Sunday 17 May 2020

Birding Around Home

Last Thursday, we had the first good push of migrants. While is seemed Sarnia got all the good birds, I still managed to turn up a few things around here.

The big story was the warblers, of course. I managed 15 species, including my first Chestnut-sided, Cape May, Tennessee, Black-throated Blue, Northern Waterthrush, and American Redstart of the year.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

I had the usual suspects around as well.

Palm Warbler

I even managed a new neighbourhood bird! My sixth vireo species for the patch, a Yellow-throated. I saw two on this day.

There wasn't much of note in the local wetland. I saw the Sora again, and a couple Lesser Yellowlegs.

Great Blue Heron

Not sure where his yellow legs are...

That evening in the yard I had a nice surprise! A "Gambel's" White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii), which is a rare to southern Ontario western subspecies. I believe they breed along the Hudson Bay coast in Ontario, but predominately migrate to the west of Lake Superior, much like Smith's Longspur. It can be differentiated from our nominate subspecies by the pale lore.

On Friday, I went to Rondeau, and on Saturday I opted to sleep in and stay around home. I did got out for a bit in the afternoon at a local natural area, but nothing to write home about. Here are a couple of the plants I saw. Cream Violet (Viola striata) and Parasol Sedge (Carex umbellata). The violet is a rare(ish) species in Ontario, ranked S3. This is the fourth population that I have seen, and the third in the London area (this and another were known, I found another last May).

This morning I almost didn't get up. I was hoping it was raining so I'd have an excuse to go back to bed, but when I looked out the window, it was clear. I managed to pull myself out of bed, throw on some clothes, and head out the door. I stopped into one of my favourite locations in the neighbourhood, hoping for some birds.

My initial impression was that it was oddly quiet, for being mid May with apparently favourable conditions, and a heavy migration night on the radar. By 6:30 I had only seen three warblers! One Blackburnian, one redstart, and one Chestnut-sided. As I was walking along the trail, I spied a warbler at the top of a pine. I raised by binoculars, my jaw dropped and my heart began to race. IT WAS A FREAKING KIRTLAND'S WARBLER!!! 

I scrambled to get my camera, and the bird flew to another stand of trees. I sprinted down the trail after it. I desperately tried to fire off shots. Due to a combination of the bird's flittiness, its tendency to hide behind branches, and me shaking uncontrollably, it is a miracle I got off any discernible photos. After a couple minutes, it flew down into some brush, and I never saw it again.

I texted several others, who arrived shortly, but, as mentioned above, we were unfortunately unable to relocate it. Kirtland's Warblers are one of the rarest breeding birds in North America, and to find one a five minute walk from my house is just mind boggling. I know of one other Middlesex county record, from 1997, so this may just be the second. Funny enough, I was half joking with myself about perhaps finding a Kirtland's today. They were on my mind after not being able to see the Rondeau birds yesterday!

Well, we were off to a slow start, but things sure are picking up fast!