Editor's Note: This is an earlier blog post, from December 1, 2012. I changed the title and it popped it up to the top... the newest post is below, "The Patagonia Key."
And finally, it was on my list, with almost no effort at all. I had planned the morning to go into work and prepare for my business trip to Nashville, and the afternoon for driving to Elmira for Rough-legged Hawks and some cheese balls from Kitchen Kuttings. If you've not tried them before, take the drive to Elmira and find out for yourself, the cheese balls, not the Hawks.
But my day didn't go anywhere near as planned. I was at work for longer than I had anticipated, then when I finally was on the road to Elmira, I had to turn around and head back to downtown Toronto and take care of something else. In the meantime, OntBirds came through with a report of a Purple Sandpiper working the beach at Bronte Harbour in Oakville, thanks to the keen eye of Mark Jennings. Well that changed everything. I had missed the Purple Sandpipers on at least three trips to Presqu'ile Provincial Park the past few weeks.
As soon as I wrapped up things at work, I jumped in the car and headed 30 minutes down the QEW to Bronte Harbour. I overshot the parking lot, had to make a tight turn at the end of a road down at the lake, park the car, then re-park the car closer to the beach, and as I walked down the path was directed to the bird by a gentleman who was running back for his camera, having not expected the bird to be so close.
As it turned out, it was right there in front of us, feeding and walking about in the water and on the rocks, putting on a wonderful show for all present. Cutest little sandpiper I've seen. We all watched for about 10 or 15 minutes, everyone taking photos. I even ran into Clive, with whom I shared an afternoon of birding in Hamilton, waiting for sunset to see the Short-eared Owls. Around half a dozen birders were present before I headed out to search for the Rough-legged Hawks.
Alas, the only raptor I saw the rest of the afternoon was a Red-tailed, on a poll on the way up to Elmira. However I did get the cheese balls, so I can't complain. Sometimes the best days are the ones that aren't planned.
So, we are now into the home stretch. The Purple Sandpiper was number 573 on my Big Year. For me it is a significant number. When I realized I would see in excess of 500 birds this year, I made it a goal to get to and pass 572. 572 is the number of birds Roger Tory Peterson saw in 1953, the year he set out on his Wild America Adventure. Perhaps my year has not been quite so wild, but though I am not stopping yet, hitting and passing my goal has felt pretty good.