After a fantastic couple of weeks across the pond, I arrived last night in Toronto. While it sucks to be back home in a way, I am anxious to catch up on some homework as well as some birds.
In a previous post I mentioned why I had planned my trip for the last two weeks in February. Pertaining to doing a big year, that is traditionally one of the slowest time of the year for rarities. One particular individual predicted Ross's Gull, Brambling, and Fieldfare would show up while I was away, then disappear the day before I got back! Fortunately that didn't happen or I may have had an aneurysm. Despite some mega birds being seen while I was away, none were really chase-able so I lucked out by being gone for those two weeks. Here is a rundown of some of the species I missed, or that the other big year birders got, while I was gone:
Mew Gull (possible the European subspecies/species, Common Gull): One showed up for about half an hour at Cobourg harbour. If I was in Ontario, I probably would have left for Cobourg immediately after it was posted, but alas I would have arrived about an hour or more after it was last seen.
Slaty-backed Gull: one was reported near Owen Sound on February 28, though birders traveling up on March 1st were unsuccessful in relocating it. I saw some photos of the beast, and with no disrespect to the finder, it appears to be a hybrid Great Black-backed Gull x Herring Gull, which can look eerily similar. I had one such bird a year or two ago that just about made me cry wolf.
Heerman's Gull: This was the mega I was talking about! Heerman's Gull is a code-6 bird according to my rankings, the first code 6 to be reported in Ontario this year. It was found by Mark Gawn, of Ottawa Razorbill, Western Grebe, and Northern Gannet fame from last fall. Unfortunately for the crazed twitchers among us, it failed to hang around for more than the rest of the afternoon. If I was in the province at the time, I probably would have headed down that evening and searched for it (unsuccessfully) the following morning. Some very distant photos of the bird provide evidence that it may have been a Ring-billed Gull with some sort of weird staining of its plumage, making it appear dark. I am still holding out hope that it will be found and confirmed as a Heerman's.
Townsend's Solitaire: One was reported near Cobourg on February 24, though all subsequent searches have came up negative. I am still holding hope that it will be around and I may try my luck at this bird soon. Generally, solitaires hang around in the same area (or even the same tree) for months on end when they show up in the winter in Ontario.
Typically early spring migrants: Common Grackle, Rusty and Brewer's Blackbird, Great Blue Heron, Red-shouldered Hawk, Killdeer, American Woodcock, Sandhill Crane, and Snow Goose are all early migrants that have been reported which would be year birds. I got the grack yesterday, and the other ones I will pick up easily as the year goes on.
So what it boils down too....There were no code 4+ birds that I would haveadded if I had hung around in the province instead of visiting Scotland. The only things I missed were birds that I'll pick up easily as spring moves along!
What's next on the agenda? I have a ton of schoolwork to catch up on, but the Varied Thrush in the Soo is still calling my name. Maybe I'll do a Townsend's Solitaire search, and I'm sure I'll pick up a bunch of common spring migrants in the near future.
PS I'll try to get some Scotland/Spain pics up soon!!