Aug 292017
 

Now’s the time to be looking for migrating Common Nighthawks. The best time to see flocks is late afternoon and evening. They feed as they fly and are often seen over water. In my experience, they often turn up after a rain event.

Here are some recent sightings from Tim Dyson who lives in the Warsaw area. As of August 16, he has seen a total of 549 of these birds. Most were seen over the Indian River near/at Back Dam Park on Rock Road.

1.On the evening of August 16, I saw 41 Common Nighthawks over the Indian River just north of Warsaw. I watched for 30 minutes, just after the sun had set. They were moving along southward in groups averaging about five per group.

2. August 18th between 6:24pm and 6:27 pm, no less than 98 Common Nighthawks passed overhead where I am just n/w of Warsaw. Through a curtain of moderate rainfall, they were heading roughly s/w at average nighthawk height (100+ meters from the ground). Not really darting here and there much as is typical of them, but seemingly more intent on the direction they headed and the altitude they were keeping. Appearing as three loosely-connected bunches, it was difficult to count them at times, therefore I am glad they weren’t in whirling masses as is sometimes the case. They stretched to the eastern and western horizon, and despite my frantic searching, I could not bring the total to an even hundred birds or more. Although I have lived in a fair number of locations in the county over the past 25 years from Belmont Lake, Rice Lake, Buckhorn, and Nephton and places in between, interestingly, the Warsaw area has always yielded the highest numbers for migrating nighthawks in my experience, both now, and in the early-to-mid 1990s).

3. August 19th I got home to Warsaw just before dark in time to notice only 2 nighthawks flying past from east to west. I waited around another ten minutes or so, but saw no more.

4. On the morning of August 20th, (the date I’ve always considered to be average for observing large numbers of the species), 14 nighthawks just appeared to the north, gathered, (and very much like migrating Broad-winged Hawks will about four weeks from now), they “kettled” in a thermal and rode it straight up and out of my sight. This happened at 10:30am, it is sunny, humid, and 24 degrees outside. I find this far more bizarre than seeing more than one hundred nighthawks during an evening observation. That’s pretty normal. But a small kettle of them before noon… that’s just plain odd for me!

5. On the evening of August 20, despite hoping for a bumper crop of nighthawks to pass overhead on what is often “the peak date”, I only saw six of them from my favorite viewing spot and they were all observed at 6:45pm.

6. On August 21, I set up to watch for nighthawks just after 6:00pm, and none appeared in the sky until 6:50pm when 17 came into view just above the treetops heading roughly southward. Just as suddenly as they had appeared, I found myself staring at an empty sky once again. Yes, there were lulls in the passage of them, but before I went inside at 8:35pm. I had seen 65 for the night. Interesting this evening was the number of swallows, (however, I did not count them). Although most were quite high up,
some that were close enough to me to see well, seemed to be Bank Swallows. After a brief period of no visible nighthawks, they began to fly past again in small numbers and I found myself having to differentiate between them and the swallows as their flight style is somewhat similar, and their altitudes were variable. At about 7:25pm, one of the larger birds appeared to drop on a near 90 degree angle and slam right into one of the swallows! (Raptor experienced or not, my first thought was “That nighthawk is some kind of idiot!”) But as the two connected, there was a little puff of feathers and they never parted. “Of course! Duh!” I thought, as the Merlin that had just snatched a swallow veered to come almost directly overhead carrying it’s late-evening dinner. (see photo) As the landscape darkened by 8:30pm, two large bats began doing their rounds
over the former horse paddock, as a deer walked out for some evening grazing. He had a full crown of fuzzy antlers, and was unconcerned as he fed with his back to me only 20 meters away. A Gallium Sphinx visited some of the various flowers in the gardens around the house. I think I’ll sit out tomorrow night, too.

7. On August 22, between 7:30 and 8:30pm, Drew, my friend Angela, and I counted 33 nighthawks over Back Dam Park on Rock Road. They were flying south in groups of 2-7, with a few single birds. A few foraged as they flew, but most were making a beeline south. The wind was from the west and there had been heavy showers over much of the afternoon and into the early evening. The sky had cleared by the time we started watching for nighthawks. We also saw a Great Egret.

8. On August 23, Angela and I put the kayaks in at Back Dam Park at about 7:20pm. Paddled north almost to the power line, and turned around at 7:50pm and headed back. Five minutes later, the first nighthawk of the evening flew along the western
shore of the river and was actively feeding. About ten minutes later, there was the first good pulse totaling seven birds. Over the next twenty minutes others in small groups and singles appeared from the north and north-east. After a short lull, three more
came along to wrap up the night’s total at 22 birds. Other things of interest were three River Otters (very curious, coming back out of vegetation to squeak and squeal at us), and a lovely waxing crescent moon.

9. Despite sitting out at home for nearly two hours on the 26th of August, no more than 9 nighthawks were seen – three as singles and three groups of two each.

10. Travelling from home (3kms north and west of Warsaw) for an evening paddle on the Indian River, Angela and I counted 22 nighthawks from the moving vehicle as they zipped their way southward at 6:35pm. Paddling up the river from the Back Dam on Rock Road we saw nighthawks in waves streaming from north to south and of course there were the usual lulls. After one hour, our total for the night had risen to 54 nighthawks, when at 7:35 the sky to the north was suddenly full of them!! Our total rapidly grew to 96 nighthawks as 42 more made up the count for this bunch. Before the evening count was over when we returned to our launch place at 8:25pm, we had seen 147 nighthawks for this 27th of August 2017.
That brings my season total (since August 16th) to 549.

 

Common Nighthawk – Wikimedia

Nighhawks over Buckhorn Lake – Aug. 15, 2016 – David Beaucage Johnson

Nighthawk on left, and Merlin carrying swallow on right – Warsaw – Aug. 21, 2017 – Tim Dyson

May 052017
 

Although it has been several weeks since hearing of any still around, Ed & Karen Heuvel reported to me a Great Gray Owl they had seen during the early evening on their property along the Ouse River between Cottesloe and Norwood on April 18,

2017. Ed says; “Huntng from a low snag, it seemed quite tame. After a while, it sailed across the road and came to land on another snag. In the dimming light, it’s white mustache marks were quite distinct.”

Stoney Lake and area

Broad-winged Hawks seemed to show some early arrival dates this year, with the first I know of seen on Stoney Lake on April 12th. They, Red-shouldered Hawks, Merlins, and Ospreys are quite abundant now in the area as they engage in their nesting activities for another year.

The first Whip-poor-will I heard this spring was one singing on the evening of April 24th near South Bay on Stoney Lake.

On April 29th, an Eastern Phoebe was sitting on a full clutch of five eggs in her nest atop a horizontal deck support beam at a friend’s cottage off of Northey’s Bay Road.

Stoney, Belmont, and Cordova Lake area

Northern Barred Owls are very vocal right now, day and night, and we are at the time of year when most of them will have young in the nest, (averaging about a week old). Typically, in this area, many lay their eggs about the 25th of March. Usually quiet throughout the incubation period, the males, especially, begin frequent hooting again towards the end of April. I wonder if that has anything to do with early social imprinting of their youngsters?

Tim Dyson

Barred Owl – March 23, 2017 – Sandy Lake – Susan

Whip-poor-will (Karl Egressy)

Great Gray Owl – Tim Dyson

Broad-winged Hawk – Wikimedia

Red-shouldered Hawk – Karl Egressy

Eastern Phoebe at nest – David Frank

Eastern Phoebe nest – June 7, 2004 – Tim Dyson

Mar 112017
 

Today ( 10 March 2017) at noon I observed a Merlin in a cedar at the Little Lake Cemetery. Of course, I did not have my camera. He was quite content to sit and let me wander around the base of the tree to get a closer look. On Sunday, March 5, I observed a mature Bald Eagle in flight over Healey Falls on the Trent River.

Carl Welbourn

Merlin – Dec. 30, 2016 – Omemee – Carl Welbourn

Jan 132017
 

I took a picture of this Red-tailed Hawk at Lock 25 on the Otonabee River on December 30. The Merlin was near Omemee.

Carl Welbourn
Kawartha Camera Club

Red-tailed Hawk – Dec. 30, 2016 – Carl Welbourn

Merlin – Dec. 30, 2016 – Omemee – Carl Welbourn

Sep 232016
 

Here are a couple of photos from this week. The Common Loon chick eating something was photographed on September 20 on the River Road, south of Lakefield.
The Merlin picture was taken September 16 at our club shoot in Millennium Park.

Carl Welbourne

Merlin- Sept-16-2016 Carl Welbourne

Merlin- Millenium Park – Sept-16-2016
Carl Welbourne

Common loon chick-sept-20-2016-carl-welbourne

Common Loon chick – Sept. 20 2016 – Carl Welbourne

Aug 312016
 

I live on the Otonabee River between locks 24 & 25, and saw a pair of what I believe were Merlins flying over our yard Wednesday evening, August 24. Both of them had the shape of small falcons. I got a good look only at the brownish one when it landed on a cedar tree, but the markings looked unmistakable (definitely not a kestrel).

This is a fabulous place to live. We’re on the end of the road, so we have the river, but also mixed forest across the river and overgrown fields on two sides, one of which also has wetland, so we get a wonderful variety of birds. We had an American Bittern gullunking all spring, as well as Bobolinks in the fields. Also regularly see a Northern Harrier and American Kestrels, sometimes Red-tailed Hawks… and now Merlins. We also have loons as well as a pair of Baltimore Orioles, who, judging by the number of fledglings, had two clutches this year. Oh, and Bald Eagles in the winter. Who could ask for anything more?

Annamarie Beckel
writer ~ editor ~ ecologist

www.annamariebeckel.com

 

 

Bobolink - Wikimedia

Bobolink – Wikimedia

Baltimore Oriole on hummingbird feeder - Doug Gibson

Baltimore Oriole on hummingbird feeder – Doug Gibson

American Bittern - by Don Pettypiece

American Bittern – by Don Pettypiece

Merlin (Karl Egressy)

Merlin (Karl Egressy)

Jul 212016
 

The nesting families of Merlins we’ve enjoyed at the Little Lake Cemetery has expanded with a nest we saw in spring seeming to be in the yard of a house near Little Lake (if not on Crescent Street, then Ware or a Lock Street backyard). Breeding was successful, but we could never tell how many were in the family. Until tonight (July 20). The two juveniles are getting flying and hunting lessons with lots of vocalizations as they zoom across Princess and Ware Street backyards and rooftops. Around 8 p.m., it gets busy and tonight we were treated to them resting in a backyard tree in various numbers until dinner came and they huddled together to share.

With some more comings and goings and the constant adjustments of one of the young ones who seems a bit clumsy, eventually all four settled in at dusk to enjoy the concert music wafting over from Del Crary Park. As fans of the Peregrine Falcons nesting in our former neighbourhood in downtown Toronto, we couldn’t be happier having these four in our front yard.

Pat Maitland,  Princess Street (east of Lock St.), Peterborough

Merlin (Karl Egressy)

Adult female Merlin (Karl Egressy)

Merlin family (1) - Pat Maitland

Merlin family (3) – Pat Maitland

Merlin family (2) - Pat Maitland

Merlin family (2) – Pat Maitland

Merlin family (3) - Pat Maitland

Merlin family (1) – Pat Maitland

Sep 122015
 

AUGUST 25:  “We  have four juvenile Merlins that we see and hear playing and squawking in our yard almost daily, albeit less in the last few days.  We even saw one of them flying briefly with a Bald Eagle. We live on Young’s Point Road, between Lakefield and Young’s Point.”

Jason and Heather Balcombe

Juvenile Merlin - Jason Balcombe - Young's Point Road

Juvenile Merlin – Jason Balcombe – Young’s Point Road

Jul 122015
 

We have a cottage on Kosh Lake (Kasshabog Lake).  We have been on the lake, on an island for the past 11 years.  Traditionally we have Common Ravens on our island. They nest here, raise their young and wake us up very early in the morning.

This spring we witnessed a bit of a battle over the pine trees. We were not sure what type of bird would attack a raven’s nest but attack this bird did. There was a long fight with the raven’s eventually sitting in a nearby pine tree while we watched the attack bird flying around the nest.

Merlin in East City of Peterborough - Marlene Stamler

Merlin in East City of Peterborough – Marlene Stamler

We have heard this bird over the course of the spring, a high pitch “ki, ki, ki, ki” both while in flight and in the trees but until this weekend have been hard pressed to see it close up. This weekend we finally saw it closer, enough to see its tail feathers in flight. Gathering our binoculars we saw it in a tree and watched as it picked away at a bird it had caught.  Our bird book, and searching the internet, has led us to the conclusion that we have nesting Merlins on our little island.

Is this unusual? Will they be here for the rest of the season or will we possibly see them back next year?  Our ravens are gone, but we do hope they come back. They were good company and our little birds, usually around, have also decreased in numbers.

Shirley Bell

N.B. Merlins are now quite common throughout the Kawarthas. They even nest in the City of Peterborough. I suspect they will be back to your island next year, but I think the ravens should be able to stand their ground to them, being quite a bit larger. The return of Merlins to the Kawarthas is actually a good news story, because these birds were almost wiped out by DDT in the 60’s and 70’s.

Merlin (Karl Egressy)

Merlin (Karl Egressy)

Merlin - Mike Faught - April 9, 2015 - Ptbo

Merlin – Mike Faught – April 9, 2015 – Ptbo

 

 

Jul 212014
 

The Merlins around our home and neighbours, on lower Chemong Lake, are at their peak for loud calls – almost too much! So far there appear to be two adults and two juveniles flying around. They are decimating the local small bird population! Click here for some photos of one of the Merlins from a few days ago – not the best quality but they are my first for this bird:

Don McLeod, Chemong Lake

Merlin (Karl Egressy)

Merlin (Karl Egressy)