Sunday, 17 April 2022

This Week in Big Year Birding, April 11 to 17

Monday, April 11:

I finally shook off the slump and started adding new birds, with two yesterday, a Lapland Longspur and Eastern Towhee here in Brant County and then another four today in Toronto.  I had an appointment in the city, so took advantage of the drive and spent the morning in Colonel Sam Smith Park and saw Black-crowned Night Herons, Northern Rough-winged and Barn Swallows, and a Hermit Thrush.  I was finally starting to shake off the funk and get excited about spring migration, even if the weather didn’t feel like it. At one point I had to go back to the car and get my mittens, the wind chill was so bad.  For some reason global warming is making it colder here in April.

Birders Nearby iOS App

Tuesday, April 12:

To keep going with the baseball analogies, I finally was having fun again out in the field, including a rare for Ontario Black-necked Stilt, .  Yesterday I hit for the cycle, so to speak, going 5 for 5 in the field.  

Two Singles: Eastern Meadowlark and Savannah Sparrow

One Double: Wilson’s Snipe

One Triple: Sora

And a Home Run: Black-necked Stilt.  All in all, a great day of birding. I had started the day in Waterloo, at a local bog, following up on a Sora report.  It was just a beautiful spring day, sun bright in the sky, warm breezes and few clouds.  The kind of spring day birders dream of all winter.  The Sora was calling soon after I arrived and it did me the nicety of coming out into full view to feed.

Just up the road I was hearing both Savannah Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlands calling.  The Savannah Sparrows were close enough to almost touch, and the meadowlarks provided great, but slightly more distant views.  

Just as I was getting in the car, I received an email about a Black-necked Stilt in London, Ontario and I had to go check it out.  I had previously only seen them in California and Florida, so it would be a Canadian and Ontario Lifer.  And Kokoma Provincial Park was only an hour away.  I raced over there and met a few birders who had arrived just before me and informed me that they hadn’t seen the bird, as it had flown away just before they were on the scene.  

However, with some time and a keen eyed birder, it was found again, at quite a distance, but with our spotting scopes we were able to get good looks.  It was 216 for the year, but species 409 for my Canada Life List.    Sue came out with me after she finished work for the Sora and as a bonus we got to see a Wilson’s Snipe, my fifth new bird of the day.

Wilson’s Snipe:

Wednesday, April 13:

Another chilly spring day, but I did see my first Caspian Tern of the year.  We have many trails along the 252 mile Grand River that pass through Brantford and down to Lake Erie.  One trail has been good for birding since I arrived in late 2020. The SC Johnson Trial runs along the river and is full of ducks, egrets, herons, gulls and terns.  Today I found a pair of Caspian Terns hanging out with the mergansers and cormorants.

Thursday, April 14:

One bird, one day at a time, it sometimes seems. Today’s bird was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the Gilkison Flats, another fine birding location along the ubiquitous Grand River.

Friday, April 15:

It really was a Good Friday.  Sue had the day off and we ventured down to Point Pelee National Park, and added a nice handful of birds for the year, including a long sought after Louisiana Waterthrush, a bird I have tried for on numerous occasions here in Ontario without finding,  This one has been hanging out on the Woodland trail for the past week, and on my second trip there in the past 7 days, I finally spotted it.  It was a Canadian Lifer too, number 410 and more importantly, a new bird for the Big Year I don’t have to chase again.  Not to mention Sue doesn’t have to hear me going on and on about it the rest of the year too.

Saturday, April 16:

Now this was an exciting day of birding.  I had decided early to go to Longpoint Provincial Park, to see if the Lark Sparrow was still around and also see what new migrants might have shown up.  What I wasn’t expecting, was an even more rare sparrow than the Lark Sparrow to show up right before my very eyes.  

My first stop was a house on Bluebill Avenue where a number of birders were already present and looking at the Lark Sparrow.  I saw it pretty quickly, but while trying to get a better view and a photo, something different dropped in my view.  Brown head, black spot on cheek.  I was searching my memory for what this unusual sparrow was, when Brett Fried, standing behind me, shouted, “Eurasian Tree Sparrow!”  I turned my head and confirmed that I had seen it too!  What a great and unexpected find. Suddenly, the Lark sparrow was forgotten as if it were just any other Little Brown Job..

I could barely believe it.  I had seen them only three times in the past ten years.  Once in St. Lous, in 2012, in Whitefish Bay in Michigan and one other in Ontario, at a feeder along the Niagara Parkway.  We were lucky enough to have the bird perch on a feeder for us a few times to grab some, at least for me, not so good photos.  I never did get a good photo of the Lark Sparrow.  I did digiscope the Eurasian Tree Sparrow with my PhoneSkope adaptor and iphone.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow photobombed by a House Sparrow:

Bad Photo of the Lark Sparrow, April 2022:

Good Photo of a Lark Sparrow from 2016 in Toronto:

The day wasn’t done yet.  On the way home I heard about a Prothonotary Warbler back in Brant County.  Though it is a bird I will see during warbler migration in May, I hadn’t seen one in Brant County last year and this one was pretty early too.  I found the spot, only 15 minutes from home, where a couple of birders were staking it out.  It came out into the sunlight a few times and I was able to get some very good looks at this starkly bight lemon yellow burst of springtime sunshine.

Sunday, April 17:

It’s a bright sunny Sunday morning, but the temperature is still below freezing.  I’m going to enjoy a coffee by the back window and watch my backyard birds while contemplating where the day will bring me.

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