few birds were singing.  Our highlight was a pair of Golden Eagles soaring overhead. At the large fen along Twin Lake Road we had a number of shorebirds displaying: Hudsonian Godwit, Short-billed Dowitcher, American Golden Plover, Least Sandpiper and Wilson's Snipe. The big surprise was a male Snowy Owl being harassed by Herring Gulls as it flew over the fen. There was still some  ice on the larger lakes, where we saw a pair of Common Loons along with a few Arctic Terns. At the Churchill Northern Studies Centre an Arctic Hare was hopping around the building. 
The continuing COMMON CRANE was observed at the Granary Ponds and north of the Grain Elevator. It has now been observed by many of the local residents and its the talk of the town. If you haven't heard about the discovery check out the following link.

Good birding,

A few Sanderling in full breeding plumage continue to be reported from the "Flats" area. 

Several flocks of White-rumped Sandpipers are still in the area.

As each day goes by more broods of baby Canada Geese are being seen.  

The COMMON CRANE continues to be the star attraction at Churchill. 

A pair of Golden Eagles in the Twin Lakes area was a surprise find. 

The Green-winged Teal is a common summer resident at Churchill. 

The Hudsonian Godwit is a long distant migrant. It winters in southern South America and  spends its summers along the treeline at Churchill. 

A few late lingering Snow Buntings are now almost in full breeding plumage. 

A Whimbrel easily blends into the  background. 

In spite of the cool, windy, wet weather Yellow Warblers are singing.   

Thursday, June 11, 2015

June 11,2015 Churchill birding

Hi Everyone 
Despite the continuing cool temperatures, overcast skies, wind and occasional rain (every day since we arrived on June 8th), the Churchill birding has been excellent . The big excitement has been the Common Crane, a first record for Manitoba and one of the few for Canada. It was first sighted on June 7 by Jennifor Azure, a local resident, and was still present late afternoon today feeding with Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese on a pile of dumped grain north of the Grain Elevator. 

Hudson Bay and the Churchill River are virtually free of ice, so the water birds are now widely dispersed.  We've found small numbers of Red-throated Loons, all three scoters, Common Goldeneyes, Red-breasted and Common Mergansers, Common Eiders, and Long-tailed Ducks. The number of Parasitic Jaegers are still low but a few are being reported each day. It appears the main flight of shorebirds has passed through the region.  Nevertheless, we are still seeing some good-sized flocks on the "Flats", including White-rumped Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpiper, one Red Knot and Sanderling. The shorebirds there are being harassed regularly by both a Peregrine Falcon and Merlin. Up to five Bald Eagles have been observed as well, along with a few Northern Harrier. There was a flock of 25 breeding-plumaged Stilt Sandpipers along Goose Creek/Hydro Road so some shorebirds are still on the move. 

Overall it appears that land bird numbers of some species are low, or perhaps few birds are singing because of the cool weather. We had our first Alder Flycatcher and Gray-cheeked Thrush today. There are still a few Snow Buntings passing through the area along the Churchill River.

Some of the recent highlights include 6 Blue-winged Teal, 1 American Coot, and 1 Hooded Merganser - all along Goose Creek Road. A flock of 120+ Tree Swallows on June 9 at the Weir had 3 Barn and 3 Bank Swallows too.  

Today a female Mountain Bluebird was discovered along Launch Road opposite the "Golf Balls" a former radar station. Fortunately we were able to relocate this rare visitor and photograph it. 

Good birding,

The Mountain Bluebird is a very rare visitor to the Churchill region. 

This individual was very cooperative and tame; with some patience it was easily photographed.

Numerous Pacific Loons have been observed along the Churchill River and various inland ponds and lakes. 

At least two Peregrine Falcons harassed shorebirds as they fed at the "Flats" along the Churchill River. One Peregrine was successful. 

A colour-banded Semipalmated Plover was sighted along Launch Road. This individual is part of a banding project in Churchill. Remember to report any banded birds or colour-marked ones to the Banding office. 

A recently hatched Canada Goose takes cover to avoid detection, dropping its head low just like an adult. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June 10,2015 Common Crane still at Churchill, Manitoba

Hi Everyone 

The Common Crane is still present in Churchill and continues to feed with Sandhill Cranes at the Granary Ponds and the pods north of the Grain Elevator. I visited the area three times today and the crane was easily observed as it fed. 
Good birding,

The Common Crane continues to frequent the Granary Ponds at Churchill 

The Common Crane is easy to distinguish from the Sandhill Crane.   

A first record for Manitoba and one of the few records for Canada, this crane has attracted lots of attention locally.  

June 9,2015 Common Crane update

Hi Everyone
The COMMON CRANE continues to linger at the Granary Ponds at Churchill. The bird was present most of the day feeding and resting both at the Granary Ponds and the ponds just north of the Grain Elevator.

Good birding,

Common Crane coming in for a landing at the Granary Ponds. 

Common Crane with Sandhill Crane and Canada Geese feeding on grain.

The Common Crane was very wary and kept looking around  every few minutes and then continue feeding. 

Common Crane with Sandhill Cranes.

Monday, June 8, 2015

June 8,2015 Common Crane at Churchill, Manitoba

Hi Everyone 

 Man, traveling can be tiring and birding can be slow, but every once in a while there are great surprises. After spending 11 days birding Alberta and Saskatchewan, I flew to Winnipeg on route to my 16th consecutive June trip to Churchill. While still in Winnipeg, I  checked Manitoba Birds - just to see whether much was being seen in Churchill. To my incredible surprise there was a report of a COMMON CRANE (!#$%^) at the Granary Ponds, seen on June 7th by Bonnie Chartier. My heart began beating faster; this is an incredible record and would be a lifer. But would it still be there when I arrived in Churchill the next day?  I had a restless night.  I arrived at the Winnipeg Airport for my 6:50 a.m. flight only to find out that it was delayed till 8:30!!  A potentially disastrous delay?  My guess was no, because the delay was because of inclement weather in Churchill. The crane won't leave in bad weather!

I arrived in Churchill around 11:00a.m. It was cold and drizzling.  I picked up the rental truck and drove straight to the Granary Ponds. No bird!!  Hard to overlook a crane. I check the gravel point off the port property near the Grain Elevator. Nothing much there except for a flock of breeding-plumaged Ruddy Turnstones floating by on an ice flow. Nice, but no Common Crane.
I decided to go back to the Granary Ponds for another shot. As I drove up, a flock of Sandhill Cranes flew in and landed.  Eureka!  There it was; the Common Crane. A lifer.

I stayed and enjoyed this bird for a good while.  Took lots of photos and studied the bird.  This was special.  But I also had to pick up my friend Ross at the airport - he had been delayed until the next flight.  Long story short ... Ross got to see the bird too, along with 18 just-arrived people on a Massachusetts Audubon tour.  We followed the crane to a pile of grain closer to the grain elevators for some even better views.  Just tremendous!!  Its been a good day.

Common Crane coming in for a landing.

Common Crane

Common Crane 

Common Crane 

Common Crane 

June 8,2015 Little Egret finally refound!

Hi Everyone
Despite intensive searching by many local and out-of-town birders, the Little Egret remained "missing in action" after disappearing the morning of June 3rd ... until now!  The egret was rediscovered  on June 7th, feeding in ponds along Eagleson Road and Emerald Meadows Drive.  A collective sigh of relief was heard throughout southern Ontario.  Today (June 8th), those who missed the bird initially were successful in seeing it in spite of inclement weather. Hopefully all those who traveled from southern Ontario and missed it the morning of June 3rd, will also be successful tomorrow.

Good luck,
Bruce (birding in Churchill)