Saturday, 30 May 2015

Wilson's Plover in Toronto

On Wednesday afternoon, Glenn Coady was birding Hanlan's Point beach on the Toronto Islands when he discovered two fantastic rarities - a Wilson's Plover and a Snowy Plover. Four Piping Plovers were taking up residence along the same stretch of beach as well, providing a trio of rare plover species for Ontario. Unfortunately the Snowy Plover did not stick around long, but the Wilson's continued to be seen throughout the rest of the day. Both Snowy and Wilson's Plovers are quite unusual in the province. I am not sure how many total records their have been of each species, but a quick look of the OBRC database shows that there are eight accepted records of Snowy Plover and four of Wilson's Plover.

I had been in Kenora from Monday through Wednesday for work and my flight unfortunately touched down at Billy Bishop airport on the Toronto Islands after sunset, meaning I wasn't able to chase the bird until the following day. The Wilson's Plover continued to be seen on Thursday, and with eager anticipation I drove down to Bay Street and boarded the ferry to head across.

Toronto from the Hanlan's Point ferry

After taking the short 10 minute ferry across I headed southwest towards Hanlan's Point beach. Even though it was early afternoon a variety of birds were vocalizing, including a Baltimore Oriole, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Savannah Sparrows, and Warbling Vireos. A Bobolink sang from somewhere in the grassy field over the airport fence, while several Blackpoll Warblers, one of the latest arriving migrants, sang from somewhere unseen in the forest edge.

I arrived at the beach and scanned with my binoculars to the north where the plovers had been located, while to the south, quite a few Torontonians were enjoying the hot weather at the nude beach.

It did not take too long until a Piping Plover landed in front of me. I paused to view the plover, then continued scanning up the beach. A group of birders were intently watching something on the sand, and my gaze picked up another plover shape - this one sporting a big black bill.

I joined the group of birders watching the Wilson's Plover, which paid no mind to us and casually walked by within 4 of 5 meters at times. The sun was still high in the sky at 3:00 PM, causing harsh shadows and tough photography conditions, but with the sun sort of at my back I tried to make the best of the situation. Seeing such an incredible rarity is always the main goal for me, but obtaining decent photos is just a bonus.

Wilson's Plover - Hanlan Point beach, Toronto Islands (May 28, 2015)

Wilson's Plover - Hanlan Point beach, Toronto Islands (May 28, 2015)

On several occasions, Wilson sat down in the sand amongst the beach detritus, proving very difficult to spot unless you knew exactly where to look.

Wilson's Plover - Hanlan Point beach, Toronto Islands (May 28, 2015)

 Three Piping Plovers were also present - a pair that kept close company, and a single bird further down the beach. The Piping Plover is listed as Endangered in Ontario and there are only about 100 pairs in the Great Lakes region. They are only found at a handful of beaches in Ontario, and this is the first time that I can recall a pair taking up residence in Toronto. Perhaps it is a small sign that the population is slowly increasing.

Piping Plover - Hanlan Point beach, Toronto Islands (May 28, 2015)

After an hour or so with the plovers I made my way back to the ferry docks as I had to make my way east to Havelock to complete Whip-poor-will surveys that evening. Here's one more parting shot of the Wilson's, a life bird for me.

Wilson's Plover - Hanlan Point beach, Toronto Islands (May 28, 2015)

1 comment:

dwaynejava said...

Congrats on the life bird! I hope those piping plovers nest and are given some formal protection by means of barrier etc.