Friday, 31 December 2021

The Man in the Hats is Back!

I’ve worn a variety of hats in my life: magician, escape artist, woodworker, videographer, video coordinator for The Toronto Blue Jays,(for 40 years), product pitchman at fairs, photographer, rock balancer, as well as wearing of multiple styles of fedora.  But now, I bird. I found my way into birding because of the prospect of doing a Big Year and succeeded at that in 2012: My 2012 Big Year  I did another one in 2016, while I traveled with The Toronto Blue Jays: Birds and Blue Jays Big Year. Now, I am back for a third kick at the can, and there’s nothing I’d rather do!  

            A small selection of the hats I’ve worn as a birder, since 2012:

Now, with Covid making travel to the US more difficult, I am missing out on some great ABA rarities and Lifers.  So, I decided to make the best of it and see Canada over the next 12 months.  A Canada Big Year, if you will.  And I will!

I spent the past 2 days scouting Halifax and surrounding area, looking for the best place to begin.  I now know where to find a Tufted Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Purple Sandpipers, and more. But my real goal for tomorrow is to see a Dovekie.  I missed that bird on the final day of 2012, and missed it on my previous trip to Halifax, in 2018 when I had come east to see the Mistle Thrush in New Brunswick.

This time may be different.  There was a sighting at Peggy’s Cove earlier in the day, as well as at Crystal Crescent Beach the previous day.  So I have my starting point tomorrow.  I did drive over there late this afternoon but the viewing wasn’t great.  I had a distant look through my scope at a very small bird, but no way to know for sure if it was the Dovekie.  Better I see it tomorrow anyway.  Once the Dovekie is in the bag, so to speak, I will revisit the Tufted Duck and Eurasian Wigeon.

There is one other reason I came to Nova Scotia, once I had to punt on my Newfoundland trip.  A large sea bird, the Steller’s Sea Eagle.  I missed it after a 15 hour drive to Quebec in the summer and wasn’t able to come to Nova Scotia when it showed up here.  Now it is in Maine and just has to cross the Gulf of Maine, with the right winds and land somewhere in Nova Scotia, possibly Yarmouth.  I might be heading down that way on Monday, so here’s hoping. 

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Let’s Get This Birding Party Started

December 30, 2021:

Well, it was bound to happen.  Covid-19 restrictions in Newfoundland reared up and bit me in my Big Year Butt!  I had planned on being in St. John’s for the new year and make my first bird a Dovekie, finishing a quest that began on December 31, 2012.  Back in more innocent times, I was in Cape May, New Jersey on the final day of my 2012 Big Year as a rookie birder.  It would have been my 601st bird of the year.

So, in honor of that missed bird, I decided to begin my 2022 Big Year, on the 10th anniversary of my becoming a birder, with an attempt to get a Dovekie on the first day of my Canada Big year.  Just days before my flight to St. John’s, I discovered that new quarantine mandates in Newfoundland would have had me locked in my hotel room for 5 days, just counting birds outside my window.  Not an ideal start to my cross Canada adventure.  So, last minute, I changed my flight to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Dovekies can also be found, along with a Barnacle Goose and Tufted Duck.  Lucky for me, I have a new friend, Jason, who I met virtually on Instagram, who will be able to give a helping hand in getting some of my target birds.

                                                                        Ready to Fly

In addition to that, I have just heard that an Arctic Loon was spotted a couple days ago in Hilton Beach Marina about an hour from Sault St. Marie in northern Ontario.  If this bird is re-found, that will be next on my list.  The rarer the bird the more important it is to get to them early in the year, so as not have to chase them during the final stretch of a Big Year.

So, here I am, at 9am on December 30, 2021, on an Airbus A220, heading to Halifax.  I’ll have this afternoon and tomorrow to do some scouting, meet up with Jason and plan for the first week of the year,   I hope to share, not just my stories, but those of the birders I meet along the way.  What is it about birding that makes people so passionate that they would give up an entire year just to see birds?  Why would we drive hours and wait all day for a 30 second glimpse of a rare species?  

I hope you will join me on this year long adventure.