This is one of the slowest times of year for birding in southern Ontario to say the least! First there was the mad panic of spring migration, with rarities left, right, and centre until the second week of June or so. Then it was time for the breeding birds, since everything was on territory, singing away. It is now mid July and the dawn singing is limited to an hour or two around sunrise. For instance, today while birding up in Grey County I IDed very few birds by song - in fact most of the warblers I saw today were in mixed flocks with chickadees, obviously gearing up for fall migration now that their breeding season is over.
The temperature is up, making it difficult to get motivated and making land-birding mostly futile by late morning.
I wish I could say that July was a great month for rarities since its not good for anything else, but alas it isn't. The odd mega shows up every few years but there are just very few "lesser" rarities to keep us on our toes! Some years there are a few rare herons that show up, and some years a mega shorebird might grace us with its presence.
Since I am doing a big year, it is especially tough to find new birds this time of year. There is literally not a single species in Ontario (south of James Bay) right now that I could add to my yearlist. This will be changing soon though, once fall migration really kicks into high gear in August. In the meantime, I thought I would take a look at every single rarity that has shown up in southern Ontario in JULY and accepted by the OBRC. I am only including species that are currently on the review list, and they have to be birds that were first discovered by someone in July (for example, I don't include birds that were found in June and hung around into July). I may have missed a few but here goes anyway.
Black-bellied Whistling Duck: 1 of 5 records
Common Eider: 1 of 20 southern Ontario records
Yellow-nosed Albatross: July 4, 2010 (the only Ontario record)
Leach's Storm-Petrel: 1 of 3 records
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel: 1 of 2 records
Anhinga: 1 of 4 records
Little Blue Heron: 6 of 72 records
Tricolored Heron: 1 of 37 records
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron: 1 of 42 records
Glossy Ibis: 1 of 55 records
White-faced Ibis: 1 of 9 records
Black Vulture: 5 of 72 records
Swallow-tailed Kite: 1 of 15 records
Crested Caracara: all 3 records
Purple Gallinule: 1 of 14 records
Wandering Tattler: 1 of 3 records (though all 3 coming in the summer)
Spotted Redshank: 2 of 4 records
Little Stint: July 25, 1992 (only Ontario record)
Palearctic Dunlin: July 31, 1994 (only Ontario record)
Curlew Sandpiper:4 of 28 records
Mew Gull: 1 of 22 records
Arctic Tern: 1 of 19 records
Black Skimmer:1 of 4 records
Eurasian Collared-Dove: 4 of 12 records
White-winged Dove: 6 of 35 records
Rufous Hummingbird: 5 of 23 records
Say's Phoebe: 1 of 12 records
Gray Kingbird: 2 of 7 records
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher: 5 of 58 records
Sage Thrasher: 1 of 14 records
Lark Sparrow: 1 of 91 records
Henslow's Sparrow: 1 of 22 records
Gray-crowned Rosy-finch: 1 of 2 southern Ontario records
So there you have it. It looks like a long list, but is relatively tiny compared to pretty much any other month! There have only been 65 "rarities" show up in southern Ontario in July since we started keeping track, while there have probably been close to 1000 in May (though I haven't checked!).
The only species that seem to show up with some regularity in July are mega shorebirds, such as the Little Stint, Tattler, 2 Spotted Redshanks, some Curlew Sandpipers, etc. Crested Caracara is another obvious one to look out for, as all 3 Ontarior records have come in July! Very occasionally a rare heron shows up in July, but normally they don't arrive until August or September.
Quite a few rare doves have shown up in July - 4 Eurasian Collared Doves and 6 White-winged Doves to be exact. The lack of Passerines on this list is astonishing - only 12 individual rare passerines have ever been found in July in southern Ontario!!
Rufous Hummingbird was one that I was surprised with as I typically think of this species as one that shows up in October/November. It is hard to believe that we have 5 July records!
What does this tell you? When birding in July, stick to the water! Look for rare shorebirds along the lakeshores and at the lagoons and check out any decent marshy spot for a rare heron. Scan through the tern flocks, check out all those doves on the wires and as usual, expect anything. Another option is just to stop birding entirely and do more important things in life, since birding will be picking up in a few short weeks.