Monday 2 July 2012

Magnificent day at the beach

Wow, what a day!!!

This morning, Laura and I were just hanging out after breakfast when I checked my email and saw that a frigatebird, possibly a Magnificent Frigatebird, had been found by Dave Martin and Linda Wladarski just east of Rondeau. We had planned to spend the day at the beach, but this sighting changed everything and we raced down to the area!

Frigatebirds are tropical, pelagic species that rarely come ashore - usually just to nest. What every the case, they are never expected as far north as Ontario, especially sitting in a tree on the shore of Lake Erie! In fact, looking at the OBRC data there have been only 2 accepted records of Magnificent Frigatebird before in Ontario (plus several that were accepted as frigatebird sp., since they can be notoriously difficult to ID in certain plumages). Needless to say this was a bird I needed to get, and a code 6 rarity for my big year!

Laura unfortunately wasn't feeling very well, but despite me asking her numerously if she wanted to abort the mission and head back, she was a trooper and insisted that we continue on. The afternoon was hot and sticky by the time we pulled into the Clearville "harbour" to look for the bird. Unfortunately, however, the bird had moved on and was no longer being seen. Dejected, I scanned for a while than decided the effort was futile and started to drive back.

On the way back we took the scenic route through Port Stanley and up to St. Thomas. Just then I received another email - the frigatebird was now being seen at Rondeau!! I cursed my luck and decided then and there that I wasn't going to go all the way back to Rondeau, especially since it would probably be gone by the time we got there. Laura, still feeling quite under the weather, convinced me that yes, I was turning the car around and we were going to see the bird no matter what!

We raced down to Rondeau (figuratively of course, in case my car insurance company is reading this :P ) and I called Barb Charlton who was with Rob Dobos looking for the bird. Miraculously they were looking at it perched in a tree!! The location was way down towards the end of the beach near Erieau, but Laura and I started the long hike. We met up with Kory and Sarah Renaud of Kingsville and an hour later in 33 degree heat with no water and blisters on our feet, we were almost at the spot. Suddenly Laura found the bird and we all looked up to see this!

Magnificent Frigatebird - Rondeau Provincial Park

Wow, what a relief, especially after driving all day, striking out, driving for another few hours and walking for a few too many miles. The four of us savored the moment - from left to right here is Laura, Sarah, and Kory. I stupidly forgot to pack my camera but luckily Laura had my mom's point and shoot camera so we were able to document the bird.

enjoying the bird

We spent about half an hour standing under the tree it was roosting it and just soaking up the sight of this extremely rare species in Ontario. It calmly sat there the whole time, watching us and probably trying to think of the quickest route to the Caribbean.

Magnificent Frigatebird - Rondeau Provincial Park

We were soon on our way back, but not before Laura and I got Kory to take a photo of us in front of the bird. You can see a black speck sitting in the top right part of the tree when you view the photo full size that is the frigatebird.

Laura, Josh, and Magnificent Frigatebird

Tired, hot, and thirsty, the four of us made the long walk back to our cars and from there Laura and I drove straight back. This was a huge bird for my big year and I was happy to be able to share the moment with Laura, especially since it was possibly the rarest bird that I have seen yet this year. Laura was great in convincing me to retrace our steps and drive back to Rondeau when I was ready to go home, and then for joining me on the long uncomfortable walk out to see it, despite her feeling quite sick the whole time. Thank you :)

I haven't had the time to look up frigatebird ID, nor do I have the references for it, so I'm not sure what species it is though most likely it is a Magnificent Frigatebird. Regardless of what species it is, it will be a new one for my year even if I can only call it a frigatebird sp.

I leave in about 12 hours for Rainy River again, the last week of my intense fieldwork for now. If you have sent me an email and I haven't responded, not to worry - I will try to get through some of the backlog of emails as soon as possible!!


I saw a flight shot taken by Sandra Leys when the bird was initially found, and it appears to be IDable to species as Magnificent Frigatebird! This would be the 3rd record for Ontario :)

1 comment:

morrisman said...

I no longer feel so bad about turning back near St. Thomas to return home after I reading the posting of it not being re-found. By the time it was next reported I was already home. I need a persistent trooper like your girlfriend to convince me otherwise. Don't envy your walk, but after seeing your photo don't see how it could have been countable from viewing it from the Erieau pier!

Good show and good luck in Rainy RIver!