Monday, 23 April 2012

Recent updates (Western Tanager, Chat, etc)

Back in the south with internet access so I thought I would post a few photos from yesterday. After a long drive, I finally arrived at the location of the Western Tanager in the late afternoon. As I rang the doorbell, I could see the tanager sitting in on the feeder through the window in the house!

Western Tanager - lower Bruce Peninsula

It appeared to be in good shape, feeding regularly (on sunflower seeds) and scaring away the sparrows who were also trying to feed.

Western Tanager - lower Bruce Peninsula

The only time it left the feeder (and when I took the photos) was when a Red Squirrel stole its spot. The  tanager "patiently" waited, eventually returning once the squirrel was done.

Western Tanager - lower Bruce Peninsula

Like the Bell's Vireo the day before, this was a lifer! Additionally, and more importantly, it was a code-4 rarity, the 12th one I have seen so far this year. The homeowners wish to keep the location quiet so unfortunately I can't tell anyone the location.

Western Tanager - lower Bruce Peninsula

Since I had driven 5.5 hours to see this bird, I wasn't about to just turn around and go back to Pelee, so I spent the rest of the evening on the Bruce. The scenery was absolutely stunning against the setting sun and there were a fair amount of birds active despite the wind. I came up with about a dozen species of ducks, both species of yellowlegs, and a number of other early migrants such as Fox Sparrow, Blue-winged Teal, Eastern Meadowlark, Yellow-rumped Warbler, etc.

Greater, Lesser, Greater

Bald Eagle - Bruce Peninsula

That evening I fell asleep to the sounds of Common Loons, Sandhill Cranes, and courting American Wigeons in the darkness.

The plan for today was to drive down to Pelee, stopping at various locations along the way. I had planned to meet up with Ken Burrell later to go over some stuff for the work I'll be doing for him this May. A Say's Phoebe had also shown up at the Carden Alvar as well. I debated driving to Carden, being there for first light, seeing it, then booking it to Pelee, but I decided against that. It was probably a good thing, since it didn't show today! Oh well, that's how it goes sometimes. Can't get them all!

The drive down was fairly uneventful. I stopped at every lagoon between the Bruce and Point Pelee, but unfortunately I couldn't find anything rare mixed in! Probably the most interesting thing was the heavy wind, up to 70 km/h, sustained all day. Much of the topsoil from the fields was being blown away...

Anyways, I met up with Ken and we birded Hillman and a couple trails in the park briefly that evening. A Black-bellied Plover at Hillman was nice (and was a year bird, along with Cliff Swallow), as was the flock of 200+ Forster's Terns.

The highlight, though, was in the park. Migrants were incredibly scarce (only ~3 kinglets, 3 individual warblers, etc) though we did have a few phoebes and Blue-headed Vireos to keep us on our toes. Just as we finished on the redbud trail and started heading back to the VC, we flushed a medium sized bird from the brambles along the path. It acted quite skulky and was tough to get a good look at, but it appeared to be a Yellow-breasted Chat! We played the call, and it promptly responded from deep in the brambles. Sweet!

The winds are supposed to stay strong from the north overnight, so likely there won't be many migrants in the park in the morning, but Ken and I are going to try anyways. If a chat can stay hidden for 3+ days, who knows what else is out there just waiting to be found...

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