Tuesday 17 November 2020

A Varie(gated) Good Day

On Sunday evening, Janet Junker-Lafond posted a picture of a bird she had found in Brooklin (near Whitby) on a Facebook group, asking for its identity. It just so happened to be a Variegated Flycatcher! This South American flycatcher is very rare, with less than ten records in North America (I have heard varying numbers, saying that this bird is anywhere from the sixth to the eighth, so lets meet in the middle at seven). Amazingly, one of those previous records is actually from Ontario, when one was found on the Toronto Islands in 1993! This species is regarded as one of the rarest to ever be recorded in the province.

Janet first found the bird on the 13th, but the birding community was not aware of it until the 15th, so come the morning of the 16th, many birders were on the prowl, hopeful it was still around! It was soon refound, and enjoyed by well over a hundred people. I, unfortunately, was stuck in London, but made plans to go early the next day.

So, after a 3am wake up time this morning, my dad and I were on route for the flycatcher. It was fairly smooth sailing there, and we arrived shortly after 6am. After waiting around for a bit, we hit the trail just as the sky was beginning to lighten up. A Dark-eyed Junco called nearby, the first bird of the day.

Several others showed up, and after nearly an hour of waiting, the bird made an appearance. Definitely gave a sigh of relief after catching a glimpse of it! I couldn't get my camera out fast enough though, and it ducked down.

It began to snow quite heavily shortly thereafter, severely limiting visibility. After another hour of waiting, it once again popped up, and I managed to get what are probably the worst pictures of this individual bird.

Imagine that, a photo of a Variegated Flycatcher not turning out because it was snowing! Check out Josh's post for some much nicer photos which show the identifying features much, much (much) better.

I stuck around for another 20 or so minutes, but it was remaining elusive, so I decided to leave. Seems it came out for much better looks and photos a bit after I left! It should be noted, that people were very respectful of social distancing rules, and many were wearing masks.

It was an interesting couple of hours. Not often one gets redpolls, a Red Crossbill, a Snow Bunting, an American Tree Sparrow, and a Variegated Flycatcher all in one place!

We still had a bit of time before having to head back to London, so we went to Thickson's Point in hopes of glimpsing Purple Sandpipers. It took a bit, but we finally found a couple feeding down on the rocks. Lighting was a bit harsh, but I managed a decent photo. I didn't want to get too close, as I knew others would be interested in trying to see them as well.

These were actually a lifer for me, so extra exciting! 

I had thoughts of Red Phalarope, and lo and behold a few hours after I left, one showed up. It remains the last annual shorebird species I need in Ontario...next year.

What a great morning!

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