Saturday, 21 April 2012

Rarity to kick off my time at Pelee!

This morning was cold and windy, so it took me a bit of effort to get out of bed (ie my front seat of my car) and make my way to Pelee. I had just pulled up when Brett, David, and Barb showed up, so I joined them in birding the park today!

As we started walking towards the tip, we saw that a Bell's Vireo had just been found by Steve Pike at the tip! Michael Tate, Alan Wormington, and others managed a few brief glimpses of it before it seemingly vanished. We spent the next three hours trying to relocate this bird, unfortunately to no avail. It was good to be reacquainted with some familiar faces and be introduced to others, though.

The vireo was traveling with a small flock of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, White-throated Sparrows, a Prairie Warbler, and a Blue-winged Warbler. While we saw many of these species, the vireo was nowhere to be seen! I did get a few new year birds while searching...Blue-headed Vireo; Wood Thrush; Nashville, Palm, Black-throated Green, and Blue-winged Warblers; and Red-headed Woodpecker.

Red-headed Woodpeckers - Point Pelee National Park

Finally, around 11:00, Barb received a phone call that the Bell's Vireo had been refound near the start of the West Beach footpath! Kory Renaud was the finder, and lucky for us the bird co-operated! Brett and I had fleeting glimpses of it in the trees, then Barb got it, and finally David got on it and managed some pretty sweet photos. Bell's Vireo is a code 5 bird, and as of the end of the 2009 OBRC report there were only 12 accepted records. This is the first April Bell's Vireo for Ontario.

Bell's Vireo - Point Pelee National Park

This was a bird I really wanted to get this year, as I missed the one at Pelee last year! It gave the impression of a large vireo, but flitted around a fair bit unlike some vireos. It was fairly drab with one obvious wingbar, a grayish head, and muted yellow/green/brown colours. It actually gave the impression of a fall-plumaged Tennessee Warbler to me. Unfortunately it was hardly ever in view and the above photo is the best that I could manage!

After that success, anything else would be just bonus. Turns out there wasn't much else in the park, and eventually we decided to head over to Rondeau to look for the Yellow-throated Warbler!

We made a number of stops along the way (I picked up Spotted Sandpiper for the year) and eventually made it to Rondeau. Unfortunately the Yellow-throated Warbler was a no-show in the time we were there. Just as we were leaving, Dave the machine somehow picked out a tiny warbler backlit at the top of a very tall tree off in the distance..I don't know how the guy does it. We spent the next 20 minutes enjoying the VERRRY territorial little guy as he made his presence known by chattering at us.

Yellow-throated Warbler - Rondeau Provincial Park

I added Rose-breasted Grosbeak as a year-bird here as well. Another highlight was this mischievous little guy..stealing seed from the bird feeders with those nimble fingers!

Raccoon - Rondeau Provincial Park

And one of several Red-bellied Woodpeckers in the park.

Red-bellied Woodpecker - Rondeau Provincial Park

So there you have it. It was a great day in the field, and I am now up to 207 species for the year. Most importantly, I added another code-5 rarity as well as a code-3. Its the most wonderful time of the year!

PS what's this about extreme weather coming in? From what I hear we are expected to get some precipitation and crazy north-ish winds the next few days. It won't be much fun birding, and who knows what rarities this system will blow in, but any ridiculous storm has high vagrant potential! Especially if it happens in late April. Especially since we have just had a few warm fronts coming up from Texas, bringing birds farther north than they had planned. All these birds will want to head back south, and Pelee is like a funnel....keep your eyes open, as things could get interesting.

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