Wednesday, October 10, 2012

50 Days of Rare update

As mentioned in the previous post, I ended up going home for the weekend. It had its ups and downs, but as far as birding went it was mostly ups! The west/south winds and some storms proved fairly productive! Some highlights below.

Friday - the (adult) male Eurasian Wigeon on the way up, 2nd area record and probably my best bird for the competition so far! Only the second I've ever seen in Ontario, the other was in May 2005 at Hillman marsh.

Saturday I did a lakewatch at Gros Cap, on the way out I had 3 Cackling Geese in a field, a fairly rare bird locally. The highlights of the lakewatch were my FOY Red-throated Loon and Black Scoter, along with a BRANT - another local mega-rarity, this was the first record for Algoma (although WPBO has 21 previous records). That night I got a message from Tyler Hoar saying he'd found a Western Grebe and Nelson's Sparrow up at Batchawana, so I knew what I was doing the next day!

Sunday I obviously headed up to Batchawana Bay first thing in the morning, where it was snowing fairly heavily when I arrived. I eventually refound the Western Grebe (first confirmed Algoma record and 3rd area record), but was unable to locate the Nelson's. There were a ton of birds around, however, with a good mix of late-fall migrants. Unfortunately I was unable to turn up anything too out of the ordinary. An adult Thayer's Gull was nice to see though! On my way back I stopped in at Havilland Bay where there were pretty much no waterfowl, but I did find another (or maybe the same?) Nelson's Sparrow - this is only the third I've heard of in Algoma (Tyler's would be the second)! I then drove around some backroads hoping to find a northern owl but only managed to turn up a Gray Jay. Afterwards I did a fairly solid search of all the local gull hotspots hoping for Kirk's Mew Gull to materialize but alas, I did not find it.

Monday, I joined Kirk on a local rarity roundup as he'd been out of town for the weekend and wanted to see all the goodies we'd found! Our first stop was Bruce Mines where the Eurasian Wigeon was still present and provided good views (and some better pics which I will post later). Next was the Dafter landfill (on the Michigan side) where we hoped the Mew would be hanging out, as our dump was closed for the day. No luck on that unfortunately, but we did have 2 adult Thayer's Gulls and I added Lesser Black-backed Gull to my MI list with a 3rd-cycle individual. Since it was still fairly early in the day we motored up to Batchawana where we failed to turn up either Nelson's Sparrow. We then went out to the point on the west side of the bay, where I'd had the Western Grebe the day before, and pretty much immediately got a brief distant view of it. At this point the wind was howling out of the south/southwest and the waves were huge, making waterbirding quite difficult. I noticed a small bird flying by that looked suspiciously like a phalarope, and got Kirk on it about a second before it landed and promptly disappeared behind a wave. Kirk had a better look than I did and immediately agreed with phalarope, and after reviewing the book we decided it was a molting juvenile RED PHALAROPE due to the general patterning and short, thick-looking bill. Only my second lifer of the year and another first for Algoma! We then spent a bit of time sorting through the Horned and Red-necked Grebes offshore before I got bored and went for a walk to try to relocate the phalarope. I was scanning the open water way offshore when I spotted a distant jaeger sp. shearwatering above the surf. I watched it for a while as it got closer and when it started chasing a Herring Gull I realized it was a Pomarine! I ran to get Kirk but by the time we got back it was heading back out into the distance. Less than a minute later another jaeger came in on the same flight line as the first, only this one was somewhat smaller and slimmer - Parasitic! Pomarine was a first for Algoma and Parasitic only the second (I had the first back at the end of August!). We spent a while after that continuing the lakewatch but didn't turn up anything else before heading home.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I headed back to Guelph, but not before finding one more new bird for my Algoma list - 2 Snow Geese out in a field with a bunch of Sandhill Cranes (and no other geese which was kind of odd)! This was my 6th goose species for Algoma (kind of unexpected as they are regular migrants through the area in early spring and late fall...). A quick stop at the Bruce Mines lagoons turned up the continuing Eurasian Wigeon, and coming into Guelph I picked up Josh's Nelson's Sparrow at Mountsberg along with 4 Tundra Swans.

Overall a pretty birdy weekend with 3 self-found first county records (along with two seconds and a third), and got to see another first county record (thanks Tyler!). Just goes to show how productive the area really is when it gets covered! Of course, as soon as I left a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher showed up at Whitefish Point, a species which I had in mind all weekend but failed to find on our side! Win some lose some I guess.

In case you're wondering, I did actually spend some time with my family and friends! It was a good time with lots of good meals (which I didn't have to cook!), only dampened by the loss of my 6-year-old cat, Shadow, who I will (and already do) miss very much!

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