Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Birding southern Ecuador February 21-26,2014

Hi Everyone

Arrived in Ecuador  from the cold and wintry north on February 21st. We spent the first night in Guayaquil before heading to Umbrellabird Lodge for a few nights. Lots of great birding and amazing hummingbird activity. At the Umbrellabird Lodge there were 5 feeders that were filled 7 times a day to feed the 300+ hummers that fed daily. At one time there were over 150+ hummingbirds feeding at one time!  
On February 25th we worked our way to Urraca Lodge. Another excellent area for birding with lots of new birds including Tombes Sparrow, Tombes Hummingbird, Western Peruvian Screech-Owl, Slaty Becard, and Blackish-headed Spinetail. Tomorrow will be more new birds! 

Good birding,

A feeding frenzy of hummingbirds! 

Violet-bellied Hummingbird 

Green Thorntail line up for a feed.

Black Vulture 

Bat Falcon 

female Green Thorntail 

White-necked Jacobin 

Green-crowned Brilliant and Green Thorntail feeding.

West Peruvian Screech-Owl 

Spectacled Owl 

White-cheeked Pintail 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 20,2014 Website updated

Hi everyone
I've finally had my website updated which includes both Spring birding courses and the Spring specialty trips along with my 2014 tour schedule. If you are interested in any courses or outings please register on line. Looking forward to another great spring of birding!

Bruce Di Labio

February 18,2014 More Snowy Owls at night, Perth to Kanata.

While driving back home from Presqu'ile today I observed 5 Snowy Owls hunting at dusk and afterwards between Perth and Kanata. One was in the Perth area, one near Carleton Place, one along Hwy.7 and 2 in the Kanata area. All but one of the owls were sitting on telephone poles. This winter is the first time I've seen numbers of Snowy Owl's hunting at night.  

At dusk a Snowy Owl perches on a church steeple in  the Perth area. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Algonquin College Birding Course in Pembroke,Ontario

Course: GEN7204
Experience a fun, yet educational introduction to birdwatching. Focus on how to identify birds by sight and song and how to use a field guide, optical equipment and familiarize yourself with the 200+ species that occur in the Ottawa Valley in the spring. Time permitting some birding in the area may be possible.
Notes: Course dates are Apr. 29, 30, and May 20, 21. Instructor: Bruce Di Labio
Read more about your instructor at

 Apr 29/30 - May 21/22
Tue, Wed
6:30pm - 9:30pm
For complete details and to register online,

To register by phone, call 613-735-4700 ext. 2735

February 16,2014 Local birding around Carp.

I birded the Carp-Kinburn and Constance Bay area this afternoon and came across a few interesting species. Along Donald B. Munro Drive and Old Coach Road a small mixed flock of 12 Horned Lark, 15 Snow Bunting and 4 Lapland Longspur were feeding along the shoulder of the road. They also flushed and flew out in a field and landed in an area that had fresh manure. 
 A couple of Common Raven were observed flying over and acting if spring was in the air! The most interesting observation was an adult Northern Goshawk flying over Thomas Dolan Parkway near Carp Road. This species was once an almost regular sight in the woodland areas back in the 1970's but have decreased in numbers since the mid 1980's. 

Good birding,

A female Hairy Woodpecker sorts through sunflower seeds at a feeder.

A flock of Snow Bunting hunker down trying to  avoid the strong northwest winds. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

February 14,2014 Snowy Owls hunting at night in Kanata. Really not a surprise!

In general owls continue to dominate the birding scene in eastern Ontario and the Outaouais region. Over this past weekend a total of 8 species were recorded with the Snowy Owl still the top attraction. Most reports came from the regular winter sites including just south of the Ottawa Airport. One interesting fact that I wasn't really aware of is that these typically diurnal owls are hunting at night too. I observed my first Snowy Owl during the daylight hours in the winter of 1969/70. 
Over the years, I only experienced this bird feeding during the day and never considered looking for them at night. On February 7 at 7:00pm I counted 3 along Terry Fox Drive and Huntmar Road as they were perched on telephone poles. Again on February 9 at 11:30pm 
2 were hunting in the area of the Canadian Tire Centre. This evening Ben and I again observed 3 Snowy Owls hunting near the Canadian Tire Centre at between 9:30-11:30pm. 
 I must conclude that since these owls inhabit the arctic during their breeding season and some do spend their winters north, it only makes sense that they must hunt 24/7 if need be!  One of the most fascinating aspects of birding is that no matter how many years you've studied birds you're always learning something new! 

Good birding,

During the 1970's and 1980's I regularly went out owling at night
but never observed a Snowy Owl. 

 I found a small number of Snowy Owl hunting at night this winter and finally realized this diurnal owl hunts at night like any other nocturnal owl species. 

February 13,2014 Birding Deschenes Rapids to Constance Bay

At Deschenes Rapids I observed 1 female Long-tailed Duck, 1 male Barrow's Goldeneye, 2 Bufflehead and a small number of common Goldeneye. Didn't relocate either the Red-necked Grebes, Horned Grebe or recently observed and photographed White-winged Scoter. 
The numbers of Snowy owls continue to increase in the Ottawa-Gatineau district and eastern Ontario. Today I birded along the Ottawa River from Deschenes Rapids to Constance Bay checking the mainly frozen river. I observed 5 Snowy Owls sitting out on the ice,  far off shore. The individuals at Deschenes Rapids are possibly hunting water birds at night but not sure what these owls can find out on the vast expanses of ice.
An early February survey along the same area netted a total of 14 Snowy Owls!

Good birding,

Numerous Snowy Owls have been sighted sitting on the ice both above and below Deschenes Rapids and along the frozen river to Constance Bay.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

February 11,2014 A nice surprise in my yard this morning!

Hi Everyone
While outside this morning I heard a small group of agatated  Black-capped Chickadee around a cavity in our front yard maple. As I checked out the mob scene I finally saw the reason, a gray morph Eastern Screech-Owl was in the cavity. The chickadees continued to mob the owl and a White-breasted Nuthatch and a downy woodpecker jion in too. After a while the birds appearred to lose interest and carried on feeding at my nearby feeders. The screech-owl stayed all day and finally departed at dusk. 

Good birding,

A roosting Eastern Screech-Owl  in my front yard in Carp.

As the morning warmed up the screech-owl came out of the cavity to sun bath. 

Towards dusk it was finally alert and open its eyes. 

Just before leaving for the night it started looking around the area. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

February 11,2014 Northern Saw-whet Owls on the move in eastern Ontario and the Outaouais Region.

Hi Everyone

There appears to be a small owl movement taking place over the past few weeks with at least 6 Northern Saw-whet Owls being reported in eastern Ontario and Gatineau. Most individuals have been one day wonders roosting in back yards that have feeders. One was observed on the ground near the Portage Bridge in Gatineau. All appeared in good condition and the one I photographed in Ottawa had regurgitated a pellet.
Also 3 Boreal Owls have been reported from various location since early January but again not relocated and another was found dead in Algonquin Park. I think it is to early for a north bound movement and wondering if these birds are coming out of the woods or from further north in search of food. I'd recommend checking your back yard I've if you don't have a feeder. You never know what may be roosting in your cedar tree or any tree! So far no small owls reported from Amherst Island. 

Good birding,

A Northern Saw-whet Owl roosts in an Ottawa area backyard for the day. 

This individual decided to perch in a deciduous tree in full view for the day.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10,2014 Birding Deschenes and Remic Rapids.

Hi Everyone
I spend a couple of hours this afternoon birding the open water along the Ottawa River at Deschenes and Remic Rapids. Overall it was quiet but there was still at least one of the three Red-necked Grebes that were found on February 8th. The grebe was off Britannia Point at the Britannia Filtration Plant.  There was a small number of Common Goldeneye 25+, 1 Common Merganser and 1 Long-tailed duck which has been present since late December. While scanning over the ice below the rapids I observed 2 Snowy Owls sitting out in the middle of the frozen river and another one above the rapids out on Lake Deschenes. Interestingly, 14 Snowy Owls were counted on February 4th along the Ottawa River between Deschenes Rapids and Constance Bay. All the owls were sitting well out on the ice.

Good birding,

The Red-necked Grebe is extremely rare during the winter months in the Ottawa-Gatineau district. 

With  a few Snowy Owls at Deschenes Rapids it may be only time before this grebe becomes a meal.  

Birding the Kingston area February 8 and 9,2014

Hi Everyone
Spent most of the weekend birding the Kingston area including Wolfe and Amherst Island. The Snowy Owls continue to dominant the winter birding scene with 15+ on February 8th on Wolfe Island, mainly the west end of the island and 11 on February 9th on Amherst Island, with at least 5 out on the ice along the south shore. There were very few hawks observed, 2 American Kestrel on Wolfe and 3 Red-tailed Hawks on Amherst Island. One Northern Shrike was observed at the east end ( Martin Edwards Reserve) of Amherst Island. Overall very few land birds on either island but did see a couple of small flocks of Snow Bunting on Wolfe Island. There was virtually no water birds due to the ice conditions except a small number in the ice chocked ferry channels. At the Kingston ferry dock a flock of 110+ Greater Scaup, 3 Lesser Scaup,1 Red-breasted Merganser,6 Common Merganser, and 2 Common Goldeneye were crammed into the limited open water. At the Millhaven dock a flock of 6 Red-breasted Mergansers were dealing with a similar situation. Watch for Snowy Owls on the ice when crossings.
The road into the "Owl Woods" is impassable with amazingly high snow drifts but there is a well packed path you can follow to the woods. I haven't seen snow banks so high on Amherst Island in years! Interestingly we observed a group of 4 Ring-necked Pheasant (3 male,1 female) and 1 female feeding on the remaining Wild Grapes that were still on the vine in a Hawthorne tree. This is likely due to the deep snow this winter. I've only observed pheasants in trees once, back in 1972 at the Arboretum in Ottawa. The warm water lagoon at the Invista/DuPont Plant had 200+ Mallard,15+ American Black Duck, 7 Gadwall, and 6 American Coot.
Please review the OFO Birding code of ethics at

Good birding,

Directions: Amherst Island: Located 18 km. west of Kingston. Exit off Hwy. 401 at exit 593 (County Rd. 4, Camden East) and drive south to the very end (Millhaven). Turn right on Hwy. 33 and drive 100 meters until you see the sign for the Amherst Island ferry. The ferry (20 minute trip) leaves the mainland on the half hour and leaves the island on the hour. Cost is $9.00 Canadian round trip. There are no gas stations on the island. There are restrooms on the ferry, and at the island ferry dock. The East End K.F.N. property ( Martin Edwards Reserve) is at the easternmost part of the island on the east side of the Lower Forty Foot Road. To reach the Owl Woods, turn left (east) at the four-way stop sign by the general store and drive 3.4 km along Front Rd. to the (seasonal) Marshall Forty-Foot Rd. Marshall Forty-Foot Rd. is across the road from house #2320. Drive along Marshall Rd. to the mid-way point, where there is an "S" in the road (1.2 km, look for the K.F.N. kiosk which had owl observing ethics). Park in the gravel lane or off the road edge.
Directions: Wolfe Island ferry is located along the waterfront in down  town Kingston. Check ferry schedule at

Because of liability issues, visitors to the Kingston Field Naturalists' property at the east end of Amherst Island MUST be accompanied by a KFN member. For KFN contact information or how to become a member, please visit ." 

The Snowy Owl continues to be the STAR of  winter birding. 

After last years invasion of Great Gray Owls in eastern Ontario is was nice to see them again. 

On Amherst Island most Snowy Owls were observed sitting on the ice or along the shoreline. This individual decided  the best vantage point was from a roof of a home along the shore. 

An unusual sight was a group of 4 Ring-necked Pheasant feeding on Wild Grapes on a vine up in a tree.

By chance I was able to capture a flight shot of the pheasant as it flew to another tree to feed. 

The heavy ice conditions along the ferry route made it difficult for these Red-breasted Mergansers to find an open area of water. 

There is lots of snow on Amherst Island and the road into the Owl Woods Preserve  is impassible due to very high snow drifts

The Amherst Island ferry pushes through the ice chocked channel. 

February 8,2014 Red-necked Grebe flight in eastern Ontario?

The birding along the Ottawa River continues to be unpredictable this winter in spite of the extreme cold and ice conditions. A total of 3 Red-necked Grebes were discovered this morning, two at Deschenes Rapids and one at Remic Rapids. Mid winter records for the Ottawa-Gatineau district are very rare and usually associated with mild conditions. There was also one Horned Grebe observed at Deschenes Rapids which  there are only a few winter records for the Ottawa-Gatineau district too.  There have a been a few other sightings of but grebes over the past week in eastern Ontario including, the Kingston area, Presqu'ile Provincial Park and a couple towards the Toronto region. Since there has been no mild weather are these birds being forced out of there wintering areas on the Great Lakes due to the ice conditions? 

Good birding,

photo courtesy of John Cooper
One of 3 Red-necked Grebes found along the Ottawa River today.