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Almost There and Only Half Way!
Saturday, June 27, 2015
As of the end of June my species total is 263 for the Carolinian Zone -- just seven species shy of my "modest" target of 270 with half a year to go. Getting there since my last post in early May has been quite a birding delight. In one afternoon at Point Pelee, I added two species to my all-time Ontario life list: a most obliging Chuck-Will's-Widow and the ever-elusive (in Ontario) Mississippi Kite. This was on May 16. I had heard about the Chuck-Will's-Widow, which was discovered earlier that day along the Woodland Trail south of the Visitor's Centre. Upon arrival at the park at 3:00 pm, I unloaded my bicycle from the back of the car and rode out towards the Tip where the bird had been reported, hoping it would still be there. When I arrived at the Sparrow Field I asked a passing birder who said he'd just seen it, not far up the trail. It was easy to find the bird, perched on a skinny branch, in plain view, just a few metres from the trail, almost as if it wanted to be seen...and photographed!
This close cousin to the Whip-poor-will is typically found in the southeastern United States. An actual nest has never been found in Ontario as far as I know, although one or two individual birds do occur almost annually, often being heard singing "chuck-will's-widow!" repeatedly at night, well into the breeding season.
Shortly after seeing this impressive bird I learned (from my iPhone) that a Mississippi Kite had just been seen at Hillman Marsh. I made for my car and was at Hillman within 30 minutes, to find a crowd of at least 20 birders with binoculars, scopes and cameras on the shoulder of Mersea Road 2, all peering in the direction from which I was driving. I was somewhat apprehensive about driving towards them, fearing that my car would pass under whatever they were looking at and scare it away. But I had no real choice as there was nowhere to pull over (and doing so might be even more likely to spook the bird). So I continued, pulled over, and got out of the car, only to see all the birders gathering up their gear as if to leave.
A male birder in his forties watched me get out of the car. "Did you see the kite?" he asked.
"No, is it still here?" I responded, anxiously.
"It was. But it flew off just as you drove in."
"Really? Oh no!"
"That happened to me with the Barnacle Goose in Ottawa. I arrived on the spot two minutes after it was last seen."
"Sheesh. Well, which way did the kite fly?"
"Back towards the shorebird cell, to the west."
"Thanks! I'm going after it. It can't have gone too far!" Which I did, and thankfully, I was right. Just half a kilometre up the road, there it was, circling and gliding low over the open thickets nextt to the road. A magnificent, graceful, insect-eating raptor; my first ever for the province!
Lots more tales to tell, but I'll sign off for now, with a photo of one of my favourite Ontario birds, the Red-headed Woodpecker, which I photographed at Rondeau Provincial Park in May.