Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Crazy Chase Season 2016!

First, I must make note of the fact that I am planning on doing a Big Year in Ontario in 2017. If this is news to you, stay tuned, as there will be much more Big Year content to come soon! The reason I'm mentioning it here is because it has a lot to do with how I went about birding this year in preparation! Early this fall I decided I would practice not getting so anxious about birding. In the process decided I would only chase rarities more than an hour or so away this fall if:
1) The bird is new to my Ontario list.
2) The bird is really, really rare and I may not have a chance to chase another one for a number of years.

There was one crazy rarity in the late fall that was very worth chasing: Ontario's first Common Ringed Plover, found by Paul Prior at Tommy Thompson Park on August 20. Needless to say, Emma and I got there pronto and eventually spotted it after two hours of nearly hopeless searching! 

Common Ringed Plover in Toronto - August 20, 2016

Most of the fall season went great as far as relaxing while birding goes, with quite a few lower priority rarities showing up here and there. I abided by this rule without any problems through the months of September and October, but by mid November. 

In late November, a Thick-billed Murre was found on Muskrat Lake in Cobden, Renfrew County, by Burke Korol. All bets were off on my bird-chasing hiatus, and I left the Point Pelee area by supper time, stopping to pick up my friend Henrique in Toronto, and we headed toward Ottawa! We slept in the car for what felt like fifteen minutes (about five hours) and by about 9 am the following morning we met up with my good friend Josh and we shared super views of the pretty black and white alcid (murres, puffins, auks, etc. belong to the avian family called Alcidae). This was a new species to my world life list as well, which made it slightly more exciting still. To be frankly honest, it wasn't the closest view (at least a few hundred metres away) and the best photos we could manage were only identifiable at best, but the excitement of seeing it far outweigh the poor quality views and photos! I've never had a chance to watch any alcid dive and swim on somewhat calm water, so it was a lot of fun watching it seamlessly dive very differently than any diving ducks. It was apparent from before it got under the water that it was relying heavily on its wings to act as flippers.

Thick-billed Murre in Cobden - November 26, 2016

With that said, I think my highlight of the trip was finding a Barred Owl in the early morning in Hastings County! This was only the second time I've seen a Barred Owl in Ontario, as they are not known to live in Southwestern Ontario, my home. This was the first self-found Barred Owl for both Henrique and I, and we were spoiled with a great roadside photo op.

Barred Owl in Hastings County - November 26, 2016

Later in the day on our way home, we received word of an immature Plegadis ibis in Port Hope, found very recently by Margaret Bain. Yeah we took a bit of a detour! It was hanging out in a small sewage runoff pond in a park along Lake Ontario, and obliged for some pretty super photos! This individual looked mature enough to comfortably assign it the species taxa of Glossy Ibis due to its evenly coloured legs, bluish facial skin near the eye, and clearly defined white lines on its face, but there's no denying that many immature Plegadis individuals cannot be reliably identified. 

Glossy Ibis in Port Hope - November 26, 2016

I was back home only a few hours later than when I left the previous evening! Not bad for my first chase in a couple months!

Good birding!


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