Monday, 21 May 2012

Odds of breaking the big year record

The last couple of days have been quite good at Pelee. There weren't a ton of birds, but definitely an increase compared to recent days and a few southern species were present.  Yesterday morning, a highlight was finding a Blue Grosbeak at the tip while watching reverse migrants. I was with Alan Wormington, Adam Pinch, and Chris Law when this brownish bird flew over. I could see a heavy bill, wingbars, blotchy brown colour, and long, rounded tail. What initially keyed me into the bird was the distinctive call note, though the bird only called once. Alan was the first to call it and we watched it fly around several times, along with 2 Indigo Buntings, until it was quite high in the air and headed back to the park. It appeared to be a first year bird. Fortunately, several other lucky birders managed to get on it near the tip later in the day.
I was happy to get my first Acadian Flycatcher of the year this morning, a bird that Alvan Buckley found early on the Woodland Nature Trail. I also found an Olive-sided there as well as seeing 3 seperate Prothonotary Warblers. At one point I had a Yellow-throated Warbler - however it only sang once I couldn't see it. Other birds seen in the south end of the park by others included Kentucky Warbler, Prairie Warbler(s), and Yellow-breasted Chat(s). It is now quite hot out and bird song has decreased so I thought that I would take the time and see what my chances are of breaking the record based on the species left to see.

It has been a relatively slow spring across Ontario, especially in regards to rarities. Considering the paucity of rare birds, I have done quite well and seen most of the code 3 or higher birds that were around. I missed a few but overall I did well. May is make it or break it time for a big year birder, and this May was definitely one that could have crushed my dreams of having a really solid year. However I saw just enough rarities to keep me in the game, and a lot of rare birds historically show up later in May (so the next week or two).

Before I go into the details, I thought I would mention that I have changed the code of two of the birds - Smith's Longspur and Willow Ptarmigan. I originally had them both as code-2 birds since they are relatively easy on the north shore of Ontario. Getting there is another matter and at this point it looks unlikely that I'll make it up there. I have changed them both to code-4 species.

Code 1 birds remaining:
Stilt Sandpiper

I've cleaned up on the common birds. When I saw the White-rumped Sandpiper a few days ago I mistakenly thought that it was my last code 1 species I needed for the year. Looking at my list, I still need Stilt Sandpiper.

Code 2 birds remaining:
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Red Knot
Purple Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Red-necked Phalarope
Parasitic Jaeger
Franklin's Gull
Arctic Tern
Black-billed Magpie
Nelson's Sparrow

All of these birds should be relatively easy, and I should have multiple chances at all of them. Purple Sandpiper may be a little tricky but every year there are at least a couple somewhere to chase, plus I'll probably get them at Netitishi Point on James Bay this fall. Arctic Tern may be tough but I might be going to James Bay in August and I'll also try for them in late May/early June near Ottawa. I can't see having a problem with any of the other species listed above and I expect to get all 12 of the remaining code 1 and 2, which would bring me to 316 for the year.

Code 3 birds remaining:
Pacific Loon
Cattle Egret
Glossy Ibis
King Rail
Western Sandpiper
Red Phalarope
Long-tailed Jaeger
Black-legged Kittiwake
Sabine's Gull
Black Guillemot
Northern Hawk Owl
Western Kingbird
Cave Swallow
Henslow's Sparrow

Some of these are much more likely than others. Very conservatively, I think that I have a very good chance (75% or higher) at Cattle Egret, Gyrfalcon, Western Sandpiper, Long-tailed Jaeger, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sabine's Gull, Northern Hawk Owl, and Dickcissel. So I should get 6 of those 8. I think I have about a 50% chance at Pacific loon, Glossy Ibis, King Rail, Red Phalarope, Black Guillemot, and Cave Swallow, so I should see about 3 of those 6 species. I think I have about a 25% chance at Western Kingbird and Henslow's Sparrow. All together, that adds up to me seeing 9.5 of the remaining code 3 birds, and since these odds were conservative, lets say I should get 11. This would put me at 327 for the year.

There are way too many codes 4, 5, and 6 birds remaining, but to beat the record, hypothetically I would need to see 12 of them. So far I have already seen 15 species that I have listed as codes 4, 5, and 6, and I still have over 7 months remaining! Typically, there are more chaseable rarities in the second half of the year, and last year 16 species were recorded after May 21 that are codes 4, 5, and 6.

In summary, I think my odd of breaking the record have decreased slightly since late April, but I'm very much still in the game. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out.

1 comment:

  1. Nice to see you today.
    I think your odds are pretty good!!