Monday 26 October 2020

Hawks and Finches, Oh My!

As many birders in the northeast, and beyond, there is an irruption of some winter finches going on right now. It started back at the end of August, when we began to get daily Purple Finches, soon followed by Pine Siskins. More recently, Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, and both crossbills have been on the move. I anxiously awaited a change in the weather that would bring them to the London area, and Saturday looked like the day things would begin to show up!

But before going into that, throwback to last Tuesday. The winds (NW) weren't bad, so I figured I would give a backyard hawkwatch a shot. I was hoping to nail down a Red-shouldered Hawk. Finally, after about two and a half hours, and only five minutes before I was going to go inside, I spotted this young bird going over. Nice to not have to worry about it anymore! A solid 158th bird for my neighbourhood year list! I haven't really had the opportunity to do much in the way of hawkwatching in ideal locations during the right time of year, so this just so happens to only be the second time I have ever seen this species! My other sighting was of a couple adults migrating over my yard last March.

I did a short hawkwatch yesterday too. I only had a very short flight (over the course of 15 minutes) of five Red-tailed Hawks. The highlight was when a group of small shorebirds flew over, either Pectoral Sandpipers or Dunlin. They never vocalized, and I couldn't get on them in time in order to get an identification. Very frustrating! Either species would be new for my neighbourhood, #178.

Back to this past Saturday. I arrived at Fanshawe Conservation Area early, and set up at the lookout. My first duck of the day happened to be a Red-breasted Merganser. This isn't an unexpected species, but is certainly uncommon in the county. I have only seen them on a handful of other occasions. Other than the merg, the lake was quiet. There were many migrant crows as well, and I tallied over 1500. After a couple hours, I heard an Evening Grosbeak go over! My predictions were right (though I later found out 15 had been seen the day prior!). Several other individuals were also seen that day in the county. I called Bill Lindley, and he told me he had also just seen some up near Parkhill. We figure we had observed ours at about the same time!

Evening Grosbeaks (Algonquin Park, 2017)

I continued to walk down the length of the reservoir, much not much to report. I had a couple of late birds, like a Black-throated Green Warbler (my first in October), and a couple Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. I ended up with 68 species, a good count for late October. eBird checklist here.

I spent yesterday morning running around hoping to come across an Evening Grosbeak in the neighbourhood, but it was not to be. Bill called me to say he had found 12 Common Redpolls at the conservation area, so they are coming!

I went back out this morning to Fanshawe CA, with thoughts of rare ducks (scoters) and finches on my mind. I struck out with the ducks (though I did see a Horned Grebe). Things were too quiet for my liking, so I packed up my watch early and began to walk. I didn't get too far before I heard something I hadn't heard in awhile. Red Crossbills! A flock of seven flew over in short order. A call to Bill was in order, and he later arrived and had four, along with two Evening Grosbeaks!

Red Crossbill (Algonquin Park, 2018)

It seemed a lot of birds had cleared out. Not much else of interest, other than Pine Siskins. eBird checklist here

Bill and I ended up birding around in the afternoon, going to Strathroy and Parkhill. We were hoping for scoters, but unfortunately we had no luck. We did have our first Tundra Swans of the fall at the sewage lagoons, as well as a Cackling Goose among hundreds of Canada Geese. A good day!

The next few weeks should prove interesting!

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