Sunday 21 January 2018

Townsend's Twitch

This morning my alarm went off at 5:45 am, I woke up my dad, and then we were on the road towards Dufferin county. Our target today was the Townsend's Solitaire (TOSO) that has been frequenting the area. TOSO are birds of the western half of North America, however they are regular vagrants to the east. In the past few years, TOSO sightings have been increasing in Ontario, and they were recently removed from the Ontario review list (They still are quite rare though!)

The first bird of the day came shortly after the sun starting rising. It was a Snowy Owl! Soon after, I spotted another one. Ten minutes later we spotted four more! By the end of the day, we tallied seven Snowy Owls.

We arrived at the location around twenty to nine, and was surprised to find that my friend and fellow young birder Owen and his father were already there. It wasn't long until we spotted something in a fruit tree...could it be?

Nope! It was a Cedar Waxwing, Owen's first for the year.

After about another 40 minutes of searching, we heard what we thought was the solitaire calling, however we couldn't be certain. The possibility of the bird being in the immediate area gave us hope!

Some Red Squirrels gave us a scare whenever they moved in the tops of trees!

Owen and I went down to explore a creek further down the road, and we found numerous Pine Siskins, which was exciting. However, we didn't get too far as Owen's dad called him saying they had eyes on the Townsend's!!!

We ran back to the road (we had been bushwhacking), then sprinted to the others. By the time we got there however, we were told the solitaire had flown off...darn!

A few minutes later, both Owen and I caught a one second glimpse of the bird when it flew across the road, however we lost it after that. We were determined to get photos and a better look at the bird, so we stuck around hoping it would pop out. Owen had a hunch that the bird was along the tree line, so he went to check it out, while I stayed with the rest of the group and waited to see if it would come back. I don't know what possessed me to turn around, but I'm sure glad I did, because I found the solitaire on a fence post behind one of the houses!

In the excitement, I somehow set my camera to a 10 second delay, so I only was able to fire off one horrible shot of the bird's rear end before it flew away. I was actually so excited, I forgot how to use the camera, and it took me a solid minute to remember how to get it back to taking continuous shots!

Thankfully, we found the solitaire on another part of the fence further down, where I was able to get some "better" shots. It's a miracle I got any photos at all, as I was shaking so much from excitement I was unable to focus half the time!

We were all very happy with seeing that bird, my first lifer and provincial rarity of 2018!

Just as we were about to leave, this group of Cedar Waxwings flew in.

Owen and I went an checked out 8th Line, which has had some decent sightings as of late. The only "good" thing we could find were three Ring-necked Pheasants. Also of note was an adult male American Goldfinch in what appeared to be breeding plumage. Spring is coming ;-)

All in all, a very good day! It was certainly worth the two hour drive!


  1. Nice bird to get early in the year.
    You had a Townsend's Twitch late last fall as well!

    1. It has been good for Townsend's of all kinds the last couple years! At least this Townsend's was a bit more cooperative the first time!

  2. I can feel your excitement just reading your post! Congratulations on this successful twitch, Quinten! 🙂

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