Sunday 31 May 2015

The Twillicks Birdathon - Part 1

Catherine and I beat all of our expectations for our 24 hour birdathon that started at 5pm last Friday!

Read on to find out more about our great day. And if you haven't already, please help support our birds by donating here. Thank you!

Our goal was to see (or hear) 75 species within 24 hours on the Avalon peninsula. Catherine's previous record was 73, and the all time record was somewhere in the high 70's. We finished the first 5 hours with 45 species on our list with many unexpected birds, and plenty of easy ones yet to see! Things were looking good ;)

The starting gate was at Third pond in the Goulds, also known as the "horsetrack pond". After scanning the estuary a couple times I heard a yellowlegs call. Knowing that a Ruff had recently been seen at the same location with 2 Greater Yellowlegs we began to search for the source of the call. Sure enough we found a shorebird not too far away - but far enough away that the heat haze made it difficult to identify. We got closer to the bird and saw that it was a yellowlegs, presumably a Greater. Next to it we were lucky to notice a well hidden sleeping shorebird. We were having difficulty figuring out what it was until it woke up and we could see that it was a/the Ruff! An excellent start to our count! We continued watching the two shorebirds, when eventually the yellowlegs also woke up - surprisingly it had a relatively short, thin, and straight bill - it was a Lesser Yellowlegs!! Two rare shorebirds in the first 5 minutes!!!

The next stop was Bidgood's Park. This park has been the site of many great birds in its short 3 year existence. We came hoping to get Barn Swallow and American Bittern. While scanning through the swallow flock Catherine noted a larger dark swallow. It soon disappeared and she was left wondering what she saw. Thankfully she re-found it a few minutes later and we both got excellent looks at her lifer PURPLE MARTIN! This was only our second stop and we had already found 3 rarities for our birdathon. What more could we ask for!

This male Northern Flicker was keeping an eye on us from his fortress in Bidgood's Park:

The next stop was 2km away at Murph's Pond, site of a small Rusty Blackbird colony. We spent about 30 minutes in the area looking for the blackbirds. We couldn't find them. But that's OK, they weren't a species we were expecting to get, so we moved on down the road. On our way back we lucked out with a single blackbird perched at the top of a spruce tree!

The next stop was Lundrigan's Marsh. Another marsh where many great birds have been found over the years. We gave ourselves a full hour to search the area from the lookout knowing that the birds are very difficult to find amongst the reeds. When we showed up, Ed Hayden had just seen one of our main targets, a Northern Shoveler. Unfortunately it had just moved into the reeds keeping itself out of our sights. We continued to scan the reeds for the next hour while our hopes of seeing the shoveler diminished. We were happy, however, to hear a Killdeer calling nearby. Another hard to get shorebird! We found it on a gravel pad across the road:

The search continued for the ducks as more people started to arrive. They were hoping to hear a Sora that had been heard there recently. As the sun was setting and visibility was diminishing we were all happy to hear the Sora call a few times. It had been heard occasionally in the previous week - but hadn't been reliable. As luck would have it, just as we were all ready to leave the male shoveler poked its head up over the reeds to see if the coast was clear. It soon emerged from the reeds to swim in the open water, and a female shoveler followed it out into the open!

The next stop was at Burton's Pond. A tiny pond where 2 Tufted Ducks have been seen over the previous week. Despite it being dark out we had no trouble finding the 2 tufties as they swam in the middle of the pond.

The last stop before getting a few hours of sleep was at Long Pond where a rare Northern Saw-whet Owl had been singing during the previous couple weeks. Our luck had been exhausted - despite patiently waiting to hear it, the owl did not sing for us and we made our way back home to get a few hours sleep. Our list stood at a respectable 45 species! We had the better part of a day ahead of us so we were hopeful we could reach our target of 75 species!

I'll be sure to post Part 2 tomorrow :)