This trip's highlight bird was somewhat expected, but still a bit of a surprising "self-found" rarity that I got to share with a local friend. I had posted a message to www.wepbirds.com (Windsor-Essex-Pelee Birds is our local bird alert service run by Kory Renaud, Jeremy Hatt, and me) on January 7 2017, asking if any locals knew if there was a certain massive blackbird flock still present near Kingsville. I received a bunch of friendly replies, unfortunately suggesting that the flock has likely moved on... Naturally, I did what any over-ambitious competitive birder would do: called a friend and headed out anyway to a location that I had a good feeling about!
This is a Merlin, a tiny falcon that we enjoyed watching as it hunted blackbirds, sparrows, and pigeons. We did not enjoy when it put the whole flock back up in the air though!
|Immature male Yellow-headed Blackbird in Comber, Essex County. This was exactly what Kit McCann and I were hoping to find here!|
|This photo makes the Yellow-headed Blackbird seem easy enough to spot, but imagine zooming out to the whole group shown in the first photo of this blog post!|
|Cackling Goose among Canada Geese at Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary. Yeah, the Cackling Goose is the cute tiny one pointing to the left near the centre of the photo that otherwise looks much like its larger relatives!|
I followed my week at home with a trip to Frontenac County, hoping to refind Southern Ontario's first Great Gray Owl sighting of the year. I stopped at a private residence in Oxford County, aiming to see a Western Meadowlark that had been hanging around, which I did not see. On my way east I also stopped at a secret location that Dan MacNeal had contacted me about earlier in the day. Luck was on my side with timing once again! I happily saw the Long-eared Owl and headed on my way to Frontenac County, where I did not see any Great Gray Owls!
|Long-eared Owl in Guelph area. This would end up being the only Long-eared Owl I saw throughout my 2017 Big Year. Thanks a bunch to Dan MacNeal for leading me to this sighting!|
By January 18th I had tallied 90 species toward my Big Year. More importantly, five of these were notable rarities and about ten of these were notably uncommon or tricky species, which was a great pace to have started with. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for a story about a rather unconventional birding outing during an Ontario Big Year!
All the best,