Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Henslow's Sparrow/Kentucky Warbler at the Tip

What. An. Evening.

On a day where a number of texts and Ontbirds posts were indicating a great day at Pelee, I was excited when work was done and I could head over to try my luck at some of the rarities that were around.

On the way over, I picked up a drink and a burrito at Birdie's Perch. Upon leaving, I drove slowly by the Pelee Wings Nature Store feeders thinking I might catch another glimpse of the female Painted Bunting. I didn't see the bird but I did see two people pointing and laughing at me. How rude, I thought. I sped up to escape these mean people. Only when I saw my Dr. Pepper rolling down and spilling across my back window did I realize they were right to laugh at me. Oh well...could have been worse. Could have been my wallet I left up there (again).

Once I got to the park, I headed straight to the VC to catch the tram down to try for the Henslow's Sparrow, which Josh Vandermeulen told me had been seen on and off throughout the day. As soon as I parked the tram arrived. Good timing! I ran over and sat down on the tram. I waited patiently. Waited some more. Waiiiited....the huh? Someone who had pity on me walked over and politely told me the tram was done running to the Tip for the day. I mumbled something like "Oh, uhh, ya, I knew that, I was just...resting...." and scuttled away.

Turns out the gates open just after 5pm once tram service ends, which is excellent since the Tip was the place to be this evening. I started at the West Beach Footpath, ready to search for the Henslow's Sparrow reported from near the Serengeti Tree. Not far along the trail I saw Josh V., David Bell, and Dwayne Murphy all looking straight down at the ground. Could it really be that close?! I gingerly tip-toed over, which was completely unnecessary since this is the tamest Henslow's Sparrow ever, walking around the feet of observers looking very much like a mouse creeping through the grass. Mindblowing views.

From there we started walking toward the Tip to see what other migrants we could find but were stopped short by a text from Brandon Holden. They'd found a Kentucky Warbler around the corner from where we were walking on the main road to the Tip. We rushed over. I arrived out of breath...somewhat pathetic to be out of breath from jogging 50 metres, I know...but I think it was the excitement of the moment. My mom would say it's because I'm vegetarian. As soon as we got there, the warbler popped up and gave short but good looks. My adrenaline was thru the roof, let me tell ya.

I feel incredibly lucky to be seeing a number of species that I did not see last year during my Big Year. Here's the list so far:

Gray Partridge
Townsend's Solitaire
Kentucky Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler (heard last year but not seen)
Louisiana Waterthrush (heard last year but not seen)
Henslow's Sparrow
Blue Grosbeak
Painted Bunting

And y'know what's crazy...? It's not even May yet.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Lunch Hour

12:01p.m. - Beep. Punched out from work.

12:02p.m. - Check phone for any rare bird updates.

12:05p.m. - Bite into peanut butter and banana sandwich. 

12:16p.m. - Text message received from Josh Vandermeulen

     Painted bunting reported at Pelee wings feeders 5 mins ago

12:16p.m. - In Marianne's car driving toward Pelee Wings Nature Store.

12:18p.m. - Construction. A detour sign sends us down a street w/ No Exit.

12:21p.m. - Ontbirds email received.

> From: pwn...@peleewings.ca
> To: birdalert@ontbirds.ca
> Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2013 12:21:34 -0400
> Subject: [Ontbirds] Painted Bunting, female, currently at  at Pelee Wings
> Birders -
> For those coming out of Point Pelee National Park for lunch you
> may want to check out the female Painted Bunting discovered by
> Maris Apse at the feeders directly across the street from 
> Pelee Wings Nature Store, 636 Point Pelee drive, Leamington, 
> 2 km north of the Park, there at 12:05pm, now.
> Regards from Point Pelee -
> Michael Malone
12:22p.m. - A red light.

12:24p.m. - Another red light.

12:28p.m. - Green!

12:32p.m. - Arrive at Pelee Wings Nature Store. PAINTED BUNTING!!!!!

12:35p.m. - Leave Pelee Wings Nature Store.

12:45p.m. - Post to Facebook: 

Just got a female Painted Bunting on my lunch hour at Pelee Wings Natureoptics Paddlesports!! I'm shaking I'm so excited. And back in time to punch in.

12:50p.m. - Beep. Punched back in.

12:55p.m. - Marianne looks at me. Asks, "What just happened?"

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Spring. It's the best time of year. The time of year when a birder's life gets HECTIC. A time where you see friends you sometimes haven't seen in a year, waiting in line for a birdseed cookie behind the Visitor Centre. Conversations turn quickly from pleasantries to exchanging bird sightings. So many birds are new for the year. The first of each is exciting. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is exciting. A Yellow Warbler sighting is exciting. A Dunlin is exciting. A Bell's Vireo or a Kirtland's Warbler sends you into convulsions. Yes, it's the time of year you might be 100 feet into the Woodland Trail and then a text, a radio call, eBird alert, or Ontbirds email changes your direction and now you're speeding toward Hillman Marsh. At times you are forced to make tough decisions. What bird should I go for? The Golden-winged at the Tip or the Cerulean on Tilden? How far am I willing to chase a rarity before it's considered insane? Do I want a Green Goddess or a Black Bean Burrito?

April is ending and for the next month, birding will consume me. Normality will return in June. The last few weeks have been a great start to the season. Since my last post, I've added a species to my Life List: Blue Grosbeak. This was one of my target species for 2013 since I missed it during my Big Year in 2012. So on April 19th when Paul Pratt posted to Ontbirds that Tom Preney had seen a male coming to the feeder system at Ojibway Nature Centre in Windsor, I was exhilarated. The moment I was done work, I drove to Windsor and joined a group of local birders as we watched the grosbeak, my fourth lifer of the year. I still need it for Pelee though.

There are other highlights. My first 4 warblers of the year were Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush. That's knocking off two uncommon species for the Pelee area before even seeing a Yellow (my 5th warbler for the year). Now if I manage to see a Kirtland's and a Kentucky this spring, it'll be sweeeeeeet. The Worm-eating was originally seen by Ellen Smout and the next morning found again by my good friend, Matt Timpf. It was, of course, the first bird he saw as he entered the Woodland Trail. Louisiana Waterthrush I got w/ Marianne on Tilden. There had been a number of reports coming from Pelee so we wanted to make sure to get this species before they moved through. We saw one and heard another.

Today ended up being quite a good day of birding despite the showers. My day started w/ a slight disappointment after an early morning trip to the Hillman Marsh Shorebird Cell produced no Willet (one was seen the night before). Follow that up w/ a no-show for the Clay-coloured Sparrow at Delaurier and I was all like, bleh blehhhh blehhhhhhhh, but fortunately, a Grasshopper Sparrow feeding w/ Chipping Sparrows in the parking lot turned things around. Marianne and I joined up at this point and decided to go after a Sedge Wren spotted by Kory Renaud on Woodland Trail. We met up w/ Josh Vandermeulen and learned it would be a Pelee bird for him. We searched for quite some time in the rain until finally Marianne and I gave up and left to head back to the warmth of the VC. Literally 30 seconds later my phone starts ringing. It's Josh V. He's letting us know that the moment we left, the Sedge Wren popped back up. Marianne and I exchanged embarrassed glances for giving up too soon, and w/ tails b/w our legs, returned to see the Sedge Wren.

Later in the day, after a long break, an omelet, fries, toast, 2 granola bars, a milkshake, and enough coffee to keep a Snorlax awake, I went to Kopegaron Woods just to try something different. I hadn't even entered the main trail when a Worm-eating Warbler jumped out of the brush! I started texting. My phone rang. It was Josh V. 17 Willets at Hillman Marsh. 17?!?! I waited w/ the Worm-eating until he arrived to see it w/ David Bell and then flew over the Hillman. I only saw 13 of the reported 17 but I'm really happy about this sighting. It was another species I missed during my 2012 Big Year.

This is all just the beginning of course. We're not even in May yet. Looking forward to seeing y'all out there and sharing some more great sightings!