I decided to leave the camera at home for the trip. I didn't want to have another thing to worry about, plus I often feel obligated to take a lot of photos when I have it with me. Besides, if a rarity showed up, there were enough people with cameras that I am sure we would be able have been able to document it!
On the Saturday, we arrived bright and early and headed down to Old Cut to check out the banding operation. From there it was a walk into the Provincial Park where we spent the majority of the morning. Birds were absolutely everywhere, and it was certainly the "birdiest" I had seen southern Ontario perhaps all autumn! It was a lot of fun picking through all the sparrows and kinglets. Highlights included Black-throated Blue Warbler, Vesper Sparrow, and an extremely late Least Flycatcher. We observed this guy for quite some time and were pretty convinced by the end that it wasn't anything rarer. This is the time of year that weird southern and western strays could show up and it almost seems more likely that a flycatcher seen this time of year (with the exception of the late migrating Eastern Phoebe) is a rarity, compared to one of the common species.
That afternoon as we drove to the campground to unload some gear, I got a call from Richard Carr. He had just found a Red Phalarope at Hillman Marsh! The wheels began turning and I tried to figure out when would be the soonest I could go to check it out.
On one hand, it was a 3 hour drive to get there - a long way to go for a code-3 bird which seems to be showing up in a few places this week! There was a Red Phallie in Kingston the day prior and one in Toronto on October 11. Sometimes these birds disappear as quickly as they are found, never to be seen again. Perhaps the wise thing to do would be to wait to see if the bird hung around, and chase it on Monday. Besides, I was busy with the wildlife club trip!
But on the other hand, this may very well be the last chase-able Red Phalarope for the year. Some years very few if any get reported in the autumn! Besides, it may be just a code-3 bird, but I am at the point where the codes don't really matter as I have less than 6 to go for the record. Fortunately, everyone at the club was supportive of the idea of me leaving to chase this bird. Perhaps they just didn't want me around? :P
Well, the decision was made for me. Three others jumped in my car - Erika Hentsch, Jamie Thompson, and Chris Ho - and we motored through the rain to Hillman Marsh.
Once we arrived we started scanning the water and my heart sank. There was no phalarope in sight at the location where Richard had seen it! I scanned further out into the marsh and was surprised to see a little white blob bobbing in the waves. After studying the bird for a bit I could see that it was the Red Phalarope! The views were very crappy, but everyone was happy to see their first Red Phalarope.
|extremely distant Red Phalarope (photo courtesy Chris Ho)|
Eventually Richard showed up and we ended up walking out on the Couture Dyke where he had excellent views of the bird from relatively close. It appeared to be a young bird in 1st winter plumage. An American Bittern made a flyby as well which caused some excitement.
Success!! Thank you, Richard for the great bird.
The rest of the weekend was filled with fun and shenanigans. Some highlight species from today were Eastern Wood-pewee, Black-throated Green and Orange-crowned Warblers, Peregrine Falcons and Merlins hunting sparrows, and a Stilt Sandpiper. The warm temperatures also brought out a lot of herps and we ended up seeing around 100 snakes! They were mostly Eastern Garter and Brown as well as a single Northern Watersnake. A few turtles were poking around too. A great weekend was had by all!