Monday, 5 November 2012

New goal: 350 species!

The record may be broken, but I'm not done yet. The other two birders doing a big year - Stu and Andrew - are not far behind, both sitting around 330 species for the year. Additionally, a record of 342 isn't safe for someone who was doing a SERIOUS Ontario big year in the future.

While my attempt has been fairly serious so far, there is definitely the possibility that somebody could come along and go crazy with a big year in Ontario. I have had some limitations so far.

For one, I don't have unlimited funds. This has prevented me from seeing a few key birds. For instance, if I was on a bigger budget, I could have went on a trip to the Hudson's Bay coast in the mid summer specifically for Smith's Longspur, Pacific Loon and Willow Ptarmigan. Or I could have gone up twice - once in the summer for those birds, and once sometime in the winter for Rock Ptarmigan. Not easy trips to plan, but certainly possible if I had a bigger budget. As well, I have refrained from chasing several birds this year because the distance was far and the chances of seeing the birds were low. However with unlimited funds I may have chased them all and maybe been successful with one or more of them.

Additionally, I have been out of province for a total of 32 days, or almost 10% of the year. This was my choice to be gone for that time, since I had other priorities which were greater than the big year. :) I missed out on Black-throated Gray Warbler and potentially Kelp Gull because of that, but I'm OK with that since my time was well spent out of province!

I have also been in remote locations and unable to chase birds elsewhere in the province for another 40 some days (Rainy River and Thunder Bay for work, James Bay in August, Moosonee in late Sept, Netitishi Point in late Oct). Ultimately the only birds I "missed" because of being away were the rarities blown in from Hurricane Sandy, since I didn't really miss anything on the other trips! And besides, the bonus rarities I saw at Netitishi made up for the ones I missed from Sandy.

Arctic Tern from James Bay - my only one this year!

Finally, I had school commitments for the first 4 months of the year. While I can't recall this limiting my chasing of rarities in any way, with more free time I may have been able to find an additional bird for my year.

What my point is, is that someone with a larger budget and no other major commitments could theoretically bird virtually non stop all year. If I can reach 342 by November 1 with a number of major commitments, it seems very possible that someone without these limitations could pass that, especially if they got a year as incredible as this year has been for rarities.

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Anyways, my new goal is 350 species for the year. That's only 8 more, but when you look at my list of potential species remaining it is a tall task. I think 345 is much more likely. Here are the possible birds I could still get:

Code 1: none
Code 2: none

Code 3:
Cave Swallow:
They are still being sporadically seen from the major invasion last week. The earliest I could chase one is Tuesday, November 6. If someone knows of a "reliable" one by then, please let me know!

Pacific Loon:
Oshawa had its annual Pacific Loon sighting last week, a bird that hung around for a while. However it hasn't been reported in several days, and it appears that people have still been birding that area because of the Eurasian Wigeon and other birds nearby. If anyone has any word on this bird, good or bad, let me know! I have a feeling it is hanging around somewhere out on the water and perhaps more will show up this autumn.

Glossy Ibis:
A bird I was sure I was going to miss until one joined the Hudwit at Gosport almost two weeks ago! However, it hasn't been reported for two days and I am worried it has left. If so, I will certainly miss it for the year.

Code 4+:
Rufous Hummingbird:
There have been at least 3 seen in Ontario already this fall at feeders, but none have stuck around. November is a great month for them though, and recent reports outside of Ontario leave me hopeful.

Rare gull (Slaty-backed, Ivory, Ross's, etc)
Slaty-backed Gulls are near annual on the Niagara River in late autumn/early winter now, and there has already been a Ross's on Lake Erie, courtesy of Sandy. Hopefully one of these 3 winter specialties will make another appearance.

Razorbill
There is one on Lake Ontario, a bird that Glenn Coady had flying by. Maybe it will make another appearance? Niagara-on-the-lake seems like a good bet...

Tufted Duck
The one in Ottawa is no longer there, but abnormally large numbers for this early date have already shown up in Newfoundland. Maybe there will be more and it will be an invasian year.

Golden-crowned Sparrow
Another one that is showing up more often in recent years. Most sightings are of birds at feeders, a.k.a. very "twitchable" birds.

Barn Owl
My only Ontario sighting was of a migrant in Stoney Creek in mid November that David Bell and I found. They are resident in southern Ontario, just extremely scarce.

Black-throated Gray Warbler:
A "twitchable" one has shown up just about every autumn/winter for the last little bit - hopefully this year is no different.

Black-throated Gray Warbler - Hamilton

Remember the above graph? It's all the Ontario rarities which are potential year birds, graphed by week (excluding Cave Swallows). I made it in early October and have seen some more rarities since, but the graph is still relevant. Early November is prime time! There are bound to be a few new bonus birds around.

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