May 3 – Ruthven Park
It was a pretty slow day of banding, but the diversity was pretty nice.
The morning started off with 2 GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHERS.
After closing nets for the day a group of us wandered down the Fox Den Trail where we encountered a nice mixed flock of warblers. Included in the flock were 4 BLACKBURNIAN WARBLERS that were nice enough to hop down to eye level. They are simply stunning birds. A CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER was also a first for the year.
I also found my first nest of the year. I watched a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers building their nest, which we were later able to scope. I look forward to following the progress of their nest throughout the breeding season.
Photo: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher building its nest
May 4 – Toronto
I have been pretty good about getting out to bird over the past few weeks, but I knew this weekend was going to be a write-off. I had commitments for a friends birthday party on Saturday, so I just had to hope no major rarities would show up in Ontario. I contemplated going down to Pelee for the morning, then driving up to Toronto for the evening. Alas, I didn’t want to be too tired to partake in the festivities, so I opted to keep my day easy.
Needless to say it was torture to read the bird reports. Both Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites were reported in southern Ontario. I almost shed a tear. But that’s just the way it goes. My Big Year is just for fun, and I wouldn’t have missed a chance to celebrate with my friends for any rarity!
May 5 – A few big surprises!
It was a very slow start to my morning. After a great night in the city, it was time to head home. It was a frustrating exit from the city, as there was a marathon happening. After a few detours I was on my way.
I decided it was far too nice of a day to stay inside, so I headed to Long Point for a walk. Once there I noticed that a Harris’s Sparrow had been seen in the park. I read the posting on Ontbirds and headed right for the boat launch. Within minutes I was staring at a stunning HARRIS’S SPARROW! It was busily feeding with a small group of Eastern White-crowned Sparrows. It provided fantastic views. Of course, I didn’t have my camera with me, so I had to resort to an I-binocular picture with my phone. And yes, it was a terrible picture. This is only my second Harris’s Sparrow in my life (the other one was also in Norfolk County, in the 1990’s).
Photo: Harris’s Sparrow at Long Point Provincial Park
Satisfied, I headed home. I had just finished my dinner when I got a text from my friend, Jeremy Hatt. A few Black-necked Stilts had just been reported from Hillman Marsh.
I dropped everything, quickly packed an overnight bag and got in the car. It was a stressful drive, but I made it to the marsh just as the sun was beginning to set. I noticed that there were only a few cars left in the parking lot. Darn it, maybe the birds were gone. Then I noticed a small group of birders staring at the shorebird cell with their spotting scopes. I made my way over (ok, it was a brisk walk). As I neared I noticed several happy faces. A few moments later I was looking at 2 BLACK-NECKED STILTS (#244 for my Big Year)! An Ontario and Canada lifer! What great birds. It was great to meet a few more of the local birders, and share these nice birds with them. In addition to the stilts, I also added SEMIPALMATED PLOVER for the year.
Photo: A pair of Black-necked Stilts at Hillman Marsh
I decided to spend the night here in Leamington so that I can get an early start at Pelee tomorrow with the hopes of seeing some more new birds. My wish list for tomorrow is Kirtland’s Warbler, Summer Tanager and Kentucky Warbler. I would also happily take a kite (or two, why not?). We shall soon find out!
I love May.