Sunday 9 May 2021

eBird Global Big Day 2021

Yesterday was eBird's annual Global Big Day, which coincides with World Migratory Bird Day. As per usual, I like to do what I can and see how many species I can see. While in a normal year I would have likely gone down to Rondeau or Pelee, in this day and age, I decided to stick right around Middlesex County, like I did last year. Throughout this pandemic I have had an increasing interest in Middlesex birding, so I figured it would be fun! My camera was acting up unfortunately, so not many photos today. 

I threw together a rough plan for the day before I went to bed on Friday, and went to sleep dreaming of the success I was hoping to find. 

I woke up around 5:00am, and after throwing some stuff in the car, was on my way. My first stop was Fanshawe Lake to get Common Merganser. I only stayed for a few minutes, but was successful with my quarry! 

By 6:00am, I arrived at Kilally Meadows in North London, which has been in the birding news as of late for a rare visitor! It has also been one of the best birding locations in the city this spring, likely in part because of its proximity to the river. 

As soon as I got out of the car, I heard a Northern Waterthrush, an excellent bird to start the day. It was one of three I found here. Several other species of birds were vocalizing, and my day list was growing by the minute!

I stopped to check a tree in which a Whip-poor-will had been hanging out for a few days, and was pleased to find it in the same spot! Day tick.

I continued on my way hiking the trails, picking up many of the typical spring birds, although it seemed much quieter than previous days. It wasn't until a couple hours in did I get my first Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers! In all, I ended up with 15 species of warblers here, a respectable count, with highlights including Magnolia, Tennessee, Blue-winged, Black-throated Green, and American Redstart.

As for some other miscellaneous highlights, there were several Least and Great Crested Flycatchers, Warbling and Blue-headed Vireos, Veery, Hermit Thrush, Tufted Titmouse (I've had at least four in London this year so far, pretty crazy), Merlin, Common Loon, and Purple Finch. 

On my way back, I came across a group of birders, and they had the Blue Grosbeak which has been around since at least Tuesday (I'll get around to writing a post about that soon). This bird has been pretty tricky to nail down because of its secretive habits, so I was quite happy to see it on this day! I got a couple record shots, nothing to write home about.

I stuck around a bit longer to help others see the grosbeak (some of which this was their fourth attempt trying to see it—that's how elusive it is!), but was eager to carry on my way. Just as I was pulling out of the parking lot, with my sights set on heading up Thorndale way to check out some ponds, I got a call from Pete Read...he had a Black Tern at the ponds at Komoka Provincial Park! This a rare species in Middlesex County nowadays, although a few decades ago it was a bit more expected. Needless to say, plans changed, and I zipped over there about as fast as I could go without getting pulled over. 

I pulled into the parking lot at Komoka, and made my way to the back pond, where it was last seen. On the way, a pair of Trumpeter Swans flew over. This pair has been seen with some regularity in the Komoka area for the past couple months, and they appear to be attempting to breed. This may be the first breeding record for Middlesex, but don't quote me on that.

I met up with Pete, and the two of us scanned the ponds, but were unable to come up with the tern. Darn. He mentioned that perhaps it has gone over to one of the other gravel pits in the area. I didn't really feel like driving around searching them all, so out of desperation, I pointed my spotting scope towards the nearest pit, which you could just barely see from where we were standing. There was a Bonaparte's Gull flying around. Nice. Then, a couple seconds later, I saw the Black Tern! Pretty sweet county bird! It ended up sticking around all day for everyone else to enjoy.

I took a more leisurely walk back to the car, and picked up such birds like Eastern Bluebird, Grasshopper Sparrow, Mute Swan, Double-crested Cormorant, and Eastern Meadowlark. By the time I finished up in Komoka, I was sitting around 90 species for my day list. 

My next stop was Skunk's Misery. Along the way I picked up Savannah Sparrow, Horned Lark, and a Bobolink. I took a drive down Centreville Drive, but overall it was pretty quiet. I did come across a group of warblers, which included my first Pine, Black-throated Blue (actually a FOY), and Chestnut-sided Warblers of the day, as well as a couple Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. I didn't get any Hooded Warblers, but it was midday and overcast/cool, so perhaps they just weren't singing. 

I saw a lot of Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida). The "petals" aren't actually petals at all, but are bracts! The genus Cornus has undergone a taxonomic shift, so perhaps the more proper name for this species is Benthamidia florida

I began my way back towards Strathroy along some of the backroads. I had originally intended to take highway 80 up to Calvert Drive, but opted last minute to take Old Airport Road. Glad I did! As I stopped at the stop sign at Carolinian Drive, I noticed a sparrow-like bird fly into a dead tree. I snapped a few (terrible) photos, and was shocked to see it looked like a Dickcissel! After a moment, it flew down towards the abandoned house, and I couldn't find it again. Shame that pesky branch was in the way.

Not a bad bird for #100.

I stopped into the Sydenham River Nature Reserve for a brief moment. Not too many birds, but I did hear a Yellow-throated Vireo. 

Lots of Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) in bloom. I'd be lying if I denied that part of the reason I made this detour was to see these plants. 

I made a quick stop at a spot for Upland Sandpiper (which I didn't see), before continuing onto the Strathroy Sewage Lagoons. Here I added such birds like Sora and Virginia Rail, American Coot, Common Gallinule (stuck around!), Cliff Swallow, Purple Martin (a FOY), and a variety of ducks and shorebirds. Seems I missed a Dunlin and Semipalmated Plover, but can't get them all I guess. 

It was time to head up to the northern part of the county. Along Sylvan Road, I found the pair of nesting Common Ravens, a nice addition to the day list. I then went to the Ausable River Valley Trail, which proved to be rather quiet, although I did get Eastern Phoebe, Pileated Woodpecker, and my main target here, Vesper Sparrows. They weren't new for the day list, but I also had a pair of Yellow-throated Vireos It was a nice walk anyways, and I saw a great variety of plants. Hopefully I can try to get my camera back in working order and come back to properly photograph them. 

I opted to skip out on Parkhill CA to try for Ruffed Grouse (partially because of running out of time, and partially because my phone battery died), so I made a beeline for Thorndale to check out those ponds I had not gotten a chance to go to earlier in the day. 

Birds were getting harder and harder to add, and when I arrived at one of the ponds, I saw they were doing work with heavy machinery on one of the hedgerows in which I had a variety of would be new birds for the day list the night before. All I managed to add at that one spot was Hooded Merganser. 

At the next spot, a gravel pit, I scoped for ducks, but was only able to find a single new bird, a lingering black duck. As I tried to find a place to turn around, I had my first and only White-crowned Sparrow of the day fly across the road. I let out a whoop when I saw that one. 

I stopped briefly at a spot where I had a singing Golden-crowned Kinglet earlier in the week, but I didn't find it. I then went out of my way to get an Osprey by scoping a known nest. A bit later one would fly over me, so I guess that was for naught...

I finished my diurnal birding by hitting a spot in the neighbourhood, which is where I got Green Heron, Cooper's Hawk, and Swamp Sparrow (good thing I know that spot well, I had to go to a pretty out of the way place to get that sparrow!). 

A couple hours later, I went out for woodcocks, but for the first time in pretty much all of my spring big days, I couldn't for the life of me find one! Over the course of an hour I checked five or six locations, each one of them coming up empty. Very strange, perhaps all the new development in the area made them move on. As a consolation, I still added two last birds to the day list: Great Horned Owl and an Eastern Screech-Owl.

At the end of the very tiring day, I ended up with 128 species all within the borders of Middlesex County. Sure beats last year's total of 94, and my total of 101 from earlier in the week. Had it been a bit later in May, and we were seeing more migrants move through (overall it was a pretty cold, windy, overcast day, and it hadn't been great for migration in the days leading up), I probably could have even tallied a few more! Of course, there were some quite notable misses, excluding woodcock, such as Eastern Kingbird, Brown Thrasher, Chimney Swift, Indigo Bunting, Northern Parula, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cedar Waxwing, and Herring Gull.

It was a really fun day, and I saw some great birds. I live for this kind of stuff! 


  1. covered alot of territory! Congratulations on a very successful and fun day, Quinten!
    For sure, you most certainly "live for this kind of stuff"! 😊

  2. Holly...I guess it sure beats cutting the grass at home. What a great day for you. Nice sightings.