Thursday, May 2, 2013

Quick update from Pelee

Long story short, I am having a great time at Pelee! As Brandon mentioned, we had a Townsend's Warbler yesterday, and I got my lifer Henslow's Sparrow the day before that along with many other rarities. I'll put a full list together later but the last two days my species totals have been 126 (on foot), and 127 (151 between the two days). Over 100 species every day since I've been here!

Anyway, to that crazy weird bird that Brandon mentioned I saw.... Basically I saw this bird flying south toward the Tip at about 7pm and thought "oh cool, a Common Nighthawk". I then got it in the bins and was like WTF?!?!?!?! IS THAT?!?!! Kory and Sarah Renaud were standing beside me at the time and also got to see this bird. I noticed that it was fairly large (Common Nighthawk-sized but chunkier), had a reddish underside, dark back, pointed wings, and a less bouncy, more direct flight style than a nighthawk. It also appeared to have a very short tail (or no tail). And no, it wasn't a swallow or a bat - lots of swallows and martins around for comparison and we had good looks at a Hoary Bat later in the evening.

Anyway, I texted Brandon but he did not manage to see the bird - we spent the next hour and a half hoping it would return but had no luck.

After doing some research and consulting with the Sibley Guide, myself and Brandon are convinced this is a Chuck-will's-Widow that is missing a tail. I've attached a composite of all the photos I got, what do you think?????


Alan Wormington said...

Not a Chuck-will's-widow, I have seen lots in flight from a Texas offshore oil platform. The Pelee bird has wings that are too pointed In shape, a flying Chuck is virtually identical to Cooper's Hawk. Did you consider a pratincole?

Paul Oak said...

Hey Quick question about birds in the Sault. Have you ever seen the large flocks of small black birds flying over the courthouse downtown at this time of year. The flocks are huge, they almost look like bats, but when I saw the photo above, the birds look almost like that, with pointed wings. Do you know what they are?


David Bell said...

Hi Paul,

Those are Chimney Swifts, we are lucky in the Sault that we get to see such large concentrations of them! They congregate at the courthouse around May 16-24 every year in big numbers.

David La Puma said...

Hey David-

Sorry I missed meeting you and Branden when I was at Point Pelee- it sounds like you too took that place by storm. I think I saw both of you when I was heading out on my last day, but I was racing out to catch a flight.

When I saw your post yesterday something didn't sit right with me about the shape of these birds (clearly it didn't sit right with you either!). But I wasn't convinced that it was a goatsucker, and thought that the tailless factor could have influenced the flight behavior enough to make something more common appear unlikely. I wasn't sure at all what it was, so I passed your photo around to some friends who immediately suggested tailless Barn Swallow. At the suggestion of Jen Brumfield I brought the photo into GIMP (free photoshop) and adjusted the levels to brighten up the midtones. After doing that you can see clean buffy belly and underwing coverts contrasting with dark undersides to the flight feathers, plus a darker throat and head. Give it a try and see what you think.