Saturday 25 November 2017

From the Lake to the Flats

Some readers may be aware that Jeremy Bensette has recently broken the Ontario Big Year record that was set in 2012 by Josh Vandermeulen. On Tuesday, he saw his 344th species for the year with a Northern Gannet in Hamilton. A huge congratulations goes out to Jeremy for reaching this milestone in his birding career. I think I will need to ask Jeremy and Josh to mentor me for my Big Year attempt in a few years (more on that once I graduate high school)  :-)

This morning I set out to Hamilton to try to observe the Northern Gannet. Keeping with the tradition of the blog, I will come out and say it...I didn't see it! It was, however, reported 30 minutes after I left! Despite this miss, I did end up having a great time!

I first checked out the Halton side of the lift bridge. Long-tailed Ducks numbered in the hundreds.

There were plenty of White-winged Scoters as well, including the first adult male that I have ever seen! I was quite pleased by the photos!

Red-breasted Mergansers are the most commonly seen merganser on the great lakes during the winter months. During the Rondeau CBC last year, on our route, I estimated over 600.

Common Loons are always a treat to see, and today we had around 4 individuals. This one came up about 10 feet from the pier. Surprisingly, this is the first time I have had the chance to get a decent photo of a Common Loon!

Also present were around two Red-throated Loons, first of year for me. The first bird was quite a ways out, but the second one was spotted about 6 feet from the pier! Unfortunately, I wasn't fast enough, so I only caught the last little bit of it as it dove. It resurfaced a little further out, but by camera refused to focus on it!

Believe it or not, it was a three loon day! Soon after I arrived, I noticed a different looking small loon way off in the distance. It dove after about 3 seconds, and I wasn't confident on the ID, so I decided to not to say anything to the other birders. About 5 minutes later one of the others said that they had a Pacific Loon out in the company of two Common Loons. It was pretty easy to find, and I even managed a few "record" (aka crap) pictures.

I went over the Hamilton side, where things weren't much different. A few more Long-tailed Ducks and a pair of Peregrine Falcons.

After checking out Beachway Park, where I got another look at the Pacific Loon and added some Mute Swans to the day list, we started to make our way towards Waterloo to look for the Mountain Bluebird which has been around for about a week now. This was the bird that Jeremy tied the record with.

When we arrived, the birders on the scene said that the bird had been seen, but wasn't being seen at the moment. After about an hour of searching the best thing I found was a flyover Common Merganser, and I was ready to give up.

Then, suddenly I looked up and saw a starling flying over...or was it? Upon closer inspection I saw it was the Mountain Bluebird and it had just landed in a tree!

I ran back to the road, only falling twice, and soon joined the group looking at the bird...or at least trying to look at the bird because she had disappeared again! She was soon found sitting on a low tree in the middle of the meadow, or whatever you want to call it.

I hopped the fence (not illegally, since there are trails throughout the open area, but I didn't feel like walking back down the road to the opening in the fence) and made my way closer to the bird.

For the next hour or so, I followed her around as she went on with her routine. Sometimes I would lose her, just to realize that she was 30 feet in front of me hidden in a bush!

Near the end of my time with her, the sun had come out and it was turning into a pleasant day. She gave us some great opportunities for viewing and pictures.

The highlight for me was getting the following picture of her on the ground!

All in all, a great day of birding! I think it is pretty cool to have seen a Townsend's Warbler, Mountain Bluebird, and Pacific Loon in the same week within Ontario!


  1. When you click on the photos and enlarge them it really shows just how beautiful they are. One of my favorite birds is the long tail duck. Nice shots Quinten. Thanks for the day.

  2. Sounds like it was worth it! Too bad you missed the Gannet though

  3. You did well with those "western" birds. Too bad the Gannet from the east did not co-operate!

    1. I sure has been a good "western" year! Maybe we can turn up something of eastern origin on the CBC!

  4. Way to go, Quinten! Sounds like you had a fun day! Awesome photos! 😊