On Sunday afternoon after taking in the Jays game, I packed up my car and drove the very familiar drive down the 401 to southwestern Ontario. I had 2 target birds on my mind - Dickcissel and Barn Owl. I already had Dickcissel for the year, but they're cool birds and I wanted to photograph them! Recently they have been popping up all over southwestern Ontario: Blenheim, Wheatley, Sarnia, Long Point, Point Pelee. There is a good chance that any big, weedy field in southwestern Ontario, if you can find one, has a Dickcissel or two! Additionally, I was planning on spending all day Monday herping the Rondeau area to hopefully see some nesting turtles as well as Fowler's Toads.
Dickcissels are related to cardinals and buntings but look like colourful House Sparrows. Sometimes in dry years they disperse from their midwest range to points northward, such as southern Ontario. I'm not sure who named it (and I'm too lazy to look it up) but apparently it is called a Dickcissel because its song sounds like "Dick dick cissel cissel cissel". Still, a hilarious name.
I checked out the Tilbury lagoons, getting my first photographed Great Egret this year as well as a few late shorebirds such as White-rumped and Semipalmated Sandpipers.
From here I drove south to Wheatley and checked out the field on the corner of Camper's Cove Road and Talbot Road. Sure enough, several Dickcissels were present! I heard at least 3 males, possibly up to 5, and also saw at least 2 females.
Most likely they will nest here again this year. Hopefully the field doesn't get mowed!
With my secondary target in the bag I headed to the Blenheim area where I was going to search for Barn Owls. They have nested here in the past and I was hoping I could drive enough back roads at night and eventually come across one.
While it was still light out I checked out a few hotspots in the area, namely Erieau and the Blenheim lagoons. Nothing happening at Erieau though Blenheim had some lingering waterfowl and about 50 shorebirds. Amongst the many Spotted Sandpipers, Killdeers, and Semipalmated Sandpipers I also had 2 White-rumped Sandpipers, a Dunlin, and a beautiful pair of Wilson's Phalaropes! Maybe they will hang around and nest in the area.
From here it was time for a Barn Owl search. Long story short, after about 2 hours of nothing I was driving slowly down one of the country roads. A deer ran out in front of me, and even though I slammed on the breaks I still hit it going about 50 km/h. The front end of my car was all banged up so I called the police to fill out an accident report.
The hood wouldn't stay closed, but fortunately everything in the engine was intact as was the bumper and fenders. Both headlights are damaged so I may have to replace them as well. I'm just glad that I was going 50 when I hit it, instead of 100!
Needless to say this kind of killed the trip (to say nothing of the deer) so I drove home. I ended up using a bungie cord to keep the hood down, but even then I couldn't really go faster than 60 km/h without it coming up. I took the backroads and finally made it home just after 4:00 AM. Kind of a shitty trip.
So what's next on the agenda?
I should have the new hood in my car tomorrow and I am planning on doing a bit of local birding. Laura is coming to Ontario on Wednesday night, so I will be kind of out of commission for a while! Hopefully nothing too rare shows up in the province.
As well, I start work on Friday doing bird surveys. I may have a few interesting trips with work, stay tuned for more details when I find them out...