Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Early Birder gets the Swan

I was sure I was the only Birder from Etobicoke up and out the door prior to 7am and sunrise to seek out Tundra Swans and White-fronted and Cackling Geese, maybe even a Brant, but Etobicoke Dave was only minutes behind me and, once again, thanks to the help of a fellow and much more experienced Birder, I had extra help in my sunrise quest.  It wasn't too cold and the wind was light so an hour of searching was quite enjoyable.

It took a lot of meticulous scanning of Trumpeter Swans to finally see at least one Tundra Swan, and possibly two others amongst a group of five Swans furthest away from the main flock. Dave was gracious in pointing out specific field marks and the slightly smaller size of the bird that helped me with the identification. He also spotted a Canvasback that added a second Year and Lifer to my list.

And wouldn't you know it, who drives up but my Hamilton birding buddy and mentor Fred, also out early and looking for the Tundra Swan.  Fred tried to help us find the White-fronted Goose but it was nowhere to be seen this morning. These birds are sneaky and love to tease you with an appearance one day and a David Copperfield-esq vanishing act the next day. But, as always Fred will spot something I may have missed on my own, and helped me find the White-winged Scoter. So now I have Scoters on either side of the continent.  Surf: West, White-winged: East.  A Scoter Trifecta would be possible if I can snag the Black Scoter passing through during migration.  Now, if I can only get those damnable Cackling Geese!

Anyhow, with time running out and me having to be downtown by 10am for work, I took off for Humber Bay East where Sue had seen a Northern Pintail on an expedition to the lake Saturday morning.  Seems like Sue and Fred are my "Birding Angels."  I wouldn't be in this Big Year Game without their help. We shall see if Dave come through for me again.

When I got to Humber Bay, I was only 15 steps from the sighting of the Pintail, but completely lost in the parking lot and walking in circles as Sue tried to point in the correct direction over the phone.  I kept pointing toward the lake, even though she was guiding me in the opposite direction.  I am sure I sounded like a madman, but eventually I got the message and headed the opposite way I was going and found what I was looking for.  Down by the water,  I was able to look over the shoulder of a nature photographer with a huge lens, and see the Pintail on the ice across the little bay. Beautiful bird and though I was in a bit of a hurry, I lingered of a few minutes to enjoy the Pintail and all the other ducks hanging out on a sunny winter morning.  As I continually discover, nothing warms you up faster than spotting the bird you've chased all morning.

And now my Big Year stands at 114 birds in 22 days.

So, Tundra Swans and Northern Pintails today, and perhaps, Cackling and White-fronted Geese tomorrow.  Though, somehow, I think they will once again elude me.


  1. Mike Veltri got a female King Eider at LaSalle
    today. He's a great photographer:

    1. Wow, he does take great pictures. He must be one of those guys I see out there with a lens as big as my arm.

    2. Thanks for the great photos, and your kind help, Fred... I hope I can get myself a good long lens for my SLR soon. The Cannon is good for documenting, but still I'd love to improve my photo quality as the year goes on.

  2. So next time I give you directions maybe you'll listen to me the first time. Men!