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