In the past week and I half I haven't made it out for much birding. I guess that happens when you have a full time job and daylight hours fall entirely on the part of the day when you are working. Other than a Snowy Owl that I saw driving home from work one day, the only other birding I did was chasing a rarity in Guelph, yesterday.
Two days ago, an Eared Grebe was found in a flooded aggregate pit just south of Guelph by a group of local Guelph birders. This was one of only a few Wellington County records. Since I was driving past the location just off of the highway on Monday afternoon, I pulled off and checked out the spot. A few aggregate pits are located along one of the concessions; some are in use, and others are flooded, just happening to be about the only areas of open water in the county currently. This spot has held several rarities in the last few years, including a Harlequin Duck and a Red-throated Loon, and it likely is very productive when other local water bodies freeze in December. When I arrived it only took about a minute to find the Eared Grebe swimming near some Canada Geese. Its small head and bill, peaked forehead, and dark cheek among other things differentiated it from Horned Grebe (of which one was also present). Eventually it came close enough for very distant (= poor) photos. However, views were excellent through the scope and I could even see the red eye clearly at 60x magnification.
Though the Eared Grebe was a great bird on a local level, two other birds have been recently found that are mega rarities for the province!
The first was an adult male ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD which has been coming to a feeder in Thunder Bay, of all places! This species was only recently added to the Ontario checklist, on the basis of a single record of a female coming to a feeder in Kingsville (and only seen by a lucky few) which hung around for a few days in the autumn of 2010. This one has survived -25 degree Celsius nights so far, so I (and many other Ontario birders!) are hoping that it will stick around for some time. Time will tell!
The second mega that was found was a THICK-BILLED MURRE along the Kingston waterfront! This is an incredible rarity, being only the second Ontario record since 1953. In the past, flights of Thick-billed Murres have been in early winter in Lake Ontario, though obviously that hasn't occurred in many decades. The story with this one was that it was found swimming close to shore by resident Janis Grant who alerted Mark Read. Mark identified it as a Thick-billed Mure and posted it to Ontbirds. It continued to be seen along the Kingston waterfront until dusk and may be present in the morning.
Photos taken by Mark Read here:
Crazy things are happening!!!