Saturday, June 23, 2012

My legs hurt...

There is a post on the way (might take a few days) detailing what I've been up to these last two months, but I thought I'd do this one first!

A Dickcissel showed up just outside Port Rowan back on June 10, and since then I've been thinking about biking up there to get it on my Bigby list. I've already seen it a number of times, since I drive by there pretty much every day for work, but this was especially tempting since I was sitting at 197 for the Bigby list this year, just shy of my goal of 200. Well, today I finally had a free morning, and made a bit of a plan last night to go to the Dickcissel and beyond! It turned out to be even better than I thought, too.

I had my alarm set for 6am, but ended up waking up just after 5...probably because that's when I started work the day before. This turned out to be a plus as I was back before it got too hot out. Anyway, my first stop was at the Dickcissel spot where I had it singing as I biked up. Also around were 15 Sandhill Cranes, a few Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlark, Vesper Sparrow and a calling Upland Sandpiper (a pretty good bird for Norfolk, but it had been previously reported).

This was originally going to be my only stop for the morning, but in my late-night planning I thought - why not do Backus as well? I do have the whole morning, after all... So, off I went through Port Rowan, headed for the E 1/4 Line to avoid the highway. On the way, I thought I heard a Golden-winged Warbler singing, so I stopped for a minute to listen. It turned out to be a Clay-colored Sparrow, 4 of them actually, which appears to be the furthest south they are breeding in Ontario this year! (according to eBird) I'm not sure if anyone knew about this colony previously, I'll find out on Monday. It was about at this point that I decided to turn my bike adventure into a mini Big Day and try to pick up as many breeding species as possible without killing my legs.

So, I headed up to St. William's Forest via the Barrett-Sanderson tract, picking up Orchard Oriole, Grasshopper Sparrow, American Kestrel, Hermit Thrush, Pine Warbler and Blue-headed Vireo on the way. I also managed to hear a Ring-necked Pheasant along this stretch of road which was new for my Norfolk list and #200 for the Bigby this year!

Then it was over to Backus, where I biked the access road from Hwy 24 down to 3rd Concession, adding Cerulean Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-throated Vireo, Black-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Wild Turkey to the day along with about 10 other warbler species and most of the regular birds that breed in the woods. Since I had cleaned up quite nicely on forest birds and my legs were beginning to go, I decided to head back towards Port Rowan, where a quick stop at the sewage lagoon added a few Spotted Sandpipers but no other shorebirds.

BSC headquarters were a bit more productive, however, with a flock of 52 Wood Ducks hanging out in the pond along with a Green Heron and a Least Bittern, and from the overlook I added Mute Swan, Lesser Scaup, Marsh Wren, Pied-billed Grebe and Bald Eagle. There had been a fairly large flock of diving ducks here earlier in the month but I think with all the boat traffic today they likely spooked further out into the bay.

Next up was the Big Creek marsh where I picked up American Coot, Common Gallinule, Black Tern, Swamp Sparrow, American Bittern and Cliff Swallow. Then it was a short bike down to Hastings Drive where there have been a fairly large number of gulls roosting during the day for the past month. It did not disappoint today, and the gull flock was probably the biggest I've seen yet this spring! In amongst the 500+ flock consisting mainly of Ring-billed, Bonaparte's and Herring were a Great Black-backed, a Lesser Black-backed and a Little Gull, along with 14 Caspian, ~35 Forster's and 6 Common Terns. I still have hope that this spot will turn up a weird gull/tern by the end of the summer!

My last stop was at Old Cut, back where I had started and had actually picked up a fair number of birds before I'd even left on my adventure - highlights from here before & after include Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Red-breasted Nuthatch and a few of the regulars that I hadn't managed to see elsewhere in the morning.

My final distance biked ended up being 46 km, which may or may not sound like a lot but when you consider I'm on a mountain bike and this is probably the longest ride I've ever done I think it's pretty good! I was out from about 6am-10am and managed to pick up 119 species in that time (10 new for the Bigby and including 14 warbler sp.), not a bad total for late June by any means! This pushed me well past my goal of 200, and seeing as there are a few 'easy' species left for me to get, I think I can probably do 210 this year! I didn't bring my camera though, as I didn't really want the extra weight and I never really spent much time in one spot anyway, so there are no pics to add to today's post, but I do have about 2000 pics to go through from the past 2 months, the highlights of which will be posted up here sometime in the near future when I have a few spare minutes!

Also, as the title says, my legs are pretty sore now!