Wednesday 10 August 2011

Looking back part 2 (hits and misses)

In my previous post I bragged about all my favourite birding trips so now I'll boast about the birds I've seen at all those places in Ontario!
So far this year I've seen 272 species of birds in Ontario which is a pretty good list (but as you'll see I've missed a few easy ones) and if I make it a full year (conveniently) between August 7th of last year and August 6th of this year I've seen 282 species in Ontario. Not bad at all...
Nevertheless, as I've mentioned, there are still a few species that I should have seen by now and are almost an embarrassment on my "tardy tick" list

But to start on a good note - a mix of my top 5 favourite and rarest birds seen in Ontario!

5: Buff-breasted Sandpiper - August, James Bay: Not sure exactly why I've taken a liking to this bird - it's a pretty sleek looking shorebird though, in my opinion. Not that rare in Southern Ontario - if you're really trying you should be able to get this most years.

4: Henslow's Sparrow - May, Pelee: One of those elusive species that I managed to see at Pelee. I was leading a group when we met up with Pete Read's group who boasted about finding a Henslow's Sparrow less than 5 minutes ago and only 30 meters away! I couldn't resist dragging my group over to help me find the bird! Most of them gave up pretty quick so I couldn't stick around for too long - but luckily for me the tallest member of my group decided to stick it out and with his height advantage he managed to see the bird scurrying around in the grass a mere 1 meter from many intent birders. I quickly rushed back to see the bird after Mira (who happened to be there as well) had had some impressive looks - or so she claimed. My jealousy quickly faded when I saw some grass moving around and then the bird quickly scurried across a tiny field of view. Not guaranteed every year even if you chase!

3: American Avocet - April, Presqu'ile:
My luck couldn't have been any better that weekend. Most weekends that I am out birding I don't have access to the internet or OntBirds - as a result I'm always worried that I'll drive right by some sort of mega-rarity with out knowing it even though the bird is all over the internet (luckily this nightmare has never played out for me .... yet). Although Avocets aren't a mega-rarity I was still pretty happy to see them as I was hoping to get the chance to see them at Pelee - I wasn't going to complain about getting them ahead of time (turns out that there were none at Pelee anyway).
Although I wasn't the original finder I did see them before I heard about their existence which was pretty exciting.
Shouldn't be too difficult to see every year if you're chasing them.

2: adult male King Eider - March, Toronto:
Not an often seen plumage in Southern Ontario - I spent sometime getting great looks at this bird. I've seen adult male King Eiders before in Newfoundland (plus an adult female plucked out of the ocean by an Eagle!) but usually they're pretty distant. So this unexpected occurrence was very much appreciated - it was also interesting to see the throngs of Toronto birders emerge from their homes to finally do some winter birding the day after this bird was found!
I'm not entirely sure how common this plumage is in Ontario - Hamilton seems to get a few sightings every year, but not as easy to come by as this one!

1: Bell's Vireo - probably the rarest bird I've seen in Ontario. After walking right by the bird I heard about it's existence at least several hours after everyone else at Pelee - or at least it seemed that way. I rushed to the spot on my bike for a quick look before rushing back to the Visitors Centre to start leading another hike. In the end I saw that bird 4 times during the day. All of them pretty much in the exact same location - 3 of those in the exact same tree!
Only a handful of records in Ontario (lots of unconfirmed ones though it seems) but certainly seems to be  increasing - it's range is expanding towards eastern North America.

And of course there are some birds I have missed. Some of them are pretty embarrassing, some of them I simply haven't gone to the right spot and others have managed to elude me despite several attempts.

6/5: Nelson's Sparrow & Le Conte's Sparrow - These two birds should have been easy finds in James Bay last August. My excuse is the incessant mosquitoes. After suffering several bites the first evening I made every effort to stay away from the island and stick to the mudflats where the mosquitoes did not like to go. Meaning I was forced to do more shorebirding - not a bad thing at all - but I didn't put the time in to search out either of the specialty sparrows.

4: Red Crossbill - I should have seen this during the winter...

3: Piping Plover - Everyone knows where they are, I simply haven't been to any of those 3 beaches...

2: Black-backed Woodpecker - I should have this by now especially after at least 3 trips to Algonquin Park with this bird high on the list of wants!

1: Eastern Screech-owl - probably my most embarrassing miss. I've heard them on a few occasions but still haven't seen one! There was even one regularly being seen in Toronto but I never did go and try for it.

I'm not too disappointed about these misses really - I'm simply happy that I've been able to get around all over Ontario. In my next post I'll do some more bragging - but this time I'll make some prophesies about the future.