Saturday 8 June 2013

Rarity in my "backyard"

When I moved to the Schomberg area, I fully expected the birding to be somewhat dull. I was no longer living in the Hamilton Study Area, which is one of the better places to find birds in southern Ontario. Point Pelee was now a 4.5 hour drive, instead of less than 3. I was further away from locations such as Long Point, Rondeau, and Niagara. However, York Region has been a bit of a pleasant surprise, even though it is technically in the Greater Toronto Area! ;)

I have only been here a month, and most of that time I have been working. However I have been checking some local spots with some regularity. Happy Valley Forest is a designated ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest) less than 4 km from my house, and I have been walking there two or three evenings a week. In this Carolinian-type forest, I have already seen several Hooded Warblers, 2 separate Acadian Flycatchers, an Olive-sided Flycatcher, an active Pileated Woodpecker nest, multiple Barred Owl sightings (along with 2 other owl species), and much more.

The Schomberg lagoons are also just down the street from me, and I've been checking them frequently. Finally, yesterday I hit paydirt. I had just arrived when I noticed a shorebird along the muddy edge, facing away. It was medium sized, but not a Killdeer - that sure piqued my interest!

A quick check with the scope showed a silvery gray bird with a red breast and belly - a Red Knot!

Red Knot - Schomberg lagoons (June 7, 2013)

Red Knots breed in the Arctic and winter in southern South America. They are very efficient at migrating, stopping at only a few key areas before continuing on their journey. Because of that, they rarely stop over in Ontario on their way up north in the spring or south in the fall. Most records are of juvenile birds in September, or of small flocks of adults along the Great Lakes in late May/early June (usually associated with inclement weather).

I'm not sure how many previous records there are for York Region, but according the official checklist they are listed as "very rare" (less than one record a decade). Unfortunately, Red Knots are listed as Endangered in Canada as their numbers continue to decline.

Red Knot - Schomberg lagoons (June 7, 2013)

Kevin Shackleton, John Watson, and another birder (didn't catch his name) showed up 15 minutes later and we all enjoyed the knot as it fed at fairly close range. Kevin is the one who actually gave me the York Region checklist. Looking at it, there are some "easy" species still missing for the region, so I'll be out hunting for those rarities such as Nelson's Sparrow, Marbled Godwit, Kentucky Warbler, and Lark Sparrow in the next few years.

Red Knot (American Robin impersonation)


Tomorrow I am attempted a Big Day with another local birder, David Szmyr. A big day is like 1/365th of a Big Year, obviously. We are starting at 3:00 AM in the Carden area, and basically birding between there and my local area (Happy Valley) until nightfall. Unfortunately we timed it about two weeks too late since even the latest migrants have pretty much finished passing through. Shorebirds will be a problem (we will probably get 6 species), as will waterfowl (I wouldn't except more than about 12 waterfowl species). Unfortunately the Red Knot was no longer present at the Schomberg lagoons this afternoon. Still, we are shooting high and trying to get as many of the breeding birds as possible. I think 150 should be a reasonable goal! If the cards line up and we get nearly EVERYTHING we are hoping for, 170 might be achievable. Should be fun!

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