A few days ago, Brandon Holden (view his blog here) decided that since he had about 50 days with limited work, he was going to go on a 50 day rare bird finding mission. Eventually, the idea turned into that we should have a rare bird finding competition! The winner gets bragging rights and possibly a little booze. The rules are that in order to participate, you have to have a blog where you post updates on how your "50 days of rare" are turning out! A good chunk of us are in on the competition - check Brando's blog for updates!
For a bird to qualify, it has to be self-found! For details on what counts as a self-found bird, there are a few grey areas but fortunately Punk Birders made an extensive set of rules on what counts as "self-found" which I mostly agree with!
With the competition beginning 2 days ago, I figured I would be in a good position to take the early lead with a good self found bird since I had a trip planned to Moosonee, Ontario. The trip started out well with some modest rarities...
Alan Wormington, Mark Jennings and I left Hamilton at 2:00 AM and drove straight north. We stopped at the Powassan lagoons right at sunrise for our first stop of the day. While there were no shorebirds there, there was a good variety of ducks and sparrows and it didn't take Alan long to pick up a Nelson's Sparrow along the edge! We kept looking and I noticed another Nelson's. We saw a few more skulky sparrows that were probably Nelson's, but couldn't confirm.
Later in the day we made a stop at the North Bay dump. It was absolutely crawling with birds and we estimated at least 500 White-crowned Sparrows, 150 American Pipits, and 100 Savannah Sparrows. Other goodies mixed in included a Clay-colored Sparrow, some Indigo Buntings, an Orange-crowned Warbler and more. Of greater interest were the 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls we found! According to Martin Parker these are possibly the first for Nipissing County - pretty cool. Photos coming! I think with that I took the lead in the rare bird competition. I am sure it will be short lived since someone will find a mega rarity soon (hopefully!).
We checked numerous nooks and crannies, sewage lagoons, etc on the drive up and didn't see anything else of too much interest. After an all-too-brief sleep in Cochrane for the night, we drove up to the Abitibi Canyon today. We checked the dam and any good looking areas for birds. No rarities, though there were lots of birds to keep us interested. I noted an Evening Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbills, Lapland Longspurs, 17(!) Eastern Bluebirds, Rusty Blackbirds, and my first American Tree Sparrow of the fall. Winter is almost here! We also had a total of 7 Spruce Grouses and 1 Ruffed Grouse on the road, which provided amazing photo opportunities! Which reminds me, what is the plural of grouse? Grice?
We took the train to Moosonee and Alan and I managed to see a Western Meadowlark on the way (90% Western vs Eastern, since all previous records of meadowlarks up here have been Westerns)! 17 Sharp-tailed Grouse gave us the grouse trifecta for the day. Once we got to town, we checked out the dump and the sewage lagoons first. A Canvasback was at the lagoons, one of only 3 records for southern James Bay! Unfortunately it won't count towards the "50 days of rare" competition, since it was found by a local birder a few days ago. Either way, Alan was pretty stoked since it was his first for his southern James Bay list. I couldn't care less, since it is a @#*$%^& Canvasback. Meh.
We didn't see anything else good today. The winds are fairly strong from the southwest so maybe it will blow something interesting in!
I have lots of photos to add to this post, but I can't get my photos onto my computer until I get home so it will have to wait.