Saturday, 10 March 2012

Persistence pays off

Seriously attempting a Big Year can be more about persistence then anything else. You could have all the money in the world, but unless you are willing to go back time and time again after missing a bird, you won't do as well as you hope. John Vanderpoel showed a lot of persistence last year when he attempted his North American wide Big Year. Half a dozen trips to Alaska are a good example, but the one I liked particularly was his Greylag Goose story. Essentially, a wild Greylag Goose showed up near Montreal, so he traveled there and spent 2 days scanning through "regular" geese unsuccessfully. Eventually he had to return home, but mustered up the energy to travel back to Montreal to spend another 2 days looking for "the plainest goose in the world" (as he puts it). He eventually got it.

I had already missed the Varied Thrush in Ottawa twice. Once, on January 10, I headed east with Andrew Keaveney and spent a good chunk of the day searching for the sneaky devil to no avail. It was sporadically still being seen, so when Barb and I traveled to the north, we took a rather looooong detour and tried for it again, since Ottawa is "on the way back" from Cochrane. It was 100 % my idea and fortunately for me, Barb didn't give me any $%#@ for this epic detour which cost us a couple of days and with no Varied Thrush seen. I swore I would never return to Ottawa after that little misadventure.

But, the thrush continued to be seen. After two weeks out of the province followed by some failed bird chases, I was anxious to get a new bird to my list that wasn't a super common spring migrant. That found me traveling back to Ottawa about an hour after I arrived in the door from the long day at Long Point.

I arrived in Kingston at around 11:30 PM and met up with my siblings, Lindsay and Isaac, to go to a pub for a drink. My brother had just turned 19 so this was our first ever chance for that! I didn't get to bed til late but was up first thing this morning to drive to Ottawa.

On the drive a flock of 400+ Greater Snow Geese flew over, but I was anxious to see this bird. As soon as I pulled up at the address, a flash of orange and black flew from the feeder! I didn't see it in my bins and while I was pretty sure it had to have been the thrush, I wasn't certain. I kept waiting, but it didn't show up! At this point I had some dangerous thoughts creep in. "Maybe I should just count that initial sighting as the thrush and move on....after all what else could it have been?"

I convinced myself to keep waiting and finally, around 9:45 AM, the flash of orange was back! I had great looks at the Varied Thrush in my scope, but by the time I ran back to the car to get my camera, it was gone. You see, I usually leave my camera in the car because it increases my chances of seeing anything rare. Actually.

After a tense 10 minutes of waiting it showed up again and I fired off a series of shots that show the thrush. I think I earned this one.

The back feeder setup - what's that lump on the feeder?

Varied Thrush - Limoges, ON

 Speaking of persistence, I may be heading back from Kingston to Long Point tonight (still haven't decided). This morning at 7:00 AM, Brett Fried saw the Smew fly out of the same bay where Stu had it yesterday at the same time. Hopefully it will stick to this routine for tomorrow. I don't think I'll leave my camera in the car for that, however.


  1. Josh,

    I have this funny feeling that this is not the one and only Varied Thrush you will see this year. When you least expect it, this coming fall or early winter you just might bump into another one. Then at that point you will swear never to visit Ottawa again, for any reason!

  2. Al, what's Pratt's record early date for Nashville, April 4 or 8?

  3. It better be the only VATH I see!!!

  4. I can sympathize Josh. Last year I must have driven 500 km looking for Bohemian Waxwings. Never did get them. I was always a day behind them. Still haven't seen them. Went looking with Margaret Bain yesterday with no luck again. It's killing me and my big year has been over for three months.

  5. Keep givin''ll get your Bohemians!