Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dear Ottawa Heermann's Gull:

I would very much like to see you. I am somewhat sad that you didn't re-appear today! I have had constant reminders that I did not get to enjoy the first Ontario Heermann's Gull, as I was not yet actively birding, and I felt like we had a real chance. I actually set my alarm today for 7:30am, just to ensure I was awake and checking Ontbirds. :) I was 100% ready to make the drive at a moments notice today, and bask in your rare-gull glory.

I spent most of the morning hitting the refresh button to my emails desperately waiting for word, only to be met with disappointment  Yet despite this, I am still hopeful that you and I can still make acquaintances in the not too distant future, and make all ill feelings become forgotten moments in the past.

Signed, Brandon


I did some looking on ebird today... And we all know that the rarities have been coming fast and furious so far in 2012. But how good is it? Let's take a look at the numbers.

Birds seen in Ontario so far in 2012: 175* species

To compare, by this date in 2011 we had 153... And this day in 2010 had 159...

In 2011, we hit 175 species on Apr 5th, when Ken Burrell added a Common Tern from Rondeau!

In 2010 we hit 175 species on March 31st, after a warm front produced migrants like Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs, Osprey and Pectoral Sand...


If you were doing a big year, a lot of "difficult" species have been turned up... Harlequin/Barrows Goldeneye, Black-headed/California Gulls, Kittiwake, Great Gray and N Hawk Owls, Harris's Sparrow, King Eider, Ross's/White-fronted Geese, Gray Partridge, Red Crossbill, Hoary Redpoll etc! A very impressive list.

Yet the story is told in terms of those "big time" rarities... Check out these mega's reported to ebird so far this year (one's you'll have a hell of a time finding on your own):

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
Mountain Bluebird
Spotted Towhee
Varied Thrush
White-winged Dove
Band-tailed Pigeon
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Black Vulture
Fish Crow
Heermann's Gull...

A mega-impressive list, considering we've just hit March.... Surely keeps the possibility of someone breaking Glenn Coady's record of 338 species very real... So what can we hope for this spring???

I always look to the last week of April... If you try to predict rarities any sooner than that, you may end up getting shocked by something like a Heermann's gull.. But I have high hopes.... Things are quite stormy now, just as they were last spring (when a Royal Tern showed up in Ohio in early March after some mega storms)...

Some epic storms blew in good birds last year (esp in late April), so here's hoping for a repeat... At the same time, we had a CRAZY windy fall/winter, which blew a LOT of good birds "around" like the Lucy's Warb at Whitefish Point, or the Grace's Warb in coastal NY... And the following winter/spring has been very mild so far. All those birds blown off course have had a fairly easy time trying to survive.

Just check out this Virginia's Warb in late Feb in MD:

So here's hoping that we have A.) - Good storms to blow in rarities... and B.) -- lots of "already displaced" birds just waiting to travel northwards into Ontario once the temps climb over 20C...

*ebird says 175, but is also missing some species from the list (like the BT Pigeon)...  so who knows....


And as frequent readers of the blog know, this is all just crazy talk on my part... Since the return of some ducks, Tundra Swans and Killdeer --- I'm starting to get giddy over the prospect of being only 7 weeks away  from "the most wonderful time of the year"...