On Sunday I joined Brandon Holden for the annual Hamilton Fall Bird Count, our area was LaSalle Marina - Windemere Basin. We had a pretty good morning of mostly counting ducks, with some good finds being Eastern Towhee and a juv. female American Redstart! We ended up at 76 species for our route (Brandon forgot a few on his post!). Partway through the day we decided to head down to the lake to see what was around, and were quickly called away to chase a Western Tanager that Cheryl Edgecombe and Rob Dobos had found. Brett, Erika and I had a very brief view of it flying across the path almost immediately upon our arrival, but unfortunately it did not show for anyone else (or better views)! To my knowledge it hasn't been seen since. While we were looking, we managed to turn up a few more good birds with an American Woodcock, a very confiding Winter Wren which I wish I had my camera out for and a few flocks of White-winged Crossbills. After a while we kind of lost interest in looking and headed back to the lake for a bit of a quiet watch until it started getting dark. After that it was time for Chilifest at Cheryl's (which was awesome) to meet some of the other participants, eat a great dinner and tally up the day's species total. I ended up with a little over 80 species for the day, not too bad for November! I don't know what the total for the count was yet, but it was probably somewhere around 140.
On Tuesday I heard about a Eurasian Wigeon that had been found at Mountsberg on the count, so Reuven, Mark and I headed down there on lunch break to see it. We eventually managed to pick it out of the giant duck flock in the middle of the reservoir, and had it drifting around both counties! It looked like a young male to me as it was rather drab compared to the one I had back in early October, but I think closer looks are needed to call it! Lots of other waterfowl present including a few Long-tailed Ducks and Red-necked Grebes, rare migrants in the county. We proceeded to check a few other spots but didn't turn up anything too great other than a few more Long-tails and Red-necks.
Winds are switching to strong south/southwest this weekend so I'm hoping for something good to turn up! Painted Bunting in Toronto not too long ago (which wasn't reported until over a week later) and a Hepatic Tanager in Saskatchewan bode well for the upcoming week.
Yesterday I headed to Niagara-on-the-Lake with Brett and Barb to set up shop as the winds looked decent to push something our way. We had some good birds, with Kittiwakes, Brants and my personal highlight - 3 Purple Sandpipers!!!! Anyone who's gone birding with me in November/December will have heard how many times I've looked for these things with no luck. The only one I'd ever seen was at point-blank range in 2004 at Whitefish Point. On Tuesday, we had 2 go by at Van Wagner's, but I got about a millisecond view before they ducked behind a wave and I couldn't pick them up again. So, I was quite happy to have picked these 3 out myself! Not exactly the point-blank views and photographs I was hoping for but at least I've now seen them in Canada! 5 in a week definitely makes up for none in 8 years. The big story yesterday however was that we were at the wrong end of the Niagara River and missed a ROSS'S GULL!!! AHHHHH....oh well, win some lose some - hopefully there will be a chaseable one sometime soon, this is the second one I've missed in Niagara...
Today the three of us joined the Burrells, Brandon Holden and Ross Wood out in Port Weller where the single highlight of a fairly slow morning was an ARCTIC TERN that I picked up wayyyy out in the lake. As it got closer it became apparent that it was different from the Forster's it was hanging out with, and we had decent (but distant) views of the field marks to ID it - shallow, pumping flight, white secondaries, long tail, small/slender build, etc. After about a minute it turned around and headed back east, not to be seen again. Later on we had 2 or maybe 3 Common Terns, making for a very rare 3-tern day in November! The only other things of interest were a Red-throated Loon flyby and a Field Sparrow in with a flock of American Tree Sparrows.
Arctic Tern was a long-awaited lifer for me, and my 300th bird for Ontario this year!!!!!!!! To put this in perspective a bit, I saw my 300th bird for Ontario (all-time) on October 8, 2011 - just over a year ago!