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!