Monday 6 May 2013

Hermit Warbler in Durham Region??

Yesterday afternoon, I was bemoaning the fact that I wasn't at Pelee anymore. After 11 days or so in the banana belt of Ontario, looking at neotropical migrants as well as a plethora of rarities, I was on the move back north. On Saturday my parents joined me on the drive up to Schomberg to help me move in to my new home base. I was starting work on Monday, so Saturday was about as late as I could push back the moving date. It just so happened that the entire time up north, I was reading Mike Burrell's Ontbirds play-by-play after he and Erica had found a Swallow-tailed Kite! For the full account of that find, check out his blog.  What an amazing find! (This would be a new Canada bird for me, and by default a new Ontario and Point Pelee bird as well).

And then yesterday, as I was settling in at my new place, word on the street was that some Black-necked Stilts were at Pelee too (that would also be a new Canada bird for me). Great timing!

But, not all was lost, as a probable Hermit Warbler was found by Eric Cole about 50 minutes from my new place. Hermit Warblers are mega mega mega rare in Ontario with only 7 records. And only one of those records was of a bird hanging around for more than one day! Needless to say, this was a rarity I couldn't NOT chase.

Hermit Warbler (from wiki)

Arriving at the park, several other birders were present, staring intently up a tree. These included Mark Dorriesfield, Glenn Coady, Geoff Carpentier, Eric Cole, Peter Hogenbirk, and Stu Williams. Apparently they had heard the bird sing on a number of occasions in the same area that Eric had originally found it. After 45 minutes with no luck, most of the group left leaving Mark Dorriesfield, Stu Williams and I. We were giving up hope when a Black-throated Green-type warbler chip note was heard several times. Apparently the bird had chipped several times before it started singing previously.

The bird started singing deep from a Hemlock grove. It ended up singing about 10-15 times. After it sang 6 or 7 times, we moved closer to a distance of probably 20 feet or so, and the bird continued to sing for a few more minutes. I tried to record the song on my phone, but the recording is useless since I can't hear the possible Hermit Warbler (HEWA) or the nearby Black-throated Green Warbler (BTNW) that was singing due to background noise. After it sang 10-15 times, it was quiet and wasn't heard again. It appeared to be singing near the top of a hemlock, buried in the branches. 3 or 4 BTNWs could be heard from here as well. I noticed movement from where the song was coming from on 2 occasions when it first started singing, however both times the glimpses were fleeting and all I could make out was a warbler-sized bird. Even when we were nearly right under the tree(s) where the song was coming from I didn't see any movement. This bird was proving to be elusive!!!

The song was identical to HEWA songs I have heard on recordings that have been called the "see-saw" song type. Examples that I can find, sounding very similar to our bird, include the 2nd, 4th, and 5th entries on this webpage.

The birders that were present before I arrived mentioned hearing the bird sing that song type as well as another one that matched the description of HEWA.

addendum: Several other birders were on site today and mentioned not having the possible HEWA, though they did have a BTNW singing a weird faster song that could be interpreted as a HEWA song. However there was a BTNW singing that song last night, which is obvious after listening to the recording that several birders managed to get. The possible HEWA only did the "see-saw" song when I was there, not the faster song that this BTNW had been doing.

It seems very unlikely that a Hermit Warbler showed up at this site since it is not really a migrant trap and no other migrants were present. Unfortunately without a clear visual on the bird, we can't really provide much to Eric Cole's original description. Guess this is one "that got away"!

1 comment:

Brent Turcotte said...

The last three days I was in the Peterborough area with a trip to Pres'quile. This is my only trip into southern Ontario during May this year.

While I had a great time on the trip and added a fair number of year birds, the big storm down south prevented any really good birds showing up on my trip. I only got five warblers, and two of those were found when I was going home (Sandy Road on the shield, to look for butterflies).

While Southern Ontario does produce lots of warblers during fallouts, it sucks during non-fallout days and make me appreciate the regular diversity of warblers I get at home in North Bay.

Luck plays a part. I missed by Northern Gannet by a few days on this trip and the Thick-billed Kingbird because my family went to Peterborough/Pres'quile a week early.

The best bird of the trip was a female Eastern Towhee spotted in Bill's backyard in Pres'quile.