Monday, 16 April 2012

Report from April 15

Yesterday afternoon, after coming out of my second last exam of my undergrad, I checked my phone and saw that I had similar texts from 3 or 4 different people....all along the lines of "So are you gonna chase it?" I checked my email and saw that Terry Sprague had posted a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that was present in Prince Edward County! This was kind of frustrating for me because I was supposed to be hosting a party that night, and I hadn't really planned to be away for the entire day on Sunday since I had my last exam on Wednesday morning. Brett let me know that evening at the party that he would be picking me up at 6 the next morning (I had no choice), so I guess that was settled.

I cursed a fair bit when the alarm went off the next morning, but Brett showed up on time and we were on our way! An unexpected highlight came as we were driving along near the border of Durham and Northumberland counties when I saw what I was sure was a Fish Crow pass over the highway. There were a few American Crows nearby for comparison, and this smaller crow with a distinctly different flight style looked perfect for one. Despite the influx of Fish Crows into Ontario in the past few months, it is still considered a very rare bird for Ontario and there are no records for Northumberland County so I guess that's one I have to "let go".

We arrived at the residence near Demorestville and the friendly homeowner informed us that it was last seen near the fence of the large field south of her house. She gave us permission to walk around back there, we promised not to sue her if we broke our ankles, and off we went. After 15 minutes or so I walked towards the back of the field, when I was surprised to look up and see this...

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Demorestville, ON


I called Brett over and we had excellent looks at the male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher as it hunted bees, flies, and grasshoppers. At times it flew over us, once only about 5 feet over our heads!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Demorestville, ON

As of the 2009 OBRC report, there were 56 accepted records of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher for Ontario. 32 of these records were from late April through June, with most of the other records coming in October. Other than the Scissor-tailed in Thunder Bay on April 10 of this year, this is the earliest spring record for Ontario (April 14), surpassing the next earliest date of April 29, from Iroquois Falls in the Cochrane District. It is not that surprising that one would show up since we have had very strong south winds coming all the way up from Texas in the last few days.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Demorestville, ON

This appears to be a male in alternate (breeding) plumage, due to the very long tail, red in the underwing, and notch on P10. What a stunning bird!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Demorestville, ON

 We also heard and saw a Brown Thrasher here, year bird #177 for me. After spending an hour and a half with this bird Brett and I continued on. We decided to check out Thickson's Woods in Whitby hoping that a large amount of migrants had dropped in due to the strong south winds and foggy conditions this morning. We were in luck as dozens of kinglets (both species), Brown Creepers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers were present. I grabbed a few crappy shots of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the first one I've photographed this year. Hopefully I can get a better shot to replace this one later this spring.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Thickson's Woods, ON

I added three new year birds at Thickson's - 4 vocal Pine Warblers, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher buzzing in the shrubby field just north of the paved trail, and 2 House Wrens along the paved trail.

We continued on to the Whitby Mental Health Centre where two male Harlequin Ducks had been reported on the lake, as well as a single Brant. I already had both of these for the year, but my Harlequins were in the middle of the Niagara River, and since I'm not entirely sure where the Ontario/New York border is, there was the possibility that I had actually seen them in New York waters. Despite the heavy fog, the 2 harli ducks were easy to pick out close to shore! The Brant was nowhere to be seen, unfortunately. With a bit of post-processing I was able to eliminate most of the fogginess out of the photos.

Harlequin Duck - Whitby, ON

Brett and I then drove up north of Uxbridge to the town of Udora. The previous evening I had received an email from a lady from Udora who had seen a Scissor-tailed Kite gliding over a field here. She wasn't sure if it was possible for one to be in Ontario (which is why she emailed me) but her description was spot on and I'm sure that's what she saw! We met up with her and along with her two kids we checked out the field where they had seen the kite. As Brett and I expected we were unable to find it. More than half of the Swallow-tailed Kites in Ontario, of which there are 15 accepted records, are single day observations of birds flying overhead. They don't tend to hang around very long!  Regardless, it was a great area to explore and we had a few interesting sightings including a large flock of 40+ White-winged Crossbills, pretty good for this late in the season.

We slowly made our way back to Guelph, stopping at a decent looking marsh along Ravenshoe Road just east of Woodbine along the way. There were close to 200 ducks here of which the majority were Green-winged Teal. Most took off as we set up our scopes, so we were unable to pick out any vagrant Eurasian Green-winged Teals with the group. Several shorebirds were also present and I added Lesser Yellowlegs (#181) to the year list.

It was a great day in the field! Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is a code-4 species in Ontario and makes the 10th bird I have seen this year that is a code 4 or higher. Like I have mentioned previously, I will need to see about 20 of these super-rarities this year to have a chance at breaking the record, so I'm halfway there. It is an exciting time of year, and it will only get better as the month goes on!

4 comments:

  1. Awesome addition/photos of the STFL! And a much better travel than to thunder bay ;)

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  2. Josh,

    There is another early record of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher for Ontario. It concerns one in 1981 on April 16 (Glenora, Prince Edward County) and April 25 (Dorland, Lennox and Addington Counties). It is considered the same bird since the two locations are only 6 km apart.

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  3. Alan, Has that bird been reviewed by the OBRC?

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  4. No it has not been reviewed by the OBRC. It is a Kingston-area record, so documentation may exist.

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