Monday, 18 March 2013

March 15 - 2 Awesome Rarities In 2 Days!

     Migration is still just beginning but it's already a lot of fun and has brought me some very rare birds in the last two days. On Thursday, March 14, I saw a message from my friend Jeremy Hatt about a Eurasian Wigeon in the Onion Fields North of Point Pelee, so on my way home I took a bit of a detour since it was still light outside and with a combination of directions from a couple of friends, I spotted it in minutes among hundreds of ducks! It really stood out with its bright red head and light coloured stripe down the middle. Its body was also notably grayer coloured than the American Wigeons. Since my photos of this species look like garbage, here is a short video of the Eurasian Wigeon foraging:
     The next day(today), March 15, I left Leamington to meet up with my girlfriend Nadia and my best friend Chris in London, to bird Fanshawe Conservation Area. I must have been distracted thinking about birds or something, because I made a wrong turn in Wheatley and found myself on Talbot's Trail, the slow way to London! Darn, so I figured I'd make a quick stop at Ridgetown Sewage Lagoon before getting on the 401. Since I had not read any rare bird reports from this location in a while, I did not expect much, but I expected at least a variety of migrating ducks or something. I got my scope out of the car and noticed only a small number of ducks and geese, but no swans at all. This was a big change from the 2-4000 swans I was seeing here regularly in December.
     I noted the small numbers of migrant ducks including Ring-necked Ducks and Buffleheads, as well as a Pied-billed Grebe, then heard something all too familiar to this location: flight calls of Tundra Swans! There were 3 flying towards the lagoon and I quickly noticed that one had a peculiar amount of yellow on its bill. It reminded me of swans I have seen in zoos (but it somehow didn't occur to me that they could be the same species or subspecies). Remember, I was in a big hurry after my mistaken detour to London, so I snapped a photo of it flying and a few of it on the water once it landed, and went on my way.
     I did not need to do any research to find out what I saw at Ridgetown, because as I pulled into Nadia's dad's driveway an hour later, I read an Ontbirds email by Mike Burrell saying that Ken Burrell and Andrew Dean found it about half an hour after I did! This is in fact a Tundra Swan, but of the European "Bewick's" subspecies, which is extremely rare in Ontario! I heard that this is actually only the third record of this subspecies in the province! Awesome!
     Here is a photo of the "Bewick's" Tundra Swan next to a North American "Whistling" Tundra Swan (Ring-necked Ducks and Redhead also in photo):

     Birding Fanshawe Park with Nadia and Chris was a lot of fun too. We saw a Turkey Vulture, which are still pretty scarce in the area lately, gave Chris his first chance to have a bird land in his hand, and learned a thing or two about navigation when we realized the trail we were on took us out of the park.
     Overall, it was a very fun couple of days filled with great birds and great people, like usual! I hope you enjoyed, and thanks for reading!

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