Thursday 13 May 2021

A Blue Grosbeak in London!

 Backtracking a bit with this post...

Last Tuesday evening  (May 4) I was just settling down to get a start on some schoolwork when I got an eBird alert about Purple Finches. With the return of the finches happening now (I got an Evening Grosbeak early last week by the way, in my patch to boot!), I knew that I would need to change the eBird filter for them. So I opened up the eBird review queue to do so and my eyes just about bulged out of my head when I saw "Blue Grosbeak" sitting there! It had just been submitted five minutes prior, and hadn't even made it out into the alerts yet. It was about 6:00pm at this time, and the report was from a few hours prior. I made a couple calls, and within 20 minutes I was out at Kilally Meadows ESA in the company of a couple others looking.

To make a long story short, after a couple hours, we were unsuccessful in locating the bird. We marked this one down as a loss, and then headed back home.

The next morning, after a morning of excellent loon migration (I counted over 350), I was going through some iNaturalist sightings for Middlesex, and saw that a photo of the Blue Grosbeak had been uploaded, a spanking first year male. I'd be lying if seeing those photos didn't sour my mood a bit. My sadness was quickly replaced by excitement however when I got an alert that the bird had just been refound! I was out the door and on site within 15 minutes.

Others had arrived on site just mere minutes after it was posted, but it hadn't been seen since the original refinding earlier that morning. We all combed the area it was last seen, but came up empty. Things weren't looking too good.

A consolation prize for some was an Eastern Whip-poor-will that had been flushed by a hawk, and then perched nicely. This particular bird ended up staying on the same spot for four days! 

A couple hours went by, and the birders began to dissipate as hope was diminishing for seeing the grosbeak. As I was wandering around, Gord Payne showed up on his lunch break. I mentioned then whip-poor-will, and he wanted to see it, so I took him to the spot and pointed it out. As we were chatting afterwards, I happened to glance off in the distance and notice a songbird fly in, perch briefly on a goldenrod stalk, and then drop down to the ground. I didn't get any colour or features off of it, but it looked mildly intriguing, so we went over to investigate. As we approached where it dropped down, it flew up and perched. It was the Blue Grosbeak!!!!

I snapped a couple photos, and then it flew off and we lost it in some shrubs. We called over the other birders, and then began our search for it again. 

It took a bit, but once again, when everyone else was looking for it where it was last seen, I walked a bit further down the trail, and was pleasantly surprised to see it sitting out in the open! I called everyone over, and thankfully this time pretty much everyone there was able to see it! 

In the last 50 years or so, I believe there are only two other records of Blue Grosbeak for Middlesex County, the last being in 2007 at Pete Chapman's feeder in Hungry Hollow near Arkona. What an exciting bird for the county, and only 5 minutes from home. As of time of writing, the bird was still being seen. One has to wonder how long it will stick around!  I will admit, I am a bit annoyed, because earlier in the day on Tuesday I had actually walked right by where it was seen a few times! Our evening search was my third time at Kilally Meadows that day.

Who needs Pelee? ;-)

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