Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Starting on the Second 300

Okay, maybe that's a stretch to think I can see 300 more birds in the next nine months, but it's really not out of the question.  I admit now, that I really want 500 by years end.  But, if I stopped right now I would have already surpassed the number of species that would I would have considered a successful Big Year for a a total beginner like myself.

301 was a Field Sparrow,(thanks to Sue's help identifying it), I found in a park as I drove from Lansing to the Detroit airport on my last day of 39 straight days on the road, giving me at least one bird in every state I have visited since February 29.

I am back in Toronto now, and back to working full time and long hours with the Jays, but still have time to sneak away and find a bird or two.  Take yesterday for example.  Sue had spent the weekend Birding at Colonel Sam and Humber Bay East and had seen a couple of birds that I have yet to record this year.  Yesterday afternoon, I had to run out to get a large screen computer monitor for my video room, and since both locations were easy stops on my return downtown, I decided to try for both birds.

I hadn't birded in cold, wet and windy weather for some time so it was a bit of an adjustment after 39 day in Florida, Arizona and Nevada.  But I layered up, grabbled my binoculars and headed into Colonel Sam park in search of a Red-necked Grebe.  Sue had given me a couple of likely locations,(she's better than an E-bird report), and as I approached the first spot I did get a good look at a grebe before it drifted off behind some floating docks.  However I did hear and recognize the call of the Red-necked Grebe.  The best way to describe it, and it's very unique call, is to bring to mind the sounds of a barn yard.  Seriously.  It sounds like chickens and lambs, with maybe a little donkey mixed in.  It was unmistakable and I could have just listed the bird right then and there, but I wanted to get a better look at it first.

I headed over to the second location and, though I heard no barnyard calls, I was able to spot a few of the Red-necks in the cove and get some good looks.  Red neck, obviously, with a white head topped with what looks like a bad toupee.  With bird number 301 recorded I was well on my way to my second goal.

My next stop was Humber Bay East for a Golden-crowned Kinglet.  Sue had seen it in some bushes, but wasn't really specific as to which ones.  There were lots of Robins and Grackles, and even my first Canadian Song Sparrow,(they look and sound a lot like the Florida ones, but there is a subtle "eh" at the end of their song).   I really only had about 15 minutes to find this little guy and hate to be rushed, so I prepared myself to leave without finding it.  However, I played it's tsp-y tsp-y sound on my iPhone and was able to catch subtle return calls.  I thought I saw it on one side of a bush, and headed over to get a look.  The bird hopped across to the other side.  We played this game for about 10 minutes and I decided that I could only stay 5 more minutes before I headed back.

Then, finally a bird settled on a twig inside the bush, on the grassy side.  I made my way over.  It was near the top middle and dropped down.  I stayed put, about 6 feet from the bush, training my binoculars on the bird.  I saw one with a orange cap, that could have been the male and I could hear the call, but it quickly vanished.  And in it's place the unmistakable yellow-gold crown of the Golden-crowned Kinglet took the vanished bird's place.  Ta Da!  With moments to spare before I was going to give up for the day, the bird appeared.  They don't often do that for me.  It was a special moment.  I took that special moment to enjoy the bird and then get photos before it vanished.  And it did vanish, but I was smiling and had my second new Year bird of the day and now only need 297 more birds for my second 300.  Here's hoping to a great spring migration.

Off on another quick road trip tonight, not for birding, but hoping to catch a few migrants in New Hampshire tomorrow morning.  


  1. You'll need a couple of pelagic pukers to hit

  2. Oh, i know it. I will be prepared for the next one. I almost died on the trip out to the Tortugas, but will have plenty of dramamine and a patch and even a copper bracelet if I have to. We will be doing one in Newfoundland and I will probably do one on the pacific coast in june and another one in Florida as well. Yuck!