With the Holiday Beach hawk count shut down due to the stormy weather and severe winds, I had a free day to roam. Though it would seem Van Wagner's was the place to be (Wilson's AND Leach's Storm-Petrels, jaegers, Purple Sandpipers, Brant, Black-legged Kittiwake, etc.! and I know I shouldn't do this to myself, but if I had spent the day there today, I would have potentially seen 7 year birds, 5 Ontario birds, and 4 lifers), I went to a place a bit closer for me, Point Edward near Sarnia (for those who have seen the van I drive for birding, you know that even Point Edward was a stretch for such a rust-infected rust-bucket). Hurricane Sandy and the resulting weather in the province is moving a lot of birds around, producing pretty unbelievable rarities, and making things quite exciting for Ontario birders looking to see what else shows up in the next few days (oh, a Razorbill, too, waa?!). All in all, I had a great day at Point Edward.
This was the first time I'd visited the spot. It was quite the scene. You essentially parked your car at the south end of Lake Huron and pray for birds to get blown into your windshield so you can see them through the wind and rain while turning on your (non-existent in my rust heap) heat periodically to remember what fingers feel like but in all seriousness, this is actually as much fun as one can have as a birder because, well, I mean, come on now(!) you're sitting w/ other birders in a row of cars in a storm scanning birds being blown all over the place and shouting out sightings from cracked windows while trying to adjust your scope that's propped up with your emergency brake and when every once in a while you run out of the vehicle to go shout to another birder, water splats at you from all angles like running through a car wash despite winds only coming from one direction and then you find out you missed a distant jaeger. I loved it.
Spent the time watching the action w/ Andrew Keaveney, Blake Mann, and Josh & Michael Bouman for about 6 hours. A lot of Brant are in the area right now. I estimated around 125 birds but I'm sure that's a conservative count. It was hard to get an accurate count as birds would fly by in flocks, land on the lake and then get pushed back into the river where they flew back out again into the lake. This happened all day. Bonaparte's, Herring, and Ring-billed Gulls were all present in good numbers (5 Great Black-backed and 1 Lesser Black-backed were also present) but the highlights were 2 juvenile Sabine's Gulls (lifer!) and 3 juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake (new year bird). We also had a gull that was a probable "Nelson's" Gull, a hybrid Herring X Glaucous. The bird was large and pale and had a Glaucous appearance but had brown to dark grey wingtips.
Other birds included 3 Red-necked Grebes, good numbers of White-winged and Black Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Canvasback, Redhead, lots of scaups, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Mergansers, a handful of Mallards, and a flock of Sanderlings. No Red Phalaropes while I was there but others had one earlier in the morning. My one disappointment was missing the jaegers that were spotted. I blame my windshield wipers, which don't work properly...they basically just press water around on the window rather than off it so that when I looked through, I was just seeing a kind of grey smear.
I have job training tomorrow but boy do I wish I could spend the day at Van Wagner's. I look forward to seeing what shows up on Lake Ontario tomorrow in the upcoming days.