Wednesday 29 August 2012

Crazy day with two year birds

It all started last night around 8:00 when I received a phone call from Andrew Keaveney. "Dude, check ONTbirds, there's a Thick-billed Kingbird in Presqu'ille!"
It turns out, last night Bill Gilmour heard an unfamiliar call and looked up to see an odd kingbird sitting in a tree with a massive bill. He knew right away what it was - a Thick-billed Kingbird, a species that has never before been recorded in Ontario!

Within the next half hour my phone was constantly ringing as I tried to sort out plans with others about how we were going to get to Presqu'ille. I had planned to stay at home in Cambridge for the day - doing some yard work, going for a run, catching up on photo editing, and relaxing. This changed everything though! By 9:15 PM I was headed towards a carpool lot where I was meeting up with Brandon Holden and Ken Burrell. We had arranged to stay with Mike Burrell for the night (he recently moved to a location only 1/2 hour from Presqu'ille) and then to be on site before sunrise.

We were up at 4:45 AM and on site shortly after 6:00 AM. Already there were over 20 birders on the scene and we joined them, waiting by the tree where the kingbird had apparently gone to spend the night.

At 6:25 AM, we heard the loud emphatic call of the kingbird as it flew east and perched in an open tree - needless to say there were a lot of exclamatory remarks and high-fives as everyone ran over to see the bird perching in the open! My camera had recently bitten the dust but fortunately my dad was letting me use his backup camera. It was having troubles but started co-operating after a few minutes!

Thick-billed Kingbird - Presqu'ille Provincial Park

Within the next few hours a huge majority of the Ontario birding community came by to see this bird. It was nice to see familiar faces and be introduced to others who I have known about but not actually met in person. Everyone who came was treated to this bird!

Thick-billed Kingbird - Presqu'ille Provincial Park

It spent its time "flycatching" and was quite successful in catching its preferred choice in wasps. Eventually it perched quietly in the sun and relaxed.

Thick-billed Kingbird - Presqu'ille Provincial Park

This is obviously a first provincial record and may end up being one of the rarest birds ever to be found in Ontario. The closest record is one from Colorado! There is a single British Columbia record as well. Most of the records of this bird north of Mexico include a few breeding pairs in southern Arizona and the occasional vagrant to California (one of which I successfully saw a few years ago).

What a great find by Bill! This is certainly the bird of the year for Ontario so far.

Thick-billed Kingbird - Presqu'ille Provincial Park

The rest of the morning at Presqu'ille was relatively uneventful, though there were a fair number of warblers and other songbirds around (including a flock of 18 Red Crossbills). After a hearty breakfast at a locally recommended place in Brighton, the four of us were on our way!

We arrived back around 1:30, and Brandon and I decided that the conditions were good enough to take his zodiac for a spin out on the lake. By 3:00 we were on the water and attracting a good number of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls with old bread. After an hour or so we hadn't seen much and I remarked that I might miss Sabine's Gull for the year since I will be leaving the province in a few days and will be back right at the tail end of Sabine's season in Hamilton. Not 5 seconds later, Brandon mentions casually, "Well there's three of them." Wow! 3 juvenile Sabine's Gulls were flying around the edge of the gull flock looking for the smallest pieces of bread. I managed to fire off several frames as these graceful birds flew around and called - no easy feat given the relatively high waves rocking the boat! The Sabine's Gulls only hung around for a couple of minutes before continuing. This was year bird # 329 (a code 3 bird).

Sabine's Gull - Van Wagner's Beach, Hamilton

We were hoping for jaegers and almost got skunked. Eventually we spotted an immature jaeger come in to the boat which ended up being a Long-tailed. We had pretty good looks as it approached the boat but unfortunately it took off soon after, never to be seen again.

It was a fantastic day with one incredible bird and a second species (the Sabine's) a great bonus. How many people can say they have seen a Thick-billed Kingbird and Sabine's Gull in the same day?

One more for the road

7 comments: said...

NOT MANY if ANY! Awesome! Great Sabine's shot as well!
...Keep your ears on Dave Beadle, Kevin Mc, Bill Lamond, Wormy and I are birding Pelee the next several days!

Paul Riss said...

shit, i wish i'd have hung out with you the rest of the day. but then things were crazy for me later too. a friend delivered an injured Osprey to my house, thinking I'd know what might be done. We managed to find a person capable of helping it. I drive it to Napanee this Friday morning... crazy bird day.

Brent Turcotte said...

Hmm, this bird is not in Sibley's or Peterson's. Cool. If I had been down there this week instead of last ...

Welsh Birder Abroad said...

Jealous! We've had nothing good down here on the coast. Thinking of moving to Canada ....

Anonymous said...

Thanks buddy - don't find anything too good (at least until Sept 12 or so)!

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't blame you... though I am jealous of the shorebirding you guys have though. What's the Ruff count up to? 4?

Anonymous said...

Nice running into you Paul...what a day!