Friday, 27 May 2011

May Dinner Meeting

The KFN May Dinner Meeting is something we all look forward to, good food, good speaker, good books to be had in the Silent Auction.  Our Speaker this year was Terrence Dickinson, our local famous astronomer, author of several books including the popular astronomy guide Night Watch, a man whose pleasant demeaner and sense of humour draws a crowd, in this case to a sold out crowd of 104 plus 2 KFN members who came after the dinner just to hear his presentation.  He spoke about the mind-boggling numbers of stars in our known area of the universe, and the incredible distances between stars and galaxies.  He also spoke of a concern both to astronomers and environmentalists:  light pollution, and how the ever-expanding population centers make it more and more difficult to enjoy the view of nature above.  Fortunately we still have places within our area where we can see dark skies and marvel at the stars and Milky Way.  Mr. Dickinson  certainly inspires people  to get outside and look up at the evening sky. 


Currently in the night sky:

The planet Saturn is putting on a show, its current position being opposite to the sun from planet Earth makes this favourite ringed planet bright in the evening sky.  Look towards the SSW and find Corvus, a quad-shaped constellation low on the horizon, with Spica a bright star in the constellation Virgo above and a few degrees to the left.  Go up from Corvus to the bright "star" above to see Saturn.  The photograph below was taken on May 23rd at 11:18 p.m., Saturn will move through the sky more westerly until June 14th when it reaches its turning point and heads back east in a slightly lower position.  Those of you fortunate to get one of the copies of the current issue of Sky News magazine that Mr. Dickinson handed out, look to pages 28 and 29.  There is  also information posted to the Sky News website at .  Now, if we can just get all this  rainy weather to move off so we can enjoy a bit of astronomy!

Photo taken with Canon 350D digital slr, 18-55 mm lens set at 21mm, camera set on barndoor tracker, IS0 400 at f 4.0, exposure time 215 seconds.

Photo and posting:  Rose-Marie Burke

Kingston Area Birds to May 27, 2011

The Brant migration has been in full swing this week. One hundred flew over Amherstview last Sunday, two flocks were near Bath and over 200 were on Amherst on Wednesday and a mere 5 remained on Amherst yesterday. Great Egrets have been regular on Amherst all week as have Black-crowned Night-Herons. Great Egrets have also been seen in Bell's Swamp out Division Street and in Collin's Bay. Sandhill Cranes were reported from both Crosby and Elginburg on Wednesday.
Small bird migration is on the wane but 2 Blue-winged Warblers on Amherst on Wednesday were noteworthy. The Prairie Warbler on the Canoe Lake Road could not be refound yesterday. On Monday the Chimney Swift roosts on Westdale Avenue and at Queen's were checked and had 60 and 40 birds respectively.
Shorebird numbers and variety have improved significantly. The KFN property on Amherst had 3 Red Knots, 4 Ruddy Turnstones, 3 Upland Sandpipers and 5 Short-billed Dowitchers on Wednesday and yesterday the knots had moved on but 2 Black-bellied and 2 Semipalmated Plovers, a White-rumped, 150 Semipalmated and 5 Least Sandpipers, and 1000 Dunlin were added to the tally. A Wilson's Phalarope at the Camden Lake Wildlife Area last Saturday was certainly unexpected.
Unusual sightings included a late Rough-legged Hawk on Amherst on Wednesday, a Snow Goose near Perth Road Village and a Great Cormorant on the Amherst Ferry crossing last Saturday.
Peter Good

More on the Snow Goose from Rose-Marie:

I first noticed the goose on our lakeshore by our boats here on our property north of Perth Road Village after supper when I was wandering around with the camera hoping for some sunset clouds over the lake.  It allowed me to approach within about 50 feet before stepping into the water and swimming along the shore.  Having only a short lens and light conditions being very poor before sunset, I only got some poor shots, just good enough for identification.  The goose was there again the next morning, and I got much better photos of it.  As seen in the shot below the right wing is hanging down a little bit, our concern was that it was injured.  Sometimes the best thing to do in these cases is just leave it alone and keep an eye on it.  The goose seemed otherwise strong and healthy, was eating and swimming, and now and then  stretched and flapped the wings vigorously.  We figured it just needed a little quiet rest to recouperate from whatever was ailing it and keeping it from its journey north.  It hung around for a couple of days, seemed content, and then on Thursday it had disappeared.  Hopefully it has gone on about the normal business of being a wild goose.

                                                        Photo: Rose-Marie Burke

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Kingston Area Birds to May 20, 2011

Peter Good's weekly bird summary:

Warblers, vireos and sparrows continue to move through in good numbers. The weather has not been conducive to birding or any other outdoor activity so reporting has been somewhat reduced this week. There were 4 Blackpoll Warblers at PEPt last Friday (sometimes a sign that warbler migration is on the wane) and a Canada at the start of the Rideau Trail the day before. Our second Prairie Warbler of the season was found along the Canoe Lake Road and was seen both Saturday and Monday.
A female Brewer's Blackbird was on Wolfe Island for a few days at the beginning of the week, a N. Mockingbird was seen on the River Road southwest of Napanee on Sunday and a Black-billed Cuckoo was at Lemoine Point on Monday.
After a flurry of Brant sightings last week only one was seen this week; on Monday at Dupont. Twenty Black Terns on Wolfe Island were tallied on a survey of Big Sandy Bay last Tuesday and 3 Black-crowned Night-Herons were on the penitentiary property on Wednesday.
Shorebird numbers are improving but nothing unusual as yet. A Pectoral Sandpiper and a lone Dunlin were on Amherst Island and 40 Least Sandpipers were at the Kaiser X-road last Friday. There was another Least on Amherst, 16 Dunlin on Salmon Island  and a Short-billed Dowitcher in Cape Vincent across the river in New York State on Monday.
The KFN does their annual spring round-up this Saturday and Sunday so we are all hoping for good weather and good birds.
Peter Good

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

KFN Amherst Island Sanctuary

Paul Mackenzie sends us photos taken on April 27, 2011 when a work crew of KFN members got the cattle watering troughs ready for the season.

The KFN owns about 200 acres at the southeast end of Amherst Island.  In order to maintain grassland  for birds that require grassland habitat, the fields are rented to a drover who pastures 85 head of cattle for the summer.  A solar system has been set up to provide water for the cattle.  Erwin Batalla, head of the Nature Reserves Committee, along with help from Bud Rowe, Hugh Evans, George Vance, Peter Good,  and Hugh Evans worked to get the troughs cleaned and the system running.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the property, migrating waterfowl were flying over the gravel bar, and a mute swan took advantage of the pond.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Birds in East Kingston

Kevin Bleeks sends us a report of birds recently sighted in East Kingston:

A few birds observed within the past week in the east
part of the city around Hwy # 15 and the Gore Road.
-2  Gray Catbirds
- numerous Yellow warblers
- one Black & White warbler
- 2 sightings of an Eastern Towhee
- 2 white crowned sparrows
-Carolina Wren
- Pileated Woodpeckers are nesting   on Gore Road.  Lots
  of activity at the site that is next to the road.
Also last Thursday at Lemoine Point
- 4 Baltimore Orioles
- 2 Rose Breasted Grosbeaks

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Butterfly Report 1 May to 15 May 2011

John Poland sends us an updated butterfly report:

                                   Brown Elfin                Photo: John Hall    

The first half of May is the time to see Whites and Elfins. All four Elfins on the KFN list have now been sighted at various locations mostly on the Canadian shield. The highlight was finding the rare Brown Elfin both at the Second Depot Lakes Conservation area and at Menzel Centennial Provincial Park. The four white butterflies on the KFN list are now also present. These include the West Virginia White and the Olympia Marble which we are lucky to have in our area. Of these eight butterflies only the Eastern Pine Elfin, the Mustard White and Cabbage White will not be around for much longer so get looking.
There have been reports of quite a number of new arrivals since the last update. They include Clouded Sulphur, Juvenals Duskywing, Columbine Duskywing, Black Swallowtail, Red Admiral and Northern Crescent and most recently the Eastern Tailed Blue and Silvery Blue. The other highlight to report is the return of the Chryxus Arctic to Rock Dunder. These Arctics were re-discovered last year and I am happy to report that they are back in good numbers.  
The three rare butterflies that I will be looking for in the last two weeks of May are all Hairstreaks. They are the Gray (four were sighted last year but they often go unreported), the Juniper (only one sighted at Menzel last year but quite a number seen in our area in 2008 and 2009) and the Early (last reported in our area at Helen Quilliam Sanctuary in 1979 but are likely present high in beech trees).

John Poland

                                      Chryxus Arctic     Photo: Murray Seymour


It's that time of year again, when midges appear, along with other insects.  Murray Seymour sends us a report and photos of midges:

If you have been cycling or running or even just walking along close to Lake Ontario in the last little while, you're probably familiar with these little fellas. Quite possibly intimately familiar – nothing like one of these up the nose to get your attention. They are Midges. But say Midge to a taxonomist and you'll probably receive a blank stare. That's not really telling them something useful. The one shown here with the feathery antennae is probably a male of the genus Orthocladius. There are at least 29 species of that genus in North America. The other one could also be of that genus, or it could be a member of Chironomus – 25 species. I'm not sure how many genera of Midges there are, but there are quite a few. Identifying which is what is a task for specialists with microscopes, time and patience. I came across one comment stating that to really identify a certain species it would be necessary to immerse a specimen in a borax solution until all the soft bits were gone and then look for the genitalia.

What is really important to know is that they only swarm in the spring and THEY DO NOT BITE.

Unlike black flies.

But that's a whole other story.


                                                     Chironominae  sub Orthoclodinae

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Opinicon Road Area Birding

Mark Conboy gives an update on recent birding at the Opinicon Rd./Chaffey's Lock area:


Some have been asking for an update on birding conditions along
Opinicon Road in Eastern Ontario, so here it is:

Though migration was fairly slow this spring all of the most sought
after species have returned to Opinicon Road at this time. I counted
15 cerulean and 3 golden-winged warblers between the Lindsay Lake Road
(trail) to the Skycroft Campground. Other warblers present in the area
include yellow, chestnut-sided, blackburnian, magnolia, black-throated
blue, yellow-rumped, prairie (only 1, on May 9), palm, pine,
black-throated green, black-and-white, Canada and Nashville warblers,
along with American redstart, northern parula, northern waterthrush,
ovenbird and common yellowthroat.

A blue-winged warbler was foraging and singing in the shrubs along the
creek just south of Crosby on Highway 15 (about 1 km north of where
Opinicon/Chaffey's Lock Road (the name changes part way along the
road) meets Highway 15). A white-phase snow goose was there too.

Other birds of interest: yellow- and black-billed cuckoos (still low
numbers), 2 red-bellied woodpeckers (on May 13; 1 on Lindsay Lake Road
and 1 near the Skycroft Campground), peregrine falcon (1), bald eagle
(1), American bitterns, Virginia rails, sora (1),  blue-gray
gnatcatchers and yellow-throated vireos (and 3 other vireo spp). My
field assistants and I saw a tufted titmouse back on May 5 at the
Queen's University Biological Station. Unfortunately it has not been
relocated, but keep your eyes and ears peeled - it's an unusual bird
around here. Pretty well all of the expected migrants have returned
with only the latest-arriving species left to make an appearance.

Finally, recent counts of eastern whip-poor-wills along Opinicon Road,
Massassauga Road and the Cataraqui Trail have provided estimates of
about 50 singing males within earshot of the roads/trail - not too bad
for a threatened species. If you come whip-poor-willing you'll also
hear lots of American woodcocks, common snipes, barred owls and an
occasional great horned owl.

Directions to Opinicon Road: From Kingston: Go north on Division
Street/Perth Road/County Road 10 to just past Perth Road Village. Turn
east (right) on Opinicon Road. From Ottawa: Go west on Highway 417 to
Highway 7. At Carleton Place turn south (left) on Highway 15. Follow
Highway 15 for about 60 km through Smith's Falls and all the way to
Chaffey's Lock Road (name changes to Opinicon Road west of Chaffey's
Lock). The best birding is between Chaffey's Lock and Perth Road.
Queen's University Biological Station (main operations centre;
emergency address 280) is located at the end of Queen's University
Road, 2 km west of Chaffey's Lock.

Note: Visitors are welcome at Queen's Univsersity Biological Station
throughout the year. Please avoid distrubing ongoing avain
research projects by staying on the trails and not using playback. If
you have questions about research at QUBS you can contact Mark Andrew
Conboy by email (


Friday, 13 May 2011

Kingston Area Birds to May 13, 2011

Here is Peter Good's weekly summary of birds for the Kingston area to May 13th:

With so many new arrivals I'll concentrate on the early and the unusual. At PEPt there have been up to 6 Harlequin Ducks and on May 7th an impressive 85 Surf Scoters. The Brant migration is in full swing with several hundred seen this week off the east end of Amherst Island and north of the city. Green Herons were seen in three locations and our third sighting this spring of a Sandhill Crane was near Crosby a week ago yesterday. A Great Egret (13A on red wing-tags) was seen on Amherst Island on Monday. This bird was tagged near Collingwood last June. The only new additions to the shorebird list were a Solitary Sandpiper at PEPt on May 7th and 5 Least Sandpipers on Amherst on Tuesday.
There was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo on the Opinicon Road yesterday, a Red-headed Woodpecker on Amherst May 3rd and 4th and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher at PEPt on the 7th. So far, seven pairs of Loggerhead Shrikes have returned to the Newburgh area northeast of Napanee.
Warbler and vireo numbers and variety have been good at such diverse locations as the Rideau trail, the Opinicon Road, Lemoine Point, Charleston Lake, Amherst Island and Prince Edward Point. Highlights included a Prairie at Charleston Lake P.P. on the 5th and a Yellow-throated Warbler at PEPt on the7th. An early Blackpoll was north of Millhaven last Friday.
Noteworthy sparrows were a Lincoln's on the Opinicon Road and 3 Grasshopper near Napanee, all reported yesterday. The last local Dark-eyed Juncos and Pine Siskins were seen on May 6th and 7th respectively.

Peter Good


While on the subject, I will just tack on a couple sightings of my own:  I had 2 white-crowned sparrows hopping across my lawn north of Perth Road Village this morning.  2 whipporwills are calling nightly.  Our local heronry has about 6 active nests, and the chicks have hatched out.  
  - Rose-Marie

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Field Trip Report: Prince Edward Point, May 7, 2011

Prince Edward Point is a favourite destination for birders, especially during migration.  Paul Mackenzie led a field trip to the area on Saturday, May 7th, and sends us this report:

Trip Report                                         Prince Edward Point       May 7, 2011                        

It was a 6.00 am departure for the 6.45 Glenora ferry for about 13 people sharing 5 vehicles. Although KFN bird trips are traditionally held on Sundays, May 7 was a trial on a Saturday. Some people like Saturdays and others are freer on Sundays.
We set out all hopeful given that the weather was finally sunny after a cool rainy week during which May migrants were scarce. We stopped to observe Purple Martins at a nest box and a colony of Cliff Swallows under the eaves of a shed. On Babylon Road, the Upland Sandpipers were heard only and no Grasshopper or Clay-colored Sparrows were found. Quite a cool west breeze was blowing and there was little evidence of a “fallout” of migrants as we drove toward the Point. Hope fell temporarily.
We sped to the Point to try for the Harlequin Ducks which had been seen intermittently the past week. Our mood improved greatly when we had excellent views of 2 pair close to shore near the banding station, along with Long-tailed Ducks, and Red-breasted Mergansers. Observatory manager David O’Kines reported that many new birds had arrived in Point Traverse Woods. The trails had many other birders, and all were delighted to find a variety of colorful spring birds. We soon had Yellow, Cerulean, Cape May, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, and Black & White Warblers. Above us were Northern Parula, and several Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Baltimore Orioles. Great Crested Flycatcher and Red-bellied Woodpecker flew past. We were told about two coveted species we did not locate: Red-headed Woodpecker and Yellow-throated Warbler. But we did find all three species of Scoter offshore.
Additional species were added all morning. We had an early lunch near the banding station and walked past the new gate toward the lighthouse and back to the banding station.  New birds included Blue-headed Vireo, Palm Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and White-crowned Sparrow. Whoever screamed ice cream caused a stop at the Black River Cheese Shop.  
A total of over 90 species was recorded and Prince Edward Point lived up to its reputation of a rewarding place to bird.

                                Photos by Paul Mackenzie and Kurt Hennige

                                                    Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Harlequin Ducks

                                                               Cape May Warbler
                                                  Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Ode Hunters Awake! They're Coming Back.

Carol Seymour sends us this report on dragonflies:

Following the first arrivals of the far-wandering Common Green Darners, things have been quiet for a couple of weeks. But now our own Canadian odes are beginning to hatch – strong and free. North of town, both east and west, Beaverpond Baskettails, American Emeralds and Hudsonion Whitefaces have begun to emerge. At first a few sporadic sightings were made, but a couple of days ago near the eastern edge of Frontenac Park, we were met by waves of Baskettails and Emeralds – all teneral (newly hatched.) Kurt Henige reports seeing Dusky Clubtails and Eastern Pondhawks taking flight. Can't wait to see what's next!

                                              Hudsonian Whiteface

Photo:  Murray Seymour

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Big Day April 11, 2011

We have some enthusiastic birders in our club, often heading out to spend the day finding and recording species.  Erwin Batalla sends us this report of a group effort, along with a photo from Paul Mackenzie:

On Thursday 28 April, Paul Mackenzie, Bruce Ripley and Erwin Batalla attempted to break the ABA (American Birding Association) Big Day record for April in Ontario (111 species set by another group from the KFN in 2009).
We left Amherstview at 5 AM and headed west. There was a little bit of wind and the Eastern Screech Owl did not respond at a marsh north of Bath. We caught the 6:15 ferry at Adolphustown and were quickly off towards Prince Edward Point, trying to outrun the bad weather.
There were several squalls and we were pelted by rain early on. This made it very difficult to see or hear the birds. We occasionally saw little flocks darting through but could only positively identify a few of the passerines. We still managed to find Nashville, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Pine, Palm and Black-and-white Warblers as well as Northern Parula. When we reached the Point, the wind was really howling and our walk to the lighthouse was not very productive but we added House Wren, Least Flycatcher and Veery to our list. We searched for the Harlequin Ducks that had been seen but could not locate them.
We retraced our steps and went past Waupoos to the Kaiser Crossroad. There were a few species of ducks and shorebirds at that location. By this time, the gale was such that scopes placed at knee high in the lee of the car still shook a lot. Taking the ferry towards Kingston, we birded at Hay Bay where we puzzled over two small terns, along Wilton Creek, at the Amherstview Sewage Lagoons and at Lost Lake where we saw a Common Yellowthroat.
Despite our very respectable nine species of warblers, we could see that the strong winds would not allow us any chance at breaking the existing record so we headed home after 4 PM. We had totaled 98 species on a day on which fallen and uprooted trees were more numerous than raptors.

Erwin Batalla

                                                                    Northern Parula

                                                 Photo:  Paul Mackenzie

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Humble and Regal Bumblebee

I don't see why birds, butterflies and dragonflies should get all the press; there are a host of other animalia popping up at this time of year. For instance, the common old bumble bee you might have been lucky enough to see in the past week or so has spent the whole winter all alone in an abandoned mouse hole or some similar protected spot. She is now faced with the daunting task of starting a whole new nest all by herself. At this time she desperately needs to find pollen from the few spring flowers available, both as food for herself and for her young. She was inseminated during a mating flight late last summer or early fall, found a safe spot to winter and is now ready to lay her fertilized eggs. (Many don't make it through the winter's cold.) When she has collected enough pollen, she will roll it into a ball and lay her eggs in the middle. She will also scrape wax from the underside of her abdomen to make a little cup just in front of the pollen ball. This she will fill with nectar. She will then place her body in the groove she left in the top of the pollen ball and raise her body heat to incubate her eggs. While incubating, she will sip from the cup of nectar to provide the energy she needs. When the young hatch, they can eat their way out of the ball. These will provide the first workers for the new nest. Before they are even mature, the queen will have started another batch. Towards the end of the summer, the nest will be producing both males and females, and the cycle repeats. And life goes on.

A little show of respect to any queen you might come across is definitely in order.

Murray Seymour

                                           Two-Spotted Bumblebee  Bombus bimaculatus

                                                Photo:  Murray Seymour

Dragons and Damsels Update

Not only the birders and butterfliers have been busy this weekend, the Seymours have been out and about taking advantage of the nice weather.  Carol Seymour sends this report and photo:

Dragons and Damsels Update

As usual, the first returnees from the long migration up the eastern seaboard are the Common Green Darners. We saw nine on Saturday on a couple of the CUBE trails and there have been reports of others from all over the Kingston 50km area. While walking beside a pond, we saw a pair wheeling (mating) which means in a little while there'll be lots of Canadian Darners in the air. For those not familiar with these insects, the Common Greens are the big green odonates  reminiscent of military helicopters that remain with us all season long. Like most dragons, they will try to eat anything that doesn't eat them first. Fortunately, they are completely harmless to humans, even little ones.

Carol Seymour

Butterfly Report January 1, 2011 to April 30, 2011

John Poland has become keen on observing and recording species of butterflies in the Kingston area, and has even put together a "Pictorial Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of the Kingston Region".  The KFN is keeping records of butterflies and dragonflies along with the copious records of birds.  John sends this report of butterfly sightings since the first of the year:

Butterfly Report  1 January to 30 April 2011

The first butterflies that  were reported this year were seen on the trails at Skycroft by the Opinicon Road on 12 April. These were the Eastern and Grey Commas, Compton’s Tortoiseshell and Mourning Cloak which are all overwintering species. These four butterflies have been seen since at several locations especially in woodland on the shield but also in Kingston.  The first non wintering adult butterfly to be seen was a Cabbage White on 23 April. During the last week several new species have been seen but only the Spring Azure has been seen in any numbers. New butterflies that have been reported from the Cataraqui Trail off the Perth Road, trails along the Opinicon Road and the Helen Quilliam Sanctuary are Mustard White, West Virginia White, Olympia Marble, Eastern Pine Elfin, Henry’s Elfin, American Lady and Spring Azure.

John Poland

                                           Olympia Marble

                                                       Photo: R. Burke