It took 3 full days of birding at Pelee, but I finally got my Cave Swallow. Yesterday, Brandon and I birded hard all day and probably walked about 10 km in the park as well as doing a lakewatch and a check of all the hotspots north of the park. We did all the right things, and we saw some good birds, but nothing really noteworthy!
Today, the hard work seemed to pay off. I was leaving the park when I got a call from Ken Burrell, that he and Brandon just had 2 Cave Swallows heading south from the Visitor's Centre! Needless to say I turned my car around and drove down to the tip of Pelee to search for them (never deviating from the 50 km/h speed limit, of course!!). I arrived just in time to see Alan Wormington and Richard Carr who were about to get in their vehicles and leave the tip. They joined me in the search for the swallows. We were initially unsuccessful, however after 10 minutes I noticed a swallow flying around right at the very tip! We walked down and I was stoked to see this:
That's right, a Cave Swallow! I called Ken and Brandon, and they came down too to get some photos.
Ontario had a big irruption of Cave Swallows in late October (while I was up north) with only scattered sightings since. I was worried that I would be one of the only Ontario birders to miss it this year.
This bird was a juvenile Cave Swallow and sadly it probably won't make it back home to Texas. It is unfortunate that these weather systems displace these birds all the way to Ontario, ultimately leading to their demise, but it is a phenomena that as birder's we can do nothing about. At the very least, we might as well enjoy these rare birds when they do show up in Ontario.
It was amazing to get such close looks at this species, even though the bird was in a weakened condition. The only other Cave Swallow I had seen before was a very distant bird off of Bronte Harbour. This bird did rest a fair bit on the beach, but it was also actively flying around and presumably hawking insects. Hopefully it is able to regain its strength and return to the south, though that seems like an unlikely possibility.
This was a year bird, number 343. It was also a code-3 bird, meaning that the only remaining code-3 birds are Glossy Ibis and Pacific Loon. Now that I have Cave Swallow in the bag, I will do my very best to turn up a Pac Loon somewhere!
The rest of the day at Pelee was pretty good. Tens of thousands of Red-breasted Mergansers were moving and I am sure over 50,000 streamed by in the few hours we were counting! Some locally uncommon Long-tailed Ducks were around too. Several flocks of Tundra Swans flew by, and in one flock Alan picked out a small white goose which was most likely a Ross's. Finches were also on the move, including White-winged Crossbills, Pine Siskins, and Common Redpolls. Brandon and Ken had a few Evening Grosbeaks too.
Tomorrow is my last day at Pelee before I drive back. Hopefully we are able to turn up that rarity which is inevitably lurking nearby!