Wednesday 5 December 2012

Nearing the end...

It is now December 5, 2012. 340 out of this year's 366 days are in the rearview mirror (this works out to almost 93%). The clock is ticking as the year draws to a close. And my Big Year attempt will end sooner than most, as I will vacate the province on December 26th to spend time with someone who is more important than all those birds!

What this boils down to, is that after today I have only 20 full days left in my Big Year. That's not a lot of time remaining, especially considering that I haven't added a new year bird in 17 days! This just so happens to be one of the longest dry spells that I have seen so far this year. The longest was the 21 days between September 12 (when I found the Yellow-crowned Night-heron) and October 3 (when I caught up with the Mew Gull).

Mew Gull - October 3, 2012

The second longest dry spell was between February 14 and March 4, 2012. That one was 19 days, though I was out of the province most of that time so it doesn't really count. And now I am currently in the midst of the 3rd longest dry spell, with nothing new added since the Pacific Loon on November 18. There is no end in sight, unfortunately!

When I returned from Netitishi Point in early November, I was feeling really confident about how the end of the year would play out. I had just added 8 birds on that very successful two-week trip, bringing my yearly total to 342. I made a lofty goal of seeing 350 for the year, a goal which in hindsight was not very achievable. I was hoping that there would still be a few more hurricane birds lingering, or at the very least we would get some more powerful weather systems in November like we normally do. Unfortunately, the birds didn't materialize, and apart from catching up with a Cave Swallow and Pacific Loon, I haven't seen anything else! In fact, the last code 4+ rarity I saw was the Great Cormorant way back on November 1.

Cave Swallow - November 13, 2012

Since 350 is not going to be possible, I have a revised goal: 346. I have 20 days to get 2 more year birds. Most of the readers of this blog (or rather, 95% of people who responded to the poll) seem to think that I will get at least one more year bird. A lot of people think I will end the year with Slaty-backed Gull being the last bird, with Rufous Hummingbird and Barn Owl other top choices (I have my money on Tufted Duck closing out the year).

When I planned this year, I thought that the race to 339 would be very tight down to the wire, and so I expected to go "all out" until the end of December. 339 came and went sooner than I had imagined, but I am still going to do my best until I run out of spaces on the calendar!

One technique I will use is a tried and true method (at least it was last year): Hang out at Niagara. Niagara always gets its fair share of rarities late in the year. Last year was mind-boggling, with "chase-able" rarities including Razorbill, Black Vulture, Fish Crow, Black-headed Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Franklin's Gull, and others being present. Two of the most likely birds I can still add this year, Razorbill and Slaty-backed Gull, will probably turn up in Niagara (that is, if they show up at all). In the next 20 days I will do a lot of scanning through gulls, and checking the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shoreline in the Niagara Region for rarities!

Franklin's Gull (not from Niagara)

Another distinct possibility is Barn Owl. This bird is almost phantom-like - they are present in Ontario but go virtually undetected by birders. Barn Owls are Endangered in Ontario with very few individuals present. I don't know of any Barn Owl locations, but I do know general regions in Ontario where they may still be present. I will probably spend a lot of time (or until I get bored) slowly driving back roads in the evenings, looking and listening.

Finally, the end of December is Christmas Bird Count time in Ontario. Many of Ontario's birders participate in one or more CBCs in late December, and often, good birds are turned up. Maybe someone will find a Brambling in a hedge, a Tufted Duck on a lake that never gets checked, or a Eurasian Tree Sparrow coming to a bird feeder.


Blake A. Mann said...

I vote for a Branbling next!

Blake A. Mann said...

I mean Brambling.(!)

Alan Wormington said...

This is the end .... my only friend, the end.

Brandon Holden said...

you talkin about me??

Blake A. Mann said...

Ha. Never thought about that, Brandon!

Anonymous said...

It's been really fun following you all year as you've done this.

Tim said...

holy shit sauce I never knew you could see so many rare birds in Ontario - that's friggin crazy dude!